The advertisements littered on the many gaming sites I often frequent beckoned that I participate in a 10-day free trial for The World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade expansion. It didn't take much convincing for me to cave in and start the lengthy download, so after nearly a day and 2 Gigabytes later I was back in Azeroth, somewhere I never thought I'd explore again. It's not that I was ever an addict, or that I'm against WoW in general, it's just that after passing on Burning Crusade at launch, I imagined there wasn't going to be much else that would pull me back into the game. Sure, the next expansion might be exciting, but the entire idea of expansions bothers me enough that I thought I'd stay away.

That's one ridiculously cool level 5 character, at least more so than other WoW races.

The nature of the expansion is to provide additional content for gamers who have largely explored the entirety of what is currently available, and also to provide a new starting grounds, races, classes, etc. for those who haven't yet played the game. I was neither, resting comfortably in the middle grounds, with a level 35-ish character on a server that none of my friends played on. The real problem with expansions, I think, is that they're a constant pouring out of content that is largely improved over the initial game, streamlined and made to look more appealing, and in some way, that has to be offending to the player that has already expired the original game. A player that spent the necessary time to reach level 60 with a particular race now finds two new races, in this case the Blood Elves and the Draenei, that he honestly may find more appealing than what he was offered when he started the game. So, he's forced with asking whether he would like to maintain his current character in the face of more appealing choices, or sacrifice the (very literally) days of effort that it took to create that character. That's a poor choice to inflict upon people.

At around level 15 I had to take the Christmas colors to keep up with the best available gear.

Regardless of my stance on expansions in general, the new starting areas in the Burning Crusade were alluring. I haven't had the chance yet to explore that of the Draenei, but I have seen the screens, and it's hard to argue how much more visually appealing it is in comparison to Elwynn Forest and similar early level areas in the original content. I haven't faced anything along the lines of Westfall, and that's a very good thing. The Blood Elves area is insanely beautiful, and the forest area is lush and vibrant. I had originally wanted to spend my time exploring the Draenei, but this starting area, and the Blood Elf characters as well, looked so good that they swayed my opinion. That feeling never waned throughout the time I've been playing, and honestly, it's a little ridiculous. My Blood Elf character, Esperante, looks, in short, much cooler than my human character at nearly 35 levels higher. The starting equipment and weapons for the blood elves seem to have only one real goal, make the Horde look attractive. It wouldn't be brash to say, in my opinion, more attractive than that of the alliance.

No doubt about it, my first character is an ugly rainbow bastard.

Another thing about the Blood Elves is that Blizzard seems to have honed in more on the mythology of Warcraft within the starting area itself, and that is something I'm glad to see. Other races within the game seemed so far from participating in the history of Prince Arthas and the Burning Legion that it could have largely been left out, but the Blood Elves and the Dead Scar within their homeland, as well as the Ghostlands, are very much intertwined with that history. The Dead Scar is a very awesome tear, splitting the lands of the Blood Elves in half, that was the land on which Arthas made his advance. Now, the land spits forth wraiths, zombies, and skeletons and is a very stark contrast to the beatiful forest surrounding it. The second area for the Blood Elves, the Ghostlands, is very akin to the Duskwood, as it is the land held in alliance by the Blood Elves and Undead, and is a front line in the war against the Legion. It's also an interesting contrast itself, moving from lush forest to dark and foreboding very quickly.

The Dead Scar is an insanely cool representation of Warcraft history within the game.

This whole post might be covering some fairly introductory topics, and considering that I'm genuinely late to the party here, this might sound a little silly, but I did have other directions in which I wanted to speak on World of Warcraft and MMO's in general. Perhaps though, I'll save those for another post, as they're fairly academic and deserve a broader focus than just World of Warcraft.

What I'm curious about, just to give an introduction, is what price do we pay for prolonged entertainment? In the case of MMO's in particular, what are we sacrificing for a game world that is apparently never-ending and loaded with replay value? This was inspired by a recent article I read about the human desire to seek happiness, and how it has, through drugs and science, reached an almost realistic position that happiness, under some other name, could soon be bottled. The cost of that is going to be large, and most people should stop to consider whether they're ready to live in a world in which we are all happy. Unhappiness, while not a very comfortable idea, is a very important part of why humans are still alive and thriving today. Using that same concept as the springboard to my discussion on MMO's, I'd like to ask, what is the cost of prolonged entertainment? Is it similar to that of prolonged happiness, and could it be that gaming, in general (as well as ourselves), is threatened by the game which never ends? Where, in all this, does the 15-hour game lie, and will it continue to exist?


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