Perfect Ten: Ten weird things I’m relearning with WoW Classic

    
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It’s been a strange week. No – it’s been a strange year in MMO gaming, all things considered. As I’m going through old Lord of the Rings Online zones thanks to a progression server, enjoying the resurrection of City of Heroes, and as of this past Tuesday, playing a version of World of Warcraft that hasn’t been seen since very early 2007. We’ve all collectively entered a time machine and shot back to the past to indulge in some serious nostalgia gaming while the MMO industry goes through this puberty phase in preparation for a new era.

There are a lot of eyeballs on WoW Classic and in it as well. For me, it’s sorting out how much of returning to this game is transitory nostalgia that will lift in a few weeks like the morning fog and how much is actually still fun to play in its own right. While I can already tell that I will continue to prefer retail World of Warcraft as my WoW of choice, I’ve observed and experienced several things that have reminded me of the joys and struggles of this MMO’s past.

As such, I’m going to make a list for you today: ten weird things I’m relearning about the old game with WoW Classic. It’ll involve a lot of navel gazing, so be warned!

1. The graphics kind of suck

I think one of the best things that Blizzard’s art team ever did for World of Warcraft was hew to a very stylized look for the game (that flowed out of the RTS series), which certainly helped the game have a visual staying power. Yet Blizzard’s certainly been upping the polygon count and other graphical tricks over the years, and jumping back in time to see the sharp edges of everything, the old character models, and the less expressive world was rather jarring. I can still lose myself in it, yes, but it makes me so grateful that we have a better-looking title now in 2019 than we did back in 2004.

2. The one thing I miss the most from modern WoW? Quest directions.

I’ve seen a lot of chatter about the old school design of WoW Classic and how that’s made people pay attention and not take advancement for granted. But the one thing I am struggling with the most in this regard is the sheer lack of quest prompts. Without symbols on the map or minimap showing where quests are, where you go, and a quest tracker itself, going through the core content of actually questing is an exercise in constantly opening up the journal to reference it. That’s cute for about three minutes, but I couldn’t stand it past that point and had to install the Questie mod to make it somewhat playable.

3. The one thing I missed the most from vanilla? A larger sense of world.

It’s hard not to feel very, very small when you’re playing Classic. You run everywhere; there are no mounts, at least not until 40, and just forget about flying. The zone — the area — you’re in is your entire world at any given time, and you are forced to absorb it and immerse yourself in it. I love how this makes everything feel so large and even dangerous around me, even while it’s forced me to slow down.

4. I’ve taken travel for granted

Oh dearie me, I really have. When you jump into Classic, the only tool you have to get somewhere really fast is either (a) a hearthstone with an hour-long cooldown or (b) dying to get sent back to a graveyard somewhere. Zepplins, ships, and the very limited flight points offer faster travel as well. That’s it. I’ve seriously contemplated rerolling as a Shaman just to get that faster hearth cooldown because this is so bad. Then again, everyone else is in the same boat, so to speak, so it makes it bearable.

5. The early game is full of small but significant points of progress

I had to laugh that a grey piece of level 5 gear actually ended up being an upgrade for my chest slot — and I kept wearing it for the next seven levels because Classic is nothing if not extremely stingy on loot (more on that in a bit). But when I did get that six-slot bag or that rare armor upgrade or my very first green item, it was more exciting than the last 20 times I got a purple item in Battle for Azeroth. And I actually care about weapon skill, which actually sent me on a sea crossing journey early on to get my staff training just so my Warlock could rock a long stick instead of a knife.

6. How did anyone get anything usable?

I envision WoW Classic as a miser who has the tightest grip possible over its wealth. It begrudgingly gives up a few copper or a weapon you can’t use every now and then, but for the most part I wasn’t getting anything useful from quest rewards or drops. A guildie actually helped me out by crafting a series of bags for me because I was so inventory starved, and when it came to my gear, I was vastly more concerned about a point or two of extra armor over how I actually looked wearing this all.

7. Talent trees are awesomesauce!

I’m allowed to use the term “awesomesauce” because 2004 is here again and that’s just how we rock it. Seriously, Blizzard was a fool to abandon talent trees because the second I dinged 10 and got my first point, I felt like a kid in a candy store agonizing over how I was going to spend it. If I could port one thing from Classic to Retail, this would be it. Bring back talent trees!

8. Running away is a perfectly valid strategy that doesn’t always work

At one point I found an underwater cave with a chest tucked inside. Unfortunately, it was surrounded by Murloc oracles who had the longest aggro range I’ve ever seen. Almost immediately I had four of them on my tail, and I let all pretense of bravery evaporate as I tried to swim away. Of course, this is Classic, and getting away is a 50/50 proposition at the best of times, so I died.

I’ve died many, many times.

9. I’m glad this pre-Cataclysm version of the world is being preserved

Even if Classic doesn’t end up being hugely successful in the long run, I’m gratified to see that Blizzard is helping with video game preservation by bringing back the original look of the world. I’ve really missed seeing things like old Brill and unbroken Barrens and the much smaller version of Stormwind. They might not mean much to people who weren’t there for the original, but to me, at least, it’s like someone sprucing back up your childhood home and keeping it open in case you want to go back and think upon the old days.

10. When you’re not interested in the endgame offered, you make your own fun

To be honest, I hated the vanilla endgame of high-level dungeons and raiding (I thought they were pretty boring back in 2006) and have no interest in doing any of that when I hit 60. So what do you do when the game doesn’t offer you a lot of alternatives? You forge your own path and make your own goals. For me, it’s leveling Engineering up to the cap and making some fun toys for play. If a progression server or a transfer isn’t announced after that, I may either reroll or quit, but at least I’ll have a fun journey for a while!

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at justin@massivelyop.com or eliot@massivelyop.com with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”
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Maggie May

#8 Running away …. yea, been down to 1 health and survived or had lots of health and died really quickly, it varies.

Alyn
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Alyn

Talent trees are DEFINITELY AWESOMESAUCE!

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teppic

Most of the old style stuff in Classic is why I’m playing that and never load the live game. Everything matters – every point on your gear, which skills you train (as you can’t afford them all), which skills you use in combat, which talents you pick, which professions you pick, etc.

The entire experience is almost incomparable to current day WoW where you can just run around killing packs of mobs with pretty much no risk of death, and where there’s no real choice to make because “everything is a good choice” and you can do all content regardless.

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Dug From The Earth

you make your own fun

yup… just keep forking over 15 a month to blizzard so you can make your own fun.

never understood that.

I can make my own fun, and I dont need to pay someone else to do it, nor should I.
I pay money for things to entertain me in ways im not able to do.

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Fisty

Weird flex. Paying for entertainment is a pretty standard thing.

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Dug From The Earth

Paying someone else to provide entertainment TO you is a pretty standard thing.

Paying someone else so you can provide your OWN entertainment, isnt.

Paying video game developers so you can create your own entertainment, is like buying a book from an author who sets up the world and characters in the first chapter and then says, “Ok, you write the other 600 pages yourself”. (and if this is realistically a sensible concept… I guess I better start writing books… or at least the first chapter of books, so I can make some $$$)

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Fisty

So, like buying D&D books to create your own journey? I get what youre saying, but its paying for a service.

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Michael18

What you’re saying highlights the difference between old school and modern MMO very nicely.

With the modern MMO, the expectation is to be entertained and amused from the moment of logging in until logging out. With old-school MMOs the expectation is to obtain access to a virtual world as an environment where I can meet others, explore, and do whatever I like. You pay for the service of providing and maintaining that virtual space.

It’s like paying for a movie (modern MMO) vs. paying for access to a tennis club (old-school MMO). The tennis court does not provide the entertainment, you have to do that on your own (and you have to find and bring the 1 or 3 other players or meet them at the club house).

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Sarah Cushaway

Maybe it’s because I hopped into WoW in early 2005 after playing FFXI (and some EQ2), but you want a game that didn’t tell you jackcrap about where to go? Vanilla FFXI. And people still managed to figure that out, too. Seriously. Quest indicators are a horrible addition to modern MMOs that stifle exploration and some of the adventure.

Eliot Lefebvre
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Eliot Lefebvre

I mean, in the sense that “figuring out where to go” meant “finding the Windower download and then going to Alakazham,” yes, people figured that out just fine.

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Matthew Yetter

There IS a quest tracker. You just have to manually add your quests to it by Shift+clicking the quest in your log. And not all quests have objectives that it’s willing to track.

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teppic

It tracks progress, but it doesn’t add any icons to the minimap, which is what he was talking about.

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Bash

What i feel weird, most of the points made is not weird to me at all. Actually want me to play more and abandon retail forever or atleast until they move on from this BFA thingy and start making the game good again. This is just my stupid opinion ofcourse.
Nice article Justin but please dont give up on classic just yet

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IronSalamander8 .

It’s a good article and I like the points you make here Justin.

1-I loved WC3 but seeing the graphics being put into an MMO has always thrown off any immersion I had in the game (that and the myriad pop culture references). One thing I do like about modern WoW is that while it still has the same style, it looks much better. Despite my own slightly negative view of the game overall, the graphic design team deserves a lot of credit for that.

2-I’m indifferent to the quest directions. Most of the quest mobs were only 20 feet away from the quest givers anyway, with some obvious exceptions, so I never felt it was a big deal, but they don’t hurt anything either. I’m perfectly happy to play with or without them.

3-One thing that WoW does better than many games, CoX included, is that instead of so many zone lines with loading in between, is that the continents were pretty seamless to travel around. That does make the world feel less disjointed. MMO worlds in general are pretty small as it is, fast travel is convenient and I do use it a lot, but it does make the small worlds feel even smaller.

4-I too have been a bit spoiled by modern MMOs with their easy rapid transit systems. CoX had travel powers which also made travel fast and easy most of the time (ask a Blaster friend about snipers in Brickstown though XD). I don’t mind slower travel, I played EQ for years after all, but when play time is limited as it often is these days, it can be bothersome.

5-I remember when people mocked me for working on my priest’s weapon skills back in the day. This was like EQ, getting those skills up, so it felt normal to me, and I was going to darn well make sure I had every skill I could get and max it out! She was/is a tailor/enchanter partly to help out with that bag situation back then!

6-Again, me coming from EQ meant that the quest rewards actually felt pretty good. Help an orc farmer with his scorpion problem and get green boots? Yes, please!

7-I loathe the current talent system, especially when added to BfA’s lack of new skills meaning I got nothing new from 111-120. The classic talent tree’s actual skills left a lot to be desired, and part of why I decided not to go back (being unable to get a build I actually wanted to play), but the system started in classic felt great in BC and Wrath for me. I genuinely enjoyed my bubble priest’s talent build back in Wrath.

8-I generally didn’t have too many issues with this, but it certainly can be helpful to get out of Dodge at times. Running away from the Son of Arugal certainly became a thing for a time. The fact that mobs leashed instead of chasing you till you zoned like in EQ (for more than one reason) made it an effective option when needed.

9-My first WoW experience was in beta as an undead and I really love the Gothic horror environment of Brill and their starting area in general. I’m not a huge fan of the post-cataclysm world. The only thing I really like about cataclysm is that it let me play goblins, even if their starting area is a bit rough.

10-I’m not a huge end game person anyway. My background is tabletop RPGs where there really isn’t an end game anyway. Part of why I liked CoX so much, very few people really cared about Hamidon and the game was heavily focused on alts. I have a lot of alts in WoW too, mostly various horde ones (2 alliance, 1 of each Draenei type), so I’d rather fool around on an alt than raid all the time.

I really would like to see some of the old with some of the new. I never liked WoW till BC and Wrath (although I had stopped playing before LFG was a thing until coming back much later), but current WoW does feel lacking as well. This is why I hope some of the things in classic and the best stuff I did like later on would be used to make retail a more satisfying experience.

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Utakata

Soooooo slooooooooowwwwww….

…I blame more TERA and B&S for spoiling me on that one than retail. But yeah, combat is like watching a river of molasses descend down a 30 degree plain on a cold Winter’s day. >.<

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Utakata

“Er…that suggests you are playing Classic, Uta.”

Oh right. A friends ask me to help them out over there, so I rolled something to do just that! Since it was no extra cost to my account, then why not? o.O

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styopa

You don’t think #2 and #3 are directly related?

#5 – it’s one of the worst features of GW2: the shit-piles of worthless crap you get that managing it is like a part of the job. Here’s your (we don’t even bother to identify the worthless gear you just got so at least it’ll STACK) 1400th faceless thing you’ll throw into the mystic toilet. HINT: if you have to invent an in-game magic garbage disposal, you might be doing something wrong.

Good list, thanks.