Sunday, March 19, 2006
World of Warcraft
If you're a geek younger than 40, you already know what World of Warcraft (WoW) is. For the rest of you, I'll give a brief overview: WoW is a networked computer game where millions of people interact with one another in virtual sword-and-sorcery fantasy worlds. Players control imaginary characters in a three-dimensional environment. They can kill monsters and one another, can embark on quests to retrieve magical items, can buy/sell/auction items, and can chat with one another. For just $15 a month, you can play as much as you like.
WoW boasts over 6 million active accounts. That's a lot of players, but it is still small in comparison to the overall population of the US and other countries where WoW is played. But somehow, almost everybody I know plays it. I have friends who play it. My flight instructor plays it. My boss and other team members play it. Our CTO talks about it in meetings. I guess I must be smack dab in the middle of the WoW demographic.
WoW and similar games have been called "the new golf." These are activities that lots of people can discuss and play together, building relationships between business associates.
After seeing the ridiculous amounts of time these people spend playing and talking about the game, I decided I did not want to play it. I tried EverQuest (a similar game) a couple of years ago, so I know what a waste of time it is. I'm a grownup (supposedly), and I've got better things to do with my time than play Dungeons & Dragons on a computer. Really, no way.
Well, last week I bought World of Warcraft. Or maybe it was two weeks ago. I'm not sure; I've lost track of time. I wonder whether I've been showing up for work on all the right days.
It's impressive. I'm not interested in it as a game as much as a work of craftsmanship. The landscapes are beautiful, the animated characters are entertaining, and the storylines have more depth than I expected. The more of the simulated world I see, the more amazed I am at all the work that went into it.
One nice thing is that it was released for both Mac OS X and Windows. The installation discs contain both versions, so I didn't have to buy a second copy for my Mac. Unfortunately, my iMac G5 is not a top-of-the-line machine, so I have to settle for low-resolution graphics and toned-down special effects on that machine. It's playable on my Mac, but my Windows box in the spare bedroom is all pimped-out for gaming, so I do most of my playing there.
After a few days of spending way too much time playing, moderation has set in. I'm now only playing an hour or two a night, and some nights I don't play at all. This frustrates my co-workers, who want me to get up to level 60 as quickly as possible so I can join their group and fight the really big monsters. But that doesn't interest me. I like running around the world, hunting monsters, and riding the goblins' zeppelins.
Back when I was a kid, when the Atari 2600 was the state-of-the-art in gaming consoles, and when the Infocom text adventures were the epitome of computer gaming, my friends and I would talk about how cool it would be if there was a virtual-reality role-playing game. That dream was one of the things that got me into computer programming. I thought EverQuest would be the fulfillment of that dream, but it wasn't quite there. World of Warcraft is. I wish I could have been part of that development team—this is something that would make me very proud.
If you're around levels 10-15, and want to do some questing together, give me a whisper. I've got characters named Bovo and Shamm in the Illidan realm, and Groan and Ugger in Rexxar. I'll need to stop playing at around 8:00 AM, so I can go to work.
I'm very scared of it.
I recently bought guild wars hoping to play with my bro-in-law, but he's moved on to - you guessed it - WoW. :)
I have wisely steered clear from WoW and their ilk. I like my wife and she barely puts up with my Playstation habit. I'm certain she would be extremely displeased if I were a WoW-zombie.