I have been playing World of Warcraft (WoW) now for about two years, and it seemed like a good time to write a quick guide for people that might be new to the game.
I realize on the surface it might seem odd to be writing a newcomers guide to a game as rich in history as WoW — we did just celebrate its 10th anniversary after all — but with the recent expansion I imagine there are quite a few who are creating their very first characters and jumping into Azeroth (or at least considering it).
For those unfamiliar, WoW is a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (or MMORPG) created by Blizzard Entertainment that allows you to create fictional characters and adventure in a massive digital world. It is in many ways the digital equivalent to Dungeons & Dragons or other similar table-top role playing games. It was not the first game of its kind, but it is the largest and currently has a base of somewhere around 7 million active players.
WoW is a game of near endless scope and scale, one that offers an amazing variety of activities and supports a rich array of gaming styles. But for someone completely new to the game this freedom can be daunting.
It has taken me the better part of my two years with the game to really get comfortable playing, and there are a few things I would have done differently had I known better — so I thought I would start there. Pick a realm, any realm (if you need help choosing check out this sticky from the WoW forums), and lets dive in.
Here is what I am going to cover in this article, note the level associations are not set in stone but merely a guide used to approximate the kinds of activities you might find yourself doing:
- Let the game lead you (levels 1-20)
- Learn the language (levels 20-30)
- Find what parts of the game fit your style (levels 30-50)
- Use available online resources (levels 50+)
- Enjoy max level (level 100)
1. Let the game lead you (levels 1-20)
There are many, many facets to a game like WoW and it takes no time at all to become overwhelmed by the options that are put before you (and your characters). You should think of the first 20 levels of the game as the tutorial, and let the game lead you through this process.
All players start the game simply exploring the world around them, meeting some in-game characters that are there to help, and picking up a few simple quests to get you going. Initially, this will be enough, and it will give you the time you need to adjust to the context of the game.
Here are a few recommendations:
- Try a bunch of characters with different race/class combinations. Max level is currently 100, so you will be with your character for a long time. Make sure it is what you really like to play before committing to the long haul.
- Don’t worry too much about making the wrong cosmetic choices for your character (face, hair color, etc.). You can change these easily later at any major city, and you actually have more cosmetic options in the barbershops than you do when you first create your character.
- There are very particular ways of traveling in WoW, some more intuitive than others, and until you understand them it can be difficult to get around. Try not to jump ahead too far, as it may be difficult to get back.
If you are like me, you will want to try and learn everything all at once or will have friends already playing that will try and get you into parts of the game that you are not ready for as a new player. With my first few characters, I was so eager to meet up with friends who were in a different part of the world that I rushed through many of the early phases of the game — which inevitably led to stranded characters and a lot of frustration.
The first 20 (or so) levels are designed to lead you, and if you are new to the game I would recommend letting them do just that.
2. Learn the language (levels 20-30)
As with any game, there are many rules, constraints, social norms, and in-game traditions that you will be exposed to and that make the game what it is. By the time you are level 20 you will have experienced enough of the game to see that there is also a whole new language that you will have to learn, (and acronyms, so many acronyms).
There are far too many new words/acronyms to list them all here, but I thought I would at least call out the ones that I found the most useful to know:
- PvE: Player vs. Environment. This is the “default” setting in WoW where you can explore the world around you, pick up quests, and work your way up to max level. If you are not in dungeons, raids, scenarios or PvP (covered below) then you are in PvE.
- PvP: Player vs. Player. This is a modification to the PvE style of play where in addition to interacting with the world around you there is also combat between players. Typically these areas are specifically marked or require the loading of a special instance of the game. Examples of PvP areas include the Argent Tournament in Northrend and Ashran in Draenor.
- RP: Role Playing: A style of play where all of your interactions, communication and play are “in-character”. There are entire realms (such as Moon Guard) dedicated to role playing, and most other realms have (at least) dedicated areas where players go to RP — such as Silvermoon City on Cenarion Circle.
- LFG: Looking for Group. A general term/acronym used when players are looking for a group to join typically used in chat.
- LFR: Looking for Raid. A general term/acronym used when players are looking for a group to join typically used in chat (LFG and LFR are often used synonymously). This is also the general acronym that is used to describe the Dungeon Finder tool in-game that is used for player grouping for Dungeons or Raids.
- Party: A group of five players joined together to complete a common task (quest, dungeon, etc). Parties are always made up of one tank, one healer, and three dps character specializations.
- Tank: A type of character specialization that focuses on absorbing/resisting damage and controlling the enemies for a given group or party (using Taunt and/or Threat mechanics). Tanks are typically the leader of a party as they more often than not control how a given quest or dungeon is completed. Example: Protection Paladin.
- Healer: A type of character specialization that focuses on healing a given party or group. Example: Holy Paladin.
- DPS: Damage per Second. Also, a type of character specialization that focuses on dealing damage to enemies. Example: Retribution Paladin.
- Raid: A larger group of players (10 - 40) joined together to complete a common task. The make up of a raid is dependent on the number of players but typically includes one or two tanks, one to five healers and the rest dps specializations.
- DoT: Damage over Time. Spells or abilities that deal damage over the course of seconds or minutes, rather than all at one time instantaneously.
- Stat Priority: The order of importance for the stats of your character, which determines the kinds of gear, enchantments, bonuses, gems, etc. that you equip on your character. For example, the stat priority for a Holy Paladin is (Intellect > Crit > Multistrike > Mastery > Versatility > Haste > Spirit).
- Toon: Another name for your character.
- Alt: A name for alternative characters that you use to gather resources, or for storage.
- Transmog: Short for transmogrification. This is the act of changing out the visual appearance (or skin) for an item or piece of gear that you own. There are certain places in the game, usually in major cities, where you can transmog items from one skin to another for a small amount of gold.
3. Find what parts of the game fit your style (levels 30-50)
Once you have a handle on the first 30-50 levels, you will start to settle in to playing the parts of the game that you like. I have leveled characters from 1-100 almost entirely in PvE, and I have leveled characters from 1-100 almost entirely in dungeons using LFR. Some players love working on professions — I have known more than one person obsessed with fishing — and others would prefer to spend their time working on collecting pets or mounts or heirloom gear.
About the only time I have found it to really matter what parts of the game you play is if you want to be able to do something specific the minute you hit max level. Here are some examples:
- If you really want to make use of the profession buildings in your garrison (which you get at level 90) then it makes sense to have defined a primary and secondary profession. The garrison profession buildings are much more useful if they are tied to a profession that you have.
- If you like pet battles, and really like the idea of playing in the Celestial Tournament when you get to Pandaria, then it makes sense to have spent some time leveling your pets as you level your character.
- If you want to dive into heroic dungeons or LFR raids when you hit max level, then I would definitely recommend using the Raid Finder tool and running dungeons as you level your character. In general, the gear you get from dungeons surpasses anything you will find in PvE and you will be better equipped for max level LFR when you get there.
The point is, find what parts of the game you like and play the game that way. Don’t feel like you need to do everything and don’t worry too much about missing out on something. You can always go back if you need to get something you missed.
4. Use the available online resources (levels 50+)
Once you reach level 50+, chances are you will want more in-depth customization options for your character. You’ll want to tweak your talents and glyphs and make sure that you are using the proper ability rotation. If you are getting into dungeons you may also be thinking about macros and key mapping strategies for your character.
Fortunately, there are countless online communities, fan sites, and resource guides for WoW. Here are the ones that I have found the most useful, listed in the order of priority that I typically use them:
- Wowhead: Guides and information on characters, gear, or other objects in the game. By far the site I (and many others) use the most.
- Noxxic: Quick guides on class stat priority, rotations, and recommended glyphs/talents/gems.
- Icy Veins: Class guides, tends to be a bit more thorough than Noxxic, with more in-depth discussion around rotation and abilities.
- Blizzard Watch: Great for in-depth articles and discussion around many aspects of the game; great class columns.
- WoW Forums: Good for general questions and discussion about the game.
- Wow Game Guide: Great resource if you want to learn about the lore behind WoW or general information about a certain aspect of the game.
- MaxDPS: Very detailed stat and gear reference site.
5. Enjoy Max Level (level 100)
When you finally reach 100, pat yourself on the back for a job well done. You have successfully navigated the PvE quests, perhaps jumped into a bunch of dungeons, and probably learned a lot about the characters and storylines that Blizzard has put in the game.
There are some in the online communities that say when you hit max level (currently 100) the game is over. This is simply untrue. The game can change a little once you hit the magic number, mostly because a good portion of the PvE quests have been completed, but there is certainly no lack of things to do.
There are plenty of articles that list out every possible activity once you reach level 100 (just check out any of the resources above). Currently for my max level characters I find myself focusing on the following:
- Garrison. The most recent expansion, Warlords of Draenor, introduced garrisons to the game — basically a base of operations that your character gets and one that you can expand over time. There are so many things you can do with your garrison, that it is pointless to list them all here. Check out Wowhead’s Garrison Guide, and you’ll quickly see how much time you can spend just focusing on your home base.
- Daily Quests. There are lots of quests that show up on a daily basis once you hit max level (blue exclamation point). Some of them will be in your garrison, others out in the world in different places. They give you the opportunity to go out into PvE with different kinds of goals (crystals, elites, reputation, etc.), and ensure that there is always something to do.
- Raiding. Raiding for me is one of the most enjoyable elements of the game. I love diving into a massive dungeon with 24 other players and seeing if we can survive the onslaught that awaits us. The rooms are bigger, the enemies are harder, and the bosses are unforgiving. In addition, raids tend to drop the best gear, and tend to be where the story that you have been following in PvE concludes. And I enjoy seeing the story to the end.
- Exploring Old Content. When you hit 100, you can pretty much overpower everything in the game that came before (perhaps with the exception of Pandaria dungeons). This means that you can start to solo dungeons and raids that you might not have gone to as you were leveling. It is a great way to grab some gear for transmog, or to collect achievements.
So there you have it. A (not so) quick guide to World of Warcraft as I understand it. I hope this tour and discussion of my experiences with the game have been helpful. Feel free to add additional thoughts in the comments below.
I’ll see you in Azeroth!