Monday, 6 February 2012

Undead Chronicles: Attack of the Noob

Welcome to the World ....... of Warcraft
Several years ago I wrote for Global Gaming League, a website covering the world of Online Gaming. During my time there I wrote a series of articles about World of Warcraft.

I'm sure you've all heard about WoW, but few of you will have actually played it. If you were ever curious, then please read on. The following article charts my first Undead moments in the worlds biggest Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game (MMPORG for short)...

OMG ... It was 6 Years ago!! ...


I’m tired. I’m so tired my head feels numb. I lost any direct link with my emotions days ago, I can only presume they’re simmering away on my mental back-burners. I haven’t felt this way in a long time. Since the early days of Quake3 to be precise.All those years ago I found myself in the eye of the storm; clanned up, pulling a sicky to plan an important match. Not to play it, just to organize my team and get the tactics right. I spent a lot of those days arguing with my wife about how much I play on the computer, snapping at my colleagues because my brain couldn’t take the lack of sleep. I never wanted to go back to that state. It hurt.

Obviously, only a fool would entrench themselves so deeply in a hobby or pursuit without some kind of reward. My pay-off was the competition. The never-ending, ferocious conflict between myself and other human beings. I found myself snared by the Quake physics, the beautiful graphics and my spiraling ability. As victory became easier, so the addiction escalated. Eventually, I became so constantly tired, my real life was becoming too difficult to manage. Fatigue only abated when online. Real-life choices and decisions were onerous and lacked the adrenaline kick my body twitched for. I was fading from reality.

My skill had plateaued beneath the realm of the Gods. I took stock and vowed never to clan up again. The running of my clan (Mistermen) was passed over to Echinus and I stood on the sidelines watching it flourish. And then years before its sequel, the Mistermen stopped playing Quake3. Nothing more than an IRC channel marked our presence. I went my own way and rarely visited the channel.

Upon receiving this latest assignment, I decided that some help would be a good idea. I revisited the Mistermen channel and asked for some volunteers. Echinus (Chris), Karis (Rob) and Koogawooga (Koogar) took up the challenge. We sorted a Teamspeak server out and arranged to meet later in the evening. After three hours of installation and downloading of patches, I was ready to be born into the world of WoW. After several days of deliberation, I decided upon an Undead Warrior as my character. The aesthetic choices are basic but functional, and I opted for a bright-eyed female with nice legs, except for the knees and elbows, where the flesh had rotted off.

I popped into existence inside a tomb near the village of Deathknell. Although septic and decayed, I felt like a newborn fawn, coated in gelatinous goo. Unfortunately, the mysterious mechanics of the MMORPG failed to unfold before my eyes. Having bound the movement keys to my familiar ASDF, I decided that enlightenment might be achieved through exploration, and so I moved out of the dark burial area and walked into the wide world of Azeroth.

The homelands of the Undead are dimly lit and offer little in the way of reassurance to the inexperienced. Walking out into a graveyard I followed the path down the hill to the nearby village. Deathknell is the first port of call for all undead newborns. It is a small collection of buildings on the fringes of Tirisfal Glades (the name of my homeland). Ringed by large hills, I soon found the area to be a well insulated incubator for the quivering newbie like myself. I could hear Koogar slurping tea over Teamspeak so I said “Hi”.

“Rich, if you’re at Deathknell, stay there, I’ll take a shortcut through this forest and find you.” He replied.

“Shit I’ve been killed.” He added. Which did nothing for my confidence in the slightest.

It would seem that death is a mere hiccup for players in WoW, as five minutes later Koogar met me near the village hut, fully Undead. We danced and clapped hands, blew kisses and flirted with each other ... as you do. Koog informed me that an NPC over by the village hall was dishing out quests. I know that quests are the way to level up (I’m not that ignorant) and decided to go speak to him shortly. Being level 4, Koog was sufficiently powerful to venture onto more challenging missions. He bade me farewell and wandered off down a dimly lit path into a hostile looking forest. His figure slowly disappeared into the darkness. I felt remarkably alone considering the groups of NPC’s milling around me. Even the preoccupied Players gave me no solace. To them I was an insect, a level one midge. This sensation of Level aloofness was palpable. At this stage in the game it’s simply a struggle for strength. No-one wants to be a level 1-5 character. They’re too weak, too limiting and no use to anyone. Thusly, everyone is rushing around, either striding through the levels with single-minded diligence or flitting through the village looking for Trainers, Traders and new quests. Completely new to this kind of thing, I stood and stared at the strange and wonderful creatures passing through Deathknell. 

What's the matter. Feeling Chicken?
Plucking up the courage I approached the aforementioned NPC and clicked the interaction button. I was politely told to go and kill 12 Rattlecage Skeletons, and then return to Shadow Priest Sarvis in Deathknell when I was done. Flummoxed, but making the assumption that a Rattlecage Skeleton was going to be skeletal in appearance, I set forth on my first quest. Filled with the enthusiasm of a young and putrefying warrior, I left the lights of the village behind me and walked into the dusk.

After a few minutes of safe path-stalking, I spotted a tall skeleton wandering around in the woods north of Deathknell. It wasn’t alone out there. I could see Mindless Zombies, Wretched Zombies, Scavengers and Duskbats all patrolling the area. A path is always a good indicator of safety, and I was untroubled, standing and staring into the sea of dark green foliage as the creatures moved back and forth. Combat is obviously the make or break section of a game so heavily fight-orientated, and I decided that now was the time to test the system.

Knife in hand I strode purposefully towards the Rattlecage Skeleton. As I approached, it uttered a dry groan and ran at me. Using my considerable Quake skills, I strafed left, swiped at the Skeleton with my blade and inflicted 5 damage. A hit! The Skeleton swung for me and I jumped. The swipe cut through the air. I countered with a cutting blow aimed for its head. The creature sustained more damage as I danced around it like Muhammed Ali. My next jump was mis-timed and the creature nicked me on the arm. I checked my health bar and was reassured to see it had barely taken 10% off my total health. I crouched, slashed and struck leg-bone. The creature wailed and slowly collapsed in on itself to the sound of clattering bones. I looked around the wood to see if anyone had witnessed my l33t skillz. There was a Priest to the East that seemed to have paused in his spell-casting to monitor my funky moves. I clapped and cheered, then broke into a dance. The Priest turned away from me and continued on his way.

“Koog, I just totally took out a Rattlecage Skeleton!” I informed my Yorkshire friend. 

“I’ll come find you.” He replied. An invitation popped up on-screen to be added to Koogawooga’s party. I clicked ok. On the map a small gold dot appeared, indicating his position. Emboldened by my obvious WoW talents, I selected a distant Rattlecage Skeleton and approached him, dagger at the ready. Whilst approaching the Skeleton, I walked close to a Scavenger. It looks like a wolf, and I would have cut it down, but I was on a mission. The Scavenger howled at me as I walked within a few metres of its position. The bloody thing started to run at me. I started strafe jumping deeper into the forest, noting that strafe jumping doesn’t work in WoW but continuing regardless. The Scavenger lunged at me and took a chunk out of my back. I started panicking.

“Koog, hurry up. Need help now.” I ran past a Duskbat, which screamed and started pursuing alongside the Scavenger. I realized I was still approaching the Skeleton, and too late tried to change direction. A furry flurry of teeth and nails rippled behind me like an unfriendly cloak. The dry cough suggested that the Skeleton was also now about to attack me. I turned on my pursuing enemies and jumped sideways. My blade cut through the air and missed them both by a fraction.

“Ok, I’m seconds away. Don’t die.” Koog added helpfully. The Scavenger nipped at me, dishing out a chunk of damage. The Skeleton, now at my rear, swiped at me. I ducked, but the blow must have clipped my shoulder. My health, now at about 60% was starting to worry me. I strafed once more to the left, getting all my enemies to my front and then crouched and struck the Duskbat on it’s nose. Perfectly timed, the blade cut into it causing 7 damage.

“Ok, I can see you. Rich, what are you doing?” Enquired Koogar.

“Fucking dying. Help me out!” I lost my cool, because even with my Quake skills I was sensing imminent death.

“Rich, it’s not Quake. Ducking and moving around doesn’t help. You don’t have to aim, just select a target and click.”

Oh.

The Rattlecage Skeleton struck me a final time and I fell to the ground, dead.

“Shit I’m dead. What now?” I felt angry for being so stupid. Koogar suggested I walk back to my corpse as a ghost, and I dutifully trudged through the black-and-white ghost world with red cheeks and a hunger for revenge.

“I’ll help you out if you get in trouble this time. Just don’t go pulling other creatures.” I grunted and resurrected my corpse. Thirty minutes later, with the occasional intervention from Koog, I had my 12 Rattlecage Skeleton kills. I had also leveled up twice and was more familiar with the combat system. As long as the enemy was selected and was standing in front of you, the battle was won mathematically. There was no skill to combat, or rather, the skill lay in other aspects of the combat (which I discovered later in the week). We walked back onto the path and up the hill into Deathknell. I paused as a level 1 warrior strode down the hill and passed us. Bless. So much to learn. I shook myself out of this fond reverie and chased after Koog. We had a quest to cash in, and, um, lots of important things to do that I wasn’t exactly sure about. Being level 3 carries so much responsibility.

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