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At last, the world of Azeroth, first glimpsed in the original Warcraft: Orcs and Humans, is brought to life in glorious detail. Join the eight million players (and counting) currently adventuring in Azeroth as well as beyond the Dark Portal, and see what journeys await for those who would plumb the many secrets of this ancient realm. As a massively multiplayer online game, World of Warcraft enables thousands of players from across the globe to come together online - undertaking grand quests and heroic exploits in a land of fantastic adventure.

A Familiar World

A peasant returns to the town hall
World of Warcraft draws heavily upon the lore of the Warcraft universe. Long-time fans of the Warcraft games are finally able to step into the world from a player's perspective, and experience the universe firsthand. People, places, and units from the strategy games are brought to life in World of Warcraft.
You can visit such places as the Burning Steppes, where Grom Hellscream fell in battle against the demon lord Mannoroth, and Ironforge, where the dwarves make their home below the mountain. Legendary heroes, such as Thrall, Cairne Bloodhoof, and King Magni Bronzebeard, are also in the game, presiding over their respective peoples as leaders in their race's capitals.

Guards in the human city of Stormwind look just like footmen from Warcraft III, peasants in the human town of Hillsbrad look exactly like their counterparts in the strategy games, and orc peons shuffle about the farms of Go'Shek in the Arathi Highlands. Night elf players can even see gargantuan Ancient Protectors patrolling the elven lands of Teldrassil, while a towering Ancient of War waits to greet all visitors to Darnassus.

Creating a Character

Character creation
When choosing a character to create in World of Warcraft, there are many choices before you. There are ten races and nine classes available, but the game's primary choice when it comes to character creation is the faction you wish to fight for. You can join the Horde or the Alliance, and your choice here has an impact on what you can and cannot accomplish in the world.
You can only group and talk to players in your own faction. You also can only view and befriend players in your faction when using the in-game social commands. The intent is to make you feel like a member of one enormous team, while at the same time setting up the other faction as an enemy or, at best, a rival. Thus, if you wish to play with your friends, you should all join the same faction. Other content, such as the zones you can visit and the quests you can accomplish, are also organized by faction. Some quests can only be completed by Horde players and others can only be completed by Alliance players. Some zones offer cities and interactive NPCs for one faction, but are completely hostile to the other.

The Horde faction includes the orc, tauren, troll, blood elf, and undead races, while the Alliance faction is comprised of dwarves, gnomes, humans, draenei, and night elves.

Adventuring in the world
After you create your character, you will enter the world in your race's starting area. All the races except trolls and gnomes begin in a unique location. Those two races have to share starting locales with the orcs and dwarves, respectively. After watching a brief in-game cutscene introducing your race, you are set loose upon the world.
It won't be long before you encounter your first monster in your travels. World of Warcraft is home to a huge array of creatures of all shapes, sizes, and of varying threat levels to your character's well-being. These creatures can be found everywhere, from roaming the countryside, residing in their own camps, or populating vast dungeons. There are wandering beasts, which will range from forest creatures such as bears, spiders, and wolves, to more exotic creatures such as giant phosphorescent moths and six-legged crocodiles called crocolisks.

A water elemental
You'll soon encounter more intelligent, dangerous enemies as well. Humanoid foes of every kind, such as murlocs, gnolls, and furbolgs, join more unnatural monsters like undead, oozes, and elementals. And, should you dare, you'll find more spectacular enemies like demons, infernals, dragonspawn, and mighty dragons stalking the dungeons and high-level areas of the world.

While you're exploring the lands of Azeroth and Kalimdor, you'll be treated to a multitude of different regions, each with its own visual style. Vast, varied, and beautiful, many of the regions were recreated from their appearances in prior Warcraft games, while others introduce heretofore uncharted lands in the Warcraft universe. This variety and detail can be seen in the lush forests in Ashenvale and Feralas, the snowy mountains in Dun Morogh, the savannah of the Barrens, the plains of Mulgore, and the deserts of Tanaris. Swamps in Un'Goro Crater, jungles in Stranglethorn Vale, farmland in Elwynn Forest, and even deforested hills in Stonetalon Mountains are even more of the many regions you can explore. Terrain that has been vastly altered by magic and the ravages of war also appear in the game. The razed city of Dalaran, encased in a protective magic shell, is a painful reminder of the devastation of the Reign of Chaos, while the infested Eastern and Western Plaguelands are filled with diseased animals and plantlife, courtesy of the Scourge's plague.

This long list of landscapes doesn't even include the underground environments and dungeons of the world. There are dungeons available for all ranges of mid- to high-level players, and they offer many rich quests, fearsome foes, and powerful rewards.


Can I interest you in a quest
Quests are a big part of World of Warcraft. Like most other role-playing games, World of Warcraft lets you advance in level as you gain experience. Experience can be gathered by killing monsters, exploring new destinations, and completing quests. Unlike in other games, quests are a significant tool for level advancement. Players who try to level up through combat alone will likely not advance as fast as those who combine questing with defeating monsters.
Sprinkled liberally throughout the game world are hundreds of quest givers who provide thousands of quests. These quests can range from the simple to the complex. Some quests ask you to slay a set number of beasts or monsters, others ask you to collect trophies from creatures, and still others ask you to slay unique non-player characters or named creatures. You may be asked to deliver documents or items to other NPCs, escort important characters out of danger, or recover artifacts or lost items from fortified dungeons. Although many quests share a similar structure, all of them are presented by unique NPCs who deliver interesting backstory with each quest, which in turn brings the world alive and gives each quest a unique flavor.

Those who love the story will want to dive into the quests simply for the lore they reveal, but many players will also want to complete quests for the experience and the rewards. Nearly all quests give sizeable experience rewards.

Many quests also provide material rewards, such as cash, potions, food, magic items, armor, and weapons. Some of the best equipment in the game will only be available as quest rewards.

Intuitive Interface
World of Warcraft has as friendly a user interface as possible to make the game accessible to all players.
To ease players into questing, the game makes it easy to identify quest givers by the yellow exclamation marks over their heads. It is also easy to keep track of your quests through the quest log. You can always refer to this interface window to view all your accepted quests, the goals you still need to accomplish, and where to go to turn in your quest. When you return to a quest giver for your reward, a yellow question mark will replace the exclamation mark to tell you that your quest can be turned in.

World of Warcraft's interface allows you to determine from a quick mouse-over what something is and how you can interact with it. Your mouse pointer will turn into a context-sensitive icon when you are pointing at something you can interact with. For example, NPCs such as quest givers will turn the default pointer into a chat balloon when you mouse over them to let you know that you can talk to them. Trainers, who teach your characters new abilities and spells, turn the pointer into a book icon. If you can harvest a resource from the world, your cursor turn into an appropriate action icon when you mouse over them. If you can harvest a plant, your pointer turns into a flower. If you can mine ore, you get a mining pick pointer. In this way, the game tells you immediately and intuitively how you can interact with the world.

Fighting a bear
When you mouse over an enemy player or creature, the pointer will turn into a sword icon to show that you can attack them. Thus, to attack, all you need to do is right-click on a monster. Casting spells is also simple: Click on a spell icon and then click on a target. To facilitate the use of spells and skills, World of Warcraft offers an action bar at the bottom of the screen where you can place icons representing all your spells and abilities. You can thus use them at a quick click of the mouse, or by pressing the hotkeys associated with the icons on your action bar.

You can move your chat window around the screen, customize the colors of the window to better suit your tastes, and customize your combat log, which is a scrolling text box that logs your actions and those of your enemies in real time.

Social Aspects

Create a guild with your friends!
World of Warcraft is an online game with thousands of players, so the game is built to facilitate extensive in-game socializing. You can search for players easily by searching by name, by looking for those in your same zone or by keywords such as a class, race, or guild name. You can also add players to a friends list, so you can keep track of nice and helpful players for grouping or just chatting.
Grouping is simple as well. Many quests are designed to be accomplished with other players, and you'll therefore want to seek out the help of other characters for these. Groups can have up to five players, who should be around the same level so that all players in the group can fight acceptable challenges and earn good experience. The game also has "raid groups," which allow up to 40 players to adventure together against uncommonly powerful foes and quests. However, while in a raid group, the vast majority of quests (except special "raid quests") can not be completed and the experience reward for defeating monsters is significantly reduced.

Instanced Dungeons

Entrance to an instance
To promote the idea of epic adventuring with friends, World of Warcraft also introduces a concept called the instanced dungeon. These instanced dungeons are entire dungeons that spawn specifically for each group of adventurers that enter them. Each time a group enters such an instance, a unique version of it spawns for that group only. This means no other players can play in that instance and bother the group, steal kills or treasure from the party, or otherwise hinder its play experience. With each group getting its own personal dungeon, players will have all the benefits of a single-player role-playing experience but with the camaraderie and fun of an online game.
Instances are meant to be challenging, but also to be fun and rewarding. There is especially good treasure in instances to entice players to explore their depths, and more powerful foes called elite monsters to keep the instances challenging. Instances are also more densely packed with monsters, and home to some of the game's most unique and powerful adversaries. These bosses drop valuable rewards that will make defeating them well worth the effort. The experience one gains by learning these instances is another reward in itself. Running instances will help players learn how to play in a group, including how to fill their class roles and how to use teamwork and communication effectively in the context of the game. These lessons will be very valuable as players reach the end game and apply what they have learned.

The first available instances are for characters in the mid-teens in levels, and there are dozens more to accommodate all levels up to 70.

Player-versus-Player Combat

"I'm glad I'm not on a PvP server!"
Player-versus-player gameplay is very important to World of Warcraft. However, not everyone wishes to engage in PvP combat. Thus, there are different realm types, normal and PvP, that will accomodate either preference. On normal servers, PvP combat is entirely consensual. You cannot be attacked by other players unless you want to be. The other server type is player-versus-player, and on this server, you can sometimes be attacked by players of the opposing faction without warning.
On normal servers, you can enter into player-versus-player combat by storming enemy capitals, entering special PvP zones called battlegrounds, or by attacking the guards in enemy cities. You can also flag yourself for PvP by toggling the option in your player menu, or attack an opposing faction player who is flagged for PvP (doing so will automatically turn your own flag on). In all cases, you have a choice to engage in PvP combat or not.

On PvP servers, there are many zones that are flagged as contested territory. In these zones, players from opposing factions can attack each other freely. Thus, you could be fighting monsters by yourself, only to be attacked by a stealthed enemy rogue. PvP servers also enable PvP combat through battlegrounds, attacking enemy guards, and entering enemy capitals.

The rewards for PvP play are excellent, however. Since the Horde-Alliance conflict is central to the Warcraft universe, player-vs-player combat is encouraged. As you defeat enemy players, you will accumulate honor points. You can then spend those points on honor rewards, such as special equipment, weapons, and mounts. Your honor points will never decay or decrease without spending them, so this system makes it possible to buy several smaller rewards or one large reward with the same number of points. Keep in mind though, that you will only gain points for defeating players near your level.

Learning More
The information in this guide is a teaser for World of Warcraft. Indeed, it is just a small sample of the epic adventure you can experience and the scope of detail and options available to you in the world of Azeroth. To learn more about the game, visit the World of Warcraft guide via the links to the left or by visiting the URL
The Burning Crusade
The first expansion to World of Warcraft expands the game by tremendous bounds - with new races, a new continent, an increase in the level cap, and much more. Released in January 2007, The Burning Crusade has an unprecedented amount of new content and takes the gameplay, lore, and features of World of Warcraft to entirely new levels. The Burning Crusade page contains the details of what you can expect to find beyond the Dark Portal.