I guess the first question would be 'is there a fuss?' and the simple answer is Yes there is, very much so.
World of Warcraft now has over 12 million subscribers, it is by far the most popular MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role playing game) that has ever existed, it is said to control 62% of the MMORPG subscription market and holds the Guinness world record for the most popular MMORPG by subscribers. Thats quite a lot of fuss, in my opinion.
So why is there so much fuss over World of Warcraft? What makes it better than the rest?
- Lore: World of Warcraft is the progression of the Warcraft pc game series originally started in 1994. It is built upon a vast, comprehensive and ever so slightly Tolkien-esk fantasy world with a rich history written into the game and developed over the last 16 years of upgrades and expansions. Avid fans of the game would highlight the quality of 'the story' or Lore as one of the main ways that World of Warcraft is superior to the competition, i'm sure many fans rival it against great fantasy novels and films simply as a story.
- Technical: With the release of World of Warcraft in 2001, game makers Blizzard pioneered a gaming system that would make it technically feasible to play a graphically rich and complex game online with the limitations of home computing power and internet connections. The key to this system was that players have the Warcraft universe, the environment, on their computers and only the characters and enemies are kept on the server. This means that while running around in Azeroth, gamers are only downloading data on characters and enemies surrounding their own avatar, which are all placed on the landscape among the trees and houses based on the user's hard drive and updated regularly to change features and fix problems. Gamers would much rather have the problem of finding somewhere to put the more than 20 gigabytes of data than having to struggle with an overwhelming amount of data strangling their internet connection.
- Customization: With 12 million players, any game is going to struggle with giving each player a chance to make their characters unique and therefore more personal, World of Warcraft done extremely well in this regard. When creating a character you first have a choice of 2 factions, then ten different races/species divided equally between the two factions, this will be increased to twelve in the next expansion. Next players get to choose a class for their characters, there are nine classes in total and each race has a different combination of classes to choose from. Once a player has chosen a faction, race and class, they are given the chance to create a unique appearance from a variety of settings ranging from the basic male or female to skin tone, facial features, hair color and style or even jewelery, since the last expansion players have been able to change many of their appearance settings by visiting an in game hairdressing salon. The last piece of customization before starting to play is picking a name for your character, character names are unique to a realm, so if there is already a character with that name you will not be able to use it, not a revolutionary idea but ensures players will never bump into a character exactly like theirs.
- Customization Continued: Once all the customization steps above are completed players can begin to actually play the game and the individualization of characters continues to expand. The three main ways that characters can become more unique while playing are through talent points, gear (clothes and equipment) and professions. Talent points are given to characters as they develop and player can choose to spend their talents point on a variety of different talents depending on how they like to play the game, there are popular talents and preferred builds (combinations of talents) but in the end it is up to the player to decide what is best for them. There is an unbelievable amount of gear available from a variety of different sources and many of these items can be traded between characters, its not until you reach the pinnacle of the game that small minorities of characters begin to aspire to getting a particular item and extremely rare that you would find two characters using identical gear in all 15 item slots. Players can choose two primary and three secondary professions from 15 different professions, giving their characters a even more choice. I could go on and on about mounts and titles and pets all day, i won't, but i will add that all these customization options have encouraged players to get attached to their characters and therefore attached to the game itself, which is great for Blizzard Entertainment.
- Game play: How do you keep players entertained with one game for so long? Apart from making a fun game Blizzard have tackled this issue in a variety of ways. Firstly providing multiple ways of achieving the same goal, whether the goal is to gain experience, get better gear or make gold there are always a variety of ways to achieve it, meaning players can switch between these methods whenever they get bored of one. Secondly, regular expansions and lots of hype, Blizzard will be launching Cataclysm in December 2010, the third expansion for World of Warcraft and players have been talking about it for months maybe years before its release. This hype creates an energy which keeps players focused on the game, entices old players back to the game and attracts new players. Even more impressive is that expansions generally don't disappoint, despite all the hype players tend to enjoy the fresh content, increased options and the opportunity to play the next chapter of the Warcraft story.
So what i'm trying to say is there is more to being a good game than just being fun to play and World of Warcraft is the perfect example of how to create a loyal following and keep that following. You have to give the staff at Blizzard all the complements they're due because it seems to me that they achieved all this through good ideas and hard work.
- World of Warcraft can seriously effect your social, academic and working lifestyle. Please play responsibly.