Monday, March 7, 2011

On Warcraft, pt. I

I don't remember exactly when or how it entered our lives, but a certain computer game popped up on my family's computer some time when i was nine. I know its appearance was due to my brother, but the circumstances beyond that have evaporated with the mists of time. A quick Wikipedia search tells me that it must have been either late 1994 or early '95. It was called Warcraft: Orcs & Humans and it required a whopping 4 MB of RAM.

My first introduction into Real Time Strategy games, Warcraft was actually the second RTS game ever released for home computers, the first being Dune II. Interestingly enough, Blizzard pumped out their debut RTS game as fast as they could simply to take advantage of the warm reception that Dune II had garnished, hoping to take advantage of a perceived void in the market. Because of this rush, the saga of orcs vs. humans began with little script to speak of, their bloody conflict existing as a vehicle for the game more than anything else. My brother and i didn't care, of course, reveling - as any Tolkien geek would - in the gory spectacle of orcish combat.

My first experience with Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness was at a friend's house. All i remember from that tiny campaign was the excitement over the new, shiny graphics; the faster pace; the driving, awesome music. Then a small mob of enormous, fat, naked men with two heads waddled into my village and punched the entire settlement into the dirt. Surprisingly enough, this traumatic first experience did not deter me at all and i whiled away many hours with WCII, deepening my love for all things orc. I vividly recall the first time i met Zul'jin and badass teal scarf. Truth be told, i can trace back my love for scarves and unsymmetrical ear piercings to this troll axe-thrower.

While Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos probably didn't get as much play time from me as Starcraft did, i definitely owe it more. Warcraft added a slew of additional features in its third incarnation, including a third playable race, heroes and 3D graphics. More importantly for me, however, was the incredibly dynamic storytelling made through the vehicle of in-game cut scenes. The characters came alive, then, and i found myself truly sympathizing with Thrall, Cairne, Jaina, and the rest of the characters i would come to see so much of in the coming years. It was halfway through the Undead campaign that i first saw the fall of Sylvanas Windrunner, Ranger-General of Silvermoon, the soon-to-be Dark Lady who would steal my WoW-heart.

At this point, i'd be in Azeroth for the better part of a decade. I was intimately familiar with orcish culture and magicks, the role of gnomes in human society, and the fear of an undead scourge. My formative gaming years had been heavily marinated in war paint, battle cries, honor contests, glorious deaths.

To me, orcs will always be hulking and green-skinned.