State of the WoW
Mark Asher - Columns - Comments - 06/01/04

I thought I'd pen an irregular column on Blizzard's World of Warcraft. Here's the first.

All signs point to a new push in the beta this week, or next week at the latest. Blizzard keeps a tight lip on these things to help manage fan expectations, but at E3 they promised a new push in a couple of weeks and it's been a couple of weeks. They want to do it. It's just a matter of being ready.

What's a push? It's just a major revamp of the beta version of the game. New stuff is added and old stuff is tossed or tweaked. Blizzard is introducing new code in big chunks rather than small ones, in other words.

Best guess is that the new push will raise the level cap beyond 39. There are 60 levels planned for the game. The big deal about going past level 39 is that at level 40 players can buy mounts, and we're not talking the kind you'd buy at the Mustang Ranch, though if you don't know what the Mustang Ranch is, then yes, that's the kind of mount I'm talking about -- a beast to ride, not a two-backed beast. Orcs get giant wolves, undead get nightmares, dwarves get rams, and so on. A surprise is planned for one of the races, gnomes perhaps.

Hunters are the last remaining class to be implemented. It looks like they won't be in this push. Players have been moaning and gnashing their teeth to get hunters, the big babies. Why do they want to play a hunter? Because they want to create a character named Legolass or Ligolas or Lagoless or whatever. Ok, I'm being too harsh. I expect to see all those names, but the real reason why players want to be hunters is because hunters can tame animals as pets, and it looks like there's a ton of different animals they can tame. There are pet trainers in cities that players can use to improve their pets, and I've seen trainers with giant spiders, raptors, jungle beasts, etc. Now I want to play a hunter!

Besides that, the new Talent system should be in this next push. This is going to be the system we use to make our characters unique. In other words, it will help Legolass be different from Ligolas. It should allow the classes to specialize a bit -- if you're a mage, for example, you might use the Talent system to specialize in fire spells and put a little more sizzle into them.

The other big news for the upcoming push is the addition of a factional Horde vs. Alliance PvP server. Currently, Alliance and Horde players end up questing in the same areas, or just bumming around. I went into the Alliance town of Darkshire last night and killed all the human guards while the Alliance players all gaped in fear at my mighty undeadness. The guards didn't drop much, although I did get some silk off one. He was probably going to give it to his girlfriend, but I used it to make some new underwear for my undead mage. Ha!

On the factional PvP server, those same fearful Alliance players would have ganged up on me, or I could have roamed around invisible and looked for Alliance players in ones and twos and tried to pick them off. Could be fun!

World of Warcraft has really grabbed me. Twice I got a bit less interested in it and then for some reason became avidly interested all over again. It's a fast-leveling game, which really pleases me, and there's just a lot of variety in the places to see, monsters to kill, and quests to do. It's so easy on the players, too. Blizzard has really strived to make it a pleasant experience and so far it is.

I did talk to Blizzard's Rob Pardo at E3 and I asked about PvP and the high level game they have planned. I'll go into that in my next column.

More Columns by Mark Asher

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