World of Warcraft for many people has been like a second home, a portal to a universe filled with bustling cities, distant kingdoms and darkened dungeons. Its blend of mystery, peril, and conflict has made for some of the most unforgettable moments in game, but many have also crossed over into pop culture. So whether you’re a brand new player, a battle hardened veteran or a passer-by, here are ten of the best moments from the ground-breaking MMORPG.
For more on the current state of the game, check out our roundup of World of Warcraft patch 7.1.
The ‘Corrupted Blood Incident’
It’s hard to believe that 11 years have passed since the infamous Blood Plague hit World of Warcraft servers back in September 2005. The epidemic began when patch 1.7: Rise of the Blood God introduced the raid dungeon Zul'Gurub and its final boss Hakkar. When confronted, Hakkar would cast a highly contagious spell called Corrupted Blood that would damage players over time. The spell was intended to last only seconds and function within the confines of Zul'Gurub. But it didn’t, a bug involving class pets allowing the disease to spread outside its intended confines.
This deadly virus soon spread across the virtual world killing lower-level characters and drastically changing gameplay. It was absolute chaos as players infected one another, took drastic measures to avoid infection and stave off death once infected. Blizzard even imposed quarantines, and tried to get players to abandon densely populated cities (or avoid playing the game altogether). The plague lasted until a combination of patches and resets finally managed to control the epidemic.
The event even made its way into the real world as the virtual plague sparked interests from scientists, who used the Corrupted Blood Plague as a case study for how human populations might react to a real-world pandemic or bioterrorist attack.
This viral epidemic spread in a less deadly way, this time through a video that circulated on the internet and quickly became a popular meme. Even those who never set foot in World of Warcraft would soon come to know the internet star Leeroy Jenkins. The video was released by a World of Warcraft player guild, and featured a group of players discussing a detailed battle strategy for their next encounter in the Upper Blackrock Spire dungeon. Unfortunately, Leeroy was away from his computer, preparing a meal and never heard the plan.
Upon Leeroy’s return, he immediately charges headlong into battle ignoring the detailed strategy and shouting his own name in a hilarious battle cry. His companions rush to help him, but it’s too late. Leeroy's actions ruin the meticulous plan within seconds and all of the group members are massacred. Leeroy has proved so famous that Blizzard acknowledged his character several times, even making him a playable card in Hearthstone. Scripted or not, it's arguably WoW's most well-known event.
Southshore vs Tarren Mill
Before WoW had dedicated PvP battlegrounds and arenas, players would have to go out and search for opponents to kill. One of the most famous zones to see Alliance vs Horde skirmishes was the Hillsbrad Foothills. North of Ironforge, this zone featured an Alliance town, Southshore, and a Horde town, Tarren Mill, which were in close proximity to one another.
Players from both sides led their armies into battle in an attempt to take control over the opposite town, for no real gain beyond seeing if they could and saying that they had. What ensued was utter carnage as players of all levels joined the fray in order to claim victory for their faction. The battles grew so intense that many servers failed to handle the load, often crashing and creating awful lag for players in the area.
Make Love, Not Warcraft
South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker came after Blizzard’s popular MMORPG in an episode titled Make Love, Not Warcraft. The episode shows an unflattering depiction of the World of Warcraft community, and poked fun of gamer stereotypes and the mindless grind that many MMOs are guilty of.
The episode saw Stan, Cartman, and the rest of the gang adventuring in Azeroth, only to be hunted by a high level player who keeps killing them. What ensues is a hilarious adventure that sees the boys playing World of Warcraft every day, while picking up some truly disgusting habits. Stone and Parker had Blizzard’s full cooperation with the making of the episode, and were granted use of in-game footage and character models.
Alterac Valley was one of the first and easily the largest of PVP battlegrounds available, with 40 players on each team. The goal of Alterac Valley was to reduce the opposing faction's reinforcement count from 500 to 0. What made this battleground so memorable was that matches could go on for literally dozens of hours. It wasn’t uncommon for a losing team to spend hours turning things around at a final chokepoint, holding off wave after wave of enemies before eventually, sometimes days later, winning the battle. There were NPCs that could be summoned, which helped make it feel unpredictable and fresh every time.
Sadly, Alterac Valley’s glory days are now over after years of changes and tweaks, with games that used to last hours now being over in mere minutes. Despite Blizzard’s best efforts, they’ve never quite managed to recapture the magic of old AV.
World bosses destroying cities
It’s equal parts funny and terrifying seeing Doom Lord Kazzak single-handedly raising Stormwind City. One minute you’re buying supplies from a local merchant, the next you see Kazzak pummelling player after player as he makes his way toward you. And it wasn’t just the Doom Lord who was known to appear in places he shouldn’t - many bosses were kited from their far-away homes into highly populated areas. However, the Doom Lord was most notable for how ridiculously difficult he was to defeat as his ability, Capture Soul, instantly regenerated large amounts of his health, allowing him to effectively go on huge killing sprees before he was eventually killed or despawned.
The Zombie Infestation of '08
To ready its players for the launch of the 2008 expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, Blizzard brought a week of horror to Azeroth. The event started with creepy looking crates being discovered around Booty Bay. Instead of finding themselves a piece of loot, players would be met with a nasty virus that transformed them into zombies. The disease quickly spread throughout the game, with players and NPCs unable to prevent themselves succumbing. Capitals and its inhabitants soon descended into flesh-eating hordes which drastically changed gameplay and made it difficult to fend off attacks from the walking dead. This time, at least, it was deliberate.
Opening the Gates of Ahn'Qiraj
Opening the mysterious Gates of Ahn'Qiraj was no easy task. It required server-wide cooperation and took place over a month of collecting various quest items. Single characters on each faction per server were designated as scepter-bearers and took on the challenge of restoring an ancient scepter. Once the conditions had been met, players from all over the server met in the desert near the raid entrance.
A massive battle would then ensue against ancient civilisations, forcing Horde and Alliance factions to team up and take down the new threat. It sounded like a great idea, but the server just couldn’t take the strain of so many players gathering and fighting, and the end results was often little more than widespread lag and crashes.
One of the hardest and most thrilling things to achieve in World of Warcraft is city raiding. Forming a raid group and storming a capital of the enemy faction is not an easy task, but can be extremely rewarding as the defenders of the capital usually outnumber the team on offense. There are NPCs everywhere, along with the packs of enemy players, and nobody - nobody - will ever just let you walk into their capital without picking a fight. The end goal for these runs is to kill the enemy faction leader, a super-hard raid-boss-tier NPC that’s as likely to wipe your group as 40 enemy players. These still happen today, and for the players involved are as memorable as anything on this list.
That's our blasts from the past - what did we miss? Let us know below.