WoW Archivist: 10 years, 10 amazing moments

Uldaman portal

WoW Archivist is a biweekly column by WoW Insider's Scott Andrews, who explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold? It first appeared on our sister site on January 1616, 2015, and is included here by permission.

In 2004, I bought a brown box with some discs inside it. On the cover was a close-up of a woman with crazy purple eyebrows and an angry bearded guy -- possibly Matt Rossi -- holding a gun. I didn't know anything about the Warcraft universe at the time. I'd watched someone play Warcraft III once (or was it II?). I remember chuckling at the peons' comments as they got to work. That was the extent of my experience.

I'd been playing Final Fantasy XI, and I loved the concept of an online world. I was hoping for a game that was more accessible than FFXI but with all the cool monsters, grouping, exploration, and loot. I never imagined the journey that I was about to take, the people I would meet, the opportunities that would become open to me as a result of that purchase. Many of us who played back then had no idea what was about to happen to the gaming world because of that brown box.

world of warcraft game box

With all the hoopla surrounding Warlords of Draenor, Archivist has been busy covering yesterday's precursors to current content, such as the zombie plague pre-expansion event, patch 3.0, and the original Upper Blackrock Spire. WoW's 10th anniversary events officially ended this week (after an unscheduled extension), and it is past time that I looked back on my own ten years in Azeroth.

Here are ten of my favorite WoW moments, in order.

1. Showdown at Uldaman. One of my first PvP experiences in WoW was a complete accident. In late 2004, a friend and I were questing in the cave outside of Uldaman in the Badlands. We were in our mid to high 30s at the time on our first characters. One of the mushrooms we had to gather sat behind an Alliance NPC. I went to right-click to gather it, but instead I clicked the NPC and started attacking him. We were flagged for PvP on a PvE realm. We knew it was now open season on us. And on Khadgar-US, Horde players were heavily outnumbered by the Alliance.

A few minutes later, two Alliance players came to investigate the killing of their guy. They attacked us on sight. I hadn't done much PvP in WoW prior to this, but my friend and I had played many PvP games together, such as Unreal Tournament. We knew to focus our fire on one opponent in a 2-on-2 situation. The two Alliance split their damage instead. Even though they were slightly higher-level, we killed them both.

We thought that would be the end of it. We continued questing, hoping our flags would drop before anyone else decided to pick a fight. But those two had friends.

They came back at us -- this time with a dozen Alliance players. I told my friend, "Go for the dungeon!" We sprinted toward the instance portal as they started hacking away at us. We both barely managed to zone in before they killed us. Inside Uldaman, we couldn't believe we'd escaped. We laughed at frustrating them.

Events like this one, and the conflict between the two factions, hooked me on WoW like no other game before.

2. Founding a guild. The Uldaman incident convinced me that the best way to survive in Azeroth was to build my own army. Many of my real-life friends had picked up the game, so it just made sense to create a guild and have a common chat channel. That was just about the only "perk" for guilds at the time. We had no banks, no achievements, no bonuses -- just a tabard and a channel.

Since I was the most experienced player with a full six weeks under my belt, they nominated me to lead. In January 2005, I gathered everyone's signatures in Orgrimmar and created our guild.

We would grow to include hundreds of players over the next few years. I had no idea what I was doing at first, but I learned many lessons -- usually the hard way. Later, I realized I wanted to help guild officers avoid making the same mistakes that I had made, so I pitched the weekly Officers' Quarters column to WoW Insider. I answered questions for almost seven years. The column later led me to write the first book on the topic, The Guild Leader's Handbook.

We had a number of real-world guild parties, and I made many real-world friends as a result. It was a life-changing experience.


3. Getting hopelessly lost in Gnomeregan. As a Horde player, many of the instances in the Eastern Kingdoms were a mystery to me. One night we decided to check out what this Gnomeregan place was all about. We had a quest to get an item from Thermaplugg's safe. Getting to the dungeon was bizarre for the Horde -- you had to use a Goblin Transponder to teleport to Gnomeregan from a specific spot in Booty Bay.

We started clearing the place. We killed trash. We wiped to trash, when Mobile Alert System after Mobile Alert System pathed by and summoned adds. We learned to fear the phrase "Warning! Warning! Intruder alert!" We encountered bosses and killed them. We even killed Thermaplugg, but there was no safe.

We kept exploring. We got lost. Horribly lost. The game provided no map, and even the maps we could find online couldn't really explain the layout since the dungeon was so vertical and overlapping. Worse, the trash respawned so fast and so many areas looked the same that it was impossible to tell which places we had cleared and which we hadn't. Patch 1.3 later lowered the respawn timer on the trash. It's hard to explain just how crazy the respawns were in the original version. Blizzard wanted dungeons and raids to have more of a "gauntlet" feel -- you had to keep moving to survive, and any wipe usually meant the punishment of fighting some of the same pulls over again. Today, instances are more of a systematic clear, with nothing respawning behind you.

We just kept killing things and looking for that damn safe. We didn't find it. Four hours later, we gave up. It was a brutal night, but it was an adventure, and an unforgettable bonding experience for us. We were pretty mad though when we realized the safe had been in Thermaplugg's room all along. It was just really, really tiny and tucked away. Stupid gnomes...

Tauren with Rhok'delar

4. Rocking Rhok'delar. Earning the Ancient Petrified Leaf was a thrill in its own right. It meant I had created a guild capable of beating Majordomo and later Ragnaros. The leaf began a questline to kill four disguised demons roaming Azeroth and then to loot a sinew from Onyxia. It rewarded you with Rhok'delar, Longbow of the Ancient Keepers, a Hunter-only weapon.

Ony was the easy part. The demons, on the other hand, were a challenge. Each had a set of pernicious abilities that only a hunter could overcome. For example, Artorius the Amiable (aka Artorius the Doombringer) would kill you within a few seconds if you found yourself in range of his Demonic Doom debuff. That range was 30 yards. So you basically had to kite him at max range. You used Rank 1 of Arcane Shot to keep him in combat and Serpent Sting to reduce his health until he died. You could use a few other abilities, but with Hunter mana being such a limited resource and this being such a long fight, you had to conserve.

Since Disengage was not a jump effect back then, the best way to beat him was to "jump shot." A jump shot is when you jump forward, turn in midair, fire off a shot, and then turn back forward so that you never lose your forward run speed. I, as a lowly keyboard-turner in 2005, had a lot of trouble beating Artorius. But I managed it.

I saved Nelson the Nice for last, since he was bugged at the time and I was hoping Blizzard would fix him before I had to face him. But the bug endured -- his frenzy effect couldn't be dispelled by traps. So you hate to root/kite him perfectly while kiting his adds at the same time and dealing with his fear ability.

You had to solo these demons. You couldn't even use a pet. Any help by anyone, whether from a griefer who knew what you were trying to do or a well-meaning passer-by who decided to toss you a heal, meant the demon would reset and you'd have to start over.

My guildmates couldn't help me directly, but they could buff me, clear random enemies in the world from my path, and whisper people asking them not to interfere. I couldn't have succeeded without them. They enjoyed helping me, watching me overcome the encounters, and cheering me on. Then I was able to watch and give tips to our other hunters as they did it. It may have been a solo quest, but it had a significant social component.

I'd love to see quests like this brought back to the game: a solo champion on a class quest, able to be supported by friends. They can skip the random player reset part of it, though...

When I finally beat Nelson and got my Rhok, it was a huge thrill. It was one of the most difficult things I'd ever achieved in a game. It was a combination of personal skill (even while keyboard turning), persistence, and dedicated help from my friends and guildmates. Rhok'delar was a great hunter weapon, and the quest line also rewarded a massive 24-slot quiver for ammo storage.

(Random Rhok fact: Originally, the bow could transform back and forth into Lok'delar, Stave of the Ancient Keepers. But it lost its enchantment every time. Eventually Blizzard gave up trying to fix that and just gave you both.)

the burning crusade game box

5. Through the Dark Portal. In 2007 I bought another box featuring a close-up of a person with crazy eyebrows. This box was green. I actually waited in line at midnight inside a mall for this box. I never go to midnight launches anymore, but to this day I fondly recall walking through closed-down malls to find where The Line began. I took the green box home, opened it, and installed the discs.

Then I walked through the Dark Portal for the first time. Ever since I'd booted up the game, I wondered what lay on the other side of that ominous doorway from the log-in screen. Now I was about to find out. All the beta coverage couldn't prepare me for what I would discover.

On the other side, the spearhead of the Burning Legion greeted me. Pitlords, infernals, and felguards clashed with Azeroth's Outland-bound forces. The battle was so fierce that for the first time in WoW, I didn't want to hop in and start fighting. I wanted to run. And run we all did, to other tasks less suicidal.

In those early days, Hellfire Peninsula was refreshingly terrifying -- even when it wasn't lagging. Quest areas were dense with demons, orcs, and other enemies and you could find yourself overwhelmed. Enormous max-level Fel Reavers prowled the wastes. Some mobs called other mobs like Gnomeregan's Mobile Alert Systems. Some mobs even came up out of the ground to attack you. I actually thought the random fire spouts from the ground might kill me if I happened to run through one.

Looking up at the sky with its strange moons brought no comfort. WoW hadn't just expanded its game world. This was another planet. That first night left me with a thrilling sense of alien-ness and raw anxiety that few other games have managed to inspire.

So there you have my first five. I'll cover the others next time. What are some of your favorite WoW moments?

WoW Archivist is a column by WoW Insider's Scott Andrews; it runs on Massively by permission. Every other weekend, Scott explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?