One of the things that I tell people going back to Final Fantasy XI now is that the game is, well, a different animal – not just because of patches but because you can’t really transport you back in time to 2003 and replicate that precise experience. I can intellectually remember what it was like to play that game on a dial-up connection, for example, but I can’t really bring that experience back, nor can I flash back to a cultural zeitgeist surrounding the game.
There’s no talk of FFXI Classic on the horizon, naturally. But there is World of Warcraft Classic in our near future. And it’s clear that the designers are hard at work trying their level best to make sure that the game itself is in a classic state. But there’s a whole lot of additional cultural cruft that I’d really like back for the game’s overall classic experience, so here’s an additional chunk of ways that we could get closer to the truly authentic Classic feel.
1. A return to Cosmos
Back in the day, add-ons for WoW were not optional, because the default interface didn’t include things like multiple action bars. No, really, if you wanted to use more than 12 actions (in the days when every class had roughly four hundred), you put those things on multiple pages and you paged through! Or you installed Cosmos, the absolutely vital add-on pack that added dozens of vital things to your game experience and could entirely prevent you from playing if it wasn’t updated and working on patch day.
I’m not saying that Classic should prevent you from having multiple action bars set up. I’m saying that it should make you download Cosmos, every time. Sometimes it just won’t be updated and you’ll have to wait like a week. That’ll be a fresh new experience.
2. Server queues
Do you remember this at all? Do you remember the days when the big prevailing joke about WoW was that you had a queue to get in? And this was somehow a mark against the game? “What a garbage title, all these people want to play it at the same time and it can’t handle it, that’s stupid and dumb.”
This one is easy to replicate by just hiring someone to yank cords periodically or set login numbers to absurd figures. You haven’t had the true launch experience until you’re digging out a GameBoy Advance to play while you wait for the queue. (If you don’t have a GameBoy Advance, you’re obviously not really committed to this project.)
3. Only Thottbot, market fresh
Let’s not mince words, Thottbot was amazing. It was a thing of beauty that used addons – including the aforementioned Cosmos – to just pull all of the information you needed right from the game. If you like Wowhead, you are enjoying Thottbot’s spiritual successor, and there’s a reason there’s a Thottbot skin for the Classic version.
But that’s not what I’m saying I want. I want the game to force you to use an original, factory-fresh version of Thottbot. No looking up information anywhere else. Where is Mankirk’s Wife? You have to check on Thottbot. And if no one has found her yet, well, get looking. Have fun.
Maybe some weird error will have her location listed as the middle of the ocean. Have fun.
4. Torrenting patch downloads
If that brings a twitch to your eye… well, yeah, mine too. But remember, authentic.
5. Classic forum arguments
I don’t just want forums for Classic. I want forums that are dead-set on bringing back arguments that players had from the very day. I want people to complain about the endgame consisting only of Molten Core and Onyxia. I want more stupid unfunny memes that existed in the early days of the game. I want Horde vs. Alliance blood feuds on the forums.
Basically I want no one to have learned everything and for no one to visit the forums at all. Which sort of eliminates the points of the forums bringing back pointless old arguments, but it’s all about that classic feel.
6. Mandatory EverQuest playtime
Danny DeVito once said, “You’ve got to pay the troll toll if you want to get in this boy’s soul.” Similarly, you have to do your time in EverQuest before you can play WoW Classic. You can choose between three options: playing for two hours one weekend before quitting in disgust, playing for three months and getting bored, or playing for three years and developing very strong opinions about how you level.
Obviously, the last one will require you avoiding the classic servers until 2022 at the earliest. But you can really taste the authentic experience of playing the only other MMO that existed at the time, right?
(Note: That would be a joke. I am well aware there were many other MMOs running at the time. It’s called hyperbole, look it up.)
Hey, as long as we’re bringing back pointless old forum arguments, let’s bring back the endpoint of pointless old forum arguments! I’m sure he’ll be all over it.
8. Embittered MMO veterans
Every Wailing Caverns run will be accompanied by at least one player who has seen all of the other MMOs on the market and will happily expound at length about how WoW does all of these things wrong and thus will never last to 2006. Bonus points if he’s supposed to be healing but is too busy griping about how quests have ruined the leveling experience.
Did everyone not get that? Just me? Dang.
9. Azshara Crater
Psst. Look, yes, I know, Azshara Crater wasn’t a thing in Classic. It was something people datamined out that never actually went live. But the way I see it, here’s the perfect opportunity to convince the design team that it was in there and we all loved it and it needs to be brought back.
This one’s going to be really tough to do, but I think a concentrated effort would be enough that we could pull this off and run around in Azshara Crater. And hey, those of you convinced that this will be the salvation of up-to-date WoW, it’s the first step toward producing a splinter timeline wherein Cataclysm never happened. Don’t we all want that?
10. A sense of pure novelty
Oh, gosh, this is the big one that we really need to bring back that classic feeling. Like, sure, we all know intellectually that a big chunk of why WoW made such a huge impact was that it didn’t just deliver a big, sprawling, open virtual world, but it did so in such a way that was accessible to everyone. But we need to get that sense of wonder back. I need to have that feeling of walking around and questing and realizing that for the first time since I’d started playing FFXI this game let me play and just enjoy the game. No fussing with forming parties, no waiting for lengthy and tedious events, no pointless rigamarole, just playing the game.
So, yeah, I’ll take one box of wonder to transport me back to age 22 to accompany the server launch. Make it a big one. Include some Transformers: Energon toys in there too, could you? Those were cool.