My Endeavors in World of Warcraft, Part 1

This is part 1 in a continuous series about my time in World of Warcraft, from when I started playing in 2005 and onwards. I can’t guarantee that I will go all the way, but I’ll try to add parts when I’m in the mood for more.

I was a bit of a late bloomer when it came to video games in general. Back in the 80’s and 90’s on the C64 on Amiga, I was much more interested in coding, making chiptunes and being part of the demo scene culture. This continued in the 90’s on the PC where I was into AdLib music. I dabbled a little bit with adventure games and the first couple of Tomb Raider games, but I never considered it serious.

This changed radically in 2001 with an epiphany, almost like flipping a switch. Suddenly I was grabbed by single-player PC games and played them back to back, like I was possessed. Every game was pondered and described in my digital diaries, a writing habit I had started back in 1996 and still do to this day. I now considered it an honorable and fascinating hobby to experience and complete PC games.

I listed my victories in Excel and to anyone else, it might have seemed like genuine OCD.

But burning through single-player video games like that of course made me step up several times to keep the hobby fresh. I started playing RPG, a genre I had never really touched before. I didn’t only play the new stuff, I also went back and played a lot of the classic RPG and FPS. I completed isometric RPG like the Baldur’s Gate series and then Morrowind in 2004, a game I found too overwhelming at release.

After having completed more than 250 games and reaching 2005, I was starting to get a bit bored with a lot of single-player games. It was getting harder finding innovative titles and the novelty was wearing off. To make matters even worse, I was sort of slapped completely silly by one exceedingly impossible mission in Tribes: Vengeance that frustrated me enough to actually make me consider quitting the hobby.

I needed a change, and that’s when I started hearing about World of Warcraft.

World of Warcraft was launched in the States in late 2004, but it wasn’t until February 2005 that us Europeans would have our chance. Until then there was the BETA and I was actually considering it, but I always believed that resetting the character at the end of it would make it feel like a waste of time. Also, this was a completely new genre and I still wasn’t sure if it was for me.

My friend, Henning, had played a ton of EverQuest in my apartment where he had several computers put up permanently – he was even multiboxing – and the prospect of hard elite monsters and raids seemed so alien to me. He had endured awful sessions of arduous corpse runs, hours upon hours of players all collaborating to bring down enormous bosses, and the graphics didn’t actually look inspiring.

What eventually lured me into giving World of Warcraft a chance anyway was thanks to two guys. The first was Greg Kasavin, the renowned GameSpot editor who wrote an excellent review of the game with the words, “Here is the online role-playing game you should play, no matter who you are.” The other one was the nice video narrated by AGB that showed a dwarf warrior going through the ropes.

Especially that video made the game seem magical – it was exactly what I needed.

I downloaded an interesting Quicktime movie on the internet today. A guy talks about the many features of World of Warcraft while showing how it works. It was enlightening. I’m still not sure if the combat in the game is for me, just as the auctions worry me a bit. However, there are a lot of other things that seem so attractive, such as the quests, e-mails, and a big open world without loading.19 January 2005

This series of blog post will be about my endeavors in World of Warcraft from when I first joined up in February 2005 and onwards. My adventures and my thoughts about the various parts of the game as I discovered them during the months and years to come. Most of it will be following my main, Bricaard, the Human Paladin I created shortly after having logged on for the first time.

Using my digital diaries and the ton of screenshots I took, it will be a mix of nostalgic summaries and actual diary excerpts translated to English. I’m doing this as a my nostalgic memoirs and it will probably only be really interesting to myself – but it is my hope that you may also find it interesting to read, especially if you have been going through similar motions back in the day.

Or, if you were in the same guilds. I played on the European server Aggramar and my primary guild was The Phoenix Order, but I was also in guilds such as The Danish Order, OLD BOYS and Nifelheim.

So let’s get to it, then!

February 2005

My friend, Marc, who was living in another city several hundreds of kilometers away from me, strongly recommended that I ordered the game in an online shop in advance. He knew that it would be extremely popular close to launch day and he was right. My other friend, Henning – the EverQuest guy – tried to buy it at that time later and it was virtually impossible. He had to wait until new copies had arrived.

No doubt this was quite the phenomenon – logging on the first day felt like being part of history.

The game was finally launched on February 11, 2005 all over Europe, and I was there not only from the beginning but also virtually every day after work for months on end. I lived, breathed and consumed World of Warcraft. My first character, which immediately become my main, was a Human Paladin which I named Bricaard. I had played a paladin in the Baldur’s Gate series and liked the idea of this class.

The name? Yes, of course it was maltreatment of Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

My first impression was that it was surprisingly easy at first. Killing the funny kobolds with candles on their foreheads went swimmingly. I learned that enemies with yellow labels instead of red didn’t attack first. Players had blue labels. Quests were available from NPC’s that had a yellow exclamation mark hovering above them, and most of their tasks were about getting… well, technically bear asses.

World of Warcraft had a ton of panels, rules and features and I’m not going to bore you with all of this, but one thing that immediately felt like a really wonderful idea was how new loot and a relevant piece of gear I was wearing could be compared in tooltips side by side. I had never seen this before and it just made so much sense. The game had a lot of these innovative ideas that made it feel so accessible.

How quests that were completed made the NPC’s show a question mark above their head instead, ready to hand over the XP and reward. How the game matched the time with the real world 24 hour system. How certain skills were increased by using them, just like in Morrowind. And how awesome it was to have a reasonably big draw distance in the open world, yet not suffer from excessive loading.

A shame about the low polygon count and the textures, though – even in 2005.

My friend Marc made a dwarf warrior and I teamed up with him using a different paladin, since I knew that Bricaard would probably get way too far ahead. Marc had a kid with ADHD and didn’t have as much time to play that I did. I won’t be talking much about my play sessions with Marc and Henning as this will focus mostly on Bricaard, but an interesting problem arose in the fact that his character spawned in a snowy landscape next to Ironforge. I had to find his baby area and it meant traveling from Elwynn Forest, through Stormwind, take the Deeprun Tram to Ironforge, then make my way south in Dun Morogh.

Imagine the game being totally new to you and then had to make that journey. It was truly epic.

Bricaard stayed in Elwynn Forest and I soon got to level 10. It was no more mister nice guy – now death was possible if I pulled too many. Remember this was back in the good old vanilla days. Money was hard to get, and just replacing my ridiculous shovel for a hammer as a weapon was a small victory. My first elite was of course Hogger, the level 11 gnoll. I teamed up with someone else and I healed him while he killed it.

In fact, I was invited into temporary groups several times in Elwynn Forest and although it was wonderfully novel, it was also chaotic. We just zerged several areas for enemies and it was really fun at this point, but it wouldn’t take long until I started getting annoyed by this reckless style of grouping. Being alone generally also suited me best which was not surprising given the kind of games I just came from.

The next zone after Elwynn Forest was Westfall, a brown and relatively barren zone with farms, hills and a beach. Just entering this zone on foot the first time made me admire the game even more. The draw distance was much more prevalent here, and I also loved the way the zone was radically different from the first one. All zones were very different from each other and I loved it, even if it wasn’t realistic.

It kept the game fresh and it sometimes made for truly bizarre landscapes.

The enemies were also new and now from level 9-12 and up to about 20 something. In the beginning, I fought with level 12 boars and even fleshrippers (a kind of pheasant-like vultures with a big wing span). In the middle of Westfall, I found a pitiful small start-up of a town. Even the inn was still being erected and had gaping holes in the roof that people were working on. I let this be my new home.15 February 2005

Westfall was also where I started using the gryphon, a taxi service that could fly me to Stormwind and back. I got into more short lived groups (usually with kids that had a ton of energy) and I also learned that it was possible to extend the UI with addons. My first tests were one for showing the remaining buff times and another one that extended the quest panel by simplifying what needed to be done.

A few days later I got even more into addons and macros. I had one to replace the night-and-day icon with a clock, one to remind me to spend my talent points after level-up, another to skip the slow writing of quest text, and finally one with additional action bars in the side. I wrote a bunch of simple macros to write text in chat to thank someone, follow me, etc. At this point I was running in 1280×960 on my CRT monitor.

Later I had to turn it down to 1024×768 as the game started crashing. Probably a hardware problem.

I also helped my pals Marc and Henning by grouping up with them using my second paladin, Falknox. We solved quests in Loch Modan and I was happy that I had chosen Elwynn Forest and then Westfall instead with Bricaard. Loch Modan seemed a little boring with its standard green hills and a big lake in the middle. It always felt like that zone was missing something extra. Maybe it just looked too… normal.

Soon after I was back in Westfall with Bricaard and had a bit of trouble there.

The most interesting quest was a genuine treasure hunt that started by a rusty anchor on the beach. Unfortunately there was a lot of tough murlocs nearby and I had to temporarily park the quest, but after lunch someone had actually cleaned the area and I seized the chance to loot the chest and get the next hint. The next couple of areas were almost free of enemies and each place had another hint. The goal was a chest on a small island in the sea just west of a windmill. At first I though that I had to enter a shipwreck of a pirate ship that was swarming with murlocs. I cleaned out the top deck without problems, but the rest of the ship was under water and I was killed in a gang-bang. Then I caught sight of a small island close by, and I decided to swim to that instead. There were no enemies and the treasure chest was there too. It had a few nice things in it but I didn’t actually dance with joy either. After putting on the new armor, I looked more like a pirate with green rags than a paladin. I’m not sure it looked all that cool, but at least I was now easy to recognize.19 February 2005

As I reached level 18, I was in the mood for something new. I went to Redridge Mountains and found a nice little town also next to another lake, but this zone looked much more atmospheric than Loch Modan.

I found another cluster of quests here, and some of them had me going back and forth between Stormwind and Westfall with letters for the generals – more flying with gryphons. As the next thing I tried running up the road north from the town. Just a stone’s throw away I spotted a lot of corpses from other players. I soon found out why! Just behind the next tree two tough orcs level 20-21 were waiting, and they immediately started chasing me down. After escaping back to town I learned to walk in an arc away from the path on later journeys. At first I thought it was a daft thing to have a trap like that, but maybe they did it to make it clear that things get dangerous past this spot.19 February 2005

I grouped up again and together we closed quests. At one point we were overwhelmed by the respawning in the area and wiped. Back at the cemetery, I tried something new. I asked the spirit healer to revive me instead of running back. Much to my regret, my attributes were cut down 75% for a while, and I also suffered from a big gear repair hit. It lasted for several minutes before I could kill more than just a fly.

It was obvious that Blizzard really wanted players to run back to their corpse as a ghost.

Later I was taking the Deeprun Tram again to check up on auctions in the game. The tram stations were almost always devoid of other players, except maybe sometimes one or two. Here I got a quest from a gnome about rallying up rats using a flute and then lure them over to him. It was an unexpected quest that made it clear that Blizzard had all sorts of tricks up their sleeve.

I reached level 20 with Bricaard, and shortly after I created another alt. It became a Human Priest called Preacher (amazing that the name wasn’t already taken) and I used him when grouping up with Marc and Henning in other zones. I also tried my first PvP duel with him, but the other player were two levels higher and of course won. Dying didn’t spawn me at the cemetary but I still didn’t like it. I felt like sort of a pissing contest to me and I just didn’t have that in me. During the upcoming years, I generally avoided PvP like a plague. I was probably the worst kind of carebear on the entire server.

Later I was back in Westfall with Bricaard. Until then I had only stuck my nose briefly inside Deadmines.

At one point a kid dragged me into Deadmines in Westfall and I finally managed to get to the end, only to discover that the mine was actually surprisingly small. Then a guy in another group that had assisted us told me this certainly wasn’t the “real” Deadmines. There was a separate instance dungeon, and it was considerably harder.25 February 2005

How was I to know that the dungeons were instanced? I had never played an MMORPG until this.

I continued with standard quests. Bricaard protected a woman by her house from waves of incoming bandits. The last wave had six of them and I really had to be on my toes to survive it. The reward was a nice shield and the ability to spot undeads on my minimap. Then I started gathering the quests for Deadmines. I wanted to complete it before I left Westfall behind.

At the same time I was also invited into the first good guild worth mentioning. Eternal Knights. They were on a hiring spree and soon had about 30 members, and the leader collected gold for a tabard. This is also where I met one of the first of many persistent friends to come – Bulwai, who was also a paladin. I could talk with him on an adult level and he seemed to appreciate my company, although he didn’t say much in chat to begin with. He agreed to do Deadmines and we went there in a mixed group. It was hard and we had to be careful, but we only had a few casualties and no wipes. After that, Bulwai and I assembled another group and went to Stonewatch Keep in Redridge Mountains to kill an elite boss. We were four paladins and one mage and wiped a few times at first, but we got him in the end.

I have a feeling that I’m going to see a lot more of this Bulwai.28 February 2005

Below is a gallery from this month.

That was the end of part 1. Click here for part 2.

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