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World of Warcraft is the number one MMORPG in the world by a wide margin. It’s difficult to find PC gamer who hasn’t tried it at least once. Many people are instantly hooked and just as many probably play a couple times and find it’s just not the game for them.
There’s a third set of WoW players, though, the ones who put many hours into the game in the past but became frustrated with waiting to find groups, changes to their class, or a combination of factors and decided to hang up their helmets. For these players, the myriad of changes WoW has undergone since its launch may have gone largely unnoticed.
Which is a shame, considering that so many of players’ complaints about the game over the years have been addressed and, in some cases, completely rectified. We’ve chosen to highlight four significant changes to the game, and one upcoming Cataclysm, that should give even the most jaded of former players a reason to delve back into the game they once loved.
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As Blizzard released expansions to World of Warcraft, they realized that taking longer than ever to reach the level cap and get to many of the game’s most compelling features was not something that would appeal to most players. Accordingly, they’ve made some changes to the speed at which players level up.
Quest experience has been increased, and the amount of exp needed to reach each level has been reduced in most cases. The end result of this is a much-streamlined leveling process, allowing players to gain levels at a much faster pace without having to run from continent to continent to find appropriate-level quests.
0-60 has never been faster, and it’s entirely possible to get from 60-70 without seeing half of Outland, if it’s something you’d rather avoid.
For veteran players, coming back to the game right now also represents the last chance they’ll have to experience classic zones before they’re completely redesigned with the release of Cataclysm. If you’re hankering for a walk down memory lane, you have but a few months left to relive everything you loved about leveling in the Barrens.
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Revised Mount System
Speaking of speeding things up, Blizzard has also made some massive changes to the mount system. Veteran players will remember the hell that was running back and forth across the Barrens or Stranglethorn Vale before you got your first mount at level 40.
Blizzard finally took pity on lower-level players and reduced the minimum required level for a standard mount to 20. Now, you’ll be moving quickly pretty much by the time you reach your third zone, and mounted speed greatly decreases the amount of time it takes to finish quests and ultimately gain levels.
All levels of mounts have been shifted downward. Players now get their epic land mounts at level 40 and have access to basic flying mounts the second they reach level 60. Having a flying mount for the entire time in Outland can basically halve the time it takes to get to level 70 and Northrend.
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Quest Map Changes
Another factor greatly increasing leveling speeds these days is the integration of Quest Helper-like icons to the in-game map. No more scouring the countryside to find the exact location of a quest item (Mankrik’s Wife, anyone?), now you can simply open your in-game map and see exactly where you’re supposed to go.
Large areas where quest mobs are found are highlighted on the map, and exact locations of single mobs are easier than ever to find. It’s entirely possible (though not recommended) to quest without ever reading a quest description. Just grab the mission, head to where it’s located, kill the mobs that have the items you need (indicated in tooltips when you mouseover them now), and head back.
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One of the most annoying aspects of Vanilla and Burning Crusade WoW (and even the early days of WotLK) was waiting around for groups to form. Getting a group going for a specific instance in which you had a quest was a very frustrating process. If you didn’t have a guild full of willing adventurers, you had to sit in a major city, spamming requests until you filled up your group.
The old LFG tool helped a bit, but you were still limited to the players on your own server. Nowadays, even this limitation has been removed.
It’s like someone at Blizzard finally realized that in a virtual universe, you can pull people from pretty much wherever they are whenever you want. The new LFG tool allows you to queue for a specific dungeon and be instantly transported there when a full group is formed. This group pulls people not only from your own server, but from your entire battlegroup, making finding people much faster than before.
It’s entirely possible to enter the queue and forget about it, continuing about your business until the pop-up informs you your group is ready. You’re instantly transported to your dungeon and when you’re finished you simply leave the group and reappear in the same spot you were when you accepted the invite.
Finding groups has never been simpler, and even those players who avoided instancing because of the hassle associated with finding groups can now complete those high-value quests and earn their very nice blue rewards.
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World of Warcraft: Cataclysm
We’ve already discussed returning to the game to experience old content one more time before Cataclysm shakes everything up, but the expansion itself is another compelling reason for those who may be on the fence about reactivating their WoW account.
Players who’ve already got a level 80 character could probably just jump into the new Cataclysm content once it launches, but why not take advantage of the opportunity to prepare for it? Isn’t it time to grab items from the newer dungeons like ICC and get a chance to down Arthas before the new higher-level content turns the WotLK areas into ghost towns (like just about anywhere in BC)?
Blizzard is also known for their in-game events leading up to the release of a major expansion, and it can be assumed they’ll have something big in store for the weeks leading up to Cataclysm’s release, as well.
The world of an MMORPG like World of Warcaft is a fluid one, completely different from that of a console release. The Azeroth most players decided to leave because of frustrating leveling or grouping systems is a thing of the past, replaced by a new world where everything just seems to be a bit easier.
World of Warcraft is the game players keep coming back to, and it’s not hard to see why. With a team of developers dedicated to crafting the best possible in-game experience, even jaded former players can find new features to draw them back in.