At first I thought this question from the 20 Days of MMO Blogging was going to be hard. But then memories came flooding back. It wasn't really that long ago, was it?
Some others played other MMOs before they played WoW. Not me, I enjoyed real-time strategy games like Age of Empires and SimCity (yes it was a strategy of a different sort. These were all solo ventures as well. My internet at the time probably would not have tolerated online gaming. By 2006, however, I had upgraded to cable internet, and a friend and coworker of mine, with whom I had actually done a couple Star Trek-related podcasts, (he was the "Big Fan," I was the "Loremaster") was a huge World of Warcraft fan. He tried a few times to get me to play, but "I am not a gamer," was my typical response. We were taking a professional class and one of the other students had also played WoW, but it was her husband who was the big player. She would tease me and my friend about being nerds and gamers. "I am not a gamer," was again my response.
Finally one fine Saturday in June, my buddy brought over his discs along with a 10-day free trial key and said, "Just load it and play." So I did. The opening cinematic--remember, this was June, 2006, just before the Rise of the Necropolis patch in Vanilla WoW--Was EPIC! Deep bass preceded the words "Ten Years ago. . ." The male choir intoned their chords as the narrowed eyes of a dwarf faded in. He squinted into a blizzard as he surveyed the mountains, then beckoned his faithful companion bear and headed toward toward what I later realized was the entrance to Ironforge. More characters appeared, the Night Elf druid shapeshifting into a panther, the Tauren shaman, the Forsaken warlock and the Human mage, the raging Orc warrior. All to the strains of a full orchestral surging soundtrack. Absolutely EPIC.
To this day, I think the Original WoW soundtrack is the best game soundtrack I have heard. I also think the the cinematics while becoming more epic in scope, have lost the sense of personal adventure I discovered in that first Vanilla Intro, and even the Burning Crusade Cinematic, with its focus on player characters.
When it came time to create a character, I chose a dwarf hunter, because I knew I wanted a bear companion. Despite the more exotic pets that became available with each expansion, I still kept that Ice Claw Bear I had named Arcturus, "the Bear Guard." But that was yet to come, back then a hunter had to get to level 10 and then learn how to tame beasts in a short quest series.
I created my hunter and clicked the button to enter the world of Azeroth. I watched and listened to the introduction of the dwarves as the camera traveled through Dun Morogh to Coldridge Valley and settled into the typical point of view slightly behind my avatar. I could practically feel the chill of the wind as I set out on my first quests. It was just fine to be the little adventurer, I didn't need to be a big damn hero. I still needed to learn my way around this big huge world.
I think I got to Kharanos that first day (level 6 or so?), but I don't think I did much beyond that. Levleing was slower then, both for me personally and for the game in general. I was newbie, learning the ropes of the game, while my character explored the big world. Repeated visits to the early levels, and Coldridge in particular, were much shorter as my skill as a player improved, regardless of the class or level of my character. I also came to realize how small Coldridge Valley and Duin Morogh really were.
There was a sense of exploration and wonder about the Azeroth in those early days. When I finally got a new computer and saw the snow glisten in the sunlight, it was breathtaking, hyper-real. MMOs are still fun, but the sense of wonder is long gone, unfortunately, as my skills and experience translate easily to other games.