World of Warcraft makes my computer hot…

…more on that in a minute.

There’s a church not far from my house in Richland whose advertising billboard currently reads “Your character is more important than your career.” I expect your average World of Warcraft junkie would agree (though I’m sure the church meant something else.) After all, in the mind of your average WoWhead, the purpose of a job is to pay for a WoW subscription (and other incidentals, like electricity, internet service, food, and water; and, if you can manage it, maybe climate control.)

I recently got sucked into this vortex with a free 10-day trial of World of Warcraft. In my defense, I was trying to experience as much of the gameplay as possible within the context of this chronological limitation, and I was still making it to my class and working lackadaisically on work-search. Actually, I think Alison took up more of my time during the period than WoW did, which has to be seen as a useful benchmark, but when they’re running neck-and-neck (with AE and EVE tossed in) there’s not room for much else.

That, in part, explains my absense from blogging. In RL news, Burgie is still running good and now has ALL of the proper parts (for a couple weeks, we had a coke-cup duct-taped in in place of a critical air hose.) In fact, she’s running like a charm, and I’m looking forward to the eventuality of having to run to Spokane at some point so I can do a long-distance (more or less. A couple hours of driving anyway) road test.

Alison managed to badly overspend last month with the effect that her government funding for this month comes to a net total of less than nothing. She’s concerned about how she’ll be able to pay the utilities and she’s running out of supplies. I keep urging her to ask her parents for help, but so far she’s had the excuse that her throat isn’t feeling well enough to talk during the time periods they’re available. All seems a little too– inconvenient, I guess you’d say– to me.

The Demon Murphy striking with his usual precision, Alison has been given notice that her tenency at her current place of residence is being terminated at the end of the month. I’ve been trying to talk to her landlords so that I can maybe change their minds, but so far they’re not in their office and not returning my calls.

I am planning to go to RadCon, even if I have to sneak around on Alison to do it. This shouldn’t be an issue, though. She’s agreed in principle to let me go, and it worked well enough last year.

Back to World of Warcraft. My experience with it reminds me of Asheron’s Call with a little variation and quite a bit of Blizzard’s singular polish. I really feel that it’s the absolute pinnacle of its type of game. It’s graphically spectacular (though as I declared to Andrew last night, they’re not done upgrading the graphics until the gameplay looks like the cinematics) and actually quite engaging, with a quest system that makes the grind seem less [i]like[/i] a grind. The storyline is extensive and well-integrated such that at times it feels more like a single-player CRPG than like a MMO.

Of course, there are little bizarre artifacts. For example, nothing you do can change the game world in any meaningful way (standard feature of most MMOs.) If you kill all of the kobolds in Whatevermine, they’ll be back in seconds. Sometimes before you can run all the way back to the surface. This has gotten me killed a time or two.

Death is relatively painless. You become a ghost and can run back and revive your body. You’ll come back with all of your buffs dispelled and down a few HPs and some mana, but if you can keep safe for a bit, you’ll be in fighting trim in seconds. If you can’t get to your body (or don’t want to bother) you can talk to a “spirit healer” (these are always right by the graveyard where your ghost spawns) and get revived in the graveyard, for only a reasonable loss of gear durability and a fairly short period of resurrection sickness, which just makes you suck at fighting for a bit.

This death mechanic has some tactical applications. I had a quest where I needed to take down some high muckety-muck, but kept failing because I couldn’t take him and his inseperable bodyguard at the same time. Fortunately, I was able to kill one of them and respawn before the other one did to finish the job.

Durability is a stat that reflects how long it takes for your gear to “break.” When it “breaks,” it just stops working until you can have it repaired (costs money relative to the value of the item) by a merchant. This is a small, and mostly meaningless, funds sink and seems to have no actual purpose.

Following in the footsteps of Warcraft III, World of Warcraft gives you very limited inventory space, entirely independent of strength or item weight, and mostly independent of item size (item size is reflected only in how “stackable” an item is. Arrows are stackable up to 200 in a slot, but gloves and a breastplate each take up a single full slot.) You start with a single 12-slot “backpack” and can add up to four bags, pouches, or quivers (like bags, but only carry ammo,) which will have between four and twelve slots each. This seems sufficient at first, but necessitates frequent returns to town while questing. Fortunately, towns are pretty thick on the ground in Azeroth, but this does mean that you’ll get none of that “carry my house with me” Asheron’s Call nonsense.

The current level range (1-70) gets pretty absurd, especially as it’s generally considered that a character isn’t “mature” until level 70. Level 55s (for example) are frequently referred to by WoWheads as “lowbies,” and a Trial account caps your characters at level 20. I only got to level 18, though I could have got a bit higher if I hadn’t been futzing around with nine characters (one per class.)

Because of the quest system, and your character’s starting city being dictated by race (to say nothing of racial abilities,) playing a class as one race won’t be quite the same experience as playing as another race. For example, a Dwarven hunter will start in a harsh land of ice and snow (and will look for, carry, and/or kill generally dwarfy things) but comes standard with a gun, an axe, and training to use both. A Night Elf hunter is stuck with a bow and a dagger, but gets to do her initial questing in a scenic forest (with several of the early quests having something to do with Moon Wells.) Night Elves will probably jump more, because they do this cute little backflip thing a fair percentage of the time when they jump, and that just never quite gets old.

WoW has a pretty solid system of emotes, with each race having a distinctive dance style (human females do the macarena, while orcs have a kind of break-dancing thing going on IIRC.) Sadly, YMCA and drudge-dancing were unavailable. Your character can even tell jokes, though their catalog is limited (and gender-race-specific.) It is also possible to get completely piss-drunk in-game to the point where your vision gets extremely blurry and your character can’t walk or talk straight. This amused me the one time I did it (with a paladin, of all things.)

I was somewhat annoyed that class choices are restricted by race, which makes your stereotyped character even MORE stereotyped, and more so for some races than others. On the other hand, you can train any race (though not any class) to use a gun. Also irritating is that the Alliance has all the cute girls (Burning Crusade Blood Elves aside, only Humans and Night Elves are remotely in this realm, no matter what Psychopompous thinks about Orcs,) meaning that I spent very little time playing my Horde characters (got them all to level 6, but didn’t really feel like taking them further. I found playing as undead extremely disturbing, probably due to my mild case of corpse-phobia.)

The skills system is effective but uninteresting, and sometimes annoying. The game has a small number of combat (mainly weapon) and trade skills, with trade skills following a slightly different set of rules than combat skills. Fishing is amusing, and some of the trade skills are dependent on other trade skills, so that a limited set of professions is even more limited. If you want to be a blacksmith, you should be a miner, for example, making the two choices essentially one and excluding other combinations. (I wanted to be a blacksmith/enchanter but this proved impractical, because blacksmithing needs mining to produce the necessary materials– which are sold nowhere in the NPC economy– and you’re allowed only two “primary” trades, which both blacksmithing and mining are.) On the plus side, advancement is use-based, and I was able to maintain reasonable levels of skill with several weapons more or less at once.

Annoyingly, it is necessary to purchase class abilities and skills from a “trainer,” which is another pointless money-sink. Again following the warcraft tradition, spells are simply and individually a class ability, which limits how many even the most spellcasting class will have access to. I’m not sure quite how I feel about this last, but it seems to work well.

The game world is very tiny. There’s almost no room in Azeroth for anyone to actually live, the continents being crammed with hostile mobs of varying levels, which isn’t surprising when you consider the need to provide seventy levels worth of various monster farms for each of ten player races to use (that’s around seven hundred mob farms, give or take) and then consider that it’s reasonable in WoW to cross a continent (of which there are only two) in an afternoon. On foot.

As a final complaint, my laptop got very hot running World of Warcraft. I have no idea what it was doing to my video card, but whatever it was stopped just short of actually burning my hands a time or two.

Andrew offered to pay for a month of service so I could try out Burning Crusade. I figure I’ll give that a go for a while (focusing on my Blood Elf hunter this time,) and post impressions later.

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