I’ve been playing this game for nearly two years. Everyone who knows me knows that I spend a fair amount of my down time online. People who are not gamers often ask me why I spend so much time in front of the computer. Typically they can’t understand it if they have never done any gaming, but I try to put it in terms they can relate to.
- The game mixes short and long term goals
In my opinion, this is what makes WoW so addictive. As you are leveling, you are always just thisclose to achieving another goal. That goal might be short-term such as leveling, finishing a quest, hitting a milestone in your crafting skill, or finding your new hunter pet.
Also, the game has long-term goals that always keep you looking forward. Those are faction rewards, class milestones (plate armor for warriors, poisons for rogues) instance runs, or just to have the same gear as that guy you saw in the AH.
Between the two, you are always accomplishing something and advancing your character somehow.
People love to customize their toon. While new hairstyles are not here yet, we still have the options available at creation, vanity pets, matched gear sets, enchatment glow effects, and others. Even among the 1,000,000 Night Elves in any major city, I have been able to spot my wife’s toon in a crowd even with nameplates off since we started the game together.
- Simple combat with options for different styles
To some hardcore gamers this is a downside, but to the average gamer (like myself) this is great. I would hate it if combat were pressing the same one or two buttons over and over again. At the same time, I’d hate it if I had to remember 30 different keybindings in every combat or worry about millisecond reaction times. As a rogue, I can hit a few buttons, build up some combo points and then decide where I want to go from there. Maybe drop a Rupture, maybe throw an Eviscerate, maybe try a stunlock. Theorycrafters will say that anything other than the “optimum” cycle is terrible. However, they don’t represent the majority of the ten million subscribers.
I did play the RTS Warcraft games, so I heard some of the lore before jumping into WoW. Again, most subscribers did not. As you play the game that there is a sense that there is a bigger story… and overarching history that you are following along with. Some parts are better than others. Honestly, I’d like to be able to interact with more figures from the lore instead of killing them all the time. But still, the story makes the game go.
- Horde vs Alliance
I don’t PvP at all, and I play Alliance on a Normal server. I guess that makes me a “carebear.” The presence of the horde still creates a sense of “us versus them” in the game. Throughout your leveling, there are always these glimpses of horde toons. You can’t speak to them or interact in any meaningful way other than some antagonzing emotes. They are like an enemy that you can’t fight.
I can still remember being in Ashenvale in my mid-teens. There was something intimidating about a level “skull” horde riding down the road toward Astranaar. I knew that couldn’t be good. Sure, I was safe. But there was this feeling of, “Man, something is about to go down here.” One of my most vivid memories of my early months in the game was a horde raid on Astranaar. I watched, unable to do anything, as they killed all the NPCs as well as those Alliance toons who flagged themselves. Within minutes, an army of 30-40 level 60 Alliance who had just come out of a raid came riding into town on their epic mounts and steamrolled the hordies. What a sight!
(note: After than, I decided to try PvP. I found BG to be boring and there was no real world PvP to speak of, so I gave up)
I have not played other MMOs so I don’t really have a wide range of comparisons. However, I also think that is true for the majority of subscribers. The game is simply beautiful. Each new zone as you travel is filled with unique and detailed landscapes and features. To this day, two years after buying WoW, I still swivel my camera around to look at the sights while I am on a gryphon.
Not only is the game beautiful, but it runs smoothly on most recent computer systems. That’s nice, because playing at 4 fps is not much fun.
I’m sure I can come up with more. But those are a few that come to mind.