World of Warcraft (WoW) is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) created in 2004 by Blizzard Entertainment. It is the fourth released game set in the fantasy Warcraft universe, which was first introduced by Warcraft: Orcs & Humans in 1994. World of Warcraft takes place within the Warcraft world of Azeroth, approximately four years after the events at the conclusion of Blizzard's previous Warcraft release, Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. Blizzard Entertainment announced World of Warcraft on September 2, 2001. The game was released on November 23, 2004, on the 10th anniversary of the Warcraft franchise.
The first expansion set of the game, The Burning Crusade, was released on January 16, 2007. The second expansion set, Wrath of the Lich King, was released on November 13, 2008. The third expansion set, Cataclysm, was released on December 7, 2010. The fourth expansion set, Mists of Pandaria, was released on September 25, 2012. The fifth expansion set, Warlords of Draenor, was released on November 13, 2014.The sixth expansion set, Legion, was announced at Gamescom 2015, on August 6, 2015.
With 5.5 million subscribers as of the beginning of November 2015,World of Warcraft is currently the world's most-subscribed MMORPG, and holds the Guinness World Record for the most popular MMORPG by subscribers. Having grossed over 10 billion dollars as of July 2012, it is also the highest grossing video game of all time. In January 2014, it was announced that more than 100 million accounts had been created over the game's lifetime.
As characters become more developed, they gain various talents and skills, requiring the player to further define the abilities of that character.Characters can choose from a variety of professions, such as tailoring, blacksmithing, or mining. Characters can learn four secondary skills: archeology, cooking, fishing, and first-aid. Characters may form and join guilds, allowing characters within the guild access to the guild's chat channel, the guild name and optionally allowing other features, including a guild tabard, guild bank, and dues.
Much of World of Warcraft play involves the completion of quests. These quests, also called "tasks" or "missions", are usually available from NPCs. Quests usually reward the player with some combination of experience points, items, and in-game money. Quests allow characters to gain access to new skills and abilities, and explore new areas. It is through quests that much of the game's story is told, both through the quest's text and through scripted NPC actions. Quests are linked by a common theme, with each consecutive quest triggered by the completion of the previous, forming a quest chain. Quests commonly involve killing a number of creatures, gathering a certain number of resources, finding a difficult to locate object, speaking to various NPCs, visiting specific locations, interacting with objects in the world, or delivering an item from one place to another.
While a character can be played on its own, players can group with others to tackle more challenging content. Most end-game challenges are designed in a way that they can only be overcome while in a group. In this way, character classes are used in specific roles within a group. World of Warcraft uses a "rested bonus" system, increasing the rate that a character can gain experience points after the player has spent time away from the game. When a character dies, it becomes a ghost—or wisp for Night Elf characters—at a nearby graveyard. Characters can be resurrected by other characters that have the ability, or can self-resurrect by moving from the graveyard to the place where they died. If a character is past level ten and they resurrect at a graveyard, the items equipped by the character degrade, requiring in-game money and a specialist NPC to repair them. Items that have degraded heavily become unusable until they are repaired. If the location of the character's body is unreachable, they can use a special "spirit healer" NPC to resurrect at the graveyard. When the spirit healer revives a character, items equipped by the character at that time are further degraded, and the character is significantly weakened by what is in-game called "resurrection sickness" for up to ten minutes, depending on the character's level. This "resurrection sickness" does not occur and item degradation is less severe if the character revives by locating its body, or is resurrected by another player through special items or spells.
World of Warcraft contains a variety of mechanisms for player versus player (PvP) play. Players on player versus environment (PvE) servers can opt to "flag" themselves, making themselves attackable to players of the opposite faction. Depending on the mode of the realm, PvP combat between members of opposing factions is possible at almost any time or location in the game world—the only exception being the starting zones, where the PvP "flag" must be enabled by the player wishing to fight against players of the opposite faction. PvE (called normal or RP) servers, by contrast, allow a player to choose whether or not to engage in combat against other players. On both server types, there are special areas of the world where free-for-all combat is permitted. Battlegrounds, for example, are similar to dungeons: only a set number of characters can enter a single battleground, but additional copies of the battleground can be made to accommodate additional players. Each battleground has a set objective, such as capturing a flag or defeating an opposing general, that must be completed to win the battleground. Competing in battlegrounds rewards the character with tokens and honor points that can be used to buy armor, weapons, and other general items that can aid a player in many areas of the game. Winners get more honor and tokens than losers. However, players also earn honor when they or nearby teammates kill players in a battleground.