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Warcraft Memoirs : Anticipating Vanlilla

Warcraft Memoirs is a blog series reflecting on the 14 years I’ve been playing World of Warcraft. In this blog, I’ll be looking back on my pre-release and launch experience of this influential juggernaut of a game and its impact on my life.

…At First Sight

Warcraft 2My love affair/addiction/obsession with Blizzard’s games began when I was very young. Warcraft 2: The Tides of Darkness was one of my gateway PC games alongside the original Command & Conquer, Lucasarts’ Tie Fighter, The Dig, and Full Throttle. I remember seeing the game for the first time being demoed live in the electronics section of our local Media Play. The diverse and colorful groups of fantasy sprites battling it out on a brand new 386 PC captured my attention.

I quickly bootlegged a copy off of a friend and sunk countless hours into the campaign, skirmish modes, and map editor. I have since purchased the game many, many times over. Even today I sometimes catch myself intoning unit responses from those early games:

 

I‘m Alive! (WC2 Death Knight)

Yes, M’Lord? (Peasant)

Zug Zug (Orc Grunt)

Who Wants to Sing? (Orc Destroyer)

We’re Being Attacked! (Horde Narrator)

This is my BOOMSTICK! (WC3 Rifleman…Rifle-dwarf?)

Chu Want Axe? (WC2 Troll Axethrower)

STOP POKING ME!!! (WC1 Orc Grunt)

The Blizzard Catalogue

I followed Blizzard’s work through the following years with Starcraft and Warcraft 3, consuming each title like a starved addict. Though I dabbled in Diablo the RPG genre didn’t hold my interest the way RTS did. I had a habit of homogenizing my characters skill stats, stalling my progress no matter how many times I reset the campaign.

When World of Warcraft was announced in 2001 my initial reaction was passing indifference. I was too excited about Warcraft 3’s expansion, The Frozen Throne, to care. However, the idea of exploring Azeroth from a new perspective drew me in and my excitement began to grow. I followed the development for a short time but lost track after enlisting in the US Navy in 2003. I didn’t hear about the game again until 2005 toward the end of my first submarine deployment.

Many of the people I worked with in the SONAR division of the USS Los Angeles(LA) were serious gamers and geeks. We would often talk about the games we enjoyed and our memorable experiences in them. One of the veteran gamers I worked with would spend our night and midnight watches telling stories about his experiences in those early internet gaming years. It was the first time I heard about the assassination of Lord British in Ultima Online, the first Jedi in Star Wars Galaxies, harvesting player’s ears in Diablo 2, and many hours of pre-raid experience grinding in Everquest.

Launch Hype and Anticipation

World of Warcraft released a few weeks before we returned home, just in time for a port visit to the Island of Saipan. The game was the talk of the ship and some spent the entire port visit playing it

in the Business Center of our hotel. We chose our factions(Alliance or Horde), created our characters, and formed guilds in our imaginations and a little help from Prima Strategy Guides obtained in port.
Though I consumed new information about the game eagerly, I was cautious. Massively Multiplayer Online(MMO) Games were completely alien to me and all I knew about them is that they required a significant time commitment in order to meaningfully progress. Despite my misgivings, I decided to give the free 30-day trial a try.

Adding Character

Character creation is an important and exciting part of RPG games. At the time these characters were seen simply as avatars of ourselves, transposing our minds directly into the game world. Many of my friends and shipmates decided on characters and classes that closely reflected their own personalities. I followed that trend and chose a class I felt I identified with, the Hunter.

Hunters are conventional ranged damage dealers. They wield Bows, Crossbows, and Guns to deliver sustained DPS supplemented with crowd control abilities using beast pets, traps, and poison stings. Guns were the biggest appeal for me because of their novelty in a fantasy setting. The Dwarves and Gnomes break from classic fantasy themes by including elements of industry and science to create fantastic contrivances like the gnomish submarine in Warcraft 2 and the Seige Tank and Gyrocopter in Warcraft 3.

My chosen race was a no-brainer. Only two Alliance races could be Hunters, Night Elves and Dwarves, and Night Elves were too pretty for my taste. Dwarves, especially Warcraft Dwarves, have always been a favorite fantasy race.

Warcraft
Leadstone the Hunter
And so Leadstone, the Dwarven hunter, was born!

Leadstone is a hardy dwarf with a long dark twin braided beard. He is stout, boisterous, and loves life as much as he loves ale. His weapon of choice is a rifle with a polearm or ax as a backup. At the time he wore leather and traveled everywhere with a companion bear named Beowulf. His story began in the snow-covered valley of Dun Morrogh, the dwarf starting zone, hunting boars, wolves, troggs, and other invasive creatures. But that’s a story for the next blog.

Thank you so much for reading and listening.

Did you play World of Warcraft at launch? What are some of your best memories of the game’s early years? Are you going to dive into WoW Classic when it releases? Let me know in the comments and let’s start a conversation!

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