An Idiot In Azeroth: Part One

For the next month Mark Serrels is playing through World of Warcraft for the very first time. He has never played an MMO before. He knows little to nothing about the universe. For these four weeks he is an idiot in Azeroth.

On a cold Sydney winter morning I stand at the train station. The sun cuts through the crisp azure sky and I think to myself, “this reminds me of the sky in Elwynn forest as I wandered carefree as a level 3 noob and was coldly cut down by a bandit near the crystal lake.

“And then eaten by a wolf.

“And two minutes later somehow killed by something that sort of looked like a frog.”

Dear friends, forgive me. I am an Idiot In Azeroth.

Hello. My name is Mark Serrels. I’ve never played an MMO before. Ever.

I also know next to nothing about World of Warcraft.

Okay, backtrack. I know some things about World of Warcraft. I understand that it’s an MMO. I know what an MMO is. I know that it’s a timesink that many have claimed to be addicted to. I understand there have been expansions, I understand it’s a fantasy game set in the Warcraft universe. I know that the maximum level is currently 90. I knew enough to laugh at the jokes in that South Park episode and I know just about enough to blunder my way through a World of Warcraft news post here at Kotaku Australia.

But I don’t know enough.

I’ve always toyed with the idea: maybe one day I’d give World of Warcraft a try. ‘It’d make for a great series on Kotaku’, I’d say.

And now, here I am.

World of Warcraft. A game long past its prime. Populated by a set of players who are ‘hardened’ in a sense — although hardened is the wrong word. What is the right word?

The reasons people play World of Warcraft today are surely different from the pure reasons they once had all those years ago in 2004, when the game was first released. Maybe they play for community, to maintain the friendships that began all those years ago, in long-forgotten guilds, during long-forgotten quests, trying to relive those old jokes, trying to grasp those memories and somehow relive them again, and again, and again...

I don’t understand them, and I don’t feel as though I belong, but I walk among them.

Perhaps it’s a job. Perhaps it’s a distraction. Perhaps it’s pure habit. Perhaps logging on is just a reflex they can’t fight. But as I wander among the levelled-up behemoths and monstrosities with their mounts and gear, I wonder exactly what it is they’re doing here, I wonder about their motivations for playing a game they’ve no doubt exhausted at least once. This is my first time playing World of Warcraft – ever — almost 10 years after the game was first released, and all these people, they are still here. I don’t understand them, and I don’t feel as though I belong, but I walk among them. Perhaps one day I’ll be granted that insight. Maybe one day I’ll become one of them.

But for now I’m alone. An Idiot In Azeroth.

It’s impossible to describe that moment; entering Azeroth for the first time with almost literally no pre-knowledge with which to form expectations. With nothing to prepare you.

I’m loath to claim that World of Warcraft is bloated – again, that is the wrong word. But my first reaction — after being bombarded with menus, smatterings of key bindings, information, and so much text – is bewilderment.

Fear. Stress. Confusion.

I created my character – Alliance, human, looks like Conan the Barbarian – and that was simple enough, but with tutorials automatically turned off it took me 15 minutes to work out how to attack the six wolf things I was supposed to kill in my very first quest. 15 minutes. I had to find the tutorial box in the options, ‘tick it’ and then return to the game. It took me a long time to do that and everything else has felt like slow progress since.

But that’s fine. Most of my favourite gaming experiences have required a certain amount of patience, then reward.

On Friday night I was cooking dinner, but was feeling lazy. I chucked some corn on the cob into a saucepan of boiling water and logged into World of Warcraft. ‘I’ll go for a wander,’ I thought and aimlessly trudged into the wilderness to explore.

Elwynn Forest. The sky is crisp and clear, the palette is otherworldly. Trees sprout to touch it in low polygon spindles and somehow I don’t mind. I gaze up and get lost for a second. This world is beautiful still, in its own way. It’s hard to explain.

I am an idiot in Azeroth. I am also, it turns out, just an idiot.

The forest gives way to a village, I can’t for the life of me remember its name. Creatures great and small and strange in shape congregate in a bizarre collage of impossible colours and lines that seem almost unimaginable. I can’t imagine a context in which this would make sense outside of this one, specific particular moment of time. They duel with their wizardry, pets and lightning bolts and I just walk past oblivious to what is going on or what is even happening in front of my eyes — because I have understanding of what it took to get there. To get to the place where that fight was possible.

Then I smell burning. In real life.

I quickly peel off my headphones. I run into the kitchen. I had been playing for a whole hour without realising and the water that was once in the saucepan has evaporated. All that’s left is four lonely, slightly charred clumps of corn. This, I realise, is how time passes when you play World of Warcraft.

I am an idiot in Azeroth. I am also, it turns out, just an idiot.

Stay tuned throughout the month for more entries into An Idiot In Azeroth.


    TLDR. "I walked to goldshire and watched people duel and then my snack burned."

      Sounds about right.

        Don't goto Goldshire on and RP server. You will never be the same.

        Last edited 07/07/14 3:07 pm

          I find RP servers can be fun to watch, but Goldshire on Moon Guard . . . . . . .

          . . . . . . . . .

          Never again . . . . .

          well most rp servers are fine.. JUST STAY THE FUCK AWAY FROM MOONGUARD!!

            Unfortunately, thanks to cross realm zoning, Moonguard is ruining the Goldshire in previously safe RP realms like mine, so it's no longer as simple as saying 'don't roll MG.'

          I made this mistake once while my old server was down. learned what they use /chicken for. I regretted everything.


      I knew no one would get it. QQ

      The character name screenshotted is a reference to the Belgariad!

        I knew that name, you just didn't give me time to respond!
        Wheres Zakath? ;)
        I can only assume, given he is level 70, that this the Errand after the big decision from the Seeress of Kell :P
        I only just finished re-reading the belgariad and mallorean a couple of weeks back!

        Last edited 07/07/14 2:32 pm

        I would have had him a gnome in a white shirt but at least the priest class is right.

          Ha that reminds me I had a female character in wow called Cenedra

        If only he handed out Epic Orbs to low level players......

    I see you've already had your first Murloc experience. Don't worry, there are many more to come.

    Also, the village you mentioned is Goldshire. It's a weird place.

    Edit: Have you made to Stormwind proper yet? That moment of wandering up the hill as a freshly-minted adventurer, through the gates and into the Valley of Heroes just as the music strikes up is one of my favourite memories in gaming.

    Last edited 07/07/14 1:20 pm

    As someone who has not played WOW before and not really interested in playing it due to lack of time in my life, I am genuinely interested to see how this will turn out. God speed Mark.

      Agreed, my experience is limited to one single 30 minute go of my mates level 10 ranger or something, about 8 years ago

    None of that bollocks over in Durotar. Lok'tar Ogar!

      As someone who played WoW on and off for about seven years (probably five of them actual playing time)... I still hate the Alliance.

      You sir, have my full respect.

      You can say that it wouldn't happen in Durotar. You'd even be right. But the Orc starting quests were some of the worst I played. The landscape was ugly, the quests were boring, Durotar was a nightmare to navigate for the first time... A thousand times better than Stormwind once you're comfortable, but damn if it isn't an unpleasant opening.

        They breed 'em tough in the arid wastelands of Southern Durotar. I wouldn't have it any other way.

      And then... Barrens Chat.

        I never understood the hatred over Barrens Chat, some of my fondest memories are from Barrens Chat

          On several servers, Barrens Chat was the Mos Eisley of WoW - a wretched hive of scum and villainy.
          Glad to hear that some servers had a civil Barrens Chat, though.

            oh no it was still totally like that

          My first experience of barrens chat was people sharing the worst Chuck Norris jokes. I really mean the word 'worst' in every sense.

    First timer playing Wow, shit son he'll be lvl 40 by the time the day is done.

      The last character I leveled took about a week to get to 90. I didn't even have to go to BC and Wrath zones as it was quicker just levelling through the dungeon finder

        Yeah but Dungeon Finder is meant to be a bit of a shortcut. With dungeon finder, account bound gear, guild perks and a moderate understanding of how the game/your class works you can get a weeks results in a casual afternoon session. =P

    I'm intrigued Mr Serrels, I've never touched an MMO either and will happily experience it via your correspondence.

    Need some screenshots of your guy! Were you playing a warrior?

    That BC Priest keybinds are a little hilarious , shift-9? shift-0? 6, 7. 8, 9? equals sign? he was either a clicker who assigned keybinds for some odd reason or had a custom keys rerouted to shift combinations.

    Last edited 07/07/14 1:32 pm

      I think he's got all his other add-ons turned off or something, so it'd probably make more sense if it were laid out differently. Shift+7-0 are repeats of Shift-1-4 which is weird but it explains why they're not changed. F and Z replace 0 and - so they make sense. The only one that doesn't appear to make sense is Shift-= but it's his breakout trinket and he hasn't changed the bind for unmodified = either so he's probably got a extra mouse button set to =.

      Personally I went with ~ through 6 with Shift, Ctrl and Alt modifiers, mouse wheel up/down to switch between single target and AoE loadouts, a few mouse binds for breakout trinkets, consumables, etc, Q and E for prev/next target, I think F for interact/activate and V for my mount.
      At one point I had the entire game bound to a game pad. Weird stuff raiding hard mode laid back on the couch. Frost Mage in PvP worked particularly well with it.

    I loved WoW at first, it felt like I was part of an epic adventure tale! Then about level 18 it just started feeling like another RPG. I miss that old feeling.

    I wonder exactly what it is they’re doing here, I wonder about their motivations for playing a game they’ve no doubt exhausted at least once.

    I think this is dangerous misconception. You never "finish" a game like this. It never ends. You can't get 3 stars on every level and never look back. Even if you beat every boss on the hardest difficulty (which is usually like the top 5% of players) a new expansion comes along. The very nature of the game pushes you to complete more quests, collect more gear, get more achievements etc... There's always something to do and the game is built to feed that desire to progress.

    And then you make a second character....

    Think of it this way Mark. Once you've played through the game and reached level 90 you've experienced maybe 60% of the story. Now you start the end game.
    The end game is like darksouls. like darksouls with 10 (or 25) other people where the success and failure of the group depends on each player. It's like darksouls were you must kill each boss to progress, and you want to kill bosses more than once to get the gear you need to kill later bosses....

    Last edited 07/07/14 1:43 pm

      Good explanation -- thanks man!

        WoW's real game starts post 90. Think of going from level 1-90 as this massive initiation prepping you for all the content end-game. Raids, Arenas, Wargames, etc. It's also post 90 where you really start to connect with a guild you're assuming you joined a random guild!

          That depends on how you define 'starts'. If you like wandering around exploring, having adventures, small group encounters, story driven content, all that pretty much drops away at level cap which makes 90 the end.
          If you like end-game that's fair enough, but World of Warcraft sort of blurs five game modes together. You've got the Campaign (1-90), the time waster DLC (daily solo), multiplayer (Arena and Battelgrounds), soft co-op (end-game dungeons and the occasional normal mode raid) and hardcore co-op (end-game raids).
          Hardcore raiding may be at the top of the grind but it doesn't make it the only 'true' game.

          Last edited 07/07/14 4:29 pm

            Dogman has hit the nail on the head. I got WoW 6 months after initial release, played a character to 30, had a spat with a mate and quit (like not some namby pamby stuff a proper blue face to face).

            Tried playing again about... 6 months later, played for a bit, got bored stopped again. I did this for every major expansion and then last year in october it just all clicked. Everyone had told me "just get to the end game and the fun will start." But that's not true. Levelling is also fun, and some of the quest chains are a riot! Then you get to work your way through the some of the solo end game areas, or queue for dungeons/instances. Then there's the achievement whoring. And all the stuff I never thought I'd catch myself doing I am now really enjoying. I've hit level cap for the first time ever, and have even begun trying to raise my gear level for my Brewmaster (only sitting at 496 now, boooo).

            You don't have to spend 6 hours a day on the game. It might be just an hour a night, or a few 2-3 times a week. Better yet, are you hungover? That's cool! Pop a crap movie on the left screen and quest away on the right! The game is so much more than just the rush to get to level 90 that people kept making it out to be for me. It really is a bunch of different games and options/playstyles bundled together that make the game so addictive even after all these years.

            I was so looking forward to ESO too, but in the end the whole place felt so bland and generic compared to the amazing diversity I was finding in WoW. Sorry I'll shutup now. @markserrels, I'm looking forward to more mate :)

            Last edited 07/07/14 4:03 pm

              Speaking of quest chains - the whole Harrison Jones chain down in Uldum is great. If you're playing through the game for fun (and not to rush to 90 and raid) then I'd have to recommend doing every quest in the zone.

              Thanks for this, man. I used to be a hardcore raider but life got busy, now I play max a few hours a week, sometimes go a month or two without logging in, but it's still fun to log in and piss around. I talk to former players who are proud of the fact that they "kicked the habit", and to them I always say "you know this isn't binary right? You don't HAVE to play 16 hours a day or nothing!" I have many great memories in wow and still have fun, even if I don't play near as much as I used to.

        Oh one more thing I forgot to mention... the people you play with will make or break the game for you. Especially at the end game content.
        The only reason I stopped playing after 7 years is that all my other real life friends that I was raiding with stopped playing as well.

        Don't get me wrong, you can make some great friends online and I've met plenty of awesome people but nothing compares to that LAN party feeling of logging on with a bunch of mates and working hard to achieve a common goal.

      ^This very much. You can play WoW however you want, but it's endless. For example, if you're a mount collector... some mounts only have a low percentage to drop drop from a raid boss that you can attempt once a week(per character), but only if you have 24 other experienced people to play with(and are also competing against) and the hours to do it... or you might want to get something from a rare spawn(including Minfernals and Aeonaxx to name just two) that other people are competing with, that people literally can camp for many hours... and so you wait 6-12 hours or something... it finally spawns(!) and someone comes and kills you and kills the rare spawn anyway. Or you could fight other players in battlegrounds and put up with losing games do to bots on your team or fighting against organized groups(unless you find your own obviously), or do arena games and get stomped without gear or have some silly 1hr healing stalemates. Or do the same daily quests(chores) all the time... or work really hard towards something that Blizzard end up giving to everyone for basically free(Winterspring Frostsaber/lvl90's for example)...

      WoW is great in a lot of ways; you can play for the story or with friends and make new friends, and you could go exploring/adventuring and have fun fighting others/the computer... but the fun is tempered by monotonous, UNFAIR, irritating and the time-sink aspect. I have 12 90's I think and many years of investment(since release), but I stopped playing awhile back... I'll pick it up again for the xpac, but there are so many other games and things I'd rather do than WoW atm. Blizzard have also made enough money from it... it's time it went free to play too.

    Heh. I did that with pasta once. The layout of the house had me pretty much cut off from the kitchen so it got pretty bad before I noticed. The place started filling with smoke and I realised that in my rush to squeeze the daily seasonal event stuff in before raid I'd forgotten to set my timer. Absolutely destroyed the pot.
    Luckily we had the encounter on farm and my healer knew where and when to life grip me.

      Rule number one, never walk away from cooking :P

      I did the same once during school holidays. I remember running BT and finally reaching Illidan, only to remember that I'd put some fish into the oven before we started the group.

      i learned my lesson after that.

    Mark, I hope this goes as well for you as my brief foray into Azeroth did for me. I'm exceptionally glad I played World of Warcraft. Only a few months were enough for me to 'get it'. The work that's gone into making Azeroth such an expressive and immersive world is truly phenomenal. World of Warcraft is one of the most incredibly designed videogames in all of gaming history, and the experiences that come from playing it are almost impossible to find in any other game.

    I got back in this weekend. Tried some of my mains.... couldn't figure out what they did with the classes (warlock wtf happened there?)

    Unsubbed, started a new priest and am at Level 20 way too quickly and healing dungeons was too easy. But at least I got to learn the class again.

    I still had fun. Running a Draenei priest on Frostmourne.

    For when THAT time inevitably arrives.

    I've never seriously touched a MMO. I started the LOTR MMO but didn't get beyond the tutorial. Same with the Elder Scrolls beta. They just seem so aimless to me. I'm going to enjoy reading these and imagining me doing exactly the same thing, wondering what key bindings do what in which situation and before you know, it's Wednesday morning.

    My WOW knowledge is that South Park episode btw. I'm not ashamed of that fact, it's one of my favourite episodes of anything ever

    Populated by a set of players who are ‘hardened’ in a sense — although hardened is the wrong word. What is the right word?


    Everything nice taken for granted, rewards no longer earned but expected, bored of the daily slog. The idea of going through the motions of doing your dailies, running your instances, blowing through your raids knowing there is nothing waiting on the other side. Knowing that you are doing it so you can do more of order to do more of it. Staring at your screen with a glazed over expression leaping aimlessly around whatever hub of activity is the current place to be with no goal in mind. Maybe listening to that song for the umpteenth time only realising you already heard it twice today. Summing up the motivation to go to the toilet because your body is starting to insist with a little more vigor than usual, finally capitulation with the urge not because you need to pee, but because your can of coke is empty and you need another one so you may as well kill two birds with one stone.

      Oh man. Wow.

        mind you that's 8 years in with in excess of literally years play time on individual characters :P

      I'd have said "embittered". People who've played for 8 years and seen their beloved characters changed because Blizzard had a change of heart and decided to change how a character worked. "Oh you like that spell? Sorry you don't have it anymore. Here have a different one that doesn't work the same and is less effective." "You like depth and customization, sorry we're going the Diablo3 route now".

      That said, there are still great moments. Finally beating that really tough raid boss you've been struggling against for a month. Getting that awesome piece of gear that completes your set. Even simple things like stumbling into an area you've never explored and going "Wow! I've never seen this".

      I must say, Tutorials are turned on by default when you first install WoW. So you should have been getting tips all along.

      bored of the daily slog.

      Even all these years later I still think they killed the game by increasing the daily quest limit beyond 10. It may not have shut it down but it dealt it's soul a mortal blow. It tipped the balance and made the game demand too much of it's players. The hardcore spent too much time doing mindless busy work, which always aligned with when raiding was at it's most demanding, and the casual had to push too hard to go anywhere.

      Then again keeping the players playing Warcraft and not giving them time to pick up anything else probably contributes a lot to the games long life span. Quality of life vs length of life I guess.

    I think guild wars 2 would be a great review from a MMO beginner. No subscriptions and wonderful graphics.

    When you hit level 30 mark hit me up. I'll tank some dungeons for you on my warrior.

    I look forward to reading your first instance experience. That's where I first found the appeal. You'd better make it that far Mark! (IIRC, it's only mid teen levels before the first one opens)

      Dungeon finder becomes available at 15.

    This project and other outlandish ones such as the no sleep projects (as well as how well they are written) is exactly why mark is my favourite author on this website.

    That is all.

    I look forward to future updates on your idiotic adventure, Mark.

    It gives me a sense of nostalgia since I played the game for just over a year. I enjoyed it, but I was far too casual a player so I never got anywhere. It took me almost a whole year to reach the cap of 60. That's ultimately why I gave it up....I couldn't dedicate enough time to raiding and end-game instances to warrant playing further. The guild demanded your time like a job. For example, "Be available to raid at AEST 19:30 pm 2-3 times a week for 3 hours each time"....and this was just a casual players guild!

      Have to raid three times a week for several hours every time, being expected to raid... that's not a casual guild. That's a raiding guild. Truly casual guilds either don't raid at all, or only raid sporadically when enough people are on and feel like it. There are tons of real casual guilds out there and some of them have the nicest people.

        True. But unless you had piles of cash, you had to be available to run these kinds of events otherwise you always had crap gear.

        Another difficult aspect was that, back in the day, there wasn't any oceanic realms. So most Australian's were lumped in with the odd times of American's mostly.

    Then I smell burning. In real life.
    Sadly, I do this all the time. Granted, I do it with a tea kettle, rather than a meal, so less messy.
    "Man I really feel like some tea, I'll put the kettle on."
    *Puts on kettle, goes back to what I was doing.*
    An hour later: "Man I really feel like a cup of tea... oh, the kettle's already full. Oh, right." *Puts on kettle again.*

    I think my record is repeating this procedure five times before I actually remembered to go back and make the tea before the kettle cooled. I even have a sign hanging over my monitor saying "kettle" in big pink letters to remind me... it occasionally works.

      I even have a sign hanging over my monitor saying "kettle" in big pink letters to remind me... it occasionally works.

      Get yourself a cheap kitchen timer. My TV and PC are nowhere near the kitchen so I just grab it when I throw something on the stove or in the oven. The key is to make sure to leave it a few steps away from where you sit so you have to get up to shut it up.

        The thing is, I wear headphones when gaming. As the kettle is boiling literally less than five metres away (studio apartment), it's easy to hear without headphones, but nigh on impossible with headphones on, which means I also wouldn't hear a timer. If I had any sense, I'd write the necessary five lines of code to have my Arduino obnoxiously flash it's LEDs after a few minutes.

          Heh, I was thinking about how I'd go about making a DIY WiFi timer that mirror's the alarm to your PC's default speakers when I decided I'd just Google 'WiFi Kettle'. Apparently iKettle is the magic device you need that will win back all those lost hours you waste by not pre-boiling your kettle. The pitch for it sounds about as dumb as every other smart-thing-that-doesn't-need-to-be-smart but once you get past the pointless/cheesy stuff it actually sounds like it would be a good (expensive) solution.

    Was your account purchased? I thought Challenger title was from Arena PvP? Hardly be your first time in Azeroth if you managed to gain that title??

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