Classic WoW: Not What We Really Want
The announcement of World of Warcraft: Classic is a big step for Blizzard Entertainment. They’ve long been debating this release internally, while simultaneously shutting down third party classic World of Warcraft servers made by the community, most notably the Nostalrius server. The short-lived legal battle ended with the closure of the Nostalrius server, but the story clearly didn’t end there.
In the weeks that followed, Blizzard talked to the creators of that server about the possibility of legacy World of Warcraft support. Fast forward to present day, and we have an official experience heading our way. A victory for the fans, to be sure.
But as we all begin to look back on what exactly Blizzard may be delivering to us we need to take a step back and ask ourselves if this is actually what we wanted?
When I think back to the ten or so years I spent playing World of Warcraft, from Classic to Mists of Pandaria, I rarely think about the content. I don’t think about grinding, professions, mount farming, or numerous other aspects of the game. In the end, all of those things are moot. They ultimately don’t matter. What matters is the community. That’s what my memories always consist of.
Over a period of ten years you’re going to make some good friends in WoW. Whether it’s a random group or through your raiding guild, it doesn’t really matter. These are people you spent at least 9-20 hours a week raiding with, not to mention all the other time you likely played together. These are people who talked to you every day, something most people don’t even do with their neighbors.
It has almost always been the fact that WoW has an amazing community behind it that has led the game to being so strong for so long. Sure, the game is only around five million subscribers at this point, but that’s still miles ahead of any of the competitors that tried to dethrone it since it released in 2004.
My favorite memory is downing the Lich King in my 10-man raid group. That moment was one of the most rewarding moments in any video game I’ve ever played. It wasn’t just downing the final boss in the expansion (we’ll ignore Ruby Sanctum,) it was downing everything leading up to him with a core group of friends from all across the country and Canada. The feeling we had when the Lich King hit 10% health and triggered the final phase was—it’s honestly hard to put in words. All I know is a chill went over me and my heart was pounding in my chest.
No game has ever come close to creating a moment like that for me.
Another pull of Classic WoW is the intense feeling of nostalgia we all get when we think about it. The past always looks better through Rose Colored Goggles, so much so that Blizzard even made them into an item.
I believe the reason that we have all wanted a Classic WoW experience for so long is because we want to go back and experience things for the first time. The game has arguably become formulaic in many aspects, which leads to the later expansions feeling more like grinding rather than innovative. We all want to be able to experience how we felt walking into Stormwind or Oggrimar for the first time. How it felt to fly for the first time. But it’s never going to happen. You’ll see the gates and simply walk through them. Something you’ve done hundreds, if not thousands of times.
With our rosy vision we often forget about the other parts of WoW that were not so great in the beginning. Things like only being able to go one stop on flight paths, no scrolling combat text, no battlegrounds, no mounts until 40, and the requirement to actually wait for and read quest text.
Lest we forget one of the more problematic parts of Vanilla WoW: 40-man raids. In an era where Blizzard has tuned raids to being clearable with a variable number of players, players are going to be in for a rough transition when they need 40 people to clear a raid boss. As someone who helped lead a 25-man raiding guild through Wrath of the Lich King and Cataclysm it is not easy to manage that many people. Many describe it is akin to herding cats.
When you add another 15 people to that formula it descends into chaos. Not to mention the substitutes you will need. Out of those 40 raiders how many do you think are half-assing it? I guarantee you at least five people are. It is much harder to find and call out people in Vanilla WoW than it currently is with all of our extra tools like detailed damage meters and combat logs.
We haven’t even mentioned how specific some of the mechanics in Classic WoW were. Raid bosses like Magmadar required Fear Ward from Dwarf Priests. If you weren’t a Dwarf Priest then you automatically were significantly less important than a Dwarf Priest with worse gear. That was the sheer power of racial talents and abilities. You can’t forget about Tranquilizing Shot, either.
Firstly, the Hunter skill was learned through a raid drop from the first boss in Molten Core, Lucifron, and it didn’t even have a guaranteed chance of dropping. You could be going into the second boss of Molten Core without a way to dispel the Enrage mechanic. For guilds just starting out, this was a death sentence for their tanks. To make it even worse, Tranquilizing Shot could miss. Or the Hunter you gave it to could die early or not even make it to the raid. Skill tomes continued to appear throughout Classic WoW up through the Ahn’Qiraj raid where they were featured heavily.
Even getting to many of the bosses was like a raid boss of its own. Respawn timers were less forgiving back in Vanilla WoW. In Molten Core, Ancient Core Hounds respawned every 18-minutes until you killed Magmadar, and Lava Surgers respawned every 28-minutes until you killed Garr. If your raid was running back and got caught unaware by a respawn, it was likely you would wipe.
Then there’s the subject of legendary items in Classic WoW. Contrary to popular belief, only a few people were able to accomplish crafting these weapons that would immediately grant you overnight fame on your server.
From most common to rare they were: Sulfuras, Hand of Ragnaros, Thunderfury, Blessed Blade of the Windseeker, and Atiesh, Greatstaff of the Guardian. While Sulfuras was a pain to get, it was obtainable by multiple people in guilds and on the same server. Thunderfury, on the other hand, was the caused some guilds to disband. We may look back upon that now and think of how ridiculous we were being, but back then, Thunderfury was simply the best.
Crafting both Sulfuras and Thunderfury was a long process that often involved the entire guild. It was an investment of your time, their time, and a significant amount of gold and resources. Guilds had to be sure the player would be sticking around before they gave them a legendary.
Atiesh is the rarest of all. In my ten years of playing WoW I only came across one person with the fabled staff, and yes, that’s even after the servers merged and we were exposed to a much larger population. It was part of the Naxxramas 40-man raid that few guilds ever got to explore.
There was a reason the dungeon got recycled and put in Wrath of the Lich King.
Before you metaphorically line up to purchase World of Warcraft: Classic, just remember everything you may have forgotten about the original game. All of the quality of life improvements Blizzard has brought us over the years, inlcuding improvements to the economy, quests, combat, socialization, and raids.
World of Warcraft is, without a doubt, an important part of our gaming culture. It has a rich history that we can look back upon and build off of. It changed what an MMORPG was, both then and now. Games are still trying to copy and replicate the success of World of Warcraft.
So, when you inevitably buy World of Warcraft: Classic (myself included), load into your starting zone of choice, and are unable to do many of the things you take for granted now, just remember—you’ll be at the beginning of a very long and arduous journey that started back in 2004, over 13-years ago.
There are bound to be a few problems you forgot about.