WoW Factor: WoW Classic is doing everything right in the wake of BlizzCon

    
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Herp to the derp.

In the wake of BlizzConline 2021, I have some criticisms about the WoW Classic presentation. Specifically, the first part of the panel about The Burning Crusade coming to Classic was kind of unstructured and cringeworthy, and it probably would have been better-served by a more dry recounting of the features that came to the game with the first expansion. And… that’s it! That seems to be the only thing that was wrong with this announcement.

Once you step back from that (and the absolutely destructive fact that we all knew this was happening a day ahead of time due to Blizzard’s own self-inflicted leaks), there’s really nothing whatsoever to fault with the presentation. Heck, there’s nothing whatsoever to fault with the actual execution that we’re getting so far. And it’s worth looking at this specifically because it’s an example of a team behind World of Warcraft listening to players, considering the possibilities, and getting everything right without any sort of need for major changes.

First and foremost, the era split being addressed head-on is basically exactly what the game needed. While I tend to agree with Blizzard’s assumption that most people will want to move on to TBC instead of staying forever in the past, the results of this effort is that the choice ultimately resides in the hands of the player rather than Blizzard just ramming through a straight-up progression server. That is most of what we’re looking at here, but it’s just different enough to acknowledge the divergent opinions.

Removing artificial affectations like spell batching is also a smart decision, in no small part due to the simple timing of things. While the loudest and perhaps most toxic group of players insisting on Classic servers were adamant on keeping things without any changes, the fact of the matter is (as was demonstrated by the actual launch) that some things have changed, and the careful recreation of spell batching was not actual central to enjoying the title. So now that changes are happening anyhow, it’s the right time for it to go away.

Perhaps most importantly, though, none of the changes really affects the core experience that was TBC from having been there. It’s a difficult road to walk when trying to preserve the right version of the game as it was, but even the inclusion of faction-specific seals for both sides feel like a smart move. As someone who was there for this expansion, I think the changes are noteworthy but not onerous in the least. I think they’re all smart decisions.

Of course, I’ve never been in the hashtag-no-changes crowd to begin with, so you may not regard my opinion as valid there. Take from that what you will, but I certainly don’t feel like it’s violating the spirit of the project the way that other positive features I’d like to see in the game would be.

stfu noob

Putting this into context, I think that having Holly Longdale leading the project is definitely a win for the game. It’s clear that Longdale both knows what she’s talking about with regard to history and has plenty of experience managing progression servers, both of which are important for this particular iteration of WoW.

I can see some people being a bit perturbed by the early launch of Draenei and Blood Elves or the option to character boost, but at least from my perspective, both of these choices are good ones given context. There are no doubt a lot of people who want to play the game but are more interested in TBC than the original classic version; these players actually get a chance to still play for just a small up-front investment into the experience.

More substantial is the early release of two new races, but that also strikes me as a certain degree of acknowledging the changes. Draenei and Blood Elves have at this point been in the game longer than they haven’t; they’re no longer this surprising new feature shrouded in mystery. It makes sense to simply let people prepared to roll right into Outland with these races when no one is really going to be all that blown away by the presence of new options.

To put all of this succinctly, I’ve been over here heaping praise on the team for this and I’m not even actually planning on playing TBC at the moment. Something is obviously being done right here because I’m impressed and almost into the idea until I occasionally remind myself that I don’t actually need a refresher course on the expansion. (Because I was there and I played it the first time.)

And then there’s the retail side. And… well, that’s what prompted at least a good chunk of this column because I was looking at the latest controversy in which players are pretty livid that the live team has decided the customization options added at launch are enough, which is barely acceptable for most races and leaves a lot of underserved races like every allied race completely out in the cold.

Really studying the heck out of a skull.

Covering this stuff is exhausting. It’s a case where the priorities of the development team seem wildly at odds with the priorities of actual players, and it took us years to get to a point where the most exciting answer from the subsequent Q&A was at least getting a “we’re not saying no” to the idea of Alliance and Horde players partying up together. Not any actual plans, just at least not the standard blanket denial of player requests for something.

And in contrast to that, we have Holly Longdale over here who clearly knows exactly what sort of project she’s working on, how to manage it, how to leverage the resources available to her, and how to create a vision of the game that does change a few things from the strict confines of the classic experience but does so in service to improving the overall gameplay.

The people in charge of a given MMO are both given an outsized and undersized importance in various ways. There are always things that individual leads are given credit for that aren’t really under their direct control and things that they’re blamed for that are similarly not their fault. But what leadership is unambiguously responsible for is management and vision. The person in charge of a given project is responsible for what’s seen as a priority and what isn’t, for directing resources and staff to address certain problems or ignore others.

It’s for exactly that reason that I feel all the more impressed with how well Longdale is handling her team. I might have felt like part of the presentation didn’t work for me, but the content of it absolutely worked. We have an obvious and clear example of knowing what players want, how to deliver it, and how to balance the need for preservation with avoiding mistakes that were bad calls even at the time.

This is showing just how much Blizzard has to work with and how much influence a project lead can actually have. And in the wake of the online convention, I’m not exasperated with the Classic team but actively impressed, despite not being the target audience in the least. That should say something.

Other than just “you shouldn’t have tried playing a Nightborne.” That’s not something that should have been said.

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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Zandohaha .

“and the absolutely destructive fact that we all knew this was happening a day ahead of time due to Blizzard’s own self-inflicted leaks”

Anyone with half a brain knew this was happening about 6 months ago anyway so I really don’t see how it was somehow destructive.

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Pheeb Hello

Is TBC taking over Vanilla servers? That’s when Classic dies for me if it does. If it gets its own servers, good.

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Alatar

Both/and. Wow Classic live servers will become progression servers and Burning Crusade will be laid on top of them. However, when you log in on each character you will be asked whether this character wants to go TBC or remain with what they’re calling “Classic Era” content. What wasn’t said clearly was whether that means Classic Era characters get transferred to another server or exactly how that works.

But you will be able to choose to remain in Vanilla if you like. My worry about this is that dividing the player base between Burning Crusade Classic and Classic Era WoW, whatever that looks like, may rob the Classic community of its largest asset: the size of the community.

We’ll see, of course. Time always tells, eh?

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Zandohaha .

Pretty sure the end result is going to be them consolidating the players remaining Vanilla Classic players onto a small number of servers while the majority of the players continue on the TBC versions of their current server.

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SmiteDoctor

I’m looking forward to the balance patch that made so many specs worth playing, and made leveling less of a nightmare. Tried playing Classic but when ever I’d get to the the Barrens or Silverpine Forest I’d get wrecked; I play weird hours so I don’t have the option of playing with others so if I can’t solo while leveling then I’m not interested.

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Franklin Adams

As much as I’d like to go back to WoW (slightly less) Classic for TBC, I don’t think I’ll have as much fun. It was a really great period of my life that I’m never going to recreate, mostly because a lot of the people who I was with, whether in the game or in real life, aren’t around, I’m also not the 23 year old Signals Intelligence collector in a shit hot unit that was writing the book (literally) on using unmanned aircraft to stop people setting up roadside bombs and other IEDs. I also don’t have the time to devote to any video game that I did back then, and I know it’ll frustrate me to know I’m not going to be as efficient and effective as a result. I won’t be able to get everything set up for raiding and be the badass nearly indestructible tank that I was.

Really though, the biggest thing stopping me is all of my friends that I played WoW with (some were civilians, some were Soldiers) I haven’t seen or spoken to in years. Some, like the lying fucking Blue Falcon coward piece of shit (but a fucking awesome DPS) who my multiple substance dependent and physically abusive ex-wife cheated on me with while I was deployed a year later (after he faked a mental issue to make himself non-deployable so he could stay at our home post on the rear detachment and not have to risk his sorry ass. We had good people die, including a girl who got pregnant at 15, pushed herself to get a GED and an associate’s degree in electrical engineering while working 35 hours a week on minimum wage at a nowhere dead end job so she could enlist to provide her daughter a future. She was killed in a truly horrific way. She and a couple others should have been the ones on the rear d and not him. I have no desire to see that shitbird ever again because I don’t know what I’d do to him.

Others fell off the face of the earth and I wonder how they’re doing all the time. Others are dead (actually more civilians than other Soldiers, abusing oxys lead a lot of them to heroin, and heroin fucking kills. I had a problem with oxys myself after I got out of the service but I managed to stop using. The pain from the injury is a shitload better than running out of pills and being dope sick). A couple may as well be dead, one’s alive because he’s being kept alive by machines because his parents think their chosen deity will magically rebuild his brain or rewind time so he doesn’t end up with a 7.62 round inside his skull, but he’s gone.

Some are in prison because they gave into greed or material wants and decided that crime paid well or they decided they needed to rob someone to get money to buy drugs. To boil it all down, I would have the same issue in TBC as I do in my real life. I don’t have anyone who I would consider a friend anymore, and hell it’s even less after leaving my home state for a job and trying to PUG my way through TBC doesn’t appeal to me.

As Tom Petty said “the good old days may not return” and in this case I think he was absolutely right. They won’t. I’ve moved on because I was forced to by basically losing everything, my home, my first marriage, my first career (I got hurt overseas, not too badly but enough that I couldn’t stay in the Army, the short of it is that I can’t run anymore), my credit, my friendships, just about everything I thought I was.

Having to move back home during the pure hell that was 2008 (like no joke 2020 was a far better year) saved my life and most of my sanity, but my world collapsed and it never completely came back.

I had to build something completely new, and something like this would just be an unwelcome reminder of all that was annihilated. I have a different life now, I’m married to someone who actually cares about me and our child, I have a decent job, a place to live, the pain from the injury is manageable and I’m not snorting blues every 45 minutes. I’m doing okay. I think going back to WoW would be opening a pandora’s box and while I’d love to play it again it would just be too fucking much.

Sorry, that’s quite a rant but I needed to let it out.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Just my opinion . . .

When something gets commercialized the way gaming has in the last 5+ years, it chokes creative talent and the talent goes elsewhere.

There’s a reason you don’t find world class chefs working at a Denny’s.

The flip side of that coin is that it takes a literal fortune to make a game and as we have seen from that other creative behemoth Hollywood, the more money that’s involved, the less the appetite for risk. It’s why Hollywood has fallen into a creatively stale rehash of super heroes and that the best movies are often small scale, personal projects.

It’s why Valheim came out of nowhere and blew the lid off.

Great games are being made, just not by investor-owned conglomerates like EA and Blizzard.

I mean, sure, you go to Denny’s you know what you’re going to get and it will taste exactly the same as the last meal you had at Denny’s and at every single Denny’s across the country. But it isn’t exciting, interesting or engaging food. It has no flair and no spark. Even the parsley is wilted.

That’s what investor-owned gaming is like, bland and predictable.

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Zandohaha .

I think all of your fairly tinfoil hat analysis is just a bunch of silly generalisations to be honest.

jimthomasUS
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jimthomasUS

The excitement at Blizzard is about returning to games made by talented people.

Meanwhile at EA Anthem is canceled and the focus is on ip’s 10+ years old.

Blizzard and BioWare are responsible for the majority of my gaming history. Both don’t exist anymore. Like Star Wars at Disney it’s a recycling of sounds and images that provoke nostalgia. It’s consumer manipulation through brands like Tide and Pepsi.

I enjoyed AC Odyssey. I imagined what a mmorpg would look like in that world with those mechanics. I hope this genre has a future beyond recycling the tropes of 2004 but I am not optimistic.

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Zandohaha .

What makes them “tRoPeS”?

Can you clowns not just analyse something without looking for negativity in everything?

Ever considered that they are just solid game mechanics and the only problem here is you seeing them as “tRoPeS” or “oUtDaTeD” or whatever other negative you want to throw at anything as reasoning why you cannot find fun in games anymore because you are blissfully unaware that your mentality is the issue?

I’ve never seen a more miserable bunch of gamers than MMO players.

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Rick Mills

I’m just hoping there will be Guild Banks…

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Songs for Children

Almost certainly not…those weren’t implemented until WotLK.

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Rick Mills

No, they were introduced in 2.3 – same time Zul’Aman was introduced.

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Songs for Children

Oh wow, you’re right. I guess I remembered that wrong. Maybe I was thinking of achievements.

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Zandohaha .

Yeah I’d put good money on them being in from the start to be honest.

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Danny Smith

Honestly i’m still surprised so little of the things people confirmed to still love about vanilla in classic didn’t show up to any degree in shadowlands.

Like i have a fair few rogues levelled in retail and they are fine but lack flavour outside stuff like the cataclysm legendary quest and a few parts of the order hall. But you make a rogue in classic? theres so many little things they have like interesting quests to infiltrate areas, pick pockets, set up traps and entirely unique class specific skills to level like lockpicking and a tertiary profession separate to alchemy for crafting poisons. That satisfying feeling of cooking up some poisons before a dungeon run that will benefit what troublesome mobs you will run into while being able to pick locks on chests and doors that otherwise require keys is so flavourful and its going to be interesting to see what of BC does the same for people.

I’m just personally amazed the “you think you want it, but you dont” devs didn’t go “hang on, but what things DID they want, and why did we remove them?” or maybe they did and pride didn’t allow for that “negativity in the dojo”?

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Songs for Children

Probably many things keep Blizzard from listening to reason, but a big one: going back to the principles of Vanilla and the first two expansions would be an admission of wrongdoing in subsequent expansions.

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Malcolm Swoboda

One of the dumbest reasonings for game design decisions, if true.

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Minimalistway

Blizzard removed class quests in Cataclysm instead of redesigning them, also removed many systems like rogue poisons, hunter pet’s leveling and training, getting druid forms, learning shaman totems .. etc.

I sent them many suggestions to put many of these systems back, but i doubt they’ll ever do that.

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Danny Smith

Well that wold imply World of Warcraft is about the World and thats just a silly misconception in a trademark error for the rebranding to Purple Fever Habit Forming Treadmill Raid Sim of Warcraft we didn’t notice :p

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Zandohaha .

Because many more people constantly complained about those sort of things to the point where they removed any sort of class individuality because of people constantly crying about balance.

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Loopy

Current version of retail is the closest we’ll ever get to WoW 2, and the two games play completely differently at this point. While i’m the first one and the loudest one to constantly ask Blizzard to bring back the roleplaying elements of WoW, unfortunately i believe that the ship has sailed. The crowd playing Shadowlands is very different than the crowd playing Classic, mainly from a motivations/ambitions perspective. Bringing back “inconvenience” mechanisms for the sake of immersion would drastically alter that dynamic, and i have plenty of friends who simply never want to go back to the old model.