August 29, 2019 9:39 AM   Subscribe

World of Warcraft Classic is a step back in time [PC World] “Blizzard Entertainment’s “newest” game is essentially the popular massive multiplayer online roleplaying game exactly as it played in 2004, right down to molasses-paced quest text, a dearth of quest markers, and enemies so tough that you feel compelled to group up with other players to beat them. [...] it’s important to remember that Classic isn’t a hard reset—a reboot that gives us a truly new game with wildly different storylines with content patches. So far, at least, Classic looks as though it’ll be the same World of Warcraft we knew all those years ago with roughly the same patch schedules and combat class nerfs, although hopefully with fewer bugs.”

• World of Warcraft Classic players are stuck in hours-long queues [Polygon]
“Last week, Blizzard warned players that certain World of Warcraft Classic realms could reach login queues of over 10,000 players. With World of Warcraft Classic’s official North American launch on Monday evening, thousands of players proved Blizzard right. As Blizzard said in their original warning, the Classic servers hold thousands more players than original Vanilla World of Warcraft servers ever did. Now, nearly every World of Warcraft Classic server has a login queue of several thousand. A few hours prior to launch, nearly all of Classic’s servers were full — which comes with a warning that players will encounter a lengthy queue. [...] It’s unclear how long these 1,000 player queues will last. But if you intend to play World of Warcraft Classic at all this week, it may be worth logging on a few hours before you actually want to start playing.”
• WoW Classic: a smooth return to 2006 [PCGamesN]
“But the #nochanges Classic approach, which has rapidly become a meme, really stands out. Nothing about the original game has been dumbed down – or ‘convenienced-up’, to coin a phrase – to give you a boost to level 60. The implementation itself is buttery smooth; by the time players were hitting 45 on the beta servers, most of the bugs that remained were original ones, left in the game on purpose and now “intended behaviour.” Only the framework surrounding the game – the ability to send Battle.net whispers, the app launcher itself, and similar furniture – give any clue that it isn’t 2006. It remains to be seen how many players stick with Classic after flooding its servers on launch day. Ion Hazzikostas, in an interview with me this week, said Blizzard hopes that each of the servers drops to a single “layer” of players – a few thousand – a few weeks into the game’s launch.”
• World of Warcraft Classic keeps reconnecting me with old friends I didn't know I missed [PC Gamer]
“I had only played World of Warcraft Classic for about 10 minutes before a friend who I haven't spoken with since high school messaged me in-game. "What's up, dude?" He wrote, exactly like he used to greet me when we'd play together over a decade ago. Graduating high school had, as with so many of my old friends, pulled us apart. Getting that message felt surreal. Suddenly I was 15 again, exploring Azeroth while chatting with a pal. Forget World of Warcraft's punishing grind or long, lonely treks through massive zones—the real nostalgia is in its uncanny ability to bring people back together. [...] These re-connections have become the experiences that I didn't know I wanted from World of Warcraft Classic, and I'm logging in each day now hoping to see other friends playing—if only for the weird satisfaction of knowing that we're all getting sucked back into this enormous, frustrating game together.”
posted by Fizz (55 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
A little bit of context for those wondering what the title is in reference to, enjoy.
posted by Fizz at 9:40 AM on August 29, 2019 [6 favorites]

I played vanilla WoW when it was live. For me the gigantic slog and time required vastly outweighs any nostalgia factor.

It's not 2005 anymore, I simply don't have time to game 6 hours a day like I did then.
posted by Sphinx at 9:53 AM on August 29, 2019 [13 favorites]

I’m playing classic and really enjoying it. I found a great guild with very nice people, so I don’t have to solo all the time. I will say that I wish it was easier to make enough cash to pay for skills. I have had to forgo a lot of them at the moment. New server economies are difficult. Even if you get nice gear or other items to sell on the auction house, nobody has any money to buy it. So yeah, hard to make a living but I don’t mind so much, I am having quite a blast! The nostalgia really brings me a lot of joy.
posted by cats are weird at 10:16 AM on August 29, 2019 [3 favorites]

I played Vanilla in what was, in retrospect, a really dark time in my life. I was on the verge of dropping out of my PhD program and divorcing my first husband. At the time I played around 8 hours a day. I was worried that going back would be bad for my mental health, but the nostalgia factor was too difficult to resist.

So far I'm happy I'm back. It's been fun to play a couple hours and then log off and do other things. I doubt I'll do any of the raiding I did the first time around, but I find hopping on and killing the same mobs over and over again strangely soothing. I'm glad its back!
posted by ephemerista at 10:38 AM on August 29, 2019 [5 favorites]

MMOs are not something I am interested in, but I do wonder what the popularity of this says about the concept of entertainment-software-as-a-service in general, and the evolution of WoW in particular. Maybe it says nothing, and it's just nostalgia that's powering this. I don't know but I can only imagine that the percentage of first-timers players is minuscule.
posted by glonous keming at 10:50 AM on August 29, 2019

certain World of Warcraft Classic realms could reach login queues of over 10,000 players

Least I have chicken.
posted by mhoye at 10:51 AM on August 29, 2019 [10 favorites]

Maybe it says nothing, and it's just nostalgia that's powering this.

It's 100% nostalgia. Classic WoW was not even a very good MMO on several axes - they got a few things righter than their contemporaries (really solid, unified art style, polished starter experience, enough content to get you to max level with no real gaps) and a lot of things wrong - the combat was immensely tedious and repetitive for the first 30 levels or so, travel times were killer (getting your first mount at 40 was a major milestone, yeah, but my god the jogging you had to do to get there in the first place) and the endgame was designed to be a tedious grind as well as a major feat of social engineering. The post-Cataclysm game has better tech, better story, more varied quests, and a leveling curve that moves you along fast enough to make the concept of alts not something to provoke existential despair.

But when people get into their first MMO - I mean really get into it - it's often when they're in an unsettled place in their real life, and it gives them a social life, achievable goals, a routine with baked-in rewards, etc. It feels good. And once you get out of that life-place, no MMO ever feels quite as good again. And players inevitably blame changes to the game for it, not changes to themselves. But historically, any attempt at a pre-[whatever] reversion has had a big spike of initial interest, and then a very quick falling-off as players realize that they're just not the same person they were when their game made them feel like that.

I'm really curious to see how the reception of this goes over the long term, and also how the LoTRO Legendary servers do (they are a timed-release of the various expansions so that players can level through them with a peer group - a really different and interesting take on the concept.)
posted by restless_nomad at 11:00 AM on August 29, 2019 [26 favorites]

I played the original and honestly didn't know that it had been discontinued. I thought that they had continued to add content but that the original version was still technically playable. Is that not the case?

I'm pretty sure I still have my boxed copy of the original sitting around somewhere...
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:06 AM on August 29, 2019

I thought that they had continued to add content but that the original version was still technically playable. Is that not the case?

You *might* be able to install and run the original off the CD, but what'll happen is it'll download a decade+ of patches from the server before it'll actually run. Online games aren't a static piece of software - all you really need to load most of them is a patcher, and it'll download everything else and install it. (It also may just tell you "dude, download this file off the server directly, don't make us run everything through the patcher" but WoW is probably smarter about that than Ultima Online.)
posted by restless_nomad at 11:09 AM on August 29, 2019

My recollection is that you could more-or-less play the original for the first few expansions, you were just limited to the original content zones. But once Cataclysm came out and substantially revamped those original areas, that was no longer possible.

There were also some private servers that tried to provide a vanilla experience, but that's not really the same.
posted by jedicus at 11:12 AM on August 29, 2019

I was on the verge of dropping out of my PhD program and divorcing my first husband.

After I dropped out of my PhD program, and was in the process of getting divorced from my first wife, somebody gave me a free World of Warcraft disc. I took the box home. ("Home" being the condo that my new roommate had gotten in his recent divorce. This was not a happy place. This was not a place of honor. This was a place where grown men took frequent breaks to sit in their underwear in their bedrooms with the doors closed and weep into their cup noodles, only to emerge, later, and pretend everything was fine. No, no, I'm fine. Just allergies. Makes my eyes itch. You wanna go for a beer? No?)

I took the box out of the wrapper. I took the jewelcase out of the box. I took the disc out of the jewelcase. I started to slot the disc into my computer.

Then I had one of those timeless moments. If you were translating my life into comics, this would have been one of those splash pages with the main (non-)action of the present drawn in loving, obsessive detail. A closeup of a hand holding a disc, and the distorted reflection of my face in the disc. And then images in overlay, in pointy triangular shapes, bits and pieces of flashback and prophecy, the past and the future gritting against each other like broken glass. Flash: a woman yelling as I close a door. I tend to avoid confrontation. Flash: my friend, sitting in his robe in his apartment in his mother's garage, fingers tapping out complicated things in Everquest. The box of tissues next to his keyboard. The bottle hand lotion next to the box of tissues. The anime girl wall scrolls hung over his couch. Flash: The door closing, as I turn on a computer. Flash: when I have problems, what I do is I avoid dealing with them by solving fictional problems, virtual problems. I write things. I kill things in video games. I argue on the internet. This gives me the dopamine reward of having solved a problem without having to go through the terrifying work of actually being a physical human in the physical universe. Flash: a shelf. It is full of books. They have my name on them. I am the author. What did I write? I take a book off the shelf, open it. It's blank.

WoW was for people who had their shit together. WoW was for people who could function in the real world, go to their 8 hours of work, come back home, and then turn on their computer and do 8 more hours of work. Whereas. Me? I'd install the game, and I would never come back. I would grind my way to 60 in a single sitting and then a week later my roommate would be forcing open my door complaining about late rent. Only to discover my mountain dew-cured, cheetos crumb-coated, desiccated corpse.

I frisbeed the disc across the room.
posted by what does it eat, light? at 11:39 AM on August 29, 2019 [20 favorites]

This almost makes me want to pick WoW up again. Of course, with school starting, life intruding, the Destiny 2 grind, yada yada yada.
posted by SentientAI at 11:45 AM on August 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

Vanilla WoW had a huge ecology of add-ons for a reason. Restoring Vanilla WoW but with the 2.0 UI lockdown is going to lead to people hitting some painful walls raiding. No one-button Decursive, for instance. No automatic timers and target switching. None of the old AH or social/roleplay addons either.

And a lot of the fun for me was curating my own elaborately extended and hacked UI, to the point that it actually got me — after a lifetime of assuming I'd never be able to program anything — to start messing around with coding my own addons, or adding features to existing addons, or making my preferred addons talk to each other, or updating abandoned addons to keep them working.

The PvP can't be actually Vanilla, can it? Is the Honor System back?
posted by snuffleupagus at 11:56 AM on August 29, 2019 [4 favorites]

Oh wow, no pun intended, I had totally forgotten how much UI modification I had from back in the day to play WoW. Not having that would kill the nostalgia real quick.

(I do occasionally think of my dwarf hunter, who at level ten made it all the way to the Barrens to tame a white tiger. That was super satisfying.)
posted by BeeDo at 12:27 PM on August 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

snuffleupagus, various game features and raids are being added in six phases, and iirc the honor system is in Phase 2, and the first two battlegrounds (Warsong Gulch and Alterac Valley) are scheduled for phase 3. The exact timing of the phases are to be determined.
posted by cats are weird at 12:30 PM on August 29, 2019

snuffleupagus, the Honor System will be back in "Phase 2", which is expected in a few weeks. The classic battlegrounds of Alterac and Warsong will come in Phase 3. And yes, I do believe that the old mechanics in Alterac will be in place, so we may see multi-day battles wax and wane there. World PvP is active now, but I haven't heard yet of any Southshore-Tarren Mill battles raging. Not enough people have leveled high enough yet!

Kadin2048, the "original" game is still there – usually referred to as "Live" or "Retail" WoW – and has had seven expansions since Vanilla. The crux of the issue is that the Live version has strayed so far from what people (say they) loved about Vanilla, that the demand for that original Vanilla experience reached a fever pitch Blizzard could no longer ignore. The release of Classic WoW is Blizzard's effort to please & retain those players who dislike the Live version of the game. And that's a lot of players, considering the current state of the Live game.

Myself, I only started playing late in Burning Crusade, the first expansion. So while I do remember many of the mechanics of Vanilla, and much of the grind, Classic doesn't exert as strong a pull on me as it does on those who did play at launch. I've been playing the past couple evenings (no real queue issues when you play on an RP server!), but frankly I find that without the draw of The New, the grind is much less tolerable. All those years ago, I was new to the world and to MMOs in general. Now, I know what's over that hill (it's not that exciting). I remember what quest that NPC will give me (and that it's a pain in the ass to complete). I even reconnected with a guild of nice people I played with ten years ago, who started up again in Classic, so it's not like I'm missing out on the vaunted social aspects of Vanilla. But after only a couple evening sessions I'm asking myself, "Wait, why am I doing this again? Why am I doing this to myself again?"

What is fascinating to read/see is the split in opinions of fans regarding how Classic should be developed from here: there are "purists" who want Classic to remain as it is/was, forevermore, with no further development and additions; there are "Classic+" proponents who want to see further level-60 content released beyond what was contained within Vanilla; and fans who want to see Blizzard further release BC- and Wrath-era servers covering the content of the first two expansions (arguably WoW's high tide). It's going to be a very interesting thing to watch over the next few months, as the dust settles and the world-first races are over.
posted by The Nutmeg of Consolation at 12:33 PM on August 29, 2019 [5 favorites]

Also re: mods and addons, there is a site called willitclassic.com that has a search feature so you can check whether a mod has been updated for classic. You might be surprised at how many are available already. I’m still looking for a gear set-switching mod. Hopefully one will be available soon.
posted by cats are weird at 12:42 PM on August 29, 2019 [2 favorites]

As someone who played through it all I just don't get the arttraction. But I suppose if you never played it you may not realize how much better the current game is. Let's look at some nightmares from those "good old days".

- Single tagging only. So you'll need to fight over spawns and hope you click first. Which you won't.
- 40 person raids and no LFG tool. Good luck with that, no matter how full the servers are.
- No mounts at all till you level. Enjoy that 30 minute run to Booty Bay.
- Endgame oasis. Once you get to max level there is no content outside of raids.
- Everything is in your bags. And stacks were tiny. Hunter arrows for the lose.
- Gold was actually rare and hard to get. Gold farmers ftw.
- Having to run to low level dungeons from only a few flight points.
On and on.

I like WoW the way it is now and I'm still doing plenty in BFA to keep me busy. So no. I have very fond memories of Vanilla but I don't think redoing that content would be as good as the first time. And the early reporting on the launch makes it sound really bad. Three hour queue times. Several second lag. Sure, maybe that's the way it actually was back then. That doesn't seem like a good selling point though.

And it will never really be the same. We had Thottbot, you kids these days have WowHead. Back in my day we actually had to figure stuff out. Like what causes Ony to deep breath? Every guild I went in with had a different theory. All were wrong. One raid leader said it was total healing. So the healers had to heal everyone as little as possible. True story.

I love the old TV ads. But those were Burning Crusade.
posted by y6y6y6 at 1:31 PM on August 29, 2019 [3 favorites]

How much to play from the beginning to the end of Deadmines, because that is all I want to do in Classic WoW.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 2:09 PM on August 29, 2019 [4 favorites]

Alright then, for those of you doing this as a Night Elf -- my best little known tip for early game powerleveling: you can jump off the boat outside of Menethil harbor and swim/walk down the coastline to Westfall, to reach Stormwind and thus also Ironforge via the tram. Boom, access to all of the races' low level quest areas for stacking.

That is, unless they've fixed this by expanding the fatigue zones.

I suppose you could do the same in reverse.

Later on more or less the same thing is possible to reach Booty Bay early.

The most fun I had in WoW was getting places I wasn't supposed to be able to get to, yet or at all.
posted by snuffleupagus at 2:11 PM on August 29, 2019 [8 favorites]

Oh no, no swimming for you. You gotta earn it by running through the wetlands like a good noob, kiting deadly crocolisks all the way to Loch Modan.

Also, if WoW Classic doesn't occasionally bug your character to permanently be in the "picking up loot" pose then I want nothing to do with it.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 2:20 PM on August 29, 2019 [6 favorites]

WoW was for people who could function in the real world, go to their 8 hours of work, come back home, and then turn on their computer and do 8 more hours of work.

Yeah, functioning in the real world wasn't me. By the time I decided to quit I just stopped working on my independent studies courses (the only two Fs in my life). I still taught and graded because I had to, but I no one was holding me accountable in classes but myself. My ex was so depressed that he barely had the will to take care of his shit. So I made friends where I could, and one of those places was in WoW. When I got my shit together sometime during Burning Crusade, my play time lessened considerably. By Cataclysm I was working full time and about to start my second Master's degree, so I stopped gaming pretty much altogether.

40 person raids and no LFG tool. Good luck with that, no matter how full the servers are.

But that's the thing. I had a community in WoW. I had folks I could talk to that wasn't about their grad studies. 40 person raids meant you had to form up a community to be successful. Hell, I had a guildmate stay up all night with me on Skype when I was trying to finish some paper or other. And I'm still in touch with a few of my old guildies.

The LFG tool stresses me out, like seriously pings my social anxiety. Silently running through a dungeon with strangers? *shivers* At least in Vanilla folks seemed to chat some, and you learned who to avoid and you got to know folks even outside of your guild.
posted by ephemerista at 2:29 PM on August 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

Meanwhile A Tale in the Desert starts its 9th Telling (game restart, happens every year or two) tomorrow ... like all good drugs the first 24 hours of game play is free
posted by mbo at 2:43 PM on August 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

WoW was for people who could function in the real world, go to their 8 hours of work, come back home, and then turn on their computer and do 8 more hours of work.

Yeah that's a charmingly rose-colored view of WoW players. I was in a tiny guild (that had been formed as The People Who Could Be Cool Being In A Guild With A Dev in a previous MMO, and my then-coworker invited me in.) It consisted of:
  • the guild leader, an agoraphobic woman who worked from home and took care of her pets and otherwise was not doing great mental-health-wise
  • her much-younger husband who kept the house from falling down and otherwise was in a really weird place in his life
  • a trans kid in their late teens who ended up moving in with the guild leader for a while until they sorted out their shit
  • a web developer with severe social anxiety who also never left the house as far as we could tell
  • a totally functional mom of three who needed adult conversation while she was minding the little ones
  • me, who was also working from home at a job where I didn't have enough to do so I could just game all day and periodically refresh the forums.
I know there were people who had perfectly normal jobs and social lives who played WoW - my coworker was one of them, as were the various guildies who came and went - but people with 8+ hour daily playtimes were not among them, at least not in our social space. And those are the people who are the target audience for WoW Classic, I think.

(I feel like I should clarify that that I loved all of these people and the ones I'm still in touch with have mostly moved forward in their lives and are doing really well. But they're not playing WoW, or indeed any MMOs, anymore.)
posted by restless_nomad at 2:43 PM on August 29, 2019 [3 favorites]

I've always found ATITD's politics and laws system fascinating. But in that EvE way that makes me think it's better reading than playing. Is there anything more tears-in-rain than getting that invested in something that has a reset cycle?
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:19 PM on August 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

I've been complaining about this game for ages, yet have found myself waiting in queue for 5-9 hours at a time to play. I won't wait in line for more than 5 minutes IRL before abandoning it for less line-y pastures, but here I am at work, remotely logging in at lunch hoping to time it to be playable by the time I get home. So far I'm having more fun than I did the first time around, but it's also a very different experience.
posted by GoblinHoney at 3:20 PM on August 29, 2019

Honestly, if I could just get the old Silver Hand forums back for a week or two, with all of its old regulars, that would probably do the trick for me.

posted by snuffleupagus at 3:33 PM on August 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

Surprised that the article doesn't mention Nostalrius, the private server that many (including me) believe is what convinced Blizzard that there was a market for an official version of vanilla. I played on it in 2015 - early 2016, and it regularly had around 10k players on it simultaneously.

What set it apart from other private WoW servers was that it was much less buggy, especially when it came to mobs (monsters). It was far from perfect, and far from perfectly stable, but when it was working it was amazing and it had devs that worked hard to improve it, especially on the stability front.

Because it was based in France there was the hope that it was beyond the reach of Blizzard/Activision's lawyers. But alas, eventually they noticed it and got it taken down. The last day before the lights went out was pretty epic, with thousands upon thousands of players gathering outside Orgrimmar and Ironforge.

Other private servers stepped in to take its place but as far as I know, none were able to capture that lightning in a bottle that was Nostalrius.
posted by good in a vacuum at 4:41 PM on August 29, 2019 [4 favorites]

I'm really hoping the next KOL challenge path is some kind of joke on this. But yeah, resetting to default UI sounds like death. Even learning to program in LUA, which is itself kind of a retro-hell, was better than having no inventory sorting.
posted by lumpenprole at 4:59 PM on August 29, 2019

I played Vanilla in what was, in retrospect, a really dark time in my life. I was on the verge of dropping out of my PhD program and divorcing my first husband.

I played Vanilla in what was, in retrospect, a really dark time in my life. I was on the verge of being downsized from my (awful) job and divorcing my first husband.

Said husband, in fact, was the one who gave me the game. He'd bought it and then found a deluxe set he liked better, so I ended up with the extra, and I played it while my husband was between jobs and spending most of the week out of town with his college BFF.

I went rogue, and on a different server. I had to team up with others to beat Hogger without dying immediately. I fled from gangs of kobolds in the Elwynn mines. I spent countless hours in Duskwood barbarically skinning humanoid worgen for XP and skill, camping on the respawns. It took forever to level. Getting a horse felt like the biggest deal ever.

In Southshore, an unknown low-level character kept following and waving at me, and I discovered that it was my ex, who had created a barely leveled noob and somehow run all the way from Stormwind to find me. Our concerns about our failing marriage had in person traditionally been communicated as unspoken silent anger and resentment, as was his preference. But in the game, we had our only real knock-down blowout finger-pointing you-ruined-everything style meltdown argument over text chat(!) on the shores of the Western Strand. And after that, I was pretty much done with both the marriage and the game.

The next day, I put my little rogue on a long boat ride across the sea to Dustwallow, waiting in the good company of Capt. Placeholder, and upon arriving, she halfheartedly battled some giant beach tarantulas for a little while until we we were both tired.

I ended up leaving my little rogue in the inn at Theramore. I mailed what was left of her gold to a few players who'd been helpful, and I walked my little rogue upstairs to a cozy room, took off her boots, and put her to /sleep.
posted by mochapickle at 6:52 PM on August 29, 2019 [9 favorites]

A Tale in the Desert is a hell of a unique game. I've played both EVE and ATITD - the latter since the first Tale too many years ago - and while I can certainly agree EVE's more interesting to read about than play, ATITD can be pretty engaging. The last run of the game added an interesting automated vendor system for helping players sell stuff to other players directly, and that's added some convenience. The crafting systems have enormous depth to them, especially high-end smithing, glassblowing and gemcutting.

There's even full-featured beer-brewing and wine-making systems in place, with the new addition of an admittedly less in depth cheesemaking feature for really exploring the finer parts of life.

Of course, the game does come with a massively outdated graphical style, and it can be click-intensive enough I would not recommend playing without being willing to run a macroing program from time to time. But it also has hands down the best community I've ever encountered in any online game, and that makes up for a lot. It also has the most advanced social features in an MMO, where you can belong to as many 100% full-featured guilds as you so choose, each having fine-grained access controls to shared building as well as a global chat channel per guild.

Well worth giving a shot if you're feeling nostalgic but World of Warcraft doesn't seem to be quite your thing anymore.
posted by Wotron at 8:00 PM on August 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

snuffleupagus: “The PvP can't be actually Vanilla, can it? Is the Honor System back?”
My understanding is yes, they are going to make people grind out Warlord like the old days.

I was a veteran of Ultima Online, Asheron's Call, and DAoC. In the early Aughts I was still pretty traumatized by that thing that happened and spent many, many hours hiding in the basement and playing AC. To the point I ran a second account with a buff bot on a roof in Qalaba'r.

Then a good friend who was a vassal of my brother at the LARP and a former roommate and AC running buddy, told me I should come play WoW. He and his wife had been running a big Neverwinter Nights server, but they gave it up to play WoW.

I had to start clandestine because I was supposed to be playing on a private server UO instance that was based on the LARP. My brother was an admin and trying to get it to get some traction. He was a little jealous of aforementioned friend's Neverwinter server and pooh-poohed WoW as being stupid and for idiots.

A little while later I found out my UO guild came over and joined Horde-side. I had an Alliance rogue I got to… I think I was in Tanaris, so 50-ish? I eventually got my rogue through the Dark Portal but that's as far as he went and he's probably still parked in the inn in Honor Hold.

I wound up playing with my old guildies for the next decade. Stubbornly played Elemental Shaman main the whole time. Was raid leader and loot master. Geared up a warrior and tanked for the B-team so we could have replacements for our raiding group. Went dual-spec resto on my shammy and healed sometimes. I even wrote my own add-ons. I really played the hell out of the game.

I think an underappreciated aspect of WoW is the immersiveness of the world. The birds and bugs, and the water and wind and rain — even thunder — were there in the soundscape and it made the world feel alive. More, it made you feel like part of it.

Then there was the music. I will always remember the first time I heard that music as I crossed the bridge from Elwynn Forest into Westfall. Reading the comments on that video there were so many people who were dealing with untreated trauma and used Azeroth as a way to cope.

I've watched a ton of videos about getting ready for Classic and the old days in WoW. It's brought back lots of happy memories. Still, I don't think Classic is going to bring back those nights we raided futilely in UBRS because we didn't have enough people or the right gear but still had fun because we liked each other. Or the crazy adventures we had getting one of us to Warlord, e.g. sleeping in shifts during one particularly long Alterac Valley match. I still love all those people. I want that back more than I'd care to admit, but I don't think it's possible anymore.
posted by ob1quixote at 9:27 PM on August 29, 2019 [2 favorites]

I've been playing WoW off and on for the past 12 years. I take breaks but then feel the need to go back in. Haven't played retail for a while. The latest expansion isn't fun for me. But I did go back to Classic.

So far, it's been wonderful. People are mostly kind and gracious. The original world is beautifully crafted and immersive. And I don't even mind the clunky combat or the vicious low level mobs that swarm and kill you. Leveling is something which takes up much of the game time, even in retail, and it's wonderful to have a challenge. To have to plot your moves carefully so you can tag this mob without pulling the entire group. To have to plan what spells to cast so you don't run out of mana mid-fight. In retail, your character can routinely take on massive groups without breaking a sweat. Leveling in retail is a stress-free boring slog, and you'll often go a long time without seeing another player.

What I find most interesting about Classic and WoW is the revelations about game design, specifically RPG design. The game starts off moderately difficult and grindy. There's almost no quality-of-life features in the original. Even something simple like having quest-givers on the mini-map is missing. There is absolutely no bag space in your inventory.

But in many respects, it's the inconveniences that make the game. There's the mini-game of scrambling to find bags when you don't have any money and your tailoring is too low to make them. There's the cross-country adventures of getting from one isolated city to another, which require travel through lands where the monsters can slaughter you with one blow. So many little details, like hit rate or weapon skills (and weapon training) or optimizing hard-to-find spellpower, that keep you occupied and invested in your character. You have no idea an important quest is available in a certain area, but your friend or a passing stranger tells you. People share their lore. All this stuff adds up to something pretty immersive.

Every expansion and every patch smoothed away the rough edges. Added quality of life fixes. Made the monsters easier. Travel became faster and easier. Stats were simplified. Professions streamlined. Over the 15 years of the game, it ultimately become a very smooth experience. And most of the changes were welcomed at the time. People were thrilled, for example, to have mounts shared across characters. Or to get heirloom armor that made leveling alts much faster and painlessly.

But all those changes added up to something far less immersive and far less conducive to community. Without those factors, the game ultimately becomes flat and lifeless.

So all that's really interesting to me. What it means for game design. The balance between smooth gameplay and making life somewhat harsh for your players. And also interesting how the community reacts to it. They want things to be easier, so the developers make it easier. Then a point is reached where it's too easy and now many players demand that things be reverted to the older, harsher ways. Human nature in a nutshell.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 10:24 PM on August 29, 2019 [14 favorites]

Something beautiful happened on the first night of Classic WoW that I really didn't expect.

I was lucky enough to get onto the server without queueing (don't ask me how) and of course found it heavily overpopulated. Coldridge Valley was awash with dwarves and gnomes trying to kill the occasional respawning wolf. I wondered how on earth anyone was ever going to complete the quest to kill Grik'nir the Cold, which most new dwarf or gnome players need to do to gain the experience to level up their character - you'd need to mash your mouse button like a jackhammer to have any chance of tagging him before someone else did, because that's how WoW works these days - rush, grab, steal, don't let others get in your way...

I ran down to the bottom of the cave, killing the occasional troll along the way (but stepping over far more already killed troll bodies), and when I arrived at Grik'nir's location I found... an orderly queue forming to kill him. Everyone waited their turn; the player at the front killed Grik'nir, and then everyone shuffled up and waited a minute or so for him to respawn .

I have a small add-on installed which automatically takes a screenshot when you level up. The screenshot I've got for level 5 shows me delivering the killing blow to a troll outside Grik'nir's cave. In the background, an orderly queue is forming to loot Felix's Bucket of Bolts.

There's the community reclaiming the game, right there.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 3:33 AM on August 30, 2019 [10 favorites]

I jumped into World of Warcraft, around the time of Burning Crusade and jumped back out around Cataclysm. It's also around the time many of my friends faded out of that game. A combination of everyone starting careers/jobs where that kind of time-sink was just not really available and/or other next-gen gaming took over.

This is also just an old memory that doesn't really mean much but I'll share it here anyways. My favorite thing to do in the game was to fish, combining that with alchemy/potion making and that is how I farmed a shit ton of money. Once you level up high enough in your fishing skill, you can catch some dope-ass fish and really make some bank in the AH. There was also something super peaceful about making fishing and making potions. I wasn't ever really in WoW for the combat, I was there for the atmosphere.

All I really want is an MMORPG where I can just walk around and be chill in a fantasy setting and not have to fight all the time.

posted by Fizz at 4:43 AM on August 30, 2019 [6 favorites]

Once you level up high enough in your fishing skill, you can catch some dope-ass fish and really make some bank in the AH. There was also something super peaceful about making fishing and making potions.

I love fishing in WoW. Winning the STV contest was one of my favorite moments in Vanilla. That and getting my Winterspring Frostsaber mount.
posted by ephemerista at 7:09 AM on August 30, 2019 [3 favorites]

I played WoW from open beta until sometime after the release of the Cataclysm expansion. There were ebbs and flows, but it was pretty consistent -- as I'd lose interest, someone would say "hey, don't you play WoW? I'm thinking of starting!" and I'd roll a new toon up to play with the new person, and get pulled in again playing with them.

It didn't hurt that it was something I could do from my laptop sitting on the couch with my wife in the evenings, or that in many of those years I was traveling for work a bunch.

Eventually I quit. Blizzard has dutifully kept all my characters frozen in amber, but the gameplay is so different today that I literally have no idea how to even PLAY may high-level toons anymore. And, of course, the game is also now very, very endgame focussed. The gameplay I enjoyed was the progression through the world, with nearly constant ad-hoc groups to accomplish local quest goals, and random chat with other people in other parts of the country or world. A few times, in the early years, I played with a deployed Marine logging in from the sand patch somewhere, for example.

All that is gone from the modern game. But it's all back with a vengeance in Classic, and I'm loving it. I don't have the time to put into it like I did before, but I can definitely see giving it a few hours a week for a while. People are happy and friendly. The zones have people in them again, and they help each other -- random drive-by buffs, quick jumps in to help take down mobs, and reminders of where such-and-such a quest goal is on the map. I mean, we mostly all remember, but it's been a long time.

Oh, and the other thing: WoW has existed now for 14 years. During that time, Blizzard released a world-changing expansion called Cataclysm whose storyline included a world-sundering event. Zones changed drastically because of it, and among the ones destroyed or otherwise irrevocably changed were the "home" zones for my original character. After that point, he couldn't "go home again" anymore, and I really missed that.

With Classic, those zones are back to how they were, pristine and wonderful, and I love it.

The tl;dr is that WoW Classic is a lovely thing for some of us. I'm super glad they did this.

Also, Snuffle, SILVER HAND REPRESENT!!! That's where I started.

The original world is beautifully crafted and immersive.
SO MUCH. I was 34 when this came out, and had been playing games all my life. No game experience prepared me for how amazing and detailed and immersive the world was. Getting to Ironforge the first time -- as a Nelf, so after playing a while -- was a jaw-dropping experience for me that I doubt I'll ever have again in a game.
But all those changes added up to something far less immersive and far less conducive to community.
**EXACTLY**. It kinda needs to be hard, and a bit of a slog, to create the community.
I arrived at Grik'nir's location I found... an orderly queue forming to kill him.
This was happening in Shadowglen, too, for a named spider mob. So amazing.
posted by uberchet at 7:30 AM on August 30, 2019 [6 favorites]

I'm mostly just hoping that the *next* expansion pack is focused on something I care about, i.e. not PvP. I seem to come back about every other expansion, although honestly the change to dynamic mob levels totally killed my favorite way to play, which is being moderately overleveled for the area so I can play through all the story without wasting my time on the frankly tedious combat. (I made it halfway through the Legion content before I realized why I felt like my character sucked all the time.)
posted by restless_nomad at 7:37 AM on August 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

I played WoW only briefly, but I have the same fond memories from that generation of MMOs of what we'd now call bad gameplay.

I had a real hankering for classic EverQuest recently. I tried quieting it by reading old EQ guides on my phone at night and poking around fan forums, but nothing doing. After a sad run through the official free EQ "classic" servers (a world almost, but not quite, entirely unlike Norrath), I bit the bullet and got on one of the clandestine classic emulation servers.

Oh man it felt good. All of the chunky meshes, night-blindness, travel times, lethal mobs, and the total lack of signposts at all layers of gameplay: all the friction I craved. I rolled up an Erudite enchanter and had a great couple of weeks. And then I stopped because, for all that I love the friction, the downtime is killer. I'm happy to lose all my gear because I wasn't able to pull a mob correctly, but I can't spend half the game watching my character sit cross legged in the Karana plains. Not any more.

That, and the world was empty. When I played the lone explorer in vanilla EQ, the zones teemed with life. This server was a few high level groups running endgame content, and vast stretches of everything else peopled only by NPCs and a single, nostalgic Erudite.

My WoW experience is thinner. I played one character, a Draenei paladin to level 20 and then tapped out. I have less time to play than ever. And I get the anecdotes upthread that what makes WoW tick for some people is how you can get lost in it: MMOs can be (or could be at the time?) escapist in a bad way. But I like the idea of a popular, modern MMORPG where the world pushes back on the players a bit more, demands a bit more from you, and gives back in discovery and community.

although Minecraft has probably taken that urge in better, healthier directions, just not as an MMO
posted by postcommunism at 8:01 AM on August 30, 2019

SILVER HAND REPRESENT!!! That's where I started

Silver Hand was, so far as I can tell, the Landroval of WoW. It was one of the test servers and became the ad hoc RP server at launch, later becoming officially designated.

When Battlegroups came around it was placed in BG9, and it was always funny how mad teams from Blackrock and whatnot would get when a bunch of "arpee" Silverhanders facerolled them.

There was never that much RP, really, beyond some prominent personalities. But the designation tended to draw more social players, and people with backgrounds in tabletop and live action RPGs which made for a fun environment. In game and on the forums.

I'd probably resub for a couple months just to say hi to all of those folks if I knew where they were gathering now.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:12 AM on August 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

snuffleupagus: “t was always funny how mad teams from Blackrock and whatnot would get when a bunch of "arpee" Silverhanders facerolled them.”
Out guild leader and PVP squad flagged for PvP at all times, even though we played on RP server Earthen Ring. One night during the Warlord push I joined a few of them in the queue for Warsong Gulch. In the pre-match one of the people on our team started grousing about how we were going to lose because there were too many role-players on the team. He kept /yell-ing "Erthen [sic] is bad!!!" over and over. Of course, based on the strength of our team play, we scored three captures very quickly. The grouser's friends then started ribbing him.

Afterwards, "Erthen is bad!!!" became a kind of motto for us. It's still in my macro file.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:27 AM on August 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

Incidentally, I'm on Bloodsail Buccaneers, playing as Alliance, if anyone is curious.
posted by uberchet at 12:08 PM on August 30, 2019

I played WoW for, like, 8 months and that was fifteen years ago. It makes no sense but after reading through this thread it seems that I still have a strong antipathy for the Alliance. I can't imagine I'll ever play WoW again but apparently I'm Horde for life.

Maybe I can play just a little bit in October. The Undercity was always fun around Halloween.
posted by GalaxieFiveHundred at 3:20 PM on August 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

Lots of people were ride-or-die for one side or the other, and I was always really, really confused by that kind of tribalism. Like, I played alliance at first because that's where my friends were, end of.

Later, I played some horde toons for the same reason.
posted by uberchet at 3:41 PM on August 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

It's pretty much the same thing (with maybe the exception of Notre Dame) for the entire NHL/NFL/MLB fandom. People pick a team, usually the one in the city they lived in in their formative years, and then are do or die fans.
posted by Mitheral at 6:42 PM on August 30, 2019

But the "formative city" thing doesn't exist in this fantasy world.
posted by uberchet at 10:06 AM on August 31, 2019

Name of the team you levelled your first character up to the cap in your first MMO is a pretty good analogue for formative city.
posted by Mitheral at 10:35 AM on August 31, 2019

I played wow from vanilla to pirates, but it was just so grindy and Vegas-addiction model at the patch where I stopped, that I just had to stop. I just don’t have that kind of time anymore. But man, I had some good times over the years. First mount, first dragon, first dragon mount, ruling the pvp charts as a rogue, running away from stuff, running into stuff, massive world pvp battles, fishing enough to get that waterstrider mount, raids that would take hours and hours and only a couple of people out of 40 would get loot...would it be you this time? Learning lua to write mods, just so much fun before it became a cash grab.

I thought about going back for vanilla, but I just can’t put that sort of time sink in the 21st century and still get real life done.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 10:48 AM on August 31, 2019 [2 favorites]

SecretAgentSockpuppet: “I thought about going back for vanilla, but I just can’t put that sort of time sink in the 21st century and still get real life done.”
So, funny story. I posted "Erthen is Bad!!!" on my WoW friend's timeline and commented about how we'd all had such a lovely time here reminiscing about the old times. He replies with a screenshot of his Classic character. So I got my account turned back on, made a guy, and lost my Saturday afternoon to the game in a way I hadn't done in a long time. Got on Sunday morning, intending to play for an hour while I had my coffee. Then my friend got on. We wound up playing together until dark.

And that is the story of how WoW Classic let me recreate a classic WoW lost weekend just like it was 15 years ago all over again.

P.S. It is crazy the amount of stuff I remember in terms of quests and locations and which ones to do together, e.g., don't do the Skull Rock quest until you've talked to Thrall and gotten Hidden Enemies so you can knock them both out at the same time, and set yourself up for an RFC run in a couple of levels. I'm on track to do 20 in a day of playing which was my benchmark from my many alts.

P.P.S. The AH is a disaster. Supply so far outstrips demand that you're better off just vendoring trade goods. I thought I could grind materials for money, but that appears to not be true. Not even gems. If you want cash, hit mobs that drop money and vendor all the cloth you can't personally use, I think. Maybe keep disenchantables instead of just vendoring those too.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:37 AM on September 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Name of the team you levelled your first character up to the cap in your first MMO is a pretty good analogue for formative city.
The weird ride-or-die allegiance choices I'm referencing started on day 1, so they're not a result of leveling to cap or whatever. I get playing as a race or faction for a while would create an attachment; that's not weird. What's weird is inventing the attachment before you've played at all.
The AH is a disaster.
Yeah, there's no stable economy yet. What's awesome and fascinating is that one will certainly develop.
posted by uberchet at 12:40 PM on September 3, 2019

I played in "Vanilla", but way late, not too soon before Burning Crusade.

My server, and I assume my guild bank is gone. I've been wanting to see my awesome troll Mage again lately. Don't really want to go all the way back to the beginning. No Arathi Basin? Fuck right off.

I do miss the old zones though. The Barrens was the best
posted by Windopaene at 6:42 PM on September 3, 2019

I was briefly tempted to go back, but then I remembered the time suck. Plus I never really much liked end game content, raids were too stressful for me.
posted by tavella at 7:16 PM on September 3, 2019

If you played in vanilla, Blizzard set up forums for reconnecting with people from your server that are sweet and full of happy people.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:17 PM on September 3, 2019 [3 favorites]

Oh, that's awesome.

Old-zone nostalgia is why I'm still playing Classic (level 15!). It's maybe an hour at a go now, but I have a guild of IRL friends and it's still a fun thing to do.
Plus I never really much liked end game content, raids were too stressful for me.
Hard same. I only ever did one or two raids. For me, the joy of the game was the level progression. There are so many paths, and so many places to see! Once I got close to the cap, the options dried up, and I'd lose interest until someone would ask me to play with them, on a new server, with a new toon, and I'd start over.

This time around I'm amused at how well I remember which quests are shitty, so I just skip them. There's more content than you can do before the quests turn green & give minimal XP, so you can really cherry-pick the storylines or activities you find enjoyable without hurting your progression.
posted by uberchet at 6:51 AM on September 4, 2019

If you played in vanilla, Blizzard set up forums for reconnecting with people from your server that are sweet and full of happy people.

This led me to a Silver Hand reunion Discord and OMG. The feels!

I was never great at raiding, so occasionally went with some come-one-come-all groups and just leveled alts the rest of the time.

Shortly before BC, I started messing around with multiboxing my way through horde side leveling, trying to run an entire party myself (complete with a vanity guild and backstories for the toons).

Which obviously the 2.0 UI lockdown killed, as you could no longer do anything that was stateful inside combat, or checked the status of other party members to swap binds (as I never scripted keystrokes, but did script my UI such that bind under a key changed according to conditions).
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:12 PM on September 4, 2019

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