Were you there?
Many of us were. Many weren’t. Either way, November 23rd, 2004 was a watershed date for the MMORPG industry and one watched and experienced by millions of gamers. It was on this day 13 years ago that Blizzard finally transitioned World of Warcraft from beta testing to live operation, ushering in an age of Azeroth, DKP minus, murlocs, and Leeroy Jenkins.
I was there, both at the end of beta and the start of launch. As time had made a mockery of my memories, I can only remember brief bits: The server downtime, the rise of the phenomenon, making footprints in Coldridge Valley with my Dwarf Hunter, and pretty much shoving every other game to the background for the next year or so.
I thought it might be worth the effort of dusting off the cobwebs of my — and your — memories by revisiting the first three months of World of Warcraft’s live operation, taking us from November 2004 through January 2005. What happened during this time? How did Blizzard respond to the floodgates of players pouring into this game? How different was it from what we play now? Let’s reminisce together!
In the lull between expansions, I’ve been hard at work bringing my alts up to the level cap, unlocking all of the class mounts, picking up the occasional appearance that I really want from the Mage Tower challenge… you know, the usual stuff. And the result is that I find myself asking a question that surprises me a wee bit in the context of World of Warcraft: What is going to happen to all of the class orders?
I neither had an answer nor cared about one when it came to garrisons. Presumably, they’d continue to sit there, a testament to what happens when designers try to make housing that isn’t housing and don’t understand why people like housing in the first place. But the order halls are different. They’re cross-factional, they’re important, and perhaps most importantly, they represent something that makes different use of the resources of the world.
So what’s happening to these orders? How are they changing? How does this play into the war between the Horde and the Alliance becoming properly hot? And might we get some extra lore about these things?
There’s a lot of information coming out about patch 7.3.5 at this point. Not everything, of course, and a lot of it is based more on datamining than actual stuff that has been announced. But it seems fair to say that World of Warcraft’s immediate future for the next lengthy expansion gap is on the test servers right now, and some of it is obvious while some pieces are… less so. And, if I might be so bold, it even gives us a pretty clear picture of the next few months right out of the gate.
Right now the live game is, obviously, focused on Antorus. That’s the focus for the actual gameplay, and the slow trickle of wings into the group finder are the big thing to do and look forward to until the whole of the content is available by January. For that matter, I think that part of the goal of the next month or so is to give people all the reason in the world to run and explore Antorus and see the story for themselves if they’re interested in having a personal stake in what happens next.
Antorus is out now, and if you want to see the cinematic that ends the very long-running story about the Burning Legion and Sargeras, well, that’s easy to do. It’s kind of spoiler-filled, though, so I’m not going to be talking about it here in any detail beyond mentioning that Azeroth does not exactly end things without a major impact. And needless to say, people have already started asking “why is it that World of Warcraft’s next expansion is going back to factional squabbles when this just happened?”
It’s a question with lots of good answers. So I want to dive into exactly those. In fact, you can neatly divide the answers up into three categories: The anthropic principle, real-life parallels, and the change of flavors. And it’s not that one or the other is the “real” answer or the “right” one; it’s that all three of them combine perfectly to make factional squabbles a perfectly reasonable next destination after the cosmic invasion of the last expansion.
So the latest raid for World of Warcraft is out now, but perhaps you don’t have a regular raid group. What will you do while waiting for the content to be available? Perhaps you’ll try out the new test realm, which is rolling out the promised worldwide level scaling for leveling characters. The scaling will ensure that you can enjoy zones in their entirety before outleveling them, along with level-appropriate rewards along the way.
Future updates to the PTR will include new Silithus changes, new Ulduar timewalking, and more post-Antorus content. But that’s not there yet.
Or you might find other things to do with your time, instead. For example, the sixth season of Legion’s ongoing PvP challenges has started, so maybe you don’t care much about Antorus but do care about beating the living snot out of fellow players. Heck, the bright side about Antorus is that there will be ongoing tuning and new Legendary upgrade items coming even from Mythic keystone runs, so you’ll have plenty of opportunity to work your way up and get things done regardless.
Is it too early to open your presents? TERA
says it’s OK, so if Santa gets upset, we’re totally pointing fingers.
The action MMO pushed out its Miniguns update today, which turns out to be more promotions than content. Still, free stuff is always good, right? All players can log in from now through January 2nd to get a free Elin Gunner bundle that includes pink gear to speed level a character up to the cap.
All players will also enjoy a free additional character slot per account as long as they log in through December 8th. And all during next month, every weekend the game will pay out free boom boxes for every player that puts in at least three hours each weekend.
The update does contain one scrap of new in-game content, which is the hard mode for the RK-9 Kennel. New fight mechanics and a tougher doggy await a legion of pink-clad characters.
Beware, gentle reader, for World of Warcraft story spoilers lurk after the break!
With the rollout of the Antorus raid over the next few weeks, World of Warcraft fans are finally being treated to the conclusion of the main Legion storyline. The Antorus cinematic, which is shown following a successful raid run, is loaded with powerful story elements that sets the scene for next year’s Battle for Azeroth expansion.
We won’t spoil it for you if you want to experience it in-game, but if you’re not a raider or you’re not patient, the full three-minute cinematic lurks below. One thing is for certain: It’s giving fans a lot to talk and speculate about for the upcoming expansion pack!
Next week, players can start entering the raid that closes out the first storyline ever explored in the World of Warcraft universe. The raid on Antorus, the Burning Throne, is a strike against the heart of the Burning Legion, a chance to fight the forces of Sargeras that have been assaulting Azeroth ever since the first Warcraft. So it seems only right that there will be a couple of familiar faces within the raid, as pointed out within the new raid preview. This is the big drag-out battle, and it’s going to be a big one.
While you wait for a little while longer for the fight to start, of course, you can enjoy a few quick hotfixes that address set bonus issues for every class and spec and make sure anniversary world bosses offer you more artifact power instead of gold. There’s also a minor fix to the Siege of Orgrimmar raid, useful for those farming old appearances. Hey, not everything needs to be the next world-ending conflict, right?
Right out of the gate in the recent World of Warcraft Q&A, Game Director Ion Hazzikostas said that WoW Classic wasn’t going to be the focal point of discussion, as the team is only “at the beginnings of this process.” However, he did confirm that Blizzard isn’t looking to monkey around with too many changes.
“We know Vanilla means Vanilla,” Hazzikostas said. “We know that it’s about community and that means some inconveniences, that means some of the rough edges. That’s not something we’re looking to move away from. It’s more which version of that experience… is it the 2005 version? The 2006 version?”
The rest of the Q&A session primarily focused on the upcoming Patch 7.3.5 and next year’s Battle for Azeroth expansion. If you’re curious what’s going to be in the next patch, the highlights include a preview of the Seething Shore battleground, zone level scaling, Legion epilogue quest content, and Ulduar Timewalking.
Icy Veins has a great roundup of the main points form the hour-long talk, although you could settle in to watch the whole thing yourself after the break.
It’s a really weird and interesting time to be a World of Warcraft fan. While the announcement of WoW Classic has revitalized discussion about the launch version of the MMO, it seems just about nobody can agree on what Blizzard should do when it implements the legacy servers.
For their part, WoW’s devs are still sifting through ideas. Two of the game’s community managers spent some time discussing class balance while the dev team continues to be formed. “Should class balance be left as it was, or should it be tweaked within a certain margin, or should it be constantly tuned and worked on?” one CM posted. “I’m not so certain that any specific one is the default, correct choice.”
It sounds as though Blizzard is trying to elicit feedback before it makes any decisions: “If folks want a true 1:1 Vanilla experience, then we want to see the discussion of that. If people think there should be changes here or there, then we’ll want to see that too.”
It’s hard to imagine that anyone is going to be upset about the idea of no lockboxes in World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth. Sure, Blizzard makes use of them in several other games, but at this point there are no plans to bring them into Azeroth, according to a new interview. (Whether or not that will change in the future remains to be seen.) Of course, the same interview that confirms that also confirms that we will not be getting our own personal boats, so it’s sort of good news, bad news.
Other interviews have indicated that the team wants to bring forward Mission Table-style content, so that doesn’t mean we won’t have anything similar; it just means it won’t be a boat.
Last but not least, there’s another “no” on the list that will either make you happy or sad depending on how you feel about the Legion mechanics for classes. While every class and spec will be adjusted and altered moving into the next expansion, there will be no major overhauls on par with the Legion shift, certainly nothing like the large-scale rework of Survival Hunters. Exactly how things will be balanced remains to be seen, but this is good news if you like your current spec’s playstyle. If you don’t… well, it’ll be adjusted, not wildly changed.
Back in May, I wrote a whole article about why I was leaving World of Warcraft behind. All of the reasons I had back then? Still valid. Fact is, I’m still proud of that column (to the extent that I’m proud of anything I write; low self-esteem is a hell of a drug). So why am I here talking so much about Battle for Azeroth? How are you supposed to reconcile those conflicting facts? Do I hate this game or not?
The answer to those questions, in reverse order, is this: no; I highly doubt anyone actually wants to reconcile anything about my stated views; and because what we’ve seen so far actually addresses a lot of the problems I wrote about back in May. New information means new evaluation.
Obviously, this is not a blanket statement of “the next expansion will make everything better” because there are far too many question marks left to feel smug or confident about that. But, and this is an important “but,” we’ve got signs that several of the problems from Legion are actually being addressed. And considering that Legion was pretty good already, that brings us to a good spot.
Did you know about all the MMOs I hate? I sure as heck didn’t! I mean, I knew there were a few games I hated (Scarlet Blade, Alganon) and some that I have pretty poor feelings toward for various reasons (Star Citizen, EVE Online, League of Legends, H1Z1: Kash of the Kow), but those are also games I discuss only in particular circumstances.
Yet thankfully, I have been informed over the near-decade of writing about MMOs that there are a number of games I thought I liked but that I do, in fact, hate. This was a surprise to me, but I think that for purposes of comprehension, it’s best for me to list for reference all the games that I apparently utterly despise. It’s all very confusing to me, but I’m confident that by sharing and making the occasional off-color joke, I’ll be able to decipher it all.