World of Warcraft (WoW) is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) created in 2004 by Blizzard Entertainment. It is the fourth released game set in the fantasy Warcraft universe, which was first introduced by Warcraft: Orcs & Humans in 1994. World of Warcraft takes place within the Warcraft world of Azeroth, approximately four years after the events at the conclusion of Blizzard's previous Warcraft release, Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. Blizzard Entertainment announced World of Warcraft on September 2, 2001. The game was released on November 23, 2004, on the 10th anniversary of the Warcraft franchise.
The first expansion set of the game, The Burning Crusade, was released on January 16, 2007. The second expansion set, Wrath of the Lich King, was released on November 13, 2008. The third expansion set, Cataclysm, was released on December 7, 2010. The fourth expansion set, Mists of Pandaria, was released on September 25, 2012. The fifth expansion set, Warlords of Draenor, was announced at BlizzCon 2013 and was released on November 13, 2014.
With over 10 million subscribers as of November 2014, World of Warcraft is currently the world's most-subscribed MMORPG, and holds the Guinness World Record for the most popular MMORPG by subscribers. Having grossed over 10 billion dollars as of July 2012, it is also the highest grossing video game of all time. In January 2014 it was announced that more than 100 million accounts had been created over the game's lifetime.
As with other MMORPGs, players control a character avatar within a game world in third- or first-person view, exploring the landscape, fighting various monsters, completing quests, and interacting with non-player characters (NPCs) or other players. Also similar to other MMORPGs, World of Warcraft requires the player to pay for a subscription, either by buying prepaid game cards for a selected amount of playing time, or by using a credit or debit card to pay on a regular basis.
To enter the game, the player must select a server, referred to in-game as a realm. Each realm acts as an individual copy of the game world, and falls into one of four categories. Available realms types are: Normal – a player versus environment (PvE) realm where the gameplay is more focused on defeating monsters and completing quests, player-versus-player fights must be consensual, and any roleplay is optional. PvP – an environment where, in addition to defeating monsters and completing quests, open player-versus-player combat is the norm, and a player can be attacked by an opposing faction's player at any time. RP – a variant of PvE, where players roleplay in-character. RP-PvP – roleplay-PvP – a variant of PvP, where players are in-character and cross-faction combat is assumed.
Realms are also categorized by language, with in-game support in the language available.
Players can make new characters on all realms within the region, and it is also possible to move already established characters between realms for a fee.
Main article: Races and factions of Warcraft
To create a new character, in keeping with the storyline of previous Warcraft games, players must choose between the opposing factions of the Alliance or the Horde. Characters from the opposing factions can perform rudimentary communication (most often just "emotes"), but only members of the same faction can speak, mail, group, and join guilds. The player selects the new character's race, such as orcs or trolls for the Horde, or humans or dwarves for the Alliance. Players must select the class for the character, with choices such as mages, warriors, and priests available. Most classes are limited to particular races.
As characters become more developed, they gain various talents and skills, requiring the player to further define the abilities of that character. Characters can choose from a variety of professions, such as tailoring, blacksmithing, or mining. Characters can learn four secondary skills: archeology, cooking, fishing, and first-aid. Characters may form and join guilds, allowing characters within the guild access to the guild's chat channel, the guild name and optionally allowing other features, including a guild tabard, guild bank, and dues.
Much of World of Warcraft play involves the completion of quests. These quests, also called "tasks" or "missions", are usually available from NPCs. Quests usually reward the player with some combination of experience points, items, and in-game money. Quests allow characters to gain access to new skills and abilities, and explore new areas. It is through quests that much of the game's story is told, both through the quest's text and through scripted NPC actions. Quests are linked by a common theme, with each consecutive quest triggered by the completion of the previous, forming a quest chain. Quests commonly involve killing a number of creatures, gathering a certain number of resources, finding a difficult to locate object, speaking to various NPCs, visiting specific locations, interacting with objects in the world, or delivering an item from one place to another.
While a character can be played on its own, players can group with others to tackle more challenging content. Most end-game challenges are designed in a way that they can only be overcome while in a group. In this way, character classes are used in specific roles within a group. World of Warcraft uses a "rested bonus" system, increasing the rate that a character can gain experience points after the player has spent time away from the game. When a character dies, it becomes a ghost—or wisp for Night Elf characters—at a nearby graveyard. Characters can be resurrected by other characters that have the ability, or can self-resurrect by moving from the graveyard to the place where they died. If a character is past level ten and they resurrect at a graveyard, the items equipped by the character degrade, requiring in-game money and a specialist NPC to repair them. Items that have degraded heavily become unusable until they are repaired. If the location of the character's body is unreachable, they can use a special "spirit healer" NPC to resurrect at the graveyard. When the spirit healer revives a character, items equipped by the character at that time are further degraded, and the character is significantly weakened by what is in-game called "resurrection sickness" for up to ten minutes, depending on the character's level. This "resurrection sickness" does not occur and item degradation is less severe if the character revives by locating its body, or is resurrected by another player through special items or spells.
World of Warcraft contains a variety of mechanisms for player versus player (PvP) play. Players on player versus environment (PvE) servers can opt to "flag" themselves, making themselves attackable to players of the opposite faction. Depending on the mode of the realm, PvP combat between members of opposing factions is possible at almost any time or location in the game world—the only exception being the starting zones, where the PvP "flag" must be enabled by the player wishing to fight against players of the opposite faction. PvE (called normal or RP) servers, by contrast, allow a player to choose whether or not to engage in combat against other players. On both server types, there are special areas of the world where free-for-all combat is permitted. Battlegrounds, for example, are similar to dungeons: only a set number of characters can enter a single battleground, but additional copies of the battleground can be made to accommodate additional players. Each battleground has a set objective, such as capturing a flag or defeating an opposing general, that must be completed to win the battleground. Competing in battlegrounds rewards the character with tokens and honor points that can be used to buy armor, weapons, and other general items that can aid a player in many areas of the game. Winning a battleground awards more honor and tokens than losing. However, players also earn honor when they or nearby teammates kill players in a battleground.
Intent on settling the arid region of Durotar, Thrall's new Horde expanded its ranks, inviting the undead Forsaken to join orcs, tauren, and trolls. Meanwhile, dwarves, gnomes and the ancient night elves pledged their loyalties to a reinvigorated Alliance, guided by the human kingdom of Stormwind. After Stormwind's king, Varian Wrynn, mysteriously disappeared, Highlord Bolvar Fordragon served as Regent but his service was marred by the manipulations and mind control of the black dragon Onyxia, who ruled in disguise as a human noblewoman. As heroes investigated Onyxia's manipulations, ancient foes surfaced in lands throughout the world to menace Horde and Alliance alike.
Assault on Blackwing Lair
Deep within the fiery heart of Blackrock Mountain, the black dragon Nefarian conducted twisted experiments with the blood of other dragonflights. Intent on seizing the entire region for his own, he marshaled the remaining Dark Horde, a rogue army that embraced the demonic bloodlust of the old Horde. These corrupt orcs, trolls and other races battled against the Firelord Ragnaros and the shadowy Dark Iron dwarves for control of the smoldering mountain. Before he was vanquished by fearless heroes, Nefarian created the twisted chromatic dragons and a legion of other aberrations in his bid to form an army powerful enough to control Azeroth and continue the legacy of his infamous father, Deathwing the Destroyer.
Rise of the Blood God
Years ago, in the ruined temple of Atal'Hakkar, loyal priests of the Blood God Hakkar the Soulflayer attempted to summon the wrathful deity's avatar into the world. But his followers, the Atal'ai priesthood, discovered that the Soulflayer could only be summoned within the Gurubashi tribe's ancient capital, Zul'Gurub. Newly reborn in this jungle fortress, Hakkar took control of the Gurubashi tribe and mortal champions of the trolls' mighty animal gods. The Soulflayer's dark influence was barely halted when the wise Zandalari tribe recruited heroes from the Horde and the Alliance and staged an invasion of Zul'Gurub.
The Gates of Ahn'Qiraj
The great desert fortress of Ahn'Qiraj, long sealed behind the Scarab Wall, was home to the insectoid qiraji, a savage race that had once mounted an assault to devastate the continent of Kalimdor. But something far more sinister lurked behind Ahn'Qiraj's walls: the Old God C'Thun, an ancient entity whose pervasive evil had suffused Azeroth since time immemorial. As C'Thun incited the qiraji to frenzy, both the Alliance and Horde prepared for a massive war effort. A mixed force of Alliance and Horde soldiers, dubbed the Might of Kalimdor, opened the gates of Ahn'Qiraj under the command of the indomitable orc Varok Saurfang. Their charge: lay siege to the ruins and temples of Ahn'Qiraj, and vanquish the terrors of ages past.
Shadow of the Necropolis
In the Lich King's haste to spread the plague of undeath over Azeroth, he gifted one of his greatest servants, the lich Kel'Thuzad, with the flying citadel of Naxxramas, a horrific base of operations for the Scourge. Consistent attacks from the Scarlet Crusade and Argent Dawn factions weakened the defenses of the floating fortress, enabling an incursion that led to Kel'Thuzad's defeat. However, a traitor among the ranks of the knightly order of the Argent Dawn absconded with Kel'Thuzad's cursed remains and fled to Northrend, where the fallen lich could be reanimated.
World of Warcraft is set in the same universe as the Warcraft series of real-time strategy games, and has a similar art direction. World of Warcraft contains elements from fantasy, steampunk, and science fiction: such as gryphons, dragons, and elves; steam-powered automata; zombies, werewolves, and other horror monsters; as well as time travel, spaceships, and alien worlds.
World of Warcraft takes place in a 3D representation of the Warcraft universe that players can interact with through their characters. The game world initially consisted of the two continents in Azeroth: Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms. Three separate expansions later added to the game's playable area the realm of Outland and the continents of Northrend and Pandaria. As a player explores new locations, different routes and means of transportation become available. Players can access "flight masters" in newly discovered locations to fly to previously discovered locations in other parts of the world. Players can also use boats, zeppelins, or portals to move from one continent to another. Although the game world remains relatively similar from day to day, seasonal events reflecting real world events, such as Halloween, Christmas, Children's Week, Easter, and Midsummer have been represented in the game world. Locations also have variable weather including, among other things, rain, snow, and dust storms.
A number of facilities are available for characters while in towns and cities. In each major city, characters can access a bank to deposit items, such as treasure or crafted items. Each character has access to personal bank storage with the option to purchase additional storage space using in-game gold. Additionally, guild banks are available for use by members of a guild with restrictions being set by the guild leader. Auction houses are available for players to buy and sell items to others in a similar way to online auction sites such as eBay. Players can use mailboxes, which can be found in almost every town. Mailboxes are used to collect items won at auction, and to send messages, items, and in-game money to other characters.
Some of the challenges in World of Warcraft require players to group together to complete them. These usually take place in dungeons—also known as "instances"—that a group of characters can enter together. The term "instance" comes from each group or party having a separate copy, or instance, of the dungeon, complete with their own enemies to defeat and their own treasure or rewards. This allows a group to explore areas and complete quests without others interfering. Dungeons are spread over the game world and are designed for characters of varying progression. A typical dungeon will allow up to five characters to enter as part of a group. Some dungeons require more players to group together and form a "raid" of up to forty players to face some of the most difficult challenges. As well as dungeon-based raid challenges, several creatures exist in the normal game environment that are designed for raids to attack.
World of Warcraft requires a subscription fee to be paid to allow continued play, with options to pay in one month, three-month, or six-month blocks, although timecards of varying length are available both online and from traditional retailers.[not in citation given] Expansion packs are available online, and are also available from traditional retailers. As the game client is the same regardless of the version of World of Warcraft the user owns, the option to purchase expansions online was added as it allowed for a quick upgrade. World of Warcraft is available as a free Starter Edition, which is free to play for an unlimited amount of time. Starter Edition characters are unable to gain experience after reaching level 20, and there are other restrictions in effect for Starter Edition accounts, including the inability to trade, use public chat channels, join guilds, or amass more than ten gold.
The company offers parental controls that allow various limits to be set on playing time. It is possible to set a daily limit, a weekly limit, or to specify an allowed playing schedule. In order to control these settings, it is necessary to log in with different credentials than are used just to enter the game. It is also possible to receive statistics on the time spent playing. Apart from controlling children, adults sometimes use parental controls on themselves. The company supports this kind of protection as otherwise the potential players or their supervisors may choose to uninstall or block the game permanently.
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