Monthly Archives: December 2004

Coming to grips with my own mortality

It’s features like this article from that really, really hit home. The article is about younger kids playing games from the earlier generations of game systems, and their comments on what the games are like. Funny stuff. . .

I am going to die.


You’ve seen it. Your friend is staying up later and later. They look haggard, bags under the eyes. They only perk up when another member of their “party” shows up and they suddenly burst into life, excitedly gibbering on about places that don’t exist, and people with strange names that they’ve never actually met. They don’t show up at the usual social events.

Even online, they’ve changed. They’re set to “away” most of the time, and even when you send a message, they don’t respond for hours and hours.

They even stop posting to their blog.


These are just a few signs that your friend has joined World of WarCraft.

World of WarCraft, in many ways, is your “traditional” MMO Game. You create a character, and they adventure through a fantasy based, computer generated world, where they fight monsters and seek to “level” their character through gaining “experience” and completing quests. “Leveling” offers rewards such as spells, or powers, or better equipment.

Other companies have created Massive Multiplayer Online Games, but Blizzard has done what the others have failed to do–They have made the game more accessible to the casual gamer. They did this with a few simple design decisions.

First, there is no significant penalty for “dying” in World of WarCraft. How is that possible? Well, I’ll refine that statement. Blizzard has realized what other companies have not.

In Game character death is penalty in an of itself.

There is no need to penalize the player outside the game for that. In other, more “traditional” MMO Games, there is sometimes an in game monetary penalty, or even a loss of “experience,” forcing the player to spend even more time in game to get that money back, or to gain that level. In World of WarCraft, the only penalty is really the time you have to spend getting your body back and a paltry monetary fee to repair your armor and weapons, something that you have to do anyway.

Second, they have designed a game where you can feel like you accomplished something, even in the span of an hour. “Traditional” MMO games have a term, called “grinding” which means that you end up doing the same things, (i.e. fighting the same monsters) over and over again in order to gain experience to level up your character. Blizzard still has “grinding,” but they have designed the quest system in such a way that you don’t feel like you are grinding–which is important.

In the span of a lunch break, you can complete a quest, which may consist of killing a number of a certain type of beasts, or collecting an item located in a cave (filled with monsters, naturally). After you complete the quest, you get a nice experience bonus, and you can quit playing for a while, since you feel like you accomplished something. It’s a design decision that should be applauded.

Third, you can accomplish something with your character without playing it. Characters that aren’t being played acquire “rest” which means that for a period of time, they acquire experience at twice the normal rate. So if you don’t play for a week, you’ll be able to level up your character at twice the rate (and maybe catch up with your friends).

So. It’s fun. It’s so fun that my deale–er, friend Julie bought it for other people for Christmas, so that they can play.

The first month is free!

C’mon, you know you want to. All the cool kids are doing it.

(All references to drug pushing are purely coincidental. The fact that Blizzard gave purchasers of the Collector’s Edition two copies of the installation discs and a 10 day passcode to install the game to give to your friend is purely a manufacturing error.)