“World of Warcraft,” a massively-multiplayer online role-playing game, has been around for more than a decade. If you don’t know about it (or play it) already, you might have heard it mentioned in connection to the film “Warcraft,” which comes out this weekend and is based on the same lore as the “Warcraft” game franchise. In “World of Warcraft,” players can talk, cooperate and fight with one another within the world of the game. And as with any other online community, the game has its own etiquette that players must learn on top of the basics — how to cast a spell, choose a profession, find a guild. It’s not always easy, and not everyone who plays the game is willing to help.
“Some people who have been playing a long time have grown very impatient,” said Stefanie Hackenberg, who has been playing the game since its 2004 beta release. “There are trolls out there,” she says. Hackenberg, a talented cosplayer who lives in Springfield, Va., is one of a growing number of dedicated players who are trying to make sure newbies connect with the “World of Warcraft” veterans who are willing to guide them.
The game’s fans aren’t entirely convinced that the release of “Warcraft” will suddenly attract a horde of new players. (The film is projected to earn less than $25 million domestically during its opening weekend.) But Blizzard, the company that makes “World of Warcraft,” is certainly trying to make that happen. They will give many of those who brave the film’s bad reviews to see it this weekend a copy of the game to try for free.
For people who already play, there’s a much more important milestone coming up. The game itself is about to get a major refresh, when the long-anticipated “Legion” expansion goes live in August. And the expansion — basically, an infusion of a bunch of new features and content into the existing game — might attract more new players, and convince some former players to return.
Although “World of Warcraft” is still extremely popular, its subscriber base (the game charges a monthly fee for access) has shrunk from an all-time peak of 12 million in 2010 to 5.5 million subscribers, according to 2015 numbers released by Blizzard. That number was the lowest it has been since 2005, and prompted the company to announce that it will no longer release subscriber numbers.
Players aren’t worried about the fate of “Warcraft,” the film, Hackenberg said, as far as it concerns the future of the game itself. She’s more concerned with whether the “Legion” expansion does well, and how Blizzard balances its commitment to her game with its work on a couple of new titles, including “Overwatch.”
In the meantime, it certainly couldn’t hurt to infuse a player base that has earned at least a partial reputation as grumpy and elitist with some player-initiated kindness. “On a larger scale,” Hackenberg said, “what could make or break this game is going to be how well we are received” as a community.
The call to pull together a campaign of coordinated niceness targeted at these newer and returning players really caught on when Hackenberg posted a hopeful message to her Facebook page in early May, which was eventually copied and reposted to Imgur, where it made the front page of the image-sharing site.
Some players reacted with “yeah right” and general cynicism to the idea of making an online game such as “World of Warcraft” a place of kindness. After all, the game has a reputation for producing some spectacularly jerky players. But Hackenberg says that most people who have reacted to the idea — either directly to her post, or to the versions of it that floated around the “World of Warcraft” parts of the Internet — were positive.
And it’s not totally out of character for the game’s fans. There are already plenty of experienced players who do reach out with support to newbies who, say, ask a basic question in a server’s chat room only to find themselves mocked by others who think the question is dumb. But Hackenberg thinks now is the time for all those friendly veterans to get more organized about it. “I’m really inspired by the ripple effect that this post has made,” she said.
Namely, the members of a Facebook group have started to compile a list of in-game guilds that new members looking for friendly advice from experienced players can join. One of those guilds is Angels at Arms, on the U.S.-based server Silver Hand. Following the lead of guild leader Shelby Sargent (a.k.a Nyxx), about 15 other guilds across the game have volunteered to host new and returning players this summer to teach or re-teach them how to play. Although it should be said, there aren’t a ton of Horde guilds volunteering as “friendly to newbies” right now. Most of the list belongs to the rival faction, the Alliance.
Sargent is part of three generations of her family who play the game. “I climbed uphill BOTH WAYS IN THE SNOW types can kill the mood for the rest of us,” Sargent said. “Which is why people like me exist in-game.”
There’s a reason why some of those old-timers might be frustrated: It is now, well, a lot harder to learn “World of Warcraft” the “hard” way. Thanks to a bunch of changes over the years, new players now advance to higher-level areas — along with more difficult dungeons and challenges — much more quickly. That can make the game more fun for newbies and the very impatient, but it also means that new players have less time to learn before they’re thrown into complicated group situations with players of varying levels of game experience.
Some kindness organizers have also started working on introductory guides that are specifically aimed at new players. Here’s the advice Hackenberg has for newbies:
1. Try a PvE server. When you join the game, you have to choose a server to play on. There are a few different types of servers: PvE (player vs. environment), PvP (player vs. player), and Role-playing. The PvP servers are the places where people go to constantly try and kill other player’s characters, and it can be miserable for total newbies. So it might be worth starting out on PvE, and then moving elsewhere once you get the hang of things.
2. Use the knowledge that’s already online. It’s not cheating. There is an encyclopedia’s worth of tips, explanations and guides out there on the Internet. Use them to learn the basics of, say, how to play a mage, or where to find your next quest if you get stuck.
3. Make friends who play at your level. Some people prefer to play the game mostly alone (i.e. “soloing”), but it’s a lot easier to learn and advance if you at least occasionally play in a small group of players who are advancing with you.
4. Ignore the jerks. This is pretty self explanatory.
6. Read the quests. When playing the game, players are asked to complete quests for non-player characters in the game. Those quests usually come with a backstory. Read them. And if you really wanted to go down the rabbit hole, there are plenty of tutorials on YouTube that explain the (kind of complicated) in-world history that “World of Warcraft” depends on.
7. It’s okay if your first character doesn’t have it all. Players can teach their characters such professions as mining or leatherworking, learn to fish and cook, and keep pets. It’s okay to ignore most of those side perks until you get a better handle on the game.
Correction: this post has been updated to correctly describe PvE servers.
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