Success Story: World Of Warcraft Documentary

Looking For Group, a new World of Warcraft documentary, is as earnest as the late Jim Varney. It’s a sixty minute reflection on the first ten years of the giant of MMORPGs and as it was created in-house at Blizzard, it’s all about the good times. Creators and players alike fondly reminisce and the whole thing almost collapses into a blackhole of backslapping self-aggrandisement around the forty minute mark, when a kung fu panda is held up as an example of the maturing narratives tastes of the WOW audience. But despite the fluff, I found my cynicism thawing as I watched. The whole thing is embedded below.

Insights are few and far between, and they’re mostly concentrated on the technical feat of running all of those servers while creating new content, but if you’re capable of accepting that this is an almost feature-length chunk of promotional material, you might just find something worthwhile. For me, it’s the reminder that WoW is an enormous thing that so many people love. That matters and it’s easy to forget now that I’m so removed from it (I last played around the time it originally launched, for a couple of weeks non-stop).

I get a buzz when I see people talking about the things they’ve created and while I don’t think this kind of multiplayer questing will ever be my particular cup of tea, I’m fascinated by the challenge of expanding it while maintaining a cohesive and functional whole. Seeing the art team, I also realise how much I appreciate WoW’s colours. I’ve never found it to be a particularly attractive game but, from a purely visual perspective, I’ll take Pandaria’s rainforests over the scorched earth of Mordor any day.


  1. Reapy says:

    By far the most interesting thing is the short minute or two they are inside the server room for WOW. It looks like a war room in there, pretty amazing.

    • Jimmy says:

      Aye, at 26:16.

      • Martel says:

        Thanks, that’s the part I wanted to see.

        • Caiman says:

          “So this particular one is Tichondrias, one of our more popular realms…”

          “DAMN! The server just crashed again, damn you Blizzard!”

          • Moraven says:

            I got one of those server blades in the charity auction 4 years back. Neat to have a piece of where you played.

  2. Thankmar says:

    “I don’t think this kind of multiplayer questing will ever be my particular cup of tea”

    Mine neither, but I love to come back to look at the vistas of a new expansion and explore them. I pretend its a solo RPG with an auction house.

    • MrLoque says:

      This is how I’ve played WoW for 4 years, saved some group-quests here and there over time. People tent to be extremely critic about class balancing, spells, talents and what not. Very few actually focus on the top-noch aspect of this game, something that no competitor can achieve: the lore.

      Wow features an INSANE amount of content. Some quests are just epic, unforgettable. Others are sad. And other are just silly enough to make you laugh.

      I’ve been playing Wow for 4 years with just one character, a Hunter, chasing the Loremaster achievement and other major/minor achievements too. It was a blast. I loved it. I miss those days, I really do.

      • Distec says:

        Funny you mention that! Personally, I thought the lore got progressively weaker with each expansion, and it felt like Blizzard was developing their conflicts and characters according to the whims of whatever was needed at the time. Arcs rarely ever developed after their expansion packs (usually just straight-up), and so many returning characters from the RTS series were promptly marched to their deaths as cannon fodder for loot. Among other factors, it was one of the reasons I dropped my subscription.

        The time travel plot in Warlords seems silly too, but I think it provides a good opportunity for a refresh on all this. It got me excited enough to preorder and jump back in.

  3. MrLoque says:

    I have a love-hate relationship with Blizzard. I mostly admire them. I truly… love that company. Because it gave me one of the most epic and most amazing gaming experiences with WoW (and Diablo, to some extent). But I also hate the fact that I can’t detach from them. Even if I stopped playin Wow 2 years ago (or more) I keep reading stuff about the game on mmo-champion and Reddit. I can’t stop following them. I just can’t.

    I would like to move on and forget those times but I can’t. And you know what. I am not a dota/teamfrotress player at all but when I saw Overwatch few days ago… I felt a shock in my spain. I was amazed. Stunned.

    That’s what Blizzard does: once they lure you in their world, you can’t leve anymore.

    • Wowbagger says:

      Where in the body would one find the Spain? is it near the testes?

    • SomeDuder says:

      I don’t mind WoW – I had 2 years of genuine fun and frustration with it and the social elements, but it’s just a bit too old for its own good, with its Sims-like array of expansions. The Warcraft universe is pretty much ruined forever, unless they roll back to classic WoW.

      And like I said, I don’t care anymore. I look back onto my time spent without regret and some damn fun experiences, but also not wanting to try it again because I know it just won’t be the same. Exploring Ironforge during the winter with the holiday event in full swing, was amazing. Questing in Stranglethorn was claustrofobic and scary, not being able to see through the jungle. Thunderbluff and Stormwind, so very iconic and well-made. The dungeons and, later, raiding, were damn splendid. I gave up just before Icecrown Citadel was released and haven’t touched it since, since the game was on its decline. Ending on a high note with stuff like the siege at the Wrath Gate was a good way to go.

      And no other MMO will be quite like it either, so that’s quite sad, too (Pay to play is dead, with the exceptions countable on 1 hand, F2P is disgusting crap, filled with people I don’t want to associate with (Poors, non-English speakers, children)).

      • Reapy says:

        I know the story is out past the point when people come back to read it, but your words reminded me of conversations I frequently have with a friend, except we are talking about everquest. Granted, the wow style games are on the outs (but wow wont be dead for a long time still!), but the EQ style games, they were, well, something. I don’t think I would ever, nor want anyone to, make the same mechanics in a game, but it was something.

        I think whatever our first virtual world is the most impactful. I have plenty of early WOW memories and was pretty nostalgic when they changed things for cataclysm, but for me it didn’t have the same magic of UO or EQ, but that is simply a timeline thing, I think.

        In 10 years we might have people saying the same for guild wars 2 or whatever the most recent big mmoish thing is.

  4. Rizlar says:

    Probably due to all the Blizzcon buzz, last night I unexpectedly started thinking about good times in WoW.

    One in particular – levelling up on a new server with another person, playing together in the same room. We had made characters just a few days after the server went up, so the only players around were those who had levelled at the same time as us. It was very different to playing on a normal, populated server. We were approaching the level cap in Northrend, adventuring in the empty, snowy mountains at the very northernmost tip of the world in the middle of the night. There was noone else there. Then one of us spots a tiny figure on the featureless slopes of a mountain. It’s a PvP flagged dwarf priest. We quickly agree to attack him.

    Two against one, but he was several levels higher than us, almost 80, while we were underlevelled and undergeared and I was primarily a tank. The fight went on for what felt like ages, I would charge him down and interrupt as many spells as possible while my friend threw lightning and heals at us, he would heal up and wear us down whenever my interrupts ran out. It went back and forth, my character died but my friend ressed me, the dwarf seemed to run low on mana and tried to escape a couple of times. But finally we were victorious!

    On the side of a mountain, at the top of the world. Nothing around us but the snow falling through dark, empty spaces around the peaks. A dead dwarf in the snow.

    • Experimental says:

      I enjoyed this ,thank you .
      Like many other commenters I love the worlds that Blizzard creates for us to explore ,I’ve renewed my subscription and will take my beloved Dwarf Paladin up to the new level cap and I will enjoy it immensely .Don’t have the passion for achievements that I had in my post Burning Crusade heyday when I’d spend every available minute in Azeroth but there’s no other game that gives you the platform for unique ,personal stories such as yours ,memories that last a long ,long time and that’s priceless for me .Thanks Blizz xx

      • Dawngreeter says:

        ” but there’s no other game that gives you the platform for unique ,personal stories such as yours”

        Well. Not to be an asshole or anything but… y’know. Literally anything I ever did on the Internet before I started working could’ve been parsed through the same rose-tinted glasses and produced a better story.

        Once, way back when, there was this shared flash-based text editor that almost no one used. I logged into it. It was nothing but a blank white rectangle. I wrote “Something something something or other. Woohoo I’m writing on the Internet yeeeaaaah!” The cursor was blinking, motionless. Sitting there, at the end of the nearly nonsensical string of characters that seemed to be the best my 17 year old brain could come up with. Clearly I would never become Banksy. But then something happened. Between two blinks of the cursor, it had changed positions. Now it was two rows lower, again motionless. As if taunting me. Was I sure I didn’t accidentally click somewhere? Was it someone typing something, somewhere in the world? No letters appeared, though. Was it lag? I leaned forward, like I could somehow divine what sort of message was being sent to this shared virtual fortress. Then it appeared, all at once: “First. LOL.”. There was this odd sense of connection to a nameless stranger. Where was he at that time? What were the odds that we would meet in such a desolate corner of cyberspace? Did he feel the same way? Cursor remained blinking, motionless, for a long while after that. Not further messages appeared. Low hum of a cheap CRT monitor behind the blinking black pixels. I disconnected my dial-up connection and went to bed.

        No other platform can give you that, truly.

        • ScubaMonster says:

          That was the worst example you probably could have come up with. Comparing a game story about a pvp fight to typing text in a box. I’d rather read the OP’s story 100 time over than yours once. You were trying to be clever but failed pretty miserably.

          • Dawngreeter says:

            Aw, man, really? Maybe I should just cancel my melodramatic followup about staring at visitor counters on Geocities homepages for pets…

            I wasn’t trying to denigrate OP’s meaningful gaming experience. I was calling bullshit on the quoted bit of text, boss.

          • Distec says:

            Well, no.

            Not to take away from anybody’s cherished memories with WoW… After all, I have quite a number of them. But that quoted bit is certainly something that can be contested. World of Warcraft is a highly regimented affair at this point. One’s “unique and personal” stories have likely been mechanically experienced by millions of other players. There is very little room for carving your own path or expressing yourself outside of what Blizzard has prescribed.

            A sandbox like Eve Online (for example) offers that in spades; it’s the only game I’m currently aware of where one player virtually rules half of the universe. That’s a unique and personal story that a game like WoW could never even dream to offer without a lot of artifice and constraints.

            Really want to re-emphasize that I’m not shitting on anybody’s good time. You will value and cherish whatever you personally choose to, and if you find more emotional resonance with a “simpler” game, then great. But I think it’s fair to say that there many games that do a better job of empowering their players and creating unique narratives than anything WoW has put on the plate.

          • Rizlar says:

            I wasn’t trying to denigrate OP’s meaningful gaming experience. I was calling bullshit on the quoted bit of text, boss.

            Well actually yeah, you were when you said:

            Literally anything I ever did on the Internet before I started working could’ve been parsed through the same rose-tinted glasses and produced a better story.

            Anyway! Of course a lot of it is nostalgia (although at the time of the story I was already nostalgic about vanilla WoW, so it cannot just be that) and of course you can find meaningful stories of people interacting on other platforms, in other MMOs. But by saying that there is nothing special about WoW you risk throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

            The sheer number of people playing it makes it kind of special. I posted the story because I can imagine thousands and thousands of other people having similar stories, which could make material for a pretty interesting documentary (haven’t actually watched Looking For Group). But beyond this, WoW’s world building is better than any other MMO I have played. The sense of place, the feeling of a real world is so much stronger, in part due to the incredible level of polish and attention to detail, the way everything seamlessly, contiguously fits together to create one world. People often mention this sense of place when describing WoW; ‘it’s not a game, it’s a place’ etc.

    • Michael Anson says:

      I have a lot of good PvP memories, as well. My fiance and I always approached the game as a playground rather than a job, so we were always undergeared compared to the big raiders. Early on, she played a druid while I played a rogue, and we prided ourselves on sneaking around effectively. The best memories were always in Classic or Burning Crusade, simply because raiding wasn’t as accessible, and PvP wasn’t as much of a focus.

      Back when the Horde had first received Paladins as a playable class, a favorite target of PvP was the entrance to Booty Bay. Groups of would-be PvPers would lie in ambush, then attack unwary targets who had left their flags up. However, being an under-geared rogue with engineering, I knew that I had little to no opportunity to actually win any of these battles, particularly against seasoned raiders. So I adopted a different tactic. Spotting a flagged paladin making his way down the road, I quickly sapped him, then climbed up into a tree. After the sap wore off, the paladin began to hop around, spamming Consecrate (an area effect that was low-mana and perfect for knocking rogues out of stealth). When he showed signs of slowing, I would use Distract (a ranged ability that, against players, changed the direction they were facing) to let him know I was still around. As I was over the road, I was safe from his anti-rogue tactics; it took him something like ten minutes to give up and turn off his PvP flag.

      A favorite hangout was the Crossroads. Being careful not to target any quest NPCs, I’d sneak around, killing off enough to get the raiders’ attention. After a few minutes of the system spamming people in Orgrimmar with “The Crossroads is under attack,” the raiders would be boiling out of the woodwork, looking for the ganker. Now, at that time, I had picked up the Goblin Rocket Launcher, a handy trinket that, on use, would stun you for a few seconds (knocking you down), then send a fiery projectile at the opponent that would stun them for three seconds. The stun was usually enough that I could handily Vanish and sneak away, and the damage was enough to get their attention but not hurt them much. I would move from bush to dark corner to small thicket, carefully picking a clear lane to my target, then strike and fade back into the shadows while they ran over to my last known location and once again spammed their area attacks. Occasionally, they would try to get clever and enlist someone to serve as bait. At that point, the game would become “can I get the bait before the trap closes,” which was always entertaining.

      When the Lich King expansion was announced, we rogues received a talent with an impressive ability attached. Namely, if we dodged an attack, we would automatically make a counterattack. There was no delay between counterattacks, so if enough people were attacking, the effective DPS went through the roof. There always being a delay between when the game is patched with class changes and the release of the expansion, I was preparing to engage in the usual Crossroads shenanigans when I discovered something interesting: if you did not actively attack the guards, and you didn’t cross into the town itself, you didn’t get flagged for PvP, even if your talent damaged or killed them. After verifying (carefully) with a DM that this was working as intended and that I wouldn’t get in trouble, I started doing a circuit of the town, luring out the guards and letting them kill themselves on me. I found that the ability even worked while mounted. Needless to say, the usual highly-geared raiders showed up, looking for easy PvP kills, and wound up trailing behind me in a hopeful entourage, waiting for some slip-up as my mount walked carefully around the town, close enough to pull the guards but not close enough to get flagged.

      WoW isn’t the same game it used to be. This is in part a good thing, as it keeps the game feeling fresh and interesting, but it’s also a bit sad, as you can never revisit those moments, the memories of crazy things you were able to do. But, in the end, it’s not how well you played but the memories you made that are the real score of any game, and the memories I’ve had of World of Warcraft are well worth the price I paid for admission. From guild tabard dancing on the steps of the Ironforge bank, to the ninja Devilsaurs emerging from the mist to eat you, to that time in the Wrath release event where I was able to kill one of the Naaru, these memories will always be something wonderful to look back on.

      • Faxanadu says:

        PvP was amazing. The scale was unheard of and the abilities and mechanics varied so much it just boggled your mind.

        …which is why I can’t stop hating Blizzard for completely wasting the opportunity of creating a fantastic PvP game. All they did was throw a few bones in the shape of an arena and a bg or two, and put so many guards on PVP SERVERS that you couldn’t even move without being pummeled by “Joe the level 99654 town guard”.

        Words “pvp” and “blizzard” will make me utter “goddamnit” to the end of days.

        Edit: I haven’t watched the video entirely, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they forgot to mention PvP at all.

  5. Shardz says:

    I’d rather see a development video of the Diablo II cycle.

  6. KevinLew says:

    I wish that video game documentaries would realize that documentaries are designed to teach people that *don’t* know about the subject something new. The target audience should NOT be “the fans of World of Warcraft,” for instance, but people that have never played a MMO at all. Right now, most of these documentaries can be summarized as: “Here’s an awesome game whose fans are awesome and the developers are awesome.” These are bad movies and it only reinforces the stereotypes that the general public has about gaming culture.

  7. caff says:

    Love the bit where they’re talking about the servers crashing when they opened the gate to AQ :)

    I was there experiencing it – was hiliarious!

  8. SlimShanks says:

    Attention people! There seems to be some confusion here. Ehm, how do I put this… Some folks seem to be under the impression that WoW is a videogame. I can see where the confusion arises, what with all the game-like mechanics. But if you look closer you will notice that these mechanics are in fact a frail imitation of just about any other rpg ever.
    WoW is basically glorified social networking, with a game-like shell to provide something to do with other people. There is nothing wrong with anyone enjoying this, and it is a niche which needs to be served, and is well served by WoW.
    BUT! Let’s not act like what they have created is some sort of monumental achievement. It’s gameplay is passable, but certainly not praiseworthy. It’s writing, pertaining to both characters and plot, is mediocre at best. The atmosphere and environments are again only passable. And let’s not even talk about the price…
    I say all this having seen and talked about an unfortunate amount of WoW with friends and acquaintances, and having spent a short amount of time acually playing the game. I admit I could never stick with the game for very long, especially considering that at the time I played it there was a PS2 and a copy of Shadow of the Colossus sitting five feet away.

    • Michael Anson says:

      Those of us who don’t do social networking beg to differ. There are many gameplay elements in Warcraft, which require little to no interaction with anyone else. Then again, as someone who has admittedly only played the game for “a short period of time,” you are undoubtedly much better at discerning what is and is not a game than the millions of long-term subscribers.

      • SlimShanks says:

        Your snark has been noted, sir! However, if I may direct you to the earlier half of the sentence you quoted, I said that I have also spent an unfortunate amount of time around the game. I’ve probably seen about a thousand hours of WoW gameplay, and spent about as much time listening to people discuss the game. This was all mind-numbingly boring, but that’s not the point. I wasn’t fishing in the dark when I made my points, and I am sticking to them.
        Additionally, if anyone actually thinks that playing WoW by yourself is fun, and beyond that is worth the subscription fee, then I truly pity them. If that comes across as mean I apologize, but it really would be upsetting for anyone to waste all that time when they could be having vastly more fun for quite a lot less money. Anyone who enjoys playing WoW by themself surely would find nirvana in, say, Kingdoms of Amalur? Divinity? Dragon Age? The Witcher?
        Unless there is something here that I am really missing?

        • Juke says:

          It’s melancholy, but in my experience true, that doing a thing by oneself while in the presence of others feels more socially rewarding than doing the same thing while truly alone. There’s just a little bit more of the spirit of community in the thing. I can’t say whether that’s the point being made, but there is definitely a difference between a single-player experience and a solo experience in a social space. Whether it’s worth the price of admission is up to the individual.

          • Reapy says:

            Thing is WOW is all of those things and more, which is why it blew up. You could do the hard core raiding thing that is like being stuck in middle management corporate america, locking down new recruits, watching people you geared up leave to go with ‘better’ guilds.

            You could play it with close friends, figuring out strategies and overcoming obstacles as a group, with some of the best ‘nerd scream’ material on the planet. Seriously, try working to achieve something with another 30 individuals over the course of a few months, then finally achieve that goal together, it is amazing. What you are doing isn’t really important more so than the struggle and success.

            You can play it on an early weekend morning when you don’t want to be bothered with anything, put on some music in the background, and grind quests and levels. I found it very relaxing to do this from time to time, and as the parent above me said, doing that in a shared space adds a lot of value to the experience.

            There is a randomness that a shared space possesses that a single player game will never have (without a lot of work), the chance of meeting people and deciding to play with them, or watching unfortunate things happen near by and preventing or even facilitating that.

    • Shardz says:

      That’s exactly why I ended I buying a fully loaded guild hall in Guild Wars and didn’t invite anyone to join. It’s the most peaceful guild with no drama that one could possibly ask for to where everyone gets along famously and everyone is the same acceptable age. There is never any coup or debate or unnecessary din of retort; it’s all about gaming and enjoying my vast wealth as an outstanding gamer.

  9. caff says:

    In terms of the expansion, I’ll buy it, and take my warrior up to 100. But then I’ll probably quit again. I probably won’t even enjoy it, but I played so much so many years ago – I’m just keen to see where they take it and what the world looks like.

  10. trjp says:

    This might sound weird, but WoW isn’t really a game to me, it’s a place I used to live

    I lived in a few different places – in the Netherlands for a while (just over a year), London and Glasgow (on and off over a decade), Edinburgh (3 months), Leeds (a year), Birmingham (6 months) and I spent 250 days on Azeroth ;0

    I have memories of that place like I have memories of the other places – people I met, things I did – it’s almost indistringuishable in terms of how I look back at it now – some of it was ‘better than reality’ and some maybe not – most of it was better than my holidays tend to be ;0

    I’d love to go back to all those places at some point but time/money/life make it hard – and they say you should never go back…

    Well – I did once – I saw the places I was ‘born’ underwater, Fizzle Darkstorm (the first enemy to piss me off) was drowned – which was nice – but it’s never quite the same…

  11. awm says:

    My troll priest used to climb the big statue in Karazhan – the one just before the Curator. And then Blizz went and nerfed climbing. Damn them to hell, I say.