World of Warcraft
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World of Warcraft, often referred to as WoW, is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) by Blizzard Entertainment, a subsidiary of Activision Blizzard. 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. At BlizzCon in October 2010, lead producer J. Allen Brack announced that there would be a fourth expansion set for the game, even though the developers don't yet know what it will be about.
World of Warcraft shares the Warcraft title with the Warcraft series of real-time strategy games, is set in that series world of Azeroth, and has similar art direction. World of Warcraft contains traditional fantasy elements, such as gryphons, dragons, and elves; steam-powered automata and extreme engineering typical of steampunk; zombies, vampires, and other undead typical of horror as well as time travel, spaceships, and alien worlds typical of science fiction.
World of Warcraft takes place in a 3D representation of the Warcraft universe that players can interact with through their characters. The game world initially consisted of the two continents in Azeroth: Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms. Two separate expansions later added to the game's playable area the realm of Outland and the continent of Northrend. As a player explores new locations, different routes and means of transportion become available. Players can access "flight masters" in newly discovered locations to fly to previously discovered locations in other parts of the world. Players can also use boats, zeppelins, or portals to move from one continent to another. Although the game world remains relatively similar from day to day, seasonal events reflecting real world events—such as Halloween, Christmas, Children's Week, Easter, and Midsummer—have been represented in the game world. Locations also have variable weather including, among other things, rain, snow, and dust storms.
A number of facilities are available for characters while in towns and cities. In each major city, characters can access a bank in order to deposit items, such as treasure or crafted items. Each character has access to personal bank storage with the option to purchase additional storage space using in-game gold. Additionally, guild banks are available for use by members of a guild with restrictions being set by the guild leader. Auction houses are also available for players to buy and sell items to others in a similar way to online auction sites such as eBay. Players can also use mailboxes, which can be found in almost every town. Mailboxes are used to collect items won at auction, and to send messages, items, and in-game money to other characters.
Some of the challenges in World of Warcraft require players to group together to complete them. These usually take place in dungeons—also known as instances that a group of characters can enter together. The term "instance" comes from each group or party having a separate copy, or instance, of the dungeon, complete with their own enemies to defeat and their own treasure or rewards. This allows a group to explore areas and complete quests without others interfering. Dungeons are spread over the game world and are designed for characters of varying progression. A typical dungeon will allow up to five characters to enter as part of a group. Some dungeons require more players to group together and form a "raid" of up to forty players to face some of the most difficult challenges. As well as dungeon-based raid challenges, several creatures exist in the normal game environment that are designed for raids to attack.
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