Why World of Warcraft is so popular for more than 12 years and still feels classic? Why is it that so many MMO's challenge WoW, and then fall by the wayside? Is it players’ loyalty to Blizzard? Is it people just loving the world? Is it people just being attached to their characters? Or is it something else? I think it's because WoW does everything an MMO should. It's not amazing at any one thing, but it’s mediocre to good at everything.
World of Warcraft is a very impressive game. It is great fun to play, entertaining you and challenging you at the same time. It has strong characters and rich environments, with the game world of Azeroth existing as its own convincing, distinctive universe. It is visually appealing, with a charming, sublime look to it. There is a great deal to do and a lot of variety to the gameplay. It moves well and is always interesting.
"World of Warcraft" requires a paid subscription to play, meaning it's designed to keep you playing as long as possible. That may sound like a negative thing, but it's just honesty, and they do it very well. From the minute you start playing, the game constantly dangles a carrot on a stick in front of you. It could be a new ability, a powerful sword, or a cool mechanical chicken to ride on.
There is no right or wrong way to play "World of Warcraft." You can grind out quests for hours on end in search of new upgrades and gear, you can do player-versus-player content forever or you can just go fishing for a while. There are even special role-playing servers where players are expected to stay in character in the in-game chat. You could do that, if you're so inclined.
People are attracted to World of Warcraft because it allows them to play an assortment of different characters. It features great range and choice. You can be any kind of character and any gender that you want to be. The ability to play as either Alliance or Horde gives players the best of both worlds - you can be either a hero or a monster. The freedom you have in customising your character is pleasing, and makes it a more original and unique experience.
World of Warcraft offers different types of gameplay. You can play the main part of the game, and go on a journey through Azeroth, completing quests and testing your skills in combat. Alternatively you can take part in the player versus player content. This has become an essential part of the game since it was introduced. Indeed for some players it is now the highlight of the whole title. The battlegrounds are exciting and unpredictable, and feature superb multi-player action.
World of Warcraft is great value and is a long-lasting title. It is ingenious and clever and a real challenge. The world of the game is enormous and will amuse you for a long time. The updates to the game enhance it further, and ensure that there are always new areas to explore and fresh sights to see. It is of such high quality that it may become the only game you play. It is so satisfying that people lose interest in other games and concentrate on this one title exclusively.
There were also some nuts-and-bolts logistical things.
Zones. EQ was broken into discrete zones, and every time you switched zones, there was a delay while things loaded. Especially frustrating when you ran across a zone line (they weren't marked well -- usually just a little seam in the graphics) by accident and had to endure a second load to get back to the zone you wanted to be in. Other than switching continents, WoW presented as a fairly seamless world.
Trains. Players could drag groups of monsters across zones and if you happened to be in the way, those monsters would be just as happy to attack you. Some players would even run trains into the newbie zones on purpose just to mess with new players -- that got pretty old. WoW's creature AI was a little more forgiving, in that they only attacked the original player/party that attacked them, and went passive if they lost the original player and returned to their starting point (so they wouldn't attack people on their way home).
Kill stealing. EQ gave credit for the kill, and therefore, any experience and loot, to whoever landed the killing blow. So you could be fighting a bad guy, get them down to 5%, and someone else could roll in, whack the mob, and get all the credit. Some people would even do it serially as a griefing tactic, and while against the rules, it was hard to get a GM to intervene. WoW locked encounters so that once you tagged a creature it was "yours" unless you ran away and disengaged.
Camping. Related to kill-stealing this is the phenomenon where a group would sit on a particularly valuable creature and keep killing it every time it spawned, letting no one else take a turn. WoW still had/has some of this, but by moving a lot of the best bosses and loot into instanced dungeons, they avoided the worst of it.
Sense of humor. Blizzard threw little nods to pop culture in -- not enough to turn the whole game into slapstick, but just enough to give fans the occasional laugh when they stumbled across something. (To pick an example: a blimp captain named "Hin Denburg".)
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