As this post is largely about Classic WoW, I wanted to include screen shots of the original and other early expansions. Unfortunately, the multitude of pictures I took over 14 years ago have disappeared, so to illustrate this piece I’ve used a few pics I particularly like from recent expansions. One day I will remember to copy over screenshots from the WoW folder when I acquire a new machine. Really sad to lose all the memories from Classic to MoP. There were some memorable moments. I took hundreds of guild shots beside dead raid bosses, too. Irreplaceable, as many people who were in the pictures no longer play WoW. Ah well… to the post.

Blog Jun 2

You Tube is heaving with people gushing enthusiastically about Classic WoW at present. I watch plenty of videos made by people playing on the Beta for it, describing how everything takes so much longer, is so much harder, but is nevertheless so much more fun and meaningful. I seem to be in a minority, but I just don’t get that enthusiasm. I tried Classic out again when there was that brief trial a while ago and lasted 15 minutes before thinking, ‘dear gods, no! Can’t play like this now.’ There’s no way I want to play a game from so long ago that was so time-consuming and slow. Even if I was craving the original game, I just don’t have the time now that I put into WoW back then. So it would take me a long long time to level to max – given that I’ll be carrying on playing Retail as well with my much-loved family of alts.

I recall hitting level 53 on my main character in Classic and just leaving him there for a while, because it was such a grind. A new alt seemed more fun. Then a guildie chided me about it and I dug in and got the job done, finishing off in Silithus. I remember also how the moment I hit level 60, that zone lit up like a Christmas tree with lots and lots of quests. It was like stepping into a new game. I was amazed and – yes – excited about finding out what new things there were to do. But that was then. I loved Classic WoW when I first started playing because it was among the best games of its type at the time, and I really enjoyed exploring its enormous new world, but the annoyance I feel when Blizzard removes conveniences now – such as certain guild perks, and also the regular elimination of portals around the world – is nothing in comparison to how it will feel to lose every single quality of life aspect we have now and going back to the bare bones.

Vel on albino drake in Twilight Highlands

In original Classic, there was no help whatsoever in game with how to play. I remember we relied entirely on third party web sites like Thottbot so that we could actually complete some hard to find quest objectives. Back when WoW was new, we were all running around in rags, with hardly more than a stick for a weapon, for a long time. And without mounts, running felt like walking. But even when you reached level 40, when riding became available at the slowest pace, (which might’ve taken months depending on how often you could log on and for how long), you needed to earn 100 gold to buy your first mount. To put that in context, it felt about the same as it does now to buy one of the expensive gold sink mounts. But let’s not talk about gold, or lack of it. I still have burned into my memory the long evenings spent in in the Raceway area of the Thousand Needles zone (now flooded) with friends, grinding mobs to earn the rest of the gold we needed for our first mounts. (I think I had about 30-40 gold when I started on that little task at level 60.) It took weeks. We went there together whenever we could because some of the mobs dropped trash loot that could be sold for silver rather than copper. It was that great. We’d fill our tiny bags, run on foot to a vendor miles away, empty bags, go back, repeat. I didn’t enjoy it then, and I wouldn’t enjoy it now, but I really wanted a mount. The only thing that made it bearable was spending time with friends, just chatting, about which some advocates of Classic will no doubt say ‘well, that’s the point. It’s a social game’. I’d rather chat while doing something more interesting, though. As for faster riding, I didn’t even get the epic mount until Burning Crusade came out, and only then because a friend in my guild, who was far richer than me and generous, donated a large chunk towards the 1000 gold for it. He said I’d need the faster mount to escape the mobs in Outland. He wasn’t wrong!

Blog Jun 4

Another thing I remember is what a noob I was in Classic. I had no idea really how to play my class well. For most activities at the time, you could manage without an expert level of skill. A lot of day to day combat in the world was just hitting something repeatedly until it fell over, hoping you didn’t fall over first. If you ended up pulling too many mobs, you hoped you could escape in time. Often you didn’t. Swarms of Furbolgs in Ashenvale springs to mind! It wasn’t until Burning Crusade and raiding became available to our guild with Karazhan that I had to learn how to play properly. That was eye opening! But to go back now with 14 years’ experience of playing WoW will be a different matter. The slow pace was good for someone learning the ropes – not so good for a seasoned veteran. The truth is, in certain respects, we can never go back. That exciting sense of newness and discovery is long gone. Of course, this might not be the case for those who joined WoW during a later expansion. Classic will have novelty value for them, no doubt.

Some Youtubers have waxed lyrical about how you have to team up with others in Classic to get things done efficiently – which is great if you like doing that. To me, group content is raids and dungeons and pvp battlegrounds. I don’t want to have to group while levelling. I see that as a solo activity, and I enjoy it as such. I like to log on and potter about doing my own thing at my own pace, grouping up when I’m in the mood and it’s appropriate. The thought of not being able to progress because you can’t complete certain quests alone – or they’re far more difficult solo – holds no attraction for me whatsoever. There was no faction tagging in Classic WoW. If another player hit a mob first you couldn’t share the credit for killing it like you do in Retail now, and respawns were often mind-numbingly slow. You could spend hours trying to complete a single quest, even in a group of friends, simply because other players were attempting to complete the same objective as you. This hardly bred camaraderie, quite the opposite. Sometimes the sight of another player in your vicinity made your heart sink – or else filled you with murderous rage, depending on your temperament and how long you’d been trying to complete a particular quest. This is why teaming up is advocated so strongly by players in the Classic beta now, and it makes sense, but it’s not something I want to have to do every time I play.

When going solo, I can leave the computer, go make a drink, look at something on the internet, talk on the phone and so on. In a team, it’s inconsiderate to do that, which is partly why I resent having teaming forced on me. People argue that WoW is an MMO – the m’s stand for massive multiplayer after all, so we’re supposed to play together. My response to this is: I live in a town surrounded by people. It’s much better than an empty town. People help each other out in a multitude of ways. But when I go shopping, do I really want to take a bunch of people with me? I don’t want to live on a deserted street, but neither do I want the entire complement of neighbours round my house all the time just to help me carry out basic tasks I’m happy to do on my own. Everyone can get ‘peopled out’ whether in reality or in an online multi-player game. I want to choose when to interact, while still being part of a thriving populated world.

However, I am in a minority with my opinions, or at least appear to be, so Blizzard were right to bring Classic back for those who want that slower pace and greater difficulty – and also to experience the beginnings of the game that they might have missed out on. It’s a valuable curio, to be sure. I also understand totally the desire for community. If there’s one thing I miss about Classic, it’s the community of your server. People couldn’t get away with behaving like jerks – they had to be accountable for their behaviour. If they were obnoxious, rude or aggressive they earned a reputation for being an idiot, and the community was small enough for word to get about, because everyone was confined to one server. I can think of more than one individual on our realm who earned the epithet ‘server idiot’. You’d get scenarios like someone saying: ‘Oh, this person wants to join our dungeon team/guild’, and the anguished response from other guildies, ‘god, don’t invite them. That’s a server idiot.’ Another good thing was that you could make friends out in the landscape, people you’d come across again and again – I made quite a few friends in this way. But that’s not enough to make me want to play the old game again. What I would like is to have that community in modern WoW, which I doubt will ever return.

My Druid in Vashjir

I do think it’s become fashionable on YouTube to slag WoW off, or specifically Blizzard. Content creators and their followers appear united in their contempt for the company who, it can’t be denied, have done themselves no favours whatsoever in the customer relations department and have made bad decisions about the game. It’s currently regarded as cool to shun modern WoW and praise Classic, and I do think this is what’s behind a lot of the adulation at present. There’s a hint of ‘let’s show them!’, because of course Blizzard famously told the players they might think they want Classic WoW but in fact they don’t – implying rose-coloured spectacles were playing a large part in people’s desire for the older game. Calling for Classic and praising it so passionately heaps scorn by default on Battle for Azeroth and the direction of the modern game. Some players are unhappy with developer decisions recently and this how they can show it.

I myself am disappointed with certain aspects of BfA, and it’s the first time since Classic (original) I have no great interest in levelling all my alts. Levelling has been ruined unfortunately. There are too few zones, so it gets old very quickly, and the removal of character power once the legendaries from Legion have to be junked can be painful – worse for some classes than for others. I hate feeling progressively weaker as my character’s level gets higher. It makes no sense. Before max level, questing should be fun and easy in my opinion – a relaxing part of the game. Of course, I’m used to reaching max level and at that point suddenly feeling as weak as a kitten, because it’s always been like that with each expansion. End game begins by gearing your character up. It’s great to crack your knuckles and get to it, gradually becoming powerful again. But before that it should simply be pleasurable and fun to reach max level. Also, in BfA there’s far too much character maintenance involved to make it feasible to administer a huge family of alts. (And let’s face it, most veteran players will have a huge family of alts by now.) We went from the situation where players felt there wasn’t enough to do, to overload in the opposite direction, but the content isn’t fulfilling or compelling. I’m sick to death of world quests now.

Raiding has also been spoilt somewhat with the persistence of titan forging that to a large degree has rendered raid gear redundant – or at least the urge to collect it lasts nowhere near as long. This is compounded by the removal of tier sets in raids. In the past our guild team would always farm raids once they’d been completed, because there was a reason to do so, but there’s no point to it now as there’s better gear available elsewhere and no tier sets to collect. I feel people’s interest in raiding has diminished over all – at least for our guild. In the raids so far in BfA we’ve killed the end boss once – that’s all. The fun of raiding is no longer seems to be there for our guild.

Blog Jun 3

Although it’s regarded as far from cool to say so (but I’ll do so anyway), raiding has become far more complex and challenging over the years. In Classic, the headaches were different – having enough players for a start and collecting resistance gear and farming consumables. But raid bosses had a pitiful amount of abilities in comparison to modern bosses, and the mechanics were far simpler. Now, for teams with varying levels of competence among their players, raiding is gradually moving beyond their reach, not least because of shrinking guilds. It gets ever more difficult to find enough people to field a team from guild members and friends. This is ironic, because raiding was beyond people’s reach for different reasons in the past. The game has looped back, in a bizarre kind of way. The allowance for error in modern raiding is so tiny one person can wipe the entire team with an unfortunate bad move or a smack of bad luck. I used to love raiding but have become somewhat disenchanted with it. Given the experience of our core players, (most of whom have played together for at least 10 years), and the level of expertise among the best of them, we should be raiding at Heroic level, but our team as a whole struggles with that difficulty. Over the years, we’ve lost a lot of players, who’ve simply given up the game. So now we end up losing good players who want more of a challenge, making it even more difficult for those who stick with the guild because of long-established friendships; it’s a vicious circle.

WoWScrnShot_081818_144443

So, I’m not criticising WoW Classic from the position of a Retail fangirl. I have my disappointments in the game, but I’d still rather play BfA with all its downsides than what to me is the stultifyingly dull game play of Classic. I enjoy so many other aspects of the modern game – mythic plus dungeons, transmog collecting, mount hunting, all other kinds of collecting and doing old raid achievements – none of which were present in Classic. There’s plenty to keep me busy. But I do think WoW was better in the past in some respects. If I could choose one expansion to base the future game upon, it would probably be Mists of Pandaria, with the better bits of WoD and Legion thrown in. In fact, the best bits of all the expansions would make a great game. But what are the best aspects for me might not be the best for other players. It’s so subjective. I’ve levelled up some alts from scratch recently for the allied races and can honestly say the best expansion for it was WoD. I’ve really enjoyed levelling through that again on each new character. The end game lacked, (which is how it earned the reputation of the worst expansion of all), but for levelling it was top notch.

The landscapes of Azeroth become increasingly sumptuous and detailed with each new expansion. Whatever downsides BfA might present, its landscapes are beautiful, and I love roaming through them. I also like the story-telling – even if I don’t agree with all the plot decisions. The lore makes the characters of the world seem alive. You root for the ones you like, and boo at the ones you hate. The story has relevance. It’s like being part of a film or a novel. I look forward to finding out what’s going to happen next, hoping it’ll be something I like, but accepting of the fact that I’m not telling the story, so it might be something I really don’t like. Sometimes, things don’t work out how we want them to. That’s realistic. Classic had no real story arc. I didn’t know anything about the lore of Azeroth until it started being brought into the game more creatively. If I went back in time to Classic (not the new version) with all the knowledge I have now, I’d be far more intrigued about Fandral Staghelm’s behaviour in Teldrassil, for example, than I was at the time. I barely took any notice of what he was asking me to do and why. I suppose for people who came to WoW later on, when the story took on more relevance, it’ll be quite exciting to discover the back story for some of those characters hidden away in corners of the Classic world. I used to collect the herb Khadgar’s Whisker for my alchemy profession without being aware there was a lore character called Khadgar. That came as a surprise in The Burning Crusade when I met him in Shattrath. You can even find Nathanos Blightcaller in his old home (the Marris Stead) in the Eastern Plaguelands. There’s a group quest to kill him. There are lots of little clues and surprises like that dotted about the Classic landscape. So for those who came later to WoW I absolutely appreciate how Classic will be a lot of fun.

However, one thing that concerns me about this Classic adulation at present is Blizzard’s tendency to throw the baby out with the bathwater – i.e. sweeping changes that junk things that are good along with things that aren’t so good. I hope they don’t look at the enthusiasm for Classic and think they need to make Retail similar – i.e. longer and more difficult to level your character, removal of quality of life aspects, and so on. Let Classic and Retail exist separately for those who want them. Some people like their levelling to be hard, so why can’t Blizzard do something to help with that, using the scaling technology they’ve developed, and bring in the choice for normal, heroic and mythic levelling? That would go a long way towards pleasing everyone.

There are some lessons that can be learned from Classic – such as class quests and a feeling of progression in respect of talent trees. Those are good things and maybe some form of them should return, but not at the expense of the quality of life aspects we enjoy now. I’ve heard some comments that all the different expansions of WoW could exist as separate games with their own continuing updates. That to me sounds splendid. There is surely room for everything. I’m interested to see what transpires after the Classic release. It could be good for everyone. Let’s hope so.

Abraxxas gets Heart

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