This coming November 23rd marks the 14th anniversary of World of Warcraft. Throughout that time it has evolved and changed as has the community that plays and supports it. Few of the original programmers and developers are at the helm, yet the story continues: The story of Azeroth and the story of your involvement in it. How will it end? Well, in WoW’s case, it a not a matter of when your story will end, but instead a matter of where your story will go.
November 2004 was a special time for many PC gamers as the harbinger of PC excellence graces monitors around the globe. That harbinger was World of Warcraft, competitors were in panic in a attempt to remain relevant, like the biblical rapture several PC gamers disappeared from their common social circles and were devoured by the Blizzard smash hit. It was hard not to with amazing races, in game cannon, beautiful landscapes and a grind wheel that made the soul yearn for more. It was as if paradise had been found for many and it was. However there were some interesting and unforeseen complications with paradise that seeped into reality unexpectedly. Data and the economics of the World of Warcraft over the years seemed to have real world implications. My writing pieces will be my views on the parallels and connected similarities that Blizzard’s most famous title brought to reality.
My entry into WoW started in the The Burning Crusade, creating Disarona, my human Warrior. It was a much slower leveling process in those days. I didn’t get 100% mount speed until lvl. 62, only because I couldn’t afford it right away. Everything was harder and I had to walk uphill both ways through the snow just to play a few quests. When I hit level 70, it was a momentous occasion, one that was the culmination of about 2 months playing.
In fact, WoW used to be pretty brutal to newcomers. I think that’s why most of the original players are still around. They’ve earned their time, they’ve earned their right to casually play or get right back into the hardcore raid-dancing endeavor. But they’ll still always complain about how easy the kids have it in WoW now, what with their instant level boosts and heirloom gear.
I got into PVP during the end of the BC. I had made 70 just as Fury of the Sunwell was starting, most of the raiding guilds were far beyond what a noob like me could offer. I remember being invited to tank Karazhan, going in with complete green gear, and getting the entire group torn apart. Lol, good times. So instead I would do my dailies at the Sunwell while waiting for a queued BG to pop
I also had an expensive habit of buying pets at the time. I liked the idea long before the pokemon-like pet battlers of Cataclysm. But they were just space hogs, taking up most of my bank account, along with season armor, random doo-dads, like this flute that made everyone bust out in dance, farmed from Stratholme.
Then the fucking plague was set loose right before Wrath of the Lich King and WoW sucked for like a week, until the developer finally debuffed the shit out of it. Still, it was some fun seeing entire populated centers, like Shattrath, completely full of ghouls and skeletons of fallen players. It was a fucking mess. An extremely memorable one.
Hakkar the SoulFlayer was just one of your run of the mill blood serpent gods doing its own thing, unbeknownst to it this evil red bastard would have a crucial role in potentially saving thousands of lives, while tormenting the ever living hell out of PC gamers playing WoW. The boss used a spell that would infect and spread to nearby players in the boss room chamber that would decimate the combatants health. Making the fight challenging but not exactly lethal to players characters who possessed a certain amount of fortitude. Well leave it to this scaley bastards programmers to accidentally let a bug to go unnoticed. This bug allowed the infection to take affect and spread to players outside of the boss chamber and so the Corrupted Blood Plague was unleashed onto the World of Warcraft.
While the bug was being worked out and managed players within the world reacted in a variety of ways to the ever developing situation of a digital disease infecting their avatars. Some took the hills and valleys hiding from other players as well as heavily populated player cities. Others made aggressive efforts to infect other players who had not had the same misfortune they had. Some unexpectedly were infected by a different thing altogether dooming some players avatars, they let their own curiosity go wild and logged in to see what was developing only to get the users avatar infected. It was completely insane to observe as players shouted in text and voice to others in the distance to prove they weren’t one of “the infected”, it was difficult to prove regardless.
After World of Warcraft's staff fixed the problems and ultimately reset many servers races of all both factions breathed easily. What was left in the aftermath was humorous stories and buckets of data. This data was incredibly interesting to many but actually useful to a handful of scientists.
Using the information gathered by Blizzards infamous bug researchers were able to discovering interesting and unique data about how people react to a plague. This was information only ever speculated about before the Corrupted Blood bug, but with a virtual disease affecting a virtual population researchers learned a great deal about how humanity would react to such a global epidemic. Armed with this information researched and first responders to such a situation are now armed with a much better understanding on behavior and real word bugs.
Personally I find this to be a “black swan” moment in gamings history. A black swan moment is a situation that unexpectedly deviants from the norm to result in something useful and unique. No one before thought to use a MMORPG player base as a incubator for human behavior on this kind of scale. It only leaves me wondering what kind of other useful and seemingly unattainable information can be harnessed from the power of video games. Speaking of usefulness, there is another real world parallel that can be made with WoW…
Through most of Wrath of the Lich King, I found myself tanking, seeing as how they were in such high demand. I soon understood why. Tanking is the hardest role to play. While heals is not easy by any means, the crowd control and call-outs that are required of the role can be taxing. While mobs would always get better as the weeks and months progressed, there would always be the occasional wipe because of slow DPS or, even worse, too much DPS.
Heals were mostly blamed for the group wipes. Tanks usually just had to sit there and take the abuse of enemy after enemy, making sure they were all hitting just you. Though I progressed some in both priest and shaman healing, I was never patient or observant enough to ensure group survivals. Tanking was my drug of choice for a while there.
Once WotLK introduced dual-spec in patch 3.1, I fell back in love with Fury warriors, now able to dual-wield double-handed weapons, excluding polearms at the time. It was amazing and in a way OP’ed. When it came to CC and burn, the fury warrior wasn’t the best, but they were the most fun. Arathi Basin and Wintergrasp became my daily touring grounds, earning honor, heirloom gear that was used to level up alts, and gaining entrance into the Vault and taking out the old watchers of Northrend.
The raids of Naxxramas I aspired to master, but never could fully complete. Making it in raids back in those days required timing, networking, Guilds were extremely important. Pick up Groups (PUG), a group of people met either through chat or at the entrance of raids or dungeons usually ended in failure. Only a well-stocked Guild, one with members on stand-by all eagerly awaiting their chance at the juicy loot or quest completers lay at the end of each gruesome boss, could hope to pass the requirements that a raid required.
WotLK also introduced achievements, which served as both a stat tracker and gave awards such as titles or mounts for completing certain raids, dungeons, or even exploring all of Azeroth. And, later on in the expansions life, they introduced Group Finder, a tool that looked for groups to join in search of dungeons and dailies. It was a magical time.
Then the Cataclysm came. While it sounded like a cool idea, a change of the scenery in vanilla Azeroth, it also alienated the player base with their dumbed-down talent system, instead of the branching point system WoW had utilized since its launch. Many discussions, builds, and tips were made because of that intricate branching point system, making even Fury Warrior Tanks a possibility, to much discontent.
Cataclysm took that all out. You still get to select from the three styles for each character, but only one can be active at a time, with options in each of those. Dual-specing, and the increasing difficulty of adding layer upon layer to the nearly 8 year build at the time was a needed, but divisive decision by Blizzard.
From there, you could tell that WoW began the slow slide that other MMO’s had fallen under: Appealing to the Chinese market. WoW was and is fucking huge in China and it had been since it’s original launch, selling game time, instead of subscriptions. They also have a thing against skeletons in games over there, so WotLK took two years longer than usual to come out, but they still ate that shit up.
Mists of Pandaria was released after Cataclysm with almost absolutely no pushback from the Chinese this time for obvious pandering reasons. And it was... Okay. The Pandarians, while introducing the cool-as-fuck monk class, were just not that interesting and no one really cared what happened to them or Pandaria as a whole.
Yet, if it wasn’t for this appeasement to the Chinese market, WoW might not be here right now. Because of their insatiable appetite for all things WoW, Warlord of Draenor followed just two years later.
I skipped Warlords of Draenor. I know what they were going for, sort of the same shit people were doing on Facebook back in 2009: Tending to farms and making kingdoms grow, only now you did “quests” and got improvements to your Garrisons. The story was dynamic, offering a more focused take on characters such as Khadgar and Thrall. I played it for as long as it took to level my warrior past it and into Legion.
It’s no surprise to anyone using the platform Minds that cryptocurrencies are under fire constantly from both banks and global marketers trying to cause panic within the users of the product, also trying to scare off any potential investors. With the World of Warcraft economy as my “canary in the coal mine” I’m confident, whether people like it or not, that cryptocurrencies of all kind are here to stay.
Gold in World of Warcraft was from its very inception was a sought after currency. Players of all types were trying to find a way to turn the rare digital dollars into real world pocket cash. Through services like PayPal, Craigslist, eBay and others players were able to exchange the gold they had earned or farmed for money. Bot users were as common as farmers in reality who grinder for the golden virtual pieces, entire player profiles and accounts were dedicated to farming this resource. Not every user, player or video game critic was enthusiastic about the sub economy developing within this MMORPG, but it wasn’t an uncommon practice for gamers who enjoyed that type of game.
This practice went on for several years in WoW disputes critics and developers efforts to halt the practice. On February 6th, 2017 Blizzard announced that gold tokens earned or purchased within the MMORPG could be exchanged for Battle.net bucks. This was Blizzard’s solution and effort in trying to demolish the gold markets within WoW. Many gold farmers and players went into a panic, trying to sell off the hard earned coin they had farmed while others stood stoic against the waves of change. Although the virtual currency has been going through a wild trend in value since the massive change hope is still alive.
Blizzard tried to shove certain players and potential bad actors out of the gold economy by developing a value they wanted to set for their in game currency. Basically manipulating the market that developed on its own despite the companies best efforts to crush the system. This to me looks like a microcosm of today’s crypto market. Where in large marketers and bankers are constantly attacking the digital currencies like Ripple and Bitcoin, only to have little to no effect with some cases ending in a net boost to the value of the cryptocurrencies overall.
The story isn’t any different for WoW's gold. Through every effort and the dreaded Feb 6th manipulation attempt the WoW market has only improved overall. Value within the World of Warcraft is still controlled by the player base, a regular snubbing of the nose at the effort to undercut certain players within the virtual spaces, I’m sure though more attempts to diminish the growing economy will pop up and just the same with real world cryptocurrencies the people will always win over the manipulator.
Legion represented more than a leap forward in the world of Azeroth, it represented a return to form. This was the most WotLK-like expansion yet, filled with cut-scenes, lore, and class-specific halls that gave epic weapons, weapons you had to build and improve on. It was a great expansion, and one the fans were happy with.
The dungeons had taken a more challenging approach. Now you could try them in a series known as “Mythic” ones that got progressively harder, but also dropped better loot and rewards. And the daily quests that gave both rare loot and reputation with various factions made long-term play more interesting.
The return of Kil'Jaeden and the new demon hunter class introduced, along with a level expansion to the current cap of 110, has made my over decade-old warrior not just a character, but a god of Azeroth, ready to keep the story moving in the next chapter, Battle of Azeroth.
Rating: 5 out of 5. World of Warcraft is a great game on its own merits. No matter what version I played, there was always plenty to do and plenty of people to play with. When I would get tired, I just simply cancelled my subscription and waited until there was more to do.
Throw in a player base that has changed and grown with the game itself, entire worlds and expansions that offer years of content and will be playable as they were on the upcoming legacy servers, and a still expanding universe in Battle for Azeroth, you have a game of legends. A game that is the king of its genre and will be for a long time still.
That’s not to say there was never any bad parts during my WoW experience, and there was many breaks in between. It can be a grind sometimes. A long test of endurance and click stamina. It can wear on your hands and eyes. Some say it’s not worth it. Some say greatness isn’t worth it either.
Then you have the longevity of the game. 14 years. That’s insane in the modern gaming market that a single game outlives THREE generations of consoles and still shows no sign of stopping. It’s been a journey that I am happy to reflect on and excited to look forward to returning.
So there it is! Two vastly different scenarios within the World of Warcraft that reflected and have impacted reality in surprising way. Either digital diseases or gigabits of gold World of Warcraft has seemingly made an everlasting imprint on how consumers and gamers live. So the next time your behind your keyboard killing a brigade of goblins and someone giving you a hard time about your hobby you can inform them that markets/disease control efforts have been altered by information gathered from this multi billion dollar industry. Personally it’s an industry I’m more than happy to be a participant.
There’s so much left unsaid about World of Warcraft, but I won’t and we can’t. This was just a summary of sorts, one from my perspective as a player and a few of the cultural impacts as seen by @AaronGG. We hope you’ve enjoyed this little look back on one of gaming’s biggest games.