World of WarCraft has undergone substantial changes since we had last written about it half a year ago. The talent system has been revamped, a PvP server added, all classes are now unlocked and Blizzard has added feature upon feature to make the game easier to play.
First, however, we'll recap what hasn't changed. There are still quests in abundance and they're much better balanced now. Surviving the Dead Mines is no longer an epic achievement, and the quests that were too easy or not enticing enough have been fixed up. That's not to say that all adventures will be the same level of difficulty - some of them are definitely party-oriented - but the extremes have been toned down. Players can still expect to get anywhere from 10-25% of their experience per level from quests, depending on how active they are in finding and finishing them.
Soloing is still a viable option and at least the warrior we played was able to keep up a pace similar to that which we had during the first beta. Our Hunter experienced a little more trouble but that is likely due to the fact that hunter pets are bugged and doing very little damage at the moment. Through our discussions with fellow players it seems that most classes are able to solo their way right until the end, but grouping is slightly faster and of course more rewarding.
The experience is much smoother overall thanks to numerous gameplay and interface improvements Blizzard has made. Quest sharing, formerly a feature of 3rd party mods, is now standard. So rather than having to drag your party around to get everyone the same quests, you can all share with each other and do them together. Characters - at least the standard ones like trainers, shopkeepers, the guild master and gryphon master - are much easier to find in the big cities since city guards will now give directions complete with a marker in the minimap!
Trade has become exponentially easier, if less exciting. Gone are the glory days of the trade channel that often scrolled by faster than it could be read, where bidding was a chaotic and exciting experience not unlike a real life auction. Nowadays most players settle for the Auction Hall, which automates all trade transactions. Items are dropped into the auction, a fee is paid which increases the longer you want the auction to last, and eventually you become notified whether or not the auction was successful.
Players can set buy-out prices if they need cash fast or to simply encourage fast sales. Buy-outs seem very popular with trade goods like leather, hides, cloths and various minerals. Often craftsmen need the goods now
and are willing to pay a small premium for them. Alternately, if the player needs cash soon rather than 8 hours later, he can set a low buy-out price to encourage a quick sale.
The only addition we could wish for is notification of being out-bid. Only the major cities have auction halls, but all have mailboxes. It is through mail that the seller and winner are notified of - and given the benefits - of their efforts. Items and cash money are delivered even to the most remote camps. Currently, winning a hot bid requires babysitting it to make sure you haven't been surpassed as the highest bidder. Mail notification would be a good way to ensure good participation.