Coming up on the 10th anniversary of World of Warcraft, these are the 10 questions being asked of players:
1. Why did you start playing Warcraft?
I was playing RTS games like Red Alert, and a friend at work turned me on to WarCraft 3. I wasn't really excited about it because - and this will sound pretty stupid - I don't like fantasy games very much. The genre just doesn't excite me. I've played D&D, read Tolkien books, gone to GenCon, and been around fantasy nerds for decades, and the genre is done to death for me. But I liked RTS games and it was a chance to game with people I knew, so I played it.
It was a lot of fun. Even more fun than the game was playing the custom scenarios people built, like tower defense maps. We would log in every evening and play some Wintermauls, and fooling around with the map editor to make our own scenes was tremendous fun. I was amazed that the game designer gave us these powerful tools to work with so we could express things that came from our own imagination, and fully supported us sharing them through battle.net.
In December of 2004 I heard that the next WarCraft game was coming out and I decided to buy a copy for myself for Christmas to see if maybe the guys wanted to play it. I logged in on New Year's Eve and experienced my first MMO - my mind was blown. I adore games that provide a persistent experience and remember who you are and what your progress and experience has been, it felt constructive, instead of just blowing things up.
2. What was the first ever character you rolled?
That first night at the character creation screen I was given a choice between Horde and Alliance. I wasn't really into the happy-shiny fantasy hero, so I rolled a Horde character because they had interesting flaws and they weren't pretty hero types. I made a male Tauren warrior named Glue. I leveled him up to 20 and logged him out at the Crossroads, and never played him again - my friends had decided they wanted to play, so I rerolled with them and we all played Orcs and Trolls, and I rolled a new Troll priest named Kadoo. He was my main through vanilla. He still exists somewhere under the name Wickerman.
3. Which factors determined your faction choice in game?
Early on, it had to be Horde. Horde took everyone, with their flaws and warts, and rallied them under one banner. I didn't feel like playing a soldier marching to someone moral code, I just wanted to explore and adventure and discover my own morality along the way. Alliance seemed like a faction with a high overhead, and I wasn't sure I wanted to invest that much time in a philosophy. I just wanted to run around and smash things.
That morality concept determined some choices in game. For example, I was worried when I met Mankrik the first time that his bloodlust might corrupt me. Sure, I'll find your wife for you. Kill dozens of Quillboar? Jesus man, that's genocide. Nope, not doing that quest.
4. What has been your most memorable moment in Warcraft and why?
Two moments - one good, one bad. The bad one sums up my early attempts at organizing people in game (which is far harder than playing the game itself). The guild I founded with my friends ended up bringing in an additional officer, who told me point blank that if we ever got the item from Molten Core for the epic priest questline that I wouldn't get it. That was a huge f*** you moment, and taught me that I can't trust anyone in game to look after my own enjoyment. I had helped hundreds (literally hundreds) of players level up and finish quests and healed them through troubles and traveled to unlock UBRS, etc. so many times, and their was nobody there for me when I asked for the only thing I ever wanted in the game. I never got the staff, and it has been removed from the game.
The best moment was raiding with a new group of friends, and we banged our heads against Sartharion with three drakes over and over until we finally killed it, prior to the Twilight Residue nerf. It felt like a real achievement, and it was really rewarding. Within 24 hours of the kill the guild split in half, and since we had all of the content on farm there wasn't a real motivating force there to do anything, and I went casual for a while. I ended up not raiding for the rest of Wrath. Cataclysm was a disaster and ruined the familiarity of the old world - how could you do that to my Barrens? - so I unsubbed for about a year. I did not miss it at all. I wouldn't have cared to come back and play the game if my son hadn't started playing.
5. What is your favourite aspect of the game and has this always been the case?
Crafting, hands down. When all is said and done, there is nothing in WoW that is an original creation. Everything is just a random relocation of items that Blizzard has designed, that end up in locations like your bank slots. You are given one opportunity to add original content to the game (two, if you are a hunter) - and that's your character name. When you see someone walking around with a weapon or piece of gear and you inspect it and see someone's name on it as the crafter, it's a magical feeling. Back in the day when new servers would be brought online there was a real binding force to the community. Who was the first engineer who could make targeting dummies for that centaur quest?
Once the top level items were only obtainable in raids that community started to erode, and raid guilds took over, and they only ever cared about their own glory. Blizzard has made crafting less interesting with every expansion. They should look at their own origins - we loved making custom maps in WarCraft 3 - or at the huge popularity of Minecraft. People want to make things. They want an outlet for their creativity. They tapped into that market when the game launched, and they attracted artists and people with imagination. The game since then has mostly pushed these people away.
6. Do you have an area in game that you always return to?
The Crossroads. I mostly play Alliance now because I spent so many hours playing Horde and I want to keep the game fresh, but I always come back to the Crossroads for nostalgia. Every Horde character I make must kill Sarkoth, and must set his hearth in the Crossroads inn.
7. How long have you /played and has that been continuous?
I've played since December 31, 2004. It hasn't been continuous, I unsubbed for a year during Cataclysm. People post on the forums that they're leaving WoW and they aren't happy with the game, etc., but the truth is that when people really leave they don't post. Because they don't care. They just leave, and you can't get them back because they don't give a shit anymore. My son got me to play with him, and Warcraft was incidental at that point. I would have made cupcakes with him.
8. Admit it: do you read quest text or not?
When I am playing solo, I do. When I am part of a group or in the first couple weeks of an expansion with a guild rushing to content, I don't. Some quest lines are very interesting, some are just "kill 20 more boars." I'll read what I find interesting, what I don't I just breeze through.
9. Are there any regrets from your time in game?
Back in BC/Wrath I would look at the hours I spent in game and consider it a waste of time and I was regretful. But I don't go to bars, don't watch TV, and do many self-destructive things. Playing video games has kept me at home with the family all the time and made me available to talk to my kids and play with my kids. Raiding excepted - I hate the aspect of raiding that it demands large blocks of undisturbed time and when it happens I will sabotage my personal raid progression in favor of spending time with the family because everything they do is always more important.
10. What effect has Warcraft had on your life outside gaming?
WoW came along at the right time. It coincided with the expansion of broadband access. Early vanilla I teamed up with a regular 5-person group and two of them had dialup access. Pretty quickly when broadband became more accessible, WoW was one of the better things you could do with it. Everything we do now - can you imagine doing it with a 56k connection?
When WoW succeeded it became popular enough for people who weren't fantasy nerds to play, and game video game exposure to a wider audience. Now it is a socially acceptable means of enjoyment. To be done in moderation, like everything else, but not strange at all. So someday I will unsubscribe again (I am a casual and I've played about 15 minutes in the last three weeks, with dwindling interest), but I will remain a video game enthusiast. I don't have to sneak off to stick quarters into a Mortal Kombat kiosk, I can game at home and chat about it.