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Getting started with World of Warcraft


We've been talking about a lot of high-falutin' concepts lately, like PvP and protecting the healer and killing the healer and so on. But having started a few new games in the last month, I've been able to ride the noob train and get a new look on my old, comfortable car, the World of Warcraft. While getting smacked in the face with the cold, wet noodle of noobdom, I came to realize how many of WoW's most basic concepts we take for granted.

At the most basic level, consider the NPC bad guys we call mobs. Do you kill them? Fight them? Run away? Consider if WoW were the first video game you'd ever really played. We all know Mario killed turtles for points, but bypassing those same turtles was perfectly fine. Is the same true in WoW? Some mobs surrender to your unassailable assault -- do they all? Should that be a regular tactic? This basic dynamic is something we take for absolutely granted, and it's the very first "What the hell am I doing here?" moment in WoW.

So let's jump all the way back and consider some of the truly most basic assumptions about the game.

What's the point of WoW?

The point of the game when you're leveling is to explore content and accrue levels. The choice of whether you'd prefer exploring content or just gaining levels is up to you. But until you get to the endgame, you're just enjoying stories, checking out the landscape, and gaining levels. That's the point.

You accrue levels by gaining experience points. The more points you gain, the higher your level climbs; the final level is level 85. How do you get experience points?

  • Defeating NPC bad guys, often called mobs
  • Exploring the map of each area
  • Completing quests
  • Achieving other objectives, like winning a player-versus-player minigame
What are quests?

Most of the flow in the game will be determined by quests. A friendly NPC with a quest for you will have a golden exclamation mark over its head. Right-click that NPC to see the quest dialogue. Read through the quest to understand what the NPC wants you to do. Accept or decline the quest at the bottom of that dialogue.

Most quests are split up into basic categories. Kill a certain number of mobs, collect a certain number of materials, or do some other basic task. For example, you may need to protect a friendly NPC while it moves through the area.

The quest text is fairly important. It tells you the in-game story of why you're completing the task. ("Help me, Mr. Adventurer, a rabid wombat ate all my chickens! Kill the wombat so I can grow more chickens!") Even more critical, the quest text will tell you where to find the particular kind of mob to kill.

You can also find the objective locations on your world map. Hit M to pull it up. On this map, your quests will be labeled with handy numbers. Mousing over the quest title will highlight blue areas on the map; that indicates you can find the objective somewhere in that zone.

Fighting mobs

We won't talk a lot about fighting mobs here, since the in-game tutorials do a pretty good job of explaining that. However, some important tips when you're fighting a pack of creatures:
  • They respawn. That means after you've killed a group of bad guys, you should be careful about lingering in the same spot. Those monsters will be back, and you don't want to be caught in the middle of them unprepared.
  • Mobs drop three different kinds of items. Right-click a sparkling dead mob to pick up its dropped items. Items will either be usable items, vendor trash, or quest items. Quest items are usually an objective. When Bob tells you to collect 14 pig livers, the white quest item Pig Liver is the goal of the quest. Vendor trash is gray items that you sell to vendors to get money, while usable items are a something in between.
What are usable items?

Mobs drop magic items and reagents as usable items. Magic items are the gear you wear on your character to enhance its abilities. Again, this is pretty well covered in in-game tutorials.

The other kind of usable items are crafting materials. Players use these white items to make other kind of gear, usually on par with the items that drop from mobs. Understanding the crafting system is a big, complex discussion, but if you get any white items, swing by the Auction House and see if you can't sell them for a little extra gold.

Of course, you don't have to do that if you don't want. You could just sell white, usable items to a vendor without any real negative repercussions. While the crafting game is fun, it's not a core part of leveling or advancing your character. You'll be just fine without it.

Not much can go wrong

In the end, just relax and do quests and kill mobs. You're allowed to wander around the map and get lost. You can't really do anything that will permanently screw up your character, so don't worry about doing something wrong. WoW is thankfully not built that way. Just take your time and explore.

Visit the WoW Rookie Guide for links to everything you need to get started as a new player, from how to control your character and camera angles when you're just starting out, to learning how to tank, getting up to speed for heroics and even how to win Tol Barad.

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