World of Warcraft makes players feel like Christopher Columbus after his trek across the Atlantic. We are explorers. We start the game at the human start point, Northshire, which becomes our hub. From there we may venture out radially in all directions. But why should we explore? Why can’t players stay in one area? Well, World of Warcraft encourages exploration through almost every aspect of the game. Questing primarily, along with search for new and improved items, and new, unique areas, all force a new player to venture into the abyss that is the rest of the Warcraft map. It is for this reason that I consider exploration a pivotal, formal, and procedural aspect to World of Warcraft.
From the start, Warcraft attempts to familiarize the new player with their surroundings. This is mainly done via quests of a minimum difficulty. While the player learns the controls and their own innate abilities, they begin to explore the land in and around Northshire thanks to the direction of quests. Drawing from Alexander Galloway in “Gamic Action, Four Moments,” quests are an example of both the diegetic machine and diegetic operator acts. In these acts, the main interactions are diegetic or part of the gameplay. The diegetic operator is play controlled by the player. This comprises of the player clicking and moving the character based on a set of rules. The diegetic machine is also found during questing as it can be thought of as the process of the game. Non-player characters (NPCs) are an essential part of the diegetic machine act because they are controlled by the computer and contribute significantly to the gameplay by directing players through the map. Similarly, the terrain and landscape are also part of the diegetic machine act.
Another way in which Warcraft encourages exploration is through creation of player curiosity coupled with boredom of their current surroundings. Let me explain. Once a player reaches about level five in Northshire, there isn’t much to do. The quests have been completed, the NPCs are weak and the items to be found are worthless. At this point, either the player quits out of boredom, or their curiosity gets the best of them and they start venturing farther down the paths. Normally venturing into an unknown area is quite a risk because of the fear of getting lost. Cleverly, World of Warcraft’s developers devised a hearthstone that, no matter where the player find himself on the map, takes him back to a home base. Essentially, the fear of getting lost is eradicated. Relating this back to Galloway’s “Gamic Action, Four Moments,” a player’s action of moving across the map is once again part of the diegetic operator act. The new map features that appear are the diegetic machine act. Additionally, I stumbled across an example of the non-diegetic machine act during my own exploration. Somehow, I ended up on the edge of the map and fell down a cliff and ended up in a deep cavern. I took this computer response to my movement as non-diegetic because I reached the end of the code. The code was rejecting my further movement. Luckily, I had my hearthstone, which freed me from my unfortunate situation.
While exploration may not seem to be a formal aspect of the game with set mechanics like battle systems or PvP, it certainly is. Quests, which are mechanically set up, are the primary assistance given to the player in their exploration throughout the land of Azeroth. A player may explore on his or her own accord beyond the scope of their current quest, but they may not simply stay put in one area for good. The game procedurally pushes players to explore. The procedure is just slightly more hidden than that of the auction house.