The MMORPG to Define Them All: Celebrating World of Warcraft
Massively Multiplayer Online games, or MMOs, are sort of a tricky business venture. Built often as free-to-play or upon a subscription service, the constant maintenance and expansion of these vast worlds requires a constant and active player base that will continue to keep a development studios lights on. As such, there have been plenty of MMO titles through the years that have come and gone in competition to precious player subscription. That said, there’s one that has almost always stood undisputed over the rest and its closest competitors are pretty much not even close. It was on this day in 2004 that Blizzard first invited players into the vast and imaginative MMO role-playing experience that was World of Warcraft, beginning a legacy that would win the hearts of players across the world for years to come.
Design of World of Warcraft began around the year 2000. Built to continue where the then ongoing story of Warcraft III would leave off, the folks at Blizzard Entertainment sought to explore a new and interesting experience with one of their longest running franchises. Looking to the success and interest Everquest had previously generated in the year before, Blizzard saw an opportunity to step away from the massive army-commanding campaigns of strategy and take players down to the level of a singular being living and questing in the vast world of Azeroth. Using Warcraft III as a foundation for this new project, Blizzard began to build Azaroth and create something beyond ravaged battlefields that populated the strategy series. They sought to create a living, breathing world in which culture, civilization and strife would coexist in an ongoing and never-ending fashion.
The original World of Warcraft came in on the heels of the Warcraft III expansion --- The Frozen Throne --- and sought to carry on the events of the Alliance and the Horde in response to the changing world, but it wasn’t confined to a simple scenario of one game. The various expansions to World of Warcraft over the years have explored countless nooks and crannies of previously established and original lore. Whether players sought to explore the Burning Legion ravaged domain of Outland in The Burning Crusade or take on the resurrected Lich King of Warcraft III’s story in Wrath of the Lich King, the journey in World of Warcraft is a lengthy and practically infinite one.
This is due in no small part to the overall design of the game. Taking on the role of one of various races tied to either the Orc-led Horde or the Human-led Alliance, players are given some level of a tutorial that guides them through a basic understanding of questing, crafting, level-ups and the active society around them before they are let loose on an open-world adventure they can explore at their own discretion.
A large portion of the fun of World of Warcraft has always been about being who you want to be and doing what you want to do, as long as you’re strong enough to do it. And even if you’re not, the game was designed masterfully to guide players into joining ranks with one another and lending a helping hand to defeat challenges bigger than any one player can handle, thus developing fantastic and fervent communities and social circles of explorers and adventurers dedicated to unraveling any and all secrets of the World of Warcraft over the many years since it’s been released.
World of Warcraft caught on like wildfire to say the least. In the world of MMORPGs, there has pretty much never been one as embraced and beloved as Blizzard’s genre defining entry. Many of come and gone, trying to match the sheer level of dedication, fun and versatility that can be found in the vast and never-ending adventure Blizzard produced, but World of Warcraft is far more than a simple game. It’s a community builder, a gauntlet for the most dedicated of gamers, a getaway for the imagination and a phenomena of the highest order in the gaming industry.