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Four years of World of Warcraft

Mike Schramm

Yes, as you know from the little Blizzard Bear in your mailbox, yesterday was the fourth anniversary of our favorite game, World of Warcraft. It's been a huge four years -- we've seen Blizzard develop and change massively multiplayer games as we know them, and gaming as a whole in some ways. We've grown our own characters up all the way from level one to 30 and 60 and 70 and beyond, and we've gone through two expansions, eight endgames, countless patches and class changes, endless guild achievements and breakups and many, many "dings" and "grats."

We at WoW Insider would like to congratulate Blizzard on four years of World of Warcraft -- it's been an amazing ride so far, and it's not over yet. After the break, some of our writers have posted their own thoughts and memories on the game's anniversary, and please add your own in the comments below.

It could seem silly to celebrate the anniversary of a videogame, especially one that, if you've been playing since day one, you've spent over $800 and countless hours on. But then again, look at what this game has given back: groups and guilds full of friends (and some spouses), weeknights full of gear upgrades and XP gains, Saturday afternoons spent slaying dragons and Sunday evenings spent picking herbs in the Swamp of Sorrows or admiring the sunsets in Hinterlands. We've played this game for four years, and for most of us, it's been worth every quest. Here's to many, many more.

Alex Ziebart: My guild and the people in it are the memories that are will last the longest, long after WoW is gone. If I had to stick to gameplay though, my first time summoning Ragnaros was one of the most epic moments I've ever had in gaming. I'd never seen anything quite like it before, and neither had most of the people I was there with. We were in awe, got heartily owned, and didn't even care. It was amazing, and while there have been plenty of cool moments in WoW since then, none match the first. Nostalgia does some crazy things to memories. Molten Core sucked but I kind of miss it sometimes.

Christian Belt: I came over to WoW after playing FFXI for awhile, and PSO before that. I remember thinking to myself, "what is this feeling I'm" Everything about the game was designed for enjoyment, and that was a new concept for me as far as MMOs went. I was hooked immediately, and never looked back. I spent most of my time playing with a couple of good real-world friends, which made the experience even better. The epic scale of the game was overwhelming. I wasn't used to the vast freedom afforded my character. It seems trivial now, but I can still remember the thrill I felt the first time my little Mage saw a lake, then realized he could enter that lake, and then found that, holy crap, there was stuff under the water, and he could swim under there. And then he ran out of breath and died, but whatever.

Mike Schramm: I bought WoW as a birthday present for myself a few years ago, and since then it hasn't stopped giving. It shocks me a little bit to think how much money and time I've put into this game, but then again, look what I've gotten out of it: friends, a job, endless hours of entertainment, accomplishments aplenty, and sharp insight into the way people work, both together and online. I remember that back when I first started, I had no idea how big the world was -- I explored the Night Elf starting area on my first character, and was surprised when, at level 10, I left it to find an even bigger area: Teldrassil. At that time, I had yet to even know about places like Orgrimmar and Nagrand and Molten Core, and even new, only a zone or two into Northrend, I find myself surprised at how many things there are to find just around any given corner, from Icecrown to SMV to Booty Bay.

Allie Roberts: WoW was my first MMORPG and is still the only one I've ever played. I'm not a traditional gamer by any stretch of the imagination, and it hasn't escaped my attention just how many people I've met playing who would probably never have set foot in an MMORPG if it hadn't been for WoW. Years later it's still possible to appreciate the risk that Blizzard took with a game that broke so many of the accepted rules concerning the genre -- and equally possible to appreciate the enormity of the job in keeping the game fresh, relevant and balanced.

As for major moments and memories, I suppose I really have two that stand out.The first is the close-knit group of friends I gained while PuG-tanking; you can have so much fun in WoW without ever setting foot in a raid. The second is my first Al'ar kill. I was new to raid-tanking, Al'ar was my first big raid boss beside Void Reaver, and the guild I'd come to had struggled on him for nearly a month. People started screaming on vent in the last few seconds as his health dropped second by agonizing second and we knew we'd finally gotten him. Nothing will ever top the first raid boss who really put up a fight.

Robin Torres: I swore to remain loyal to City of Heroes and was not interested in a fantasy MMO. WoW looked interesting enough to try out the open beta with the spousal unit, however. One session and I was hooked. They just seemed to have addressed everything I didn't like about MMOs and made everything I did like better. I spent more time having fun and less time doing the drudgery I was used to in previous MMOs, especially EQ. Travel (flight paths), death (no real penalty), rest (credit for time I can't play), the plethora of quests -- it all seemed so revolutionary at the time. I still remember the thrill of entering my first contested zone, Ashenvale, terrified of marauding PvP gangs while traveling to Astranaar. Now, heavily contested areas feel commonplace and are often annoying, but the extra element of danger while questing then just seemed to make every play session more precious.

Daniel Whitcomb: Many of my memories are of the people too. Of times spent fighting off the first scourge invasion in the Cathedral district while roleplaying with friends, or of the time we held an ambush for a roleplayed procession of Undead alchemists carrying a deadly plague, and despite being outnumbered by about 3 to 1, "won" by killing the designated plague carrier. Of our guild's near-daily Scholomance runs back when Scholomance was 10-mannable, to get one friend her Wildheart Cowl. Even after 100 runs with no cowl, we didn't give up, not because of dungeon or the loot, but because of the friendship. It's stuff like that that I'll remember most.

Michael Gray: Like most, mine are the people. My first Guild was a group of immigrants from City of Heroes, and all of us actually came from Dark Age of Camelot first. Then, we migrated again from server to server. After enough of these migrations, only my ex-wife and I were left from that first group of DAoC refugees. We ended up starting again with a new group on Shadow Council, and this latest incarnation has been growing ever since. We're lucky in that most of us playing are friend in real life, and we're all connected to one another somehow. At least, that's how we justify our 10th Nexus run in a single night -- "We're all friends IRL, this is just as good as going to the gym!" Still, my girlfriend and I enjoy every single night we get to cruise Azeroth, Outland, or Northrend together.

I remember every ding to 60 on every character. I don't remember my 70s as well (and doubt I'll remember my 80s.) But back in our day, kids, we levelled up-hill both ways and we liked it. My very first ding to 60 was on my warlock, tromping along in Felwood. I remember thinking "Omigod, I'm free!" Then, when my Hunter hit 60, I though it again. And again when my Paladin hit. And so on. 60 was a magical level.

Jennie Lees: I'm mostly trying to block out the memories of old-school PvP grinding, but the awesome people in the WSG premades we used to run -- and the one time we beat our counterpart Horde team! -- stay with me. So do all the people I got to know, starting back when a random dwarf invited me to a guild while levelling, which turned out to be a friendly and welcoming home from home. Moving on, I've made valuable friends in real life thanks to the closeness we experienced in WoW. I can't overlook the drama and the headaches, though, and the part-sorrow part-relief I felt when finally moving server (all for a shinier guild tag), but I owe a lot to that dwarf.

Scott Andrews: Don't ask me why, but my guild hates Jaina Proudmoore. On our first anniversary we went after her in Theramore, but we didn't have the coordination or the numbers to take her down after the Alliance started showing up. On our second anniversary, we killed her three times despite heavy Alliance resistance, rode the boat to Menethil Harbor, fought our way through the level 65 guards (while we were all still 60) to put the town to the sword, rode the boat back to Theramore to mop up the Alliance there, then took the fight to Darnassus where we met overwhelming numbers and died valiantly. My guild is definitely PvE-focused so PvP isn't always easy for us. But that second anniversary showed me that we had come such a long way as a team and really understood how to work together to overcome obstacles. It was all great fun and an incredible bonding experience. At the end of the day, you don't need loot or achievements to make the game fun. Warcraft is all about taking on a challenge with your friends at your side.

Lisa Poisso: As former big-guild EQ players, my guild never intended to raid in WoW. We did UBRS with 11 (when it was still considered hardcore with 15) and figured we'd call it a day ... But then Dire Maul came along, and then Zul'Gurub. We recruited enough to give ZG a whirl and trounced it before any of its many nerfs, finishing among the top guilds on our server and proudly wielding our DM blues among their months' worth of 40-man purples. What a high! We added another handful of players and slipped into MC itself, taking out Ragnaros with our usual group of 32. After that peak, guild numbers dwindled, and we rotated through several other MMOs in a smaller, more intimate group. Today, we're leveling slowly in Northrend, trying to draw out the pleasure -- and hoping that the new 10-man raiding option doesn't prove to be too "lite" for a group whose fondest memories of WoW are of short-manning content that was designed to be gear-farmed for months. Can we recapture that feeling?

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