I've played video games starting with the Atari 2600 in the early 80's. I always liked adventure and fantasy games. Before World of Warcraft, my favorite fantasy game was Baldur's Gate. Baldur's Gate was incredible - even for an intermediate gamer. Yes, I had to use a walkthrough to finish it, but that was part of the fun. This was storytelling at its best!

In October 2007, we returned home from a 10 month backpacking trip across South America and Jamaica. Now it was time for a virtual adventure. I bought World of Warcraft in New York City at Rockefeller Center and as soon as we got settled in at home, my Warcraft adventure began..

From the first day I played, I liked everything about World of Warcraft. Lots of games have good graphics and gameplay, but not every game creates such an immersive world. And its easy for the beginner (though there's lots to learn!).

Here's my Warcraft story and a few tips..

I decided to go with a warrior. For me, the two classic Dungeons & Dragons characters are the warrior and mage. Start with something you're comfortable with. If you like animals, try a hunter. If you like magic, try a mage or warlock. Within a few months, I took my warrior to level 60. I still had a few areas to quest and explore - Winterspring and others. At this point, I was questing for gold as I'd hit the level cap of 60. Each quest made me about 10 gold.

Then I tried soloing the dungeons (also known as instances). Its fun going back to dungeons you struggled with 4 others at level 30 and walking through them with ease on your own at level 60. Good gold too. Now it was time to get the expansion - Burning Crusade.. What a beautiful world Outland is! It was fun leveling through each area.

I did a bunch of the dungeons but eventually slowed down - they take 2-3 hours each. When you're in a dungeon, 4 other players count on you to keep playing till the last boss. Eventually I built a route for doing the daily quests - doing 17-18 of them a day. Each day of doing the dailies gets me 300-350 gold. Then I got into pvp play. Warcraft has a few player-vs-player battlegrounds. The action is much faster than with dungeons and they last anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes. That's a lot easier than committing 3 hours to a dungeon.

With pvp play, you turn in honor marks for much better weapons and armor. It'll take a few months to get everything I want. I have until December to do this and a few other things in the game - that's when I hope to have the new Wrath of the Lich King expansion!

Here are some of my favorite screenshots, enjoy!

I've done panoramas with photos and had to try it with Warcraft. They don't come out as perfect as photos, but sometimes a panorama is the only way to express the view you're seeing.

And here is the last one in full size.

Then I did a Quicktime 3D version of one of them..

I took these 3 in August 2008. The first two are pvp battleground screens and the other is from the Isle of Quel'Danas - a sort of playground for level 70's.

I took these in September to November 2008 and put them together the last week of November. A few from battlegrounds, one from Stormwind city with my pvp mount, and obviously a few taken during Halloween. Five animated Warcraft photos! Those took time to capture and put together and it was worth the effort.

The weak parts of the game were the massive grind and hitting an end in the storyline. Getting good armour shouldn't be easy but it required playing the same four pvp battlegrounds hundreds of times each. Warcraft has daily quests that make you great gold in 1-2 hours. That made sense. It took me 3 months of overplaying the game to get pvp armour. 5-10 hours a day. By the time I got it, I was burned out. I missed experiencing new stories and adventures. That made me want to try other games. Yes, there will always be new expansions every few years, but you level up fast and wish you had more story and mystery. It took a month to level up from 60 to 70 on the Burning Crusade expansion. Another month or two to explore the new map fully and do the dungeons and then you're left with grind and zero story. Even the simple point and click adventures offer a quick fix of story and mystery that I love.

The strong parts are too long to list! Azeroth is so vivid, the gameplay is so good. The professions, quests and dungeons were so much fun to do. Stormwind and Ironforge were the two most interesting and beautiful fantasy cities I've ever seen. They should get an award for those two! Travelling from city to city was as much fun as playing. I loved the chain quests. I craved the ones with mystery and intrigue. Ones like this -- You meet someone in the game, he gives you a letter to deliver to someone else. You explore a new place to deliver the letter, then find yourself with a few hack-and-slash quests. You finish them and there's a mystery and you're back at Stormwind learning more about something strange going on. You're sent to Ironforge to get more information.. Those were the best!

Take my criticisms with a grain of salt - I was thoroughly entertained. I had a lot of fun. I took a break and got back to it in 2009..