“You think you do, but you don’t”. These were the infamous words spoken by J.Allen Brack, the executive producer for World of Warcraft (WoW) in response to a fan question at BlizzCon. The fan simply having asked if Blizzard would ever add servers for previous expansions of WoW, so that if players wanted to play an older version of the game, they could.
Well, fast forward about three years later and World of Warcraft: Classic has had an absolutely booming launch. Even the server problems and que times are reminiscent of peak WoW. But, having a look at Vanilla World of Warcraft, the version that WoW: Classic emulates, is it legitimately better than the current, modern day version of WoW?
15 Years Later
I’ve played WoW in all of its iterations over the years. From Vanilla to Battle For Azeroth. Since maybe around the Warlords of Draenor days (circa 2014), I’ve always had the want to go back to the way WoW was in the past. It’s hard to describe, but the sense of community in WoW had all but died at that point, and the gameplay had been tweaked a heavy amount since I had started playing. Put quite simply, the game just wasn’t fun anymore. Myself and many other people (after all, just look at the demand for Classic WoW) felt the same way, and wanted a way to relive the “glory days”. Blizzard seemingly obliged with Classic, but after sinking around thirty hours into Classic, I must assert that the luster of Classic has become dull in 2019.
Perhaps the biggest difference between 2019 and 2004 in this regard is the amount of information that’s available. In 2004, it was scarce to find hyper specific information for WoW on the internet. Because of that, the people in game, who were experienced and had done the things you were going through, became the best sources for information. Hence the lively chats. Hence the wonder and luster of the world. But in 2019 when an almost infinite amount of information is available, so much of the mystique surrounding the world of Classic WoW clears up, and at that point, to be quite frank, it just feels like a dated MMORPG.
Still The Same
15 years later, I believe WoW is still, at its core, the same game. Experiencing Classic renforces that notion. While yes, I’ve complained about the global cool-down in modern WoW, the almost incessant dodges and parries performed by enemies even at the same level make for an even slower combat experience than can be found in modern WoW. Quite frankly, it doesn’t feel good. I’m not advocating for being the mass killers we are today in modern WoW, but Vanilla WoW’s combat was rough. Surely a balance has to lie in there at some point in WoW’s history, right?
Past the combat, there’s quality of life stuff. And this is little things like quest markers, a 30 minute Hearthstone, mounts at say level 20, and a healthy speed of flying. Despite the old days being reminisced about, features, that I and many others personally enjoy are simply absent from Classic. Which is fine, as they quite simply weren’t in the game at this point. But once again, there has to be a point in WoW’s history where a middle point between quality of life and hand holding can be found, right?
Not The Old We Wanted
The answer to the past two resounding questions is “yes”, and it’s called Wrath of the Lich King. Looking back all through out WoW’s history, I firmly believe that WoW had the right balance between casual and challenge at this point in WoW‘s history. After all, the game literally peaked in player count during Wrath of the Lich King for a reason, right? There were enough added systems at this point that kept casual players logging in, and the more hardcore players had competent PvP and PvE content to pursue, especially with the challenge mode mechanics that were being introduced to raiding at this point.
Furthermore, there were so many quality of life systems in at this point that the game felt miles better to play than Vanilla WoW. Yet, I doubt any of these quality of life systems could really be sufficiently argued as too “hand holdy”. They just, quite simply, made the game flow better, and that’s what it’s all about.
The challenge reminisced about Vanilla doesn’t necessarily come from the game’s systems because the game is difficult, but more from a lack of information and refinement present in the game at this point, and in full display with Classic.
A Different Time
2004 was obviously a much different time then here in 2019. MMOs weren’t this well established, clearly refined genre like they are today. So many of the quirks of Classic WoW come from the fact that developers were still really figuring out how to do this whole ‘MMO’ thing. Now in 2019 everything is down to a science, and whether that’s a good or bad thing can be argued, but the large rpoint here is that because of the gradual refinements made to the genre over time, there are quality of life features that not a lot of players knew they had until they lost it.
Vanilla WoW only worked in 2004, because it was 2004. And the argument could also be applied to 2010 WoW, as Wrath of the Lich King was nearing its end. But, I believe Wrath had enough things implemented at this point so that WoW could still feel like a well thought out game. And if we wanted a WoW playground to have taking place at an older point of WoW’s history, we should have honestly asked for Wrath.
Thank you for reading. I also watch a lot of anime about MMOs besides playing them, read my piece on Log Horizon here.