Questing was described as an integral part of the game, often being used to continue a storyline or lead the player through the game.[21] The high number of quests in each location was popular, as well as the rewards for completing them.[10] It was felt that the range of quests removed the need for a player to "grind", or carry out repetitive tasks, to advance their character.[20] Quests also require players to explore every section of the game world, potentially causing problems for social gamers or roleplayers seeking somewhere quiet.[21] Quests that required the player to collect items from the corpses of creatures they had killed were also unpopular; the low "drop rate", or chance of finding the items, makes them feel repetitive as a high number of creatures need to be killed to complete the quest.[20] A large number of new players in a particular area meant that there were often no creatures to kill,[21] or that players would have to wait and take turns to kill a particular creature to complete a quest.[10] Some critics mentioned that the lack of quests that required players to group up made the game feel as if it were designed for solo play.[83] Others complained that some dungeon or instanced group quests were not friendly to new players, and could take several hours to complete.[20] Upon release, a small number of quests had software bugs that made them impossible to complete.[10]

World of Warcraft was first announced by Blizzard at the ECTS trade show in September 2001.[43] Released in 2004, development of the game took roughly 4–5 years, including extensive testing. The 3D graphics in World of Warcraft use elements of the proprietary graphics engine originally used in Warcraft III.[43] The game was designed to be an open environment where players are allowed to do what they please.[44] Quests are optional and were designed to help guide players, allow character development, and to spread characters across different zones to try to avoid what developers called player collision.[45] The game interface allows players to customize appearance and controls, and to install add-ons and other modifications.[46]
Han pasado cinco años desde los eventos narrados en Warcraft 3. La Alianza y la Nueva Horda viven en un estado de guerra fría, y mantienen una frágil y quebradiza paz, mientras reconstruyen sus reinos y tratan de recuperar su prosperidad. En Ventormenta, el rey Varian Wrynn ha desaparecido en circunstancias misteriosas mientras viajaba en misión diplomática a la isla de Theramore, por lo que en su ausencia, es nombrado rey su hijo Anduin Wrynn, todavía un niño, asumiendo la regencia lord Bolvar Fordragon y la misteriosa lady Katrana Prestor. En Orgrimmar, el jefe de guerra Thrall lucha por sacar adelante a la Nueva Horda.