Daniel Haskell: Welcome to another Round Table Discussion, and tonight we’ll be talking about our favorite starting zones in MMORPGs. Now, imagine November, 2004, when World of Warcraft first released. I have to say that the powers of nostalgia are strong within me. I’ve played so many different MMORPGs, and there have been some that are way better than WoW, with even more “Wow!” moments than WoW, with even better graphics, story elements, and more interesting gameplay mechanics.
However, I can’t help but think back to this one zone when I begin to think of what my favorite starting zone in all the MMORPGs I’ve played over the years. That zone would be the Night Elf starting zone in world of warcraft, called Teldrassil. You have to understand that when I made my first WoW Character, it was 8 years ago. I had [and still am] been a big Warcraft fan before the game had even come out – so one could only imagine my excitement to begin playing and living in the Warcraft Word of Azeroth.
I rolled a male night elf druid, and I began to traverse those lands with such childlike wonder. The music mystified me, and filled me with a sense of magic. Imagine – being a druid hero, like in the strategy game! I had dreamed of the adventures that would begin to unfold. I loved the artistic style of that zone, and interacting with all the various NPCs. It was a Warcraft Nerd Fan’s wet dream come to life, and that memory always stuck with me, to this day. Randomly though out the years, I still randomly make a Night Elf, just to idly walk around, kill a few nightsabers, and reminisce about the past.
Donald Laub: Well I didn’t play WoW on release. I was months late to the party that was Azeroth. I was convinced to play with my cousin after briefly trying the game out on a visit to his place, he’s a bit of a jerk, but I still enjoy playing games with him. I was always a fan of the Warcraft Universe, and I had always wanted to try an MMO so I figured my cousin would be the perfect companion for my first trip into one, he’d be rough with me, but tender at moments too. I was so excited to try it, I was going through the WoW site just to pick out which classes we would play together, and it was going to be a match made in heaven.
Then the fated day came, I was so nervous logging in. I had to make sure my character looked just perfect for him; I knew it wasn’t his first time so I couldn’t be a noob about things. After adjusting my horns and nose-ring I logged into Kalimdor, and more specifically, Mulgore, where he waited for me. I was a bit disoriented moving my character around and gazing at the vast horizon that surrounded me. The excitement returned as I saw his character whispering me. A blush crept onto my face as I was forced to ask, “How do I make my text pink like yours,” to everyone around me. Then we were off, exploring Mulgore, and doing our starting quests to prove our Tauren worth.
I remember the joy of my first successful hunt during our rites of passage, the way my chest swelled with pride as I received a letter from my class trainer telling me how proud he was that I didn’t use magic to fight my foes like the rest of the Tauren. Mulgore was vast and mysterious; it truly made you feel like you were in a world. There was simplicity to it, you had to hunt to show you were a real Tauren and repel the foes that threatened your land. It had a real nature feel to it, you grew so attached to the beauty of the land. It made my first MMO experience so simple and fun I couldn’t help but love the game. Then I decided to be adventurous and go to Stonetalon by myself… on a pvp server.
Bobby Scheu: Well I guess we can tell which developer stole all of our hearts. My favorite starting zone for any MMO has to be the deathknight starting zone. I can remember sitting in line with Donald at midnight the night of the release, speeding home to put the cd key on battle.net and start grinding my DK. I already had a name reserved, a build figured out and everything. So then the fun began. It wasn’t long before Diddykong was progressing through the starter zone and I was in love. Every quest rewarded you a nice piece of gear and some skill points, by the time you finished the zone you were caught up to the rest of your guildmates and ready to hit Hellfire peninsula. Not to mention this was where they introduced their epic new phasing system for questing. This allowed you to make your way through the zone without having 900 other players humping the same boar to filet his carcass before everyone else. It was one week before I had a level 80 DK, and not too long before I was tanking for raids (before the overpowered defense weapon rune was released).
However a close second for me was guildwars 2. The one thing that caught my eye with that game was the overflow servers. If your server was overpopulated you went into an overflow server where you could still continue to quest, do dynamic events and level without waiting for other players to sign off.
Aaron Winfield: To pick my favorite starting zones from across MMOs, requires me to disclose a personal bias on the topic. As a kid I grew up on Robert E. Howard’s stories of Conan. I had Conan T-shirts, Frank Frazetta posters on my wall, and book collections proudly displayed on my shelf. So when Funcom announced its development of Age of Conan I was eagerly waiting to play.
When it came time for me to play the first time I was so excited to be able to create my own character in Conan universe. I knew I was going to play the same character I played in pen and paper games set in Hyboria, and to my surprise I got to make him very close to how I made him in the PnP games. So after I took the time to tweak every option to make my character perfect I was ready to enter into the world itself.
My first steps in the game were taken on the beach of Tortage. I immediately loved the look of the game as I quickly moved through a jungle learning the interesting combat system by slaying men and beast alike. I really liked the NPC designs because they carried the style of Frazetta paintings that helped shape the images of what I read in the books. So having the style of the game match what I saw in my head from the books was fantastic. The next thing that hit me was my love for the games soundtrack. It carried the vibes of the 1980s Conan movies soundtrack, and cut no corners in making the music beautiful.
Still to this day I play the Age of Conan soundtrack while playing various pen and paper games. So with the combination of the art and music both captivating me, I advanced through the jungle until I made it to the city of Tortage for the first time. When I entered there was so much life about the city and interactivity akin to an old RPG. I really liked how the city didn’t feel like a quest hub like most cities in MMOs, but it itself was its own area to advance in. Tortage didn’t feel empty for its size, because the game has you running back and forth dealing with various NPCs making you learn the various parts of the city as you went. Tortage was everything I could have ever hoped for when playing a game based on the world of Conan. If only the rest of the game had been as fleshed out as Tortage at launch, Age of Conan would be the biggest MMO on the market.
Samuel Hudson: My favorite MMO starting zone would have to be the one that really sticks with me. It was World of Warcraft and I played it right after release. I didn’t even fully understand what an MMO was or what I was getting myself into. My first character was a silly Night Elf hunter, named Tilion and he had long white hair. Everything we all make fun of today. But at the time I was the coolest cat ever. I remember running around in the starting area being mesmerized by the graphics and colors. It was a big bright world in the likes I had never seen before. I was running around in grey items and shooting anything I could skin. The mobs eventually went grey and I didn’t understand why I wasn’t getting experience anymore. I didn’t even know how to leave the starting area but I didn’t care. I was so satisfied with the world they had created and everything in it. It was the greatest thing ever in my MMO history and I had no idea what I was doing.
I guess I miss the excitement of walking into the MMO world. The first time, everything was new and unique. It wasn’t a race to the end or to level as fast as possible, I took my time. Not everything was ridiculed and compared to every other MMO. At the time there were only a hand full of other MMOS and I had never even heard of them. Everything in WoW was perfect. Everything was new. My ignorance was my best friend. I enjoyed the world they had created for what it was. I explored every single possible place in the starting Elf area.
I’ve played a lot of great games since then, and a few better then WoW, but none of them have ever come close to my first experience. As Daniel said in his post, I have also gone back several times to WoW to just make an Elf and walk in the starting area. Remembering how great that feeling once was. ( AoC was an amazing MMO and I really enjoyed your post Aaron. I played it for over a year and was always sad by how bad it went for them. Yeah it had a lot of problems..a LOT. But that game probably had more potential then any other MMO I’ve played. I was also a big Conan fan growing up )
Categories: Game Discussion Round Table