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Last Updated: Monday, 14 February, 2005, 10:49 GMT
Warcraft sets gaming standards
By Phil Elliott
BBC News technology staff

World of Warcraft
Take your character out into the world of Warcraft
Massively multiplayer roleplaying games - or MMORPGs - have been around for a while now, but recent releases have demonstrated that they are making the crucial transition from a niche to a mass-market audience.

In late 2004 when World of Warcraft was released in North America it broke a number of records for the genre - including first day sales and concurrent users.

Now it is Europe's turn to experience Azeroth on developer Blizzard's new set of region-dedicated servers.

The first thing that strikes you about World of Warcraft is just how easy it is to pick up and play.

Most games of this type tend to require a great deal of attention and dedication to play, but in this case it is possible to enjoy the game in relatively short bursts - perfect for the more casual gamer.

You play the game through your on-screen character - or avatar - and as usual your overriding task in the game is to "level up" - in other words improve your character by gaining experience.

Format: PC
Graphics: 9
Sound: 8
Game play: 10
Enduring appeal: 10
Overall: 9.5

Designing that character is very simple and you do not need to worry about statistic points for strength, dexterity, etc.

Instead you simply choose which side of the moral divide you wish to be on - the Alliance or the Horde - and then one of the four available races in each side.

Plus there are a host of different professions as well (warrior, shaman, hunter, etc), each with different attributes.

Once you are in, the world around you is impressive.

The graphics are not what you would call realistic, but the quality and consistency of the artwork around you, as well as the attention to detail, renders that immaterial.

There are a whole range of different types of countryside, from icy mountains to barren deserts, thick rainforests to grassy savannahs. Each has its own consistent palette and each is sumptuous to look at.

Graphics are impressive for a MMORPG

An issue common to MMORPGs is scope. When you are confronted by an entire virtual world, with few limitations on where and what you can go and do, it is difficult to know where to begin.

World or Warcraft does a very good job of giving your time in Azeroth some structure, without making the experience linear.

Available quests are clearly marked, and these quests do a very good job of guiding you to suitable areas of content, which expand and develop along with your character.

As a result you do not feel out of your depth, unless you intentionally wander off into high level areas

Both solo and group quests play a big part of World of Warcraft, and whilst the different servers are dedicated to different types of action (PvE: Player vs Environment - and PvP: Player vs Player) the majority of battles take place against computer-controlled monsters.

The Player vs Player elements are effectively restricted to Alliance vs Horde encounters, but it is possible to fight anybody in a duel, although there are no ill effects sustained from losing such a bout.

Combat forms a core part of the game play

Overall World of Warcraft is very difficult to sum up in such a short space.

It is a joy to behold, and a joy to play. The usual monotony of "grinding" experience points in order to level up is very rarely to be seen as new areas and challenges are being uncovered all the time.

And with the exception of specific high-level dungeons, or cross-continent travel, there are no loading times to speak of.

If you are a casual gamer in need of a new challenge, or an experienced MMORPG-er wanting another world to sink your teeth into, World of Warcraft could very well be exactly what you're looking for.

It is the best MMORPG to date, and could well be for some time.

Read a selection of your views on the game.

If your idea of fun, is clicking the same button all day to defeat a predictable computer controlled opponent, then this game is for you. If you like that kind of thing but don't want to pay a subscription then try Neverwinter Nights. If you want actual team competition then you are better off trying Shadowbane, Quake or Counter Strike.
Nick, London, Uk

I'm starting to crack up here! Whilst I played (and loved the Beta) I'm rapidly loosing patience with the official release. I've been trying to register for over four hours now. This is so far from professional it's beyond a joke. A fact that is only compounded after the problems encountered back when the game was launched in the US. Surely Blizzard should have learned?
Chris, Belfast

I've been hooked up to that game since late December and I must say it is really amazing. As a somewhat hardcore online RPG player who grew up on MUDs, I found myself "at home" with WoW. My wife got sucked into the WoW's world as well, and she enjoys playing it as much as I do.
Vaza, Uldum Realm

Almost everyone who purchased this game today has been left with an unusable product thanks to the account creation servers being taken down. The servers were not able to handle the amount of incoming traffic. This happened when the game was released in America, and Blizzard should have been prepared for it happening here too.
Alasdair MacKenzie, Cumbernauld, Scotland

I was on the beta of this and loved every minute. I received my pre order today and guess what? The servers are down and I can't create and account. The lucky few who managed to create an account this morning are also having problems with lag!
adam graham, sunderland

Unfortunately, it is certain at this point that Blizzard has learned little from it's American experience. As we speak, World of Warcraft account creation pages are down; they went down even before peak hours on the first day of release.

Further, there are queues to enter all servers, meaning that even if you manage to give Blizzard your credit card details, you have to wait to play the game you purchased.

At this point it is a given that the game will be a hit, but Blizzard will need to make massive changes to maintain it's reputation.
Alex, Cambridge

Before World of Warcraft I had naver played any other MMORPGs mostly due to the pricy monthly subscription fees, but after taking a chance with World of Warcraft I would say that the monthly fee is well worth it. I first got the game for Christmas and being a sixteen year old I must say that it has beed severely detrimental to my social life.
Zach, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Since around 2pm nobody who purchased the game can actually register to play!!
John Smoth, East Midlands

Happy to see Europe is now getting their turn with this game. World of Warcraft will keep you hooked hard, however, so I wouldn't recommend picking it up if you're on a tight schedule. ;)
Garrett Walters, Colorado, USA

The account creating servers have been down nearly all day and it is impossible to start the game without creating one. Blizzard knew how many people were wanting to play this game but they were too cheap to set up a system to cope with the influx of players.
Robert Sutton, Halifax, England

I played the beta, which closed on Monday evening and have been like a big kid waiting for Christmas ever since. Got the retail game today and can't wait to finish work. This game is the best and sets a new high for other developers to aim for.
Paul Slade, Bournemouth, England

A friend of mine got World of Warcraft in the post this morning, he disapeared into his room and I haven't seen him since!! But the person I really do feel sorry for is his girlfriend. Who scheduled the release of this wretched game three days before Valentines day?
Becky, London

What I've seen has been a massive improvement on other MMORPG's including NPC traders that give a sample price for trading so prices dont go crazy in the player economy. Mine will be arriving tomorrow and I'm definitely playing an Orc.
Neil Shaw, Doncaster, UK

This game is addictive. Seriously. An addiction to a game like this is far more costly in time than any substance could impair. You'll love this game so much that you will hate what it does with your spare time. Just a warning to those with a strict time schedule who are interested in this game: KEEP TRACK OF TIME.
Travis Anderson, McAllen, Texas

It's not for serious MMORPGers in my opinion - I've simply bought the game for when Everquest 2 is offline. Everquest 2 is by far a more complete package.
Mike Bowling, Leeds

This game is so good I'm not going to get it, there's no way I could limit the hours I'd spend playing it.
Charles MacIntyre, England

I love World of Warcraft. I'm a long time fan of Everquest and later Planetside but neither compare to the playability and sheer joy of this game. All races and classes can be played solo and grinding is at a minimum. As a 50-something clergyman I have to keep my new passion somewhat of a secret at work but in my time off I am openly a Gnome Magician! (lvl 35) Who could ask for more.
David Boyer, Boston Massachusetts, USA

I was really excited about World Of Warcraft until I learnt that it would be subscription based. Blizzard and the other MMORPG game manufacturers need to seriously look at their pricing if they ever want to truly go mass market. Where is the pay as you go pricing model?
david, London, England

I was really impressed with the look, detail and the little things like when you walk through a thick forest it is actually a thick forest, not just a handful of tress visible at any one time. The game was straight forward without the abiguity I've seen in others and when you went to do something in didn't turn into Final Fantasy (which is a good thing unless you're an account and love stats).

I won't play this but if more of this type comes out I might get tempted away from Counter-Strike for minutes at a time.
Richard, Brighton

Normally I stick to first person shooters, but I must say after participating in the European beta, World of Warcraft definitely hooked me enough to buy it. The in game community is great too. Everything about the game is brilliantly made. Go buy it now!
Paul Yendley, Ryde, Isle of Wight

I've tried World of Warcraft and while it is very good I don't find it as 'fun' to play as City of Heroes. While MMORPGs like Warcraft require substantial amounts of time to dedicate to play, City of Heroes can be played more like a singleplayer game at your convenience.
Neil, Crawley, England

I found Warcraft cartoony, overly simplistic and, to be honest, boring. I'm not a "power gamer" by any stretch of the imagination, nor am I someone who spends hours playing games every day. But Warcraft has little to challenge or interest me. Most MMORPGS you get out what you put in, but it doesn't exactly let you put in the kind of work that other MMORPGS do. I honestly can't see what the attraction of it is.
Andy, Surrey, England

It beats all the other MMORPGS hands down on most fronts from good moderation to an easy learning curve and it lacks the usual elitist geek nerds who tend to be the death of other MMORPGS.
Ion, Bradford

My husband and I played the US open beta version of World of Warcraft and only had one account - nearly ended in divorce! We have been playing the European Beta with an account each and harmony has been restored to a point that we party our characters and fight together! Our games arrived last night and we logged on this morning and boy was it hard to go to work and leave it!
Lynn, Bangor, Northern Ireland

World of Warcraft has managed to consume my life. It's an absolutely fantastic game, and is about the only MMORPG which has managed to hold my interest for more than a week or two. I think it works so well simply becasue the world it's based on has almost evolved instead of being written in a week or so. Warcraft's been around for over 10 years now, and the fact that the previous games shape the current world makes it interesting.

As a hardcore FPS player, I was wary of Warcraft and whether I'd actually enjoy it. In the space of the five days between starting to play and the end of the beta, I was completely and utterly hooked. The game is so wonderfully easy to play, remarkably simple to get into and constantly challenging. Furthermore, whilst writing this my copy of the game dropped through my door!
James Walsh, Oxfordshire, UK

I've played this game non-stop since I was lucky enough to get onto the beta. This is one of the best games to date and has taken over from Halo as my fave of all time. Serious alcoholics beware - this game will keep you out of the pub for long periods of time.
Chris McKenna, Hull

I have been playing on the North American servers since its release here in November. Blizzard, as usual, has done a superb job. The player control and interface is easy to learn and use. The graphics are phenomenal and there is enough variety to keep you interested for a long time. Definitely a game at the top of its field.
Dave, Toronto, Canada

My friends and I have been waiting for this game for nearly four years. We have all been playing together in the Beta test and consider the wait well worth it. We all use headsets to allow us to talk to each other whilst playing - so the game enables us to socialise in a way that we would not be able to normally do due to the geographical separation that we have in the real world. I would add a note of caution this game is very addictive so take time to ensure that your real world commitments do not lose out !
Jon, London

Played the final stage of the open UK beta. A fantastic game all round. Seems to have so much more depth than previous MMORPGs I have played. Fantastic cinamatics and thought provoking scenery. If you are a fantasy freak and wanto to get away from the everyday grind of life in the rat race, then go get yourself a copy of WoW. You won't be disapointed!
Alex Ball, Tunbridge Wells, Kent

I was offered the opportunity of playing in the open beta, and to be honest I very nearly turned it down. The reason for this apathy was the boredom and frustration I had suffered in the previous MMORPGs I had tried (Ultima Online and Everquest). But, always up for trying something new, I gave it a go. This game is a revelation, a revolution as far as MMORPGs go. This was just non stop enjoyment every step of the way. I thought I was a jaded hardened gamer who could not be impressed by new games anymore, how wrong was I?
Tim, Dudley

I've been playing for a few months and the game is tremendous, nothing better than coming home from a hard day at the office to settle down and kill a few Orcs with your mates! New players to an MMORPG will not find an easier game to pick up and play... just watch out for the amount of time you will spend playing it!
Russ, Swansea, Wales

I have played many MMORPGs in my time and Warcraft is by far the best. I was in European beta and I was instantly hooked. I pre-ordered the Collector's Edition,with various extras and got up at 4am to sign up and get a play in before going to work. World of Warcraft is fantastic well worth a go even if you have never played an online game before. As a seasoned gamer I can honestly say I haven't found anything that I would change. It is amazing. Well done Blizzard you've got another hit on your hands!!
Vanella Mead, Southampton UK

I have been playing in the closed European beta and I expect my copy to arrive this morning. World of Warcraft is a extremely fun game to play.
Robert Sutton, Halifax, England

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