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WoW Rookie: How to balance life vs. WoW

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actually picks up the occasional question from folks who are more "casual players" than "rookie players." In this sense, I'm talking about people with full-time jobs, families, and other commitments than playing WoW. It's a matter of priority; folks love the game, wish they could put more time into it, but can only squeeze so many hours a week into killing pixel monsters.

Balancing a full life with the wide world of Azeroth is a tricky thing. If there's one true fact about WoW, it's that it has a lot of content. A lot of content. Right off the bat, achieving level 85 can easily take over 24 hours of play time. If you can only spare three hours a week, that's at least a few months to reach maximum level. Even scoring level 85 doesn't mean you've seen all the content; you've barely scratched the surface. Endgame activities like PVP, raiding, and achievements multiply the amount of time it would take to "finish" the game, even if you don't count the ongoing cascade of new content with each new patch.

A reader asked:

I'm having trouble keeping up. I've been playing a few months and I don't know how to keep it going with summer and kids' vacations How do I keep up with it all, and get all the achievements done, without giving up my life? I only have about four hours a week to paly and feel like I'm falling behind. Is it possible to get caught up?



Bad news

How do you do everything in WoW within a few hours a week?

The unfortunate answer is: You don't. Especially if you're just starting the game, there is no reasonable way for to you to blow through all the achievements, all the instances, all the experience in just four hours a week.

WoW is a truly huge game, and there are a lot of time sinks. Even a well-oiled, veteran 5-man group can take over an hour in a heroic dungeon, let alone the PUGs you're likely to face as a casual player. These dungeons are often considered the core of the game; when you ding 85, you cruise into the dungeons, do stuff to get the best preraid gear possible, and then do other stuff.

New achievements are added every patch, and the old achievements take a very long time to complete. I've considered leveling up a brand new character from zip-to-everything to get a measure of how long it takes to "finish" all contemporary possibilities, but I'm not crazy. Doing "it all" takes many, many hundreds of hours.

Pick and choose

Given that there's no way you can do everything, you need to pick and choose what aspects of the game you want to pursue. Even the playstyle categories we generally hear about take more than a few hours a week. (Battleground PVP is probably an exception here.)

Be realistic about the amount of time you can play the game. By the same token, be realistic about how much time gameplay takes. Here's some ideas of "expected weekly time" each play style takes, if you want to stay contemporary:
  • PVE dungeons 4 to 7 hours per week
  • PVE raiding 6 to 10 hours per week to get geared, then 4 to 6 actually raiding
  • PVP battlegrounds 3 to 6 hours per week, depending on if you're lucky enough to get a quick win in the daily battleground
  • PVP arena Usually, 4 to 8 hours, depending on how long it takes you to win enough matches
The thing is, it's hard to nail down "how much time" activities take on a weekly average, because the game doesn't actually work that way. These times are based off the idea that you do seven heroic dungeons through the Dungeon finder or the daily battleground. Once you're well-geared enough in a given tier, you move on.

And there's nothing saying you must "keep up" based on gear. It's probably foolish to even try, if you're not trying to do high-end arenas or raiding. After all, the gear you leveled in is sufficient for most quests.

It's not a competition

This is the thing that's most important to remember: WoW isn't a competition. You don't need to race anyone to an imaginary finish line. If you chalk up and ignore the idea that you're not pursuing the two admittedly high-end playstyles (raiding and the arena), then you're not hurting anyone by taking your own, sweet damn time.

More importantly, you'll get to see the content eventually. Blizzard is constantly finding ways to help casual players get in to see the raids, such as with the upcoming patch 4.2 nerf to extant raids. If you didn't get to see the content before now, you'll easily be able to pug the content in patch 4.2.

Focus on what you love

Seriously, stay focused on the parts of the game that you love and have fun doing. Do what you can in the time you have, and screw the rest. Not only is that the best option -- that's all you can do.

Visit the WoW Rookie Guide for links to everything you need to get started as a new player, from how to control your character and camera angles when you're just starting out, to learning how to tank, getting up to speed for heroics and even how to win Tol Barad.

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