World of Warcraft: How to fight
I play World of Warcraft, and I'm not the best, but I enjoy it a lot. I play a mage, currently 47, so I'm made of paper, but I can toss out a lot of damage and have a few tools to keep those nasty men with large sharp objects away. The fun thing about World of Warcraft is that it can be very mobile. Most classes have potent abilities they can use on the move, and many have mobility affecting abilities to give them some space, or close the distance, making WoW a game where staying on your toes is important, and the ranged classes can last a little while in close combat. It's my favorite mmorpg I've played thus far, because of the above mentioned mobility, because of the independence of your character (I can solo effectively into the higher levels, even if I can't get the cool instance loot), and because the timesinks, the moneysinks, and generally the effort needed to advance is far less than that of Dark Age of Camelot, my other mmorpg.
Damodred's writeup is a great description of Blizzard's World of Warcraft(WoW hereafter), but it has a few holes as to fairly important parts of the game. That's what I'll try to address.
Why am I a ghost?: How to not ask that question
So, before we go any further, here's how to keep from dying with alarming regularity against other people.
Know your limits: Do you see a greenskin with a red name over him? Click on him. Look at the lil number next to his portrait. Is it grey? You could kill about six or more of him at once, depending on how far away he is from being green. Is there no number, only a skull? He could take on six or more of YOU. And he might think you look tasty.
Know your class: Have your PvP abilities constantly ready, know how to use them, and know what you're good at, and what other classes are good at. If you're a warrior, you need to get close to your opponent and pound on him. If you're a hunter, keep your distance, sic your pet on him, shoot away. If you're a healer (healing is king in WoW), heal like your life depends on it. Keep the other classes from doing what they're good at! Keep the warrior at bay, keep the hunter from shooting, keep the healer from getting that heal off.
Be Aware: Sometimes, you'll be running around on your own, questing, killing mobs and the like, when BAM! Stabbed in the back by some damnable Night Elf rogue. Not much you can do about this, they like waiting until you have half health and are fighting 2 mobs to strike. I've gotten hit by a guy who waited til I had 10% health before he took me out. I was sad. But, not everyone's a rogue, and even rogues have counters, if somewhat ineffective ones. To protect yourself from ganking as best you can, there are a few things you can do. Stay away from the roads when hunting, for one. If someone running along sees you, or the bear corpses you're leaving behind, they might decide you'd be entertaining to hunt. Keep an eye behind you, so that people can't just run up to you and start chucking fireballs.
Talk to your groupies: If you're in a group, whether questing or looking for people to kill, have a plan for when you meet someone. If you see enemy players, drop a ping on the minimap to your upper right about where they are. It's the best way to locate baddies for your group. Stay with your group. If you're a caster, and getting smacked by a rogue, don't just run off into the distance, abandoning your allies to their fates. Use what abilities you have to give yourself room, and give your friends a couple seconds time to react.
Be nice to people: Just because you CAN slaughter the orcs indiscriminately doesn't mean you SHOULD. They don't like getting killed, either, and they may well send a posse around to kill you many times over.
Talents: the Means to an End... of Violence!
There's not enough customization in WoW. Sad but true. You get your cosmetic stylings, which are a bit cramped, you get your gear, which a lot of other people will already have, and you get your talents, which need some explaining. Starting at level 10, players can specialize into one of 3 trees. Each class gets their own three trees, and each tree focuses on a different aspect of that class. A mage's fire tree focuses on his primal urge to blow things up, a warlock's demonology tree enhances the demons he calls up writhing from the depths of hell, a druid's feral tree gets in touch with the druid's inner beast. Each level, starting at 10, you recieve a talent point, which you can spend to gain new abilities. As you spend more points in one tree, more talents in that tree become availible. At level 60, you will have 51 talent points. This is not enough to get all the talents, or even more than a few of the good ones, so you have to choose. For most classes, there are powerful one point talents that becomes availible with 20, and 30 points invested. You can only get one 30 point talent, and that means you are unable to get the also powerful 20 point talents in other trees. If you eschew the 30 point talents, you can instead get two 20 point talents, but not three. Again, choices. Talents are the chief way of personalizing your character. A fire mage is a lot different from a frost mage, and there are quite a few variants of both.<\p>
The above website is a good resource for the many talents of WoW, and what they do.
How PvP works: Senseless Beatings!
WoW has two main games - the player versus environment, charging into dungeons and various other evil-people-filled places, from religious human zealots to the remnants of Warcraft III's Scourge to get experience and glowy swords, and (my favorite) player versus player, wherein you ride out against the opposing faction, to crush them like the primitive savages / honourless weaklings they are. It is the PvP that I'll discuss.
So, you have your two teams. They hate each other. You can't attack the people on your own team (aside from the requisite duels), but you can (sometimes) attack the people on the other team. When can you attack them? Usually, when they want to be attacked. Many World of Warcraft servers are labelled 'normal', which means that opposing players are immaterial and invulnerable to your faction until they turn on their 'PvP flag'. When that happens, anyone on your faction who also has their pvp flag on can attack those dirty greenskins / flimsy fleshies. So, on normal servers, player versus player combat will only occur when both parties are fixin' for a fight. But, there are also player versus player oriented servers, and they work somewhat differently.
There are three types of areas on pvp servers, horde controlled, alliance controlled, and neutral. In horde controlled servers, horde players need not fear alliance incursion, as they are untouchable with their flag off. But an alliance player in horde territory is fair game for any member of the horde - his pvp flag is automatically turned on when he is in the area. The same is true, with factions reversed, for alliance territory. Capital cities, starting zones, and a handful of zones offering growth up to about level 25, are all under the control of a particular faction. This means that capital cities and low level zones offer safety from other players. In contested areas, which make up most of the game world, and where every player will have to go eventually, every player has their pvp flag automatically set on, and can be attacked by the opposing faction. And there's nothing stopping some bored level 60 rogue from running into areas populated by low level players and killing all who stand against him. Which happens a lot, sadly, and they can be bastards about it, attacking mostly when you're in combat with a monster, leaving you helpless when you otherwise might have had a chance to at least run away. But maybe you can get someone on your faction to stop by and give our dear rogue a lesson.
This was the situation for most of WoW's current lifetime. Typically, you would see most level 60 characters either conquer dungeons for the loot, or run around the game world, looking for a fight. Sometimes, the high level characters would decide to go after the little ones, with low level characters having little recourse but to run or call for help from level 60s on their side. Luckily, players can be very mobile in WoW, so at any given time, there are probably friendly 60s in your zone who wouldn't mind hunting down gankers. Hence, most PvP combat consisted of small scale battles between players, often a pair of soloers questing in proximity. Occasionally, the Hillsbrad Foothills (an area designed for levels 20-30 of both factions) would become a warzone as zergs of players would collide on the plains between the two towns in the area, Southshore and Tarren Mill. Not much would actually be accomplished in these battles, as complete victory would require the nearly impossible task of defeating the many, many powerful town guards as well as opposing players, and the reward of victory is denying your enemy a town for a couple minutes until the guards respawn in force. People still got a good fight out of it, though.
More than Senseless Beatings: The Honour System
Recently, Blizzard added what they call the honour system. Essentially, when you kill someone who stands a decent chance against you, you recieve an honourable kill(HK), and some contribution points(CP). When you amass enough CPs, you will be promoted into the army of your faction, starting at Scout or Private, and going all the way up to High Warlord and Grand Marshall. Not everyone can be a Grand Poobah, though, as players are ranked within their faction in a sort of ladder system, meaning you need to have more CPs than a certain number of people to become a Grand Poobah of your faction. More rank means more goodies, from the (practically required) trinket that allows you to break a few forms of crowd control every five minutes, to a very speedy mount, to a wide selection of very glowy weapons.
When Blizzard introduced the honour system, most PvP combat shifted from the small scale to the large. The best way for many players to get CPs was to join a zerg. And where's the best place for a zerg? Hillsbrad. On most servers, Hillsbrad became a constant battleground, as players locked themselves in a perpetual back and forth between the two towns. All those people caused a lot of lag in the zone, and Hillsbrad itself became a place for fear for any low level player.
Battlegrounds: Something to Fight For
Most recently, Blizzard introduced two battlegrounds, essentially instanced zones for Horde and Alliance players to fight in, with a specific objective to shoot for. One, Alterac Valley, is a 40v40 zone restricted to level 51-60 players, and is a prolonged battle for control of the valley, using bases, towers, mines, and graveyards as control points. Players can throw themselves against the main force of the opposing faction, or work to improve their faction's base and NPC forces by completing quests in the valley, or capturing mines and other objectives. By winning, you get reputation which gets you closer to being able to buy some pretty nice gear from your NPCs. The second, and the one I have experience with, is Warsong Gulch. Warsong Gulch is a game of Capture the Flag. You have your two bases, you run back and forth between them trying to get their flag and trying to keep them from getting yours, the winner being the team with three captures. It's fast-paced and intense, with rounds usually lasting under a hour. It's fun. Any player at 21 or above can go into a battleground, and will be placed with players around their level. Level ranges are 21-30, 31-40, 41-50, and 51-60. You can get a little experience, from turning in an item when you win, and gain reputation from winning, which will land you a few consumable items, such as potions.
Most players who want to fight their fellow man now go to
the battlegrounds. Small scale fights still happen, as does ganking, but the zergs are mostly dead (except in Alterac Valley!). The battlegrounds simply give better incentives than fighting in the non-instanced world.
Conclusion: Or, Time for Senseless Beatings!
I've always enjoyed PvP in WoW, but it's gotten a nice facelift recently, and some actual incentives to not be an ass and kill helpless lowbies. I enjoy it more than I did DAOC's New Frontiers, and THAT was a hell of a lot of fun, what with the castle sieging and three cornered fights.
I have two main characters right now, a gnome mage on Burning Blade, and a Tauren warrior on Tichondrius. If you play on those servers, let me know.