The University of WoW: A Guide For New Students

Song of the moment: Wrath of the Lich King (Main Title) from the WoW: Wrath of the Lich King Soundtrack

I haven’t shared my good news with you, blogosphereland, but I finally dinged 80 in WoW this week. For the record, there was no accompanying rush of joy or achievement. I mostly just stared at the place where my experience bar used to be and felt exhausted. I closed my computer and went to sleep.

Since that moment, I’ve gradually come to terms with being level 80. It’s not exciting. It’s not really special (even though it’s my first 80 character [I flat-out refuse to say ‘toon’]). In a lot of regards, it really feels like a whole new game now, and I’m back to square one.

Oh goody.

I like to imagine WoW is similar to the college experience, and the game content is set up like coursework. So, for your amusement (but mostly my amusement), here’s my breakdown of WoW in college terms [note that I’m a Horde girl all the way, so this is all from a Horde character’s perspective- suck it, Alliance]:

Freshman Year

Levels 1-58 are like freshman year of college.

First, it’s orientation (i.e. Mulgore/Tirisfal Glades/Durotar/Eversong Woods) to acclimate you to your new environment and what will be expected of you in the years to come. Everything’s shiny and new, and you get excited every time you kill a little trash mob or get a new weapon/piece of armor (in much the same way freshmen in college happily finish little bullshit assignments and short papers).

After you’re orientated properly, it’s time to get into your introductory courses. Yes, you are going to be spending a ton of time here. Yes, they are a complete waste of time. And yes, they are boring as sin. Can someone say The FUCKING Barrens? Also, Silverpine Forest and The Ghostlands and such.

It is here, in these intro courses, that we supposedly learn the fundamentals that will serve us later in the game. Exactly how countless hours of repetitive killing and dinky quests will serve you in the future can be outlined in the handbook in very vague terms that really amount to nothing- the university just likes to torture you.

I suppose they could come in handy for the really stupid kids, but they shouldn’t be here, should they? They should’ve just accepted their lot in life as burger flippers and not come into my game to spam trade chat with asinine comments.

Here, in the bowels of freshmen hell, you will encounter your first group projects- dungeons. It’s time to suit up with some fellow nervous freshies and work together to battle your way through tougher monsters than you ever face outside these dreaded instances. You’ll have to study up before tackling these areas- they contain special traps and bosses with weaknesses you have to learn to exploit. But the rewards are high if you succeed, for here is where the best and shiniest loot of the game is to be found. You can only 4.0 the semester if you survive these group excursions.

After level 25 or so, the world really opens up to you. You start exploring the campus, with classes in far corners of your known world, in buildings with names you’ve never heard of (like Dustwallow Marsh and Tanaris and the ever-dreaded Stranglethorn Vale). You better learn the bus system around these parts (i.e. find your flight points), otherwise it’s a hell of a long run between classes.

Thankfully, at level 20 you were smart enough to buy yourself a bike (a mount), so now getting to classes is quicker and easier than it was before. You’re going to be really thankful for your new ride, because Azeroth is huge (and you’re only in The Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor right now). And, at 40, you get to upgrade to an even faster ride. Hello, speedster!

Along the way, you’ll want to pick up some study guides to help you out. These ‘professions,’ if leveled at the same rate as your character, will help you craft your own gear, make money, heal yourself, catch and cook your own food. Believe me, it’s hard to adventure without having something to help you when you’re in a jam. Like SparkNotes, the right professions can make or break you when it’s crunch time.

Sometimes, you’re gonna want to party. After all, this is college. And there are huge parties organized all the time! Festivals occur every month at UW (that’s University of WoW), from the monthly Darkmoon Faire to the holiday extravaganzas. At these gatherings, you will sample the finest spirits Azeroth brewers have to offer, as well as specialty dishes. You’ll dance. You’ll get hammered. You’ll flirt outrageously with other revelers. You’ll get fancy new clothes and pets. All in all, it’s the perfect way to unwind after a hard week (or month) of class work.

As you progress through your 100-level courses, things gradually start to get more difficult. Group projects are longer and harder. You actually have to study before exams (i.e. large quest lines with elite bosses at the end). You aren’t going to be sleeping enough (you never have the health/mana potions you need), you aren’t eating properly (whatever you can scrounge up over a campfire or buy off a shady vendor in some pissant military post or backwards village), and you’re cranky (for the love of Thrall, where the fuck is the mob I’m supposed to be killing?!).

Don’t worry- everyone has to go through this. Eventually, though, you hit 58, and the next part of the college experience begins.

Study Abroad

Time to dig out your passport and prepare to travel! Levels 58-70 are your chance to experience a whole new world… literally.

Outland isn’t in Azeroth. That’s right, you’re hopping over to a whole ‘nother world for a few levels. With breathtaking views and expansive new continents, it’s time to break out your best gear and prepare for a whirlwind tour of this crazy land.

Here, the challenges are all harder, but they are similar to coursework you’ve done before. You know the basics- now it’s time to fine-tune them. The dungeons require more teamwork. The quests are more complex (…sometimes). The mobs are tougher. But the rewards are higher than they’ve ever been.

Did I mention you can fly now? That’s right, flying mounts are introduced at 60. Goodbye bike, hello helicopter! Your friends are sure going to be jealous of you next year, aren’t they?

Don’t forget to check out the local flavor. While the military post where you land isn’t terrible exciting (you know, except for the demons swarming at you and scaring the pants off you… damn locals), a short jaunt away is Shattrath City, home of two rival gangs (the Scryers and Aldor), as well as a motley assortment of gypsy vagabonds. It’s dangerous. It’s shady. It’s fun as hell. Also, the pub often features live entertainment. So grab a drink, enjoy the Level 80 Elite Tauren Chieftans (a bitchin’ rock band who got their start back in Warcraft III), and give Haris Pilton’s little dog a good kick if you see it.

You’re going to be inundated with the history and culture of these new lands. Sure, you grew up hearing stories of Azeroth’s past. You know the legends there. You know the big names (Arthas, Jaina, Thrall, Sylvanas, Uthar, Gromm, Illidian, Tyrande, Alexstraza, Ysera). You know their deeds. But this is a whole new world- the shattered remains of the planet Draenor is steeped in its own bloody, fascinating history. So grab your #2 pencils of intellect, because the ancestral home of the Orcs has a lot of history for you to catch up on.

And yes, there will be a test.

Sophomore Year

Back from your sojourn abroad, it’s time for your second year of university life. Levels 70-80 are spent in the far, cold reaches of campus in a place called Northrend. It’s right there, on the campus you’ve come to know, but this year all your classes are further away. Time to move to a new dorm (Dalaran) and make new friends (The Argent Crusade, Knights of the Ebon Blade, The Oracles).

But don’t worry about the transition- UW will ensure you are in the finest hands. Your advisers are the best the university has to offer its students. Alexstraza herself and Garrosh Hellscream lead the pack. You’ll also recognize returning professor Hemet Nesingwary, who teaches one of the core 200-level courses.

Classwork is starting to get more specialized now, but have no fear- you’re prepared for it. It takes a lot more outside of class time to pass every exam and quiz, so be prepared to buckle down and work your ass off.

Life’s not all work, though. Now that you’re settled into the routine of life at UW, it’s time to get involved in some extracurricular activities. Perhaps you’ve dabbled in PvP combat in arenas in the past, but now it’s time to compete in Wintergrasp, an outdoor world PvP match. It’s tough, it’s dangerous, and it’s thrilling. But, on the plus side, it’ll really build up your reputation among the university elite (no, not the elites), and you’ll win some sweet honors if you succeed.

Survive finals week (i.e. the last hellish levels before 80) and you’re through the horrible prereq classes! Now, the real work begins.

Junior Year

It’s a whole new game now that you’re an upperclassman. Without all that pesky required coursework (leveling), you get to really specialize in your chosen major.

Oh, that’s right- we haven’t really discussed your major much up till this point. Mostly that’s because your coursework through the first half of your university experience have been general requirements. But we have experienced a few low-level major courses, and now it’s time to really decide on your specialization and focus your energy on it.

Remember those first documents you filled out before you even stepped on the UW campus? Well, that’s where you first decided your major (character class). You had a lot (or a fair amount) of options, but you picked the one that seemed like the best fit for you and your future.

Well, now it’s time to flesh out that major. You may have noticed that UW has three tracks within each major that you can specialize in. So pick a track and select your classes (talents). These classes give you a wealth of new skills to use as you battle your way through your 300-level courses (i.e. rep grinding and heroics).

Some of you may have decided to double major (have multiple alts) at UW. This is a wonderful decision and will help you become a versatile player, but note that it will probably take you longer to graduate if you are pursuing two majors (leveling two or more characters at once).

This is also a great time for some electives to round out your schedule (namely, gathering achievements). They’ll allow you to experience the length and breadth of campus and academia, and they look really nice on your final transcript.

Also, make sure you’re in at least one extracurricular group (guild) that interests you. You’ll make great friends/allies that will act as your support web through your senior year, and it looks fantastic on the ol’ resume.

Senior Year

This is the year you’ve all been waiting for- your final year at UW.

You’re level 80 now. You’re geared with the best stuff Azeroth has to offer. You have the knowledge and power to tackle your final classes before graduating.

This year will be different than those that came before. Instead of tons of classes with busywork and exams and assignments, you’re only going to be in one course- your senior thesis/project. You must complete this before you can graduate.

Your final project is your toughest challenge to date of your academic career. You’ll spend this year polishing your skills/gear, gathering your friends/classmates/group members/guildies, and researching your ass off.

Finally, when you are ready, it’s time for the end-game content- the battle with Arthas the Lich King in Icecrown Citadel. It’s going to be brutal. It’s going to take everything you’ve learned in your time at UW, as well as a little luck, but if you studied hard and are strong enough, you’ll master this challenge.

Well, that’s it, you’re thinking. I mean, sure, you can take a year and farm for materials to make some money in the AH before leaving for good. But after this, there’s nothing else.

Or is there? UW is currently perfecting their graduate program, so if you stick around for the release of Cataclysm, your going to have the chance to continue your education. The campus is being renovated. New degree programs are being added. If I were you, I’d fork over the cash for tuition, because it’s going to be one hell of a ride.

***

Okay, halfway through writing this entry, I realized my attempt at a joking comparison between WoW and college started to feel like an extended Blizzard recruitment article.

So it goes, I guess.

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