E3 2003: The RPGs

There really are a lot of aspects of WoW that set it apart from the oodles of other MMORPGs on the market. In Warcraft tradition, the graphics are not designed to make you feel that the game is "real", but instead portray an alternate digitized world. Some people describe the world and its characters as "cartoonish", but that term really does not give justice to just how fantastic and fluid the graphics look. Characters, monsters, buildings, and the surrouning landscape are extremely detailed and full of vibrant colors. This gives the MMORPG a lot more depth, and the intricacy allows you to tell where you are in the world simply by looking at a plant or tree.

There are two primary concerns that most MMORPG fans have with these types of games: how bad will the leveling "treadmill" be, and how fast can a player travel from one point to another? To help address the leveling issue, World of Warcraft will reward players experience for utilizing their tradeskills. This allows players an alternative way to advance instead of fighting the same group of monsters continually. Travel throughout Azeroth can be done by foot, but Blizzard has also implemented boats, land mounts, and gryphons. Depending on what race your character is, certain mounts may be more difficult for you to learn to ride. For example, Orcs will have a much easier time learning to ride a wolf than a Human or Dwarf. And, to take mounts even further, Blizzard has given them the ability to learn skills and increase in levels as well. While teleportation might be something Blizzard adds down the road, Gryphons are currently the fastest means to travel large distances. Once mounted, players can create points on a map that the Gryphon will automatically fly to, which means you won't be required to stare at the screen during travel to make sure you arrive at the correct destination.

Gaining experience through tradeskills will definitely appeal to many players, but there will be times when combat will be inevitable, and it won't always involve a computer-controlled opponent. Blizzard is making sure that player vs. player combat will be available, but in a controlled state to avoid massive player killing. For example, players can pay an entry fee to a large gladiatorial arena and participate in a tournament. If you'd rather not pay to partake in PvP, you can also challenge other players and fight it out in designated combat areas.

To limit the amount of "twinking" (high level players giving hand-me-downs to low level players) in the game, Blizzard will be imposing level restrictions for particular magic items, similar to how they limited twinking in Diablo II. You can still freely trade money from character to character, but Blizzard plans on making money extremely important in skill advancement to make sure players will want to horde as much as they can.

After three years in development and seven months in alpha testing, World of Warcraft easily stands out from the rest of the MMORPG crowd. With the mistakes of past MMORPGs to learn from, and Blizzard's talent behind the wheel, this is one game to keep your eye on. See you in Azeroth!