After 15 years and seven expansions, World of Warcraft has become the content equivalent of a foot-tall (not -long) sandwich constructed by an overly ambitious stoner. At this point, it’s teetering under the weight of pieces that, in hindsight, don’t really fit. That’s why the World of Warcraft team has decided to cut the levelling experience down to size.
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This month marks the 15th anniversary of the release of World of Warcraft, a moderately successful massively multiplayer online role-playing game. To celebrate the occasion, Blizzard’s set up an anniversary blow-out in Azeroth’s Caverns of Time, with special pets, retro world bosses, old-school player-versus-player battlegrounds, and a three-part raid that rewards players with a rideable Deathwing.
If you’ve been following Blizzard news lately, you could be forgiven for thinking that the company had bulldozed its meticulously expanded World of Warcraft and replaced it with the humble township of Warcraft Classic. Modern WoW, however, is still kicking, and at BlizzCon, Blizzard announced a new expansion, Shadowlands. That said, even Shadowlands’ designers can’t help studying Classic’s blueprint for success.
World of Warcraft is about to die—by which I of course mean that its next expansion, Shadowlands, is sending everybody to Azeroth’s afterlife for another day in the fantastical, boar-filled office of questing and looting. But while life after death is probably the most standout new feature, the expansion will also add a suite of new character customisation options, including skin tones and hair types that correspond to multiple human ethnicities.
Far and away the most impressive piece of cosplay I’ve seen at BlizzCon is this wildly elaborate take on World of Warcraft raid boss Ragnaros, aka “the big angry fire boy from Molten Core.” Cosplayer Holly “Kaleidoscope Costumes” Cowie has wanted to make it for a decade.
Announced today at the BlizzCon 2019 keynote, the seventh major expansion for World of Warcraft is called Shadowlands. The followup to Battle for Azeroth sees former Horde Warchief turned master villain Sylvanas Windrunner unleash death across the world of Azeroth and players venturing into the realm between life and death.
Deathwing the Destroyer is the massive black dragon whose escape from his underground prison shattered World of Warcraft’s Azeroth, his fiery rage forever changing the face of the planet. Fans of Blizzard’s online battle arena game Heroes of the Storm have been clamouring for Deathwing’s addition to the game’s all-star lineup for years. Now he’s coming, and based on the early footage shown, he looks like he’ll be a uniquely powerful beast.
It’s been over 12 years since I seriously worked on raising my reputation with one of World of Warcraft’s in-game factions. Those many years ago, I spent days performing repetitive tasks just to earn a special mount, and after that, I swore off grinding reputation for rewards. Then Blizzard announced the Vulpera, a new playable allied race available in the next major game update for players who’ve reached the highest reputation level with Battle for Azeroth’s Voldunai faction. They look like little foxes and they hang out with alpaca. Here I go again.
Now that players have had a month and a half to get used to World of Warcraft as it was in late 2004, it’s time to scootch forward to early 2005. Today’s first major update to World of Warcraft Classic adds the three-part Dire Maul dungeon, filed with Ogres, elves and assorted evil.
People Make Games, a YouTube channel founded by former Eurogamer video maker Chris Bratt and animator Anni Sayers, has concluded a year-long investigation into Bachir “Athene” Boumaaza, a YouTuber who got his start with troll-y video game antics but went on to form a pseudo-religion called Neuro-Spinozism and is now the face of an organisation called The Singularity Group.
Now that the Battle for Azeroth is winding down, it’s time for World of Warcraft to take care of unfinished business. The next big free game update, Visions of N’Zoth, pits Horde and Alliance players against the maddening threat of a powerful elder god. More importantly, it adds two new playable allied races, the fox-like Vulpera and cybernetic Mechagnomes.
People get excited about Blizzard’s annual fan convention for many reasons. Some look forward to meeting up with friends. Others are eager to hear news about upcoming games and expansions. Me? I’m mainly here for the ridiculous in-game items rolled out for World of Warcraft, Overwatch, Diablo, StarCraft, Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone every BlizzCon.
World of Warcraft has its stalwarts, players who’ve been around since the good ol’ days of Onyxia and Ragnaros. It also has its transients. Maybe they were diehard players for a couple years in high school. Maybe they were living that sweet bachelor life. For whatever reason, they left. Now, thanks to the recent release of WoW Classic, many of them are back and reuniting with old friends.
Last year, in the lead-up to World of Warcraft’s Battle for Azeroth expansion, Horde leader Sylvanas Windrunner went a bit more evil than usual. She set the world tree ablaze, destroying the night elf capital of Teldrassil and murdering countless innocents in the process.
It was one of the most horrific events in the online role-playing game’s history. It’s also a delightful papercraft creation in the upcoming World of Warcraft Pop-Up Book. You can almost smell the roasting night elves.
One of the truisms about video gaming, for the moment at least, is that it's a technology-led industry. The leaps are far from what they once were, but the last few decades have seen stunning advances in every aspect of the medium. This is great and all but it does mean that, outside of a very few gems, the vast majority of older video games don't hold up too well. Rare indeed are those that, over time, shine undiminished.
I don't know if it's a universal thing, but in any office I've been at, you can generally spot who the gamers are by looking at the amount of annual leave that's banked up. For whatever reason, gamers tend to be the ones in the offices that rarely take annual leave, are generally the ones working over public holidays and Christmas ... until a major release comes out.
“I couldn’t help it,” said Ash, one of the dedicated World of Warcraft fans who’d helped manage illicit fan servers for years, of his decision to play Blizzard’s official World of Warcraft Classic. “I just wanted to stop working on privately owned projects and focus on myself for once. And that’s what I did… For years, I focused purely on the best experience for the players. Now it’s my own turn.”