WoW Factor: Thoughts on the impending arrival of WoW Classic

    
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This is not hard to do.

So now we have a date at the end of August for World of Warcraft: Classic. That’s actually a lot later than I had expected, but I think it makes a certain amount of sense; I expect that the live game’s next patch will be timed aiming at another game’s expansion release, and so Classic winds up coming in with enough lead time that fans can migrate over seamlessly. Even if “migration” doesn’t appear to be what’s going to happen, for the most part.

To the surprise of no one, we had an interesting discussion in work chat about exactly this development, with the writers who took part in that discussion chattering back and forth about whether or not any of us would be diving right in there. Bree was actually the one who expressed my thoughts before I did, in fact; to paraphrase, what she wants back isn’t the original launch version of the game, but Wrath of the Lich King, and not even really that.

But let’s step back a bit, because before I dive into that, I want to talk a little more about my thoughts on the game as a whole.

It's tempting to say this is the fault of the Cataclysm, but it always looked like this.

No dungeons, no problem

Everyone knows that there’s going to be no queueing up for dungeons in the game’s Classic version because that didn’t exist in the game until the later half of Wrath of the Lich King. This means that running a dungeon is going to be much more of a chore, one I’m frankly not looking forward to. However, I think it’s interesting to think about that facet of the game, because what we think of as the game’s dungeons has changed a lot since launch – and the emphasis on same.

Put simply, in the vanilla game the instanced and non-instanced dungeons were really kind of the same thing; they were big and difficult areas you existed in over a period of time. It wasn’t until Wrath of the Lich King that dungeons started turning into more of a series of experience setpieces and you were expected to run them more readily (first we got our daily quests to push you to run them, then our queue with daily rewards).

The difference is that the game is, well, not built around dungeons in the same way. Instead of emphasizing running and re-running dungeons, my memories have more to do with running dungeons rather irregularly, usually more for quest rewards than the hopes of drops. It was a very different way to play the game and a generally different experience.

For people who don’t prefer hanging out in chats and slowly assembling parties, dungeons are going to be less of a thing. But they also don’t need to be as much of a thing, which is interesting to consider.

Obviously it won't be a Blood Elf, though.

Things that actually feel fun

You know what I’m looking forward to playing again? Paladin. But not because Retribution Paladin was good at this point in the game’s history. It took a long time for that to be a thing, and quite frankly this was when any serious top-end content required a Holy Paladin to be healing and nothing else. But with the game being less about dungeons, it also meant that you could kind of opt to ignore that fact, and just go out and do some things with Retribution.

And what was great about Retribution? Well… Seals. Auras. Nigh-on invulnerability as you slowly whittled through things, thanks to talents boosting your survivability substantially. Sure, your gameplay was often heavily passive and it could have some really boring stretches, but I still remember how much I enjoyed swinging around my big two-hander and clearing enemies out, even if it was on the slower side.

Of course, it was still fun to play Retribution with those elements in both The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King. Those expansions occasionally trimmed elements I liked, but they were usually minor edits. It felt more and more like the big changes to classes and specs were fundamentally changes of addition, and it was only as the game wore on that it felt like I was losing more and more of what made the class fun for me.

Yes, a melee strike and such was a nice addition to the class toolkit in TBC. But it didn’t change that, well, I still had an assortment of seals and auras that I could swap between as the situation dictated to provide a passive benefit.

This just gets me back to thinking about the modern state of the game, and about Paladins. Sure, the Paladin is in a fine spot now damage-wise. It’s within a reasonable margin of other specs. But we no longer have those iconic defining features, and I think a lot of other Paladin players looking forward to Classic are looking forward to… well, that. And that brings us full circle.

Everything old is new again

I think, at the heart of the matter, there’s a truth to the statement of “you think you want [Classic], but you don’t.” It’s not an accurate statement, but it is getting at a heart of player discontent not really being fixed by Classic per se.

Classic is a fixed thing, a museum. Yes, I know, there’s going to be a staggered set of content rollouts, but it still ends after a certain point. And while I’ll no doubt check it out and enjoy my seals and such again for a bit, I have absolutely no doubt that I will indeed get bored after a time and be done with what is, essentially, a finished game.

The oldest conceivable school.Furthermore, I have no doubt that there are people who are, primarily, nostalgic not for a game but for a time. We all have our mental narratives about how people used to be more sociable or friendly, or how having no queues meant everyone was friends, or whatever. They’re rarely accurate, but they interact with memory and experience in such a way that they feel accurate. As someone with a long dislike for slowly forming groups for content, I know that I did a lot fewer dungeons in Vanilla… but I also know that I still cleared every dungeon in the game at least once, and clearly I did it more than just once or twice. So my own memory of “this is intolerably annoying” is just as tinged as someone remembering that as the golden age of server communities and friends.

I feel like “you think you want it, but you don’t” is more targeted at those groups. Yes, the museum is going to get boring. No, playing the old game won’t bring back the old time. But there’s a reason why a lot of people do want Classic that has nothing to do with either of the above, and that’s even excluding the people who are just curious about how it looks.

A comment I saw the other day was all about how the current live game offers no sense of progression, whereas in Classic you can spend time farming rare materials to get a good item crafting and not relying on randomness. This is, to be fair, kind of a poor argument against the random nature of the game in its Classic state, since we’ve had better systems added to the game since then…

But that doesn’t matter, does it? Those systems are gone now. They’ve been removed.

Remember that quote from Bree back in the beginning? She said that she wanted Wrath back, but immediately amended it by saying that she doesn’t actually want Wrath back; she wants the philosophy that informed that expansion, the design chops and dedication to the game’s foundation while also moving forward. And when your options are the husk of the game that exists now or Classic?

Yeah, Classic looks a lot better. It’s why I keep hoping that Classic is going to be focused more on that as a reminder, as a trip back to remember why people liked this way of playing the game. It’s why I want the game to turn back the clock, to undo the changes that really did start in Cataclysm and have shot all the way through the essence of the title.

You can’t go back again. But this is going back again, back to the point that’s at least closer to when the game was fun than the current state of things. Unfortunately, there’s no way we’re really going to get Wrath back, obviously, so this is the closest we’ll get.

Unless, of course, it isn’t.

Yes, tune in next week for a completely nuts piece about somehow rolling the clock back and offering you a chance to import your Classic character in a very, very weird column. Until then, you can leave your feedback down below or mail it along to eliot@massivelyop.com. And before that, I should actually explore the Classic beta for a trip down memory lane. (Cue up the Nas track, would you?)

War never changes, but World of Warcraft does, with a decade of history and a huge footprint in the MMORPG industry. Join Eliot Lefebvre each week for a new installment of WoW Factor as he examines the enormous MMO, how it interacts with the larger world of online gaming, and what’s new in the worlds of Azeroth and Draenor.
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Estranged

“Censorship reflects society’s lack of confidence in itself.” – Stewart

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I’m gonna play either Human Rogue or Human Mage. Still hard to decide.

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Randy Savage

Which do you prefer to do? Eating after every fight or drinking after every fight?

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Ben Stone

I didn’t really want Classic, I wanted Classic Remastered. With the world, character models and interface updated to today’s standards, but with the gameplay and class definition of old.

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The interface between Vanilla and Retail is the same.

I would hate having to play with those horrible Disney graphics, but that’s just me.

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Anthony Clark

My body is ready.

I’m torn on what I want to level first.

Hunter would make the coin easiest.
Warlock is the caster hunter where I wouldn’t have to feed the pets.
Paladin is a great mount, and hard to kill
Rogue is super fun hiding stabby party time

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

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Bruno Brito

They’re all relatively cheap.

Let’s go for endgame: Hunters are tranqbots. You don’t need many. Since a lot of people make hunters to worldfirst rush and farm mats and gold for their real toons, you’ll have relatively decent competition. If you like the pet aspect, then Hunter is ok for open world. You’ll be for a rough awakening for raiding. They’re decent in PvP. Lack a bit of mobility, since their mobility is tied to a daze, but they’re a good, jack of all trades pvp class.

Warlocks are hunters, way more viable, a bit more expensive, and extremely lategame focused. They get better with gear, and while they’re decent at the start, they’re not as powerful as hunters, for instance. Until they get gear, then they become unstoppable fearmongers. They’re absolute stamina whores and need a lot of health to work. Good in PvP. Good in PvE. But again, you’ll suffer a bit on the early days of raiding.

Paladins: Decent at PvP. Absolutely necessary at PvE, at the expense of your playing pleasure. Do you like healing? Well, sure, but it’s pretty lackluster playing to be fair. Do you like dps’ing? Well, find a guild, because people will shittalk you. A LOT. Do you wanna tank? Go play a Warrior. I’m not joking. While i’m a huge advocate for people to just play what they want and have fun with their friends, Paladins lack taunts, which requires even more threat control from your team. They have to play pristine to achieve what a Warrior does with ease. They also don’t get defensecapped, and their Redoubt talent is tied to crits, which is painful, you don’t wanna get critted in raids. You can live as a offtank, maybe.

To be fair, even if you are a holy paladin, since they’re relatively common, awhen you start raiding, you can raid as a hybrid, healing and hitting stuff with spelldamage, MAYBE. But i honestly don’t know how hard the stigma will be with pallies. I’m willing to bet it’ll still be painful.

Rogue: Cheap class. Extremely fucking potent in PvP. They’re also a tilting class, which is a huge advantage since no one ever plays calm and collected against a Rogue. They’re decent levelers, and more fun than Paladins at that. 25copper Flash Power is nothing, you can chain CC people for years, and Eviscerate is static damage, which means your scaling is irrelevant, and you can kill people with a Worn Dagger 1-2 1.7 speed. It also crits for 2k sometimes, which is pure bs. You also get to choose your fights and easemode a lot of gather quests.

My personal opinion: I’ll roll a Shaman or Paladin on Classic, but if you wanna level quick, go Hunter, or lock second if you intend the toon to be your main. If you wanna piss people off, go Rogue, gank menethil, get famous.

But all in all, in the end, roll what you like. It’s your journey, buddy.

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Anthony Clark

I played WoW since beta. Played 7years of it after launch.

Leveled every class. I do have that ‘been there, done that’ feeling.

This won’t be classic unless we can get a lot of people named variations of xXSephirothXx and xXxLegolasxXx and talking about Chuck Norrie in The Barrens, but I’m willing to give it shot.

The classes I mentioned earlier are the ones I enjoyed the most personally.

Hunters were always an easy mode and made the money easiest.
Paladins were always the Bubble-Hearth masters.
Rogues were great a cherry-picking what they want to kill.
And Warlocks were always fun with pets and DOTS.

The only class I never really liked a lot was Shaman. Never cared for the totem nonsense.

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Bruno Brito

This won’t be classic unless we can get a lot of people named variations of xXSephirothXx and xXxLegolasxXx and talking about Chuck Norrie in The Barrens, but I’m willing to give it shot.

Believe me, you’ll get that. To the point where’s not even fun anymore.

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Venomlicious

Pally raiding is healing only. They are a very good main tank healer but are not allowed to attack in raids. You can not waste mana in the old raids at all. I was a pally back in vanilla and raided weekly.

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Greaterdivinity

Nigh-on invulnerability as you slowly whittled through things, thanks to talents boosting your survivability substantially.

I recommend prot/holy (with a bit of ret)! It’s how I leveled and while it was “boring” in the sense that it was mostly “Cast SoCru, Judge SoCru, Cast SoRi, go afk until thing dies.”, but holy crap was it effective. I think I probably solo’d every group quest on my way to 60, even some of the 5 man ones. Was excellent for AoE farming Sorrow Hill. Hell, I think I even solo’d the 5 man boss in Eastern Plaguelands at 60 when I had some gear.

Man it was fun being functionally invulnerable between high armor, block, heals, bubbles, LoH, and BoWis giving me endless mana. The perfect playstyle for a second monitor where you can chat and watch YouTube without needing to worry about your character.

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Sarah Cushaway

I’m hyped for Vanilla hunter (the first class I rolled). Quivers. Pets that were actually necessary for leveling because you would die without them, ammo, pet food, pet training, the jump shot….the dead zone. Yeah, even that.

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Bruno Brito

Eliot, just play a Spellpower Ret. Get mageblade, get some spellpower stuff, go whack things, have fun, profit.

hurbster
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hurbster

Do Elsweyr, take holiday in Azeroth, sorted.

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Sorenthaz

Dungeons in Classic were much more like ventures into big sprawling things that took 2-4 hours on average, with the higher level dungeons (Sunken Temple, Blackrock Depths, Scholomance, etc.) being the longest ones. The loot was more important at 60, while leveling they were mostly done to knock out quests (particularly class quests) and get some nice bursts of exp + loot. Though I remember the Scarlet wings were pretty popular just because of how much stuff you could get out of them. 40’s kind of sucked though because Maraudon and Ulduman were pretty long treks, so Zul’Farrak was the most popular dungeon to run around that area.

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Carebear

This means that running a dungeon is going to be much more of a chore, one I’m frankly not looking forward to.

I cannot disagree more… Because of that, dungeons will be a pleasure to run. Everyone will behave well, because there is not a magic button to join a dungeon even if you are jerk… Dungeons are chores, when you try to complete them with jerks. In classic, even jerks will learn to behave.

Also being nice and good and friendly will add your name to other peoples friend lists, so each day it will be easier for you to find groups. I never had problems join dungeons and groups in games with no lfg. Sometimes I would even “hide” by playing an alt, because I usually get many whispers on main for group content…

And this is how you have a community.. this is why vanilla wow was awesome.

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Sorenthaz

Yeah the issues I ran into (back in the day) were more that people weren’t always well equipped and you’d have people trying to tank with off specs and lahdeda.

But now there’s so much more knowledge of the game widely available to where there’s less excuse for those shenanigans.

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Utakata

You must of been on the server where all the happy people hang out back then. o.O

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Estranged

It’s amazing how some people are actually happy. Honest to Zeus, there are humans in which their first instinct is to be positive.