Remember the first time you booted World of Warcraft. If you’re like me and started early you were met with a pair of sentinels, guarding the pass to the world beyond. Even those starting in TBC had a similar theme although the portal was now open to the Outlands.
For me, the log-in and character creation process was definitely fun, but the real squee moment occurred half an hour later (yes, I’m really picky about creating my characters ^^) when I had settled on a race, class, and name, and entered the world. Remember the cinematic?
I was hooked.
I quickly plowed through the starting area, and made my way to Dolanar, the first night elf settlement with an inn. And on my way, I ran smack dab into an Ancient of War. I didn’t know whether to /cower, or run right up to it. I spent the next few minutes following the path of my up-rooted tree friend, marveling at his size, the detail, and the down-right majesty of a game-world I knew come to life.
Every new area was like a present to me, a variated world of characters that were familiar, but new. The process of leveling itself, with new talents to learn, new skills to gain, was not a means unto an end, but an interesting progression of discovery, as I pondered, agonized, and finally settled on how my tree would progress… the kind of character I would grow into.
My first set of characters were actually on a PvP server. I can remember the first time I moved into a new zone type: Contested Area. I stood on the edge of the area for what seemed like ages, looking around, ready to dive back across the safe zone at a moment’s notice. When I first discovered red player nameplates, I remember that second of indecision: should I run, attack, continue on my quest. *squint* I CAN DO THIS! /charge. I died, but it was glorious.
My first dungeons, rambling affairs full of dripping water, convoluted maps, and unsure partners felt epic and inspiring. And my first raid at 58 against Lord Kazzak had me jumping up and down in excitement.
The Burning Crusade opened up new vistas–new opportunites for excitement. Who among us did not lust for their first flying mount? I know I scrimped and saved and squealed with delight the first time I managed to afford my very own flyer. I think I flew the entire continent on my first ride, imagine the rushing winds as I soared and dived. What about the storyline of Thrall? Even if you’re a die-hard Alliance fan, I encourage you to level a Horde character to Nagrand so you can take part in Thrall’s vibrant history.
The same goes for you Hordies in Northrend. Did you know that Muradin Bronzebeard lives? Yes, yes, I know he flies the airship in Icecrown Citadel, but there’s more! You can find him as king of the Frostborn, renamed Yorg Stormheart, in the course of an Alliance questline. Oh, and my favorite moment in Northrend? Buying my very first red drake from the Wyrmrest Accord.
WoW is an old game now. It has changed a lot since those first days, and I have played many characters, and been involved in a multitude of guilds. Yet, many a time, I find myself circling a corner of town, entering a dungeon, or wandering around the countryside, and I still experience those little shivers of awe that first captivated me.
I look forward with anticipation to the next expansion. The current cycle–in raiding, leveling, and character building –is not complete for me; yet, I still look forward to enjoying new experiences of awe and wonder as the world is born anew. What new vistas await? How will the new races fit into the grand alliances of the Horde and Alliance? Will Gnomeragan be the place the Gnomes always wished for, a work in progress, a finished work of art? Will the new Warleader change the unspoken alliances that occur among the Alliance and Horde is such far-flung locations as Outland and Northrend, or will all treaties be broken?
Even the most jaded of players can remember the best of days, from the earliest moments, to each new expansion cycle–ushering in new areas to explore, dungeons to conquer, and lore to uncover.