Editor’s note: Tucson Citizen reporter B. Poole has played “World of Warcraft” since March 2007. He is seriously addicted to this online-only game, which allows players to interact with others from around the globe to complete quests or kill non-player characters or each other. Through “World of Warcraft,” Poole has met gamers from Singapore, Brazil, France, New Zealand, Canada and more than a dozen states from Florida to Washington. He sometimes forgets he can’t make himself invisible in real life.
At first, I resisted “World of Warcraft.” That lasted about a week, then I was hooked on the computer game, which can be played only online with a high-speed Internet connection.
I am not alone.
Since WoW launched in 2004, it has grown to more than 11 million subscribers worldwide – each of whom pay $13 to $15 per month. The game, much like other online environments such as Everquest and Second Life, does not have the feel of a video game.
It’s more like a place to hang out with friends – with a heavy dose of shooting, spell-casting and demons, dwarves and dragons.
On Nov. 13, WoW publisher Blizzard Entertainment will release an expansion to the game – “The Wrath of the Lich King.” The much-anticipated launch will bring a fourth continent into the game world – Northrend – as well as thousands of new weapons and other gear and new skills and opportunities for player-vs.-player and player-vs.-environment combat.
The Lich King will also likely lure new players and spur old ones to new enthusiasm. WoW subscribers have been waiting for this launch for more than a year.
The expansion is selling fast in pre-orders. Many stores, including most local Gamestop stores, will be open at midnight Wednesday to let gamers get their hands on the goods as early as possible. Gamestop near Craycroft Road and Broadway has sold more than 200 pre-orders.
Daily WoW player Clint Wallace, a local insurance company staffer, is eagerly awaiting the release.
“I’m going to go to Gamestop to pre-order, just to make sure it’s in stock and I can have it after work on the 13th,” says Wallace, 31.
Some gamers will take vacation days to play next Thursday and Friday. Expect low attendance in some classes at the University of Arizona. Call your favorite store to see if it will be open for midnight sales.
New content, which Blizzard keeps flowing in periodic minor updates between major expansions such as Lich King, is a big draw for Tucsonan Scott Martin, 33, who has played for about 18 months.
“That’s kind of what keeps you coming back,” says Martin, owner of Arena Gaming, 1740 E. Fort Lowell Road. Martin hopes to have the game loaded on computers in his store shortly after the midnight release.
The game has something for everyone. If you want a point-and-shoot combat game, you can play WoW that way. If you want group interaction, you can do that.
There are simple tasks and beasts that can be tackled solo, or there are raid “dungeons,” areas accessible only in high-level groups with advanced weapons and armor.
“Just like life, there are decisions. Whatever you want it to be, it can be,” says Wallace, who sometimes logs in and just chats with friends.
The expansion will also introduce the death knight, a new type of character that combines skills from other classes (there are eight: rogue, mage, hunter, priest, shaman, warrior, paladin and druid). Players will be able to start a death knight at level 55 – more than halfway to the top level of 80 in the expansion. Currently, the top level in WoW is 70, which can take months of daily play to achieve.
New content also includes siege vehicles and destructible buildings and a new player-vs.-player battleground, Strand of the Ancients.
Some of the new features are already in the game. Talent trees, in which players assign points to customize their skills, already show talents to level 80. The skills, however, will not be available unless you buy the expansion.
Another new feature added in a recent update is the achievement system, which tracks accomplishments from the number of fish caught (yes, you can fish in WoW) and number of recipes learned (you can cook, too. I am a Chef de Partie, having learned 75 recipes).
The expansion, which requires both the “World of Warcraft” base game and the “Burning Crusade” expansion released two years ago, will launch with a suggested retail price of $39.99.
“WRATH OF THE LICH KING”
What: ‘World of Warcraft” expansion
When: Available Nov. 13. Some stores will be open at midnight Wednesday for impatient gamers. Call to check for midnight sales.
Where: Wherever video games are sold
Cost: “World of Warcraft” base game and “Burning Crusade” expansion, $40 when purchased together at Best Buy. “Wrath of the Lich King” expansion, $40. Subscription – $12.99 monthly if paid for six months in advance, $14.99 if paid monthly
• Includes hundreds of new quests to take characters from level 70 (the current maximum) to 80
• Has a new class, the death knight, which is a “tank” class. Tanks keep the attention of enemies while other players deal damage. The death knight, depending on customized skills, can also be a pure damage-dealer.
• Features new dungeons (player-vs.-environment group play areas) and a new battleground (player-vs.-player area)
• Includes more useful high-level patterns and recipes for all professions
• Has new daily quests, including more quests that will change daily – much the same as current cooking and fishing quests, which rotate daily
• The first patch (downloadable upgrade) after the Lich King release will allow ground mounts to swim
• The first patch after the Lich King release will include siege weapons that can destroy buildings
World of Warcraft: www.worldofwarcraft.com
Wrath of the Lich King: www.worldofwarcraft.com/wrath/
Allakhazam, a popular WoW info site: wow.allakhazam.com
WoWwiki, another popular WoW site: www.wowwiki.com