This article was originally published November 6th, 2017 and has been updated on March 17th, 2019.
Blizzard for months and months have held the position that there would be no return to vanilla World of Warcraft (vanilla is in reference to World of Warcraft before any expansions); with Blizzcon 2017, that all changed. After years and years of saying no, Blizzard has finally said yes and announced World of Warcraft Classic. A return to the World of Warcraft that many—including myself—sharpened our raiding teeth on. While the idea certainly satisfies the proverbial nostalgia sweet-tooth, it is doomed to fail if it stops there.
Let’s Not Forget
Nostalgia is great, but the dosage is key. Vanilla World of Warcraft was certainly a revolution in its day, bucking the trends of Everquest and other popular MMO’s. But comparing the game to today’s standard…well…things get overlooked or forgotten. Vanilla World of Warcraft contained many quirks and design decision that simply don’t hold up, especially when it comes to the value of them.
Weapon skill was one such old mechanic that existed that perfectly embodies some of the poor original design decisions. For those who don’t remember, weapon skill was simply a number regarding your character’s specific weapon skill that would level up the more you used said weapon. If your weapon skill was too low when attacking a high-level enemy, they would dodge, parry, or take reduced damage from your attacks. The problem with leveling weapon skill was that it became a chore to max out as it was a requirement to remain competitive, even having a slightly lower weapon skill than needed could make the difference between killing a boss and dying. It was just another number that served no other purpose than to create busy work in leveling up an aspect of your character, and yet, it remained all throughout classic.
Another mechanic that existed in vanilla World of Warcraft that was equally frustrating, was the act of acquiring gear. As part of the endgame in World of Warcraft, each class had a set of gear that it needed to acquire to progress further into the end game. These were colloquially known as “Tiers,” with each new tier needing to be earned to a certain extent to have high enough quality gear to move onto the next difficulty of raids. The issue arose when it came to actually earn that gear where many endgame dungeons would drop only one piece of tier gear per boss, out of a potential 9 classes (even though each faction only had 8 classes at the time). This made gearing up an arduous task, as a raid may only have one boss that drops tier leggings and all of those drops were random. Depending on the makeup of your actual raid group, this at times could be become disheartening, dropping several pieces of gear that no one can use or need and making that boss feel like a waste of time, and yet, it remained all throughout classic.
Of course, this is not to say vanilla World of Warcraft doesn’t have positives or there aren’t more negatives associated with it. But rather a simple reminder that things aren’t always the way that we remember them, and its this lack of memory that leads to much of this nostalgic want. However, once we are faced with the reminder of how something was, we quickly change our tunes and realize it perhaps should be updated or left in the past. After all, this is why remakes are such a huge hit in the game’s industry, it both touches on the nostalgia we wish to revisit while also modernizing mechanics to our current pallet.
Expansions Exist For A Reason
World of Warcraft Classic is looking to take us back to those original World of Warcraft days. While the original certainly held an appeal, that appeal isn’t eternal. There is a reason that we had expansions following vanilla World of Warcraft, and we are going to need them for the same exact reasons; people simply get tired and bored.
Classic contains a lot of content, such as leveling alts, crafting, making money, and just exploring the old World of Warcraft that it once was. Couple that with the laid out patch release schedule and raiding progression, it can provide content for literal days if not weeks. At some point though, everyone is going to catch up and finish, and there will be nothing left. World of Warcraft Classic will still be stuck in classic on its last patch, with the same original content and the same frustrations that exist back then, it will forever be in the past to both its detriment and benefit. But for World of Warcraft Classic to truly survive it can’t remain stuck at the last patch of vanilla, it will need a way for players to advance to content that has been added past vanilla or a way to re-experience a certain point in time.
This can be accomplished in two ways:
- Creating World of Warcraft Burning Crusade Servers
- Making World of Warcraft Classic a reset to the game, not stuck in time
Both provide ways of keeping the theme of World of Warcraft Classic but also realizing that vanilla World of Warcraft on version 12 can’t last forever. The mass majority of players won’t want to stick around in the past forever, they will want to move on and chase the next nostalgia high, be it reliving a certain moment in classic that had passed once again or moving forward.
While vanilla World of Warcraft had far more aspects than any other time in World of Warcraft history that helped build communities, going back to classic isn’t going to bring back the same communities. When I played during vanilla and eventually Burning Crusade, I met a great many people. Some of them I teamed up with, some of them I actually met, and some of them I am still friends with today after nearly 8 years. Those bonds were forged in an environment where grouping was required, everyone was learning, and a challenge was present.
When going back to a game you already know, there is no learning and the challenge is greatly diminished. You know what you need to do to progress, you know what each boss does, and you know best how to accomplish all of those things. Why? Because it happened and the information is out there. There is no discovery and no wonder for you and your group to find out, it’s just going through the paces. Without a new environment, combined with a challenge, and a need to group, those bonds, those communities that I built and was apart of earlier, never truly come again. With an MMO the social aspect is important, but building that social aspects require a few key ingredients. Simply going back to a version of World of Warcraft where communities thrived simply won’t be enough to bring that aspect back.
World of Warcraft Classic is a great idea on multiple levels, but many are going to find disappointment once it finally comes around and the rose-colored glasses come off when it reached its peak of content.