There’s been a distinct drop off in attendance in our guild over past few weeks. We’ve had to cancel raids quite a bit – exacerbated by the fact two of our prominent players have had busted computers and a tank has been moving house, so has had no internet for a while. But people have also been having breaks because they feel a bit bored.

Battle for Azeroth has had rather a shaky start. At first, the majority of players seemed happy with the new landscapes and dramatic questlines. Initially, island expeditions and warfronts were regarded favourably. But as time’s gone on, these aspects appear to have lost their shine. The ongoing fulminations over Azerite armour and its implementation hasn’t helped. I too haven’t been playing as much, mainly because I’ve been swamped with work, getting several books ready for publication in December, but also because I haven’t felt the driving need to log on every day. And you know – I think this is actually a good thing.

I’ll explain why.

In previous expansions, and especially so since mission tables became a thing in WoD, most players have felt obliged to log on every day to attend to tasks, which, if left unattended, might result in lost opportunity, gold, gear or whatever. Emissary caches felt mandatory because of the RNG rewards in them – essential mounts and so on for collectors of such things and, previously, the chance of legendaries. But I quite like the fact I don’t feel so driven by these concerns any more. When I have the time for a long run of play, I can pick and choose what world quests I want to do for their specific rewards. Gear for alts, or pet tokens or whatever else might be of use. Now I’ve got my main characters to exalted on all the factions, I don’t feel it’s necessary to get to that point with alts. It actually feels liberating not being bound to daily activities for fear of missing out somehow. Things like warfronts and island expeditions can also be dipped in and out of. You don’t feel you HAVE to do them every time they’re available, but just if you feel like it. You can raid and do mythic + dungeons, if you feel like it. You can level alts. Or you can go back and collect things from previous expansions – because you have more time for it now.

While some have complained of lack of things to do, I think it’s healthy to have a bit of a lull between patches. You can have a break, or a semi break, then return refreshed and enthusiastic for new content. Blizzard seem to be keeping to the promise they upheld in Legion of fairly regular new content. How quickly a player uses that up is down to them, but if you’re so inclined you can pace yourself to match the stream of release.

All this said, I do think Blizzard are responsible for some massive whoopsies at the start of this expansion, but with patch 8.1 some of the things that upset people are being addressed head on. I won’t go into detail about the patch, because videos and blog posts about it can be found all over the internet and I don’t need to repeat it all but suffice to say I’m happy with what’s coming.

It’s become almost a fashion to hate on Blizzard at the moment, which I don’t think is good for the game. This is spearheaded by a contingent of streamers and youtubers whose settings are set permanently to pissed off. They want to be pissed off, and people find voyeuristic pleasure in watching the rivers of woe that pour from these doomsayers. I think it’s important people talk about what’s not working in the game, and suggest how it might be improved, but an endless stream of negativity and pessimism doesn’t help anyone. Those who love WoW don’t want to see it founder. They simply want mistakes corrected, and the game to go onwards and upwards. But others seem to take delight in proclaiming WoW is dead and how terrible a game is now is. They’ve been doing that for years.

And the fact is, it’s not that terrible. Having played a little on the WoW Classic demo, I could appreciate fully how much WoW has come on since its early days. All the little quality of life features we take for granted and barely notice become huge when they’re suddenly not there. Modern WoW is flawed, yes, but can any game ever be absolutely perfect? Blizzard make what seem to be insane decisions sometimes, as if the developers don’t actually play the game themselves, for surely no player would implement some of the daft ideas we’ve had to stomach over the years. But good came with the bad and continues to do so. We’ll never have the game that’s perfect for us, because it’s doubtful any two people have the same absolute concept of what the perfect game is. Quite frankly, I think if we’re happy with three quarters of WoW and disappointed with the remaining quarter, we can’t really complain.  We’re all too different, with differing requirements and preferences, ever to have that 100% hit from one game. People’s dissatisfaction in BfA has in many cases slithered towards being disappointed with more than a quarter, but it seems the complaints have been heard. Something’s being done about it, and hopefully successfully, and there’s much to look forward to in 8.1.

It was probably revisiting WoW Classic that opened my eyes to all this. I played only for about fifteen minutes on the demo and that was enough. No, I don’t want to go back there. I do miss the old landscapes, yes, because it was where my characters grew up, but looking at them again now, they’re not quite the idyllic places I remember. They’re crude and bare in comparison to the lush, rich landscapes we frolic about in today. It really is as if we look back on Vanilla through the eyes of a child. But we can never revisit childhood, not with the same sense of wonder and newness – we can only remember what we felt like back then. The questing was often frustrating and meandering. There were no guides to point you to where you had to go. Finding a quest objective might have meant wandering around for hours looking for it. Levelling was much tougher, and if you weren’t ultra careful with your pulls, and attracted more than one mob, you were quickly dead. You had to run around on foot until level 40, and then the amount of gold required to get your first mount was punishingly high. Gold came very very very slowly in Classic. We were all paupers. I remember grinding mobs for weeks in 1000 Needles with a few friends, because the ones at the raceway dropped trash that sold for slightly more than mobs elsewhere. Weeks. Every night. We’d kill things until our relatively small bags were full, then run to the vendor to empty out before going back for more. We felt euphoric if we garnered a couple of gold each time we visited the vendor. Even at top level, I only ever saw a few players with upgraded mounts that ran faster. These beasts cost 1000 gold, which in those days felt like the 5 million needed to buy a brutosaur mount today.  I can remember that when The Burning Crusade came out, a richer friend insisted on helping me out with the gold to buy a faster mount, because you bloody well needed one sometimes to escape from mobs in the new Outland zones. A slower mount merely helped kill you.

The hunter I made on the demo felt horrible. I’d forgotten you couldn’t use your ranged weapon close to a target, never mind the inconvenience of having to know where you could buy arrows or bullets nearby so you didn’t run out of ammo. The boar I was given as a pet (no choice in the demo) was a rough bunch of blocky polygons, who wasn’t a great deal of use, because in Classic you had to go off and hunt for skills for your pets. Only by taming certain animals could you learn the skills needed for an effective companion. I quite liked that part of it at the time, because it was fun to go hunting, and there was no sense of urgency about anything back then, (for me, at least), but I’m unconvinced modern players who never experienced young WoW will feel the same. People don’t have the same amount of patience today. And one thing you needed in Classic was patience. Let’s see how things go when it’s released next year. I probably will make a character to tinker about on now and again, simply to revisit the zones as they originally were. I do miss them, because they meant something to me at the time. It’ll be cool to take a walk down Nostalgia Lane. But I think some people who are currently longing for Classic (and probably never played it) will be both shocked and disappointed. I think for most players who try it (discounting the diehard Classic fans who’ve played on private servers), it’s destined to be a curio – a kind of interactive museum it’s interesting to visit sometimes to see the past, but not an experience to replace the modern version of the game.

I think it’s better to look upon the aspects of the modern game we love, and not dwell gloomily on the parts of it we’re less happy with. It’s still WoW, most of us have been with it for a long time, and if we take a break now and again, there’s nothing wrong with that. The good thing is that there’s always new stuff to come back to.

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