Continued from previous page...

Into the breach (6/07/10)

The Infinite Simian Theory posits that a monkey typing at random on a typewriter will, with enough time, recreate a body of text such as the complete works of William Shakespeare. That leads me to wonder: If you put that same monkey in front of World of Warcraft, how long would it take for him to start making new online friends, finding love or just hurling insults in Barrens chat like they were so much monkey feces? [As long as it takes to get to level 10? - Ed.]

What is it about World of Warcraft that changes people so? Quiet office workers become raging chat trolls, shy 14 year old boys insult entire segments of society, and loving parents spend hours "tea bagging" the corpses of poor low-level players they've killed in Hillsbrad.

Maybe it's that in itself that keeps people playing. Outside of the Auckland Viaduct during the early hours of a Saturday morning, where else can you find such a broad range of people ready to throw down or vomit up a menagerie of insults at the drop of a hat? A week in Azeroth and you're sure to have been insulted, beaten up, spat on and generally treated like the new kid in juvenile detention. And yet far from causing players to quit instead they pay the monthly subscription and scheme for the day when it will finally be their turn to dish out the punishment.

My own relationship with World of Warcraft has been a long and involved one. I have played it since its inception all those years ago and have been involved in almost everything the game has to offer, from four-nights-a-week raiding while friends and flatmates stepped over a pile of dishes accumulating outside my door, to a short lived Player vs. Player career. Although my stable of alts shows that perhaps I'm not as involved as I once was I have never truly left the game.

From the moment World of Warcraft was announced I was a stalker, getting my weekly fix of screenshots and flight path videos while planning my first character and all the activities he would partake in.

There is an indefinable brilliance to World of Warcraft that, even after all these years, has kept me not just as a happy customer but as a fan.

I know I’m not alone when I say that downing my first raid boss was a defining, elated moment in my career as a gamer, and I can recall fondly, vividly, the excitement of roving Western Plaguelands with friends on the lookout for world PvP. The game really is a masterpiece of balance and tuning.

Yet with time and repetition all things fade. As my enthusiasm for the game begins to ebb and I hover my mouse over the "cancel subscription" button, the news hits that the team at Blizzard are to drop new and exciting content that promises to bring back all the old fervour.

Et tu, Cataclysm.

So it's with learned caution that I accepted the job of writing a diary of sorts about my time in the Cataclysm Beta. There is nothing on this earth quite like the Warcfraft community: Frothy-mouthed rage at the smallest mistake; friends you've never met who’ll invest hours of their own spare time to run your new character through low-level dungeons; pages of maths to quantify the use of a 2.8 second off-hand; the creation, existence and death of a meme every few days...

Cataclysm is changing the World of Warcraft to its core. We’re going to run the gambit of new features will bring you the inside word as to how it all comes together.

Like staring down a plate of braised St. Louis-style ribs, the difficulty is deciding where to begin. Considering the amount of new content, and the time it will take to get a feel for it, we've decided the best course is to begin with the two new races that will launch with Cataclysm: the long-asked for introduction of Goblins who are to join the Horde, and the werewolf-like Worgen who are to join the Alliance.

And so it is with these two new races and their starting zones that this beta diary will begin.