Casually Classic: How Burning Crusade revolutionized WoW questing


While it’s been a blast stepping back into an era where I can re-experience World of Warcraft as it once was, playing WoW Classic has also reminded me of several aspects of vanilla that I never liked so much. The lack of content for casuals at endgame? Yeah, that smarts. Only one flight path per zone (if you are lucky)? Competing for resource nodes? It’s not all been roses and sunshine, my friends.

But perhaps the biggest eye-opening moment of my WoW Classic experience has been how much questing is… not that great, at least in this form. What was once heralded as an incredible step forward for MMOs, vanilla WoW’s quests offered an alternative to straight-up grinding with a narrative overlay.

They’re not all bad, mind you. There are some pretty captivating stories here, and I always thought it was neat that finding certain objects in the world could kick off missions in addition to NPC quest givers. I was a little surprised to be reminded that even this version of the game could utilize scripting in playing out little quest scenes. But WoW Classic is a reminder that this version of questing was half-baked at best.

It’s a bit of a bait-and-switch, really. In the first 20 or so levels in WoW Classic, questing feels kind of normal to our modern sensibilities — if a little dull. There are little civilized hubs where you grab a chunk of quests and accomplish them in the nearby vicinity. Some of these quests even award useful items past experience and money.

But soon enough, WoW Classic’s questing format changes. There are a lot of quests that feature long chains that involve large amounts of travel time, zone hopping, and waiting for you to be the appropriate level to finish them. And what’s worse, there never seems to be enough of them, so to be efficient you’ve got to ping-pong between zones, grabbing what few quests you can accomplish at the time while creating a very messy quest log. For a kicker, many of these quests failed to give you any reward beyond money and XP.

This format was all I knew from 2004 to the early days of 2007, but that all changed when Burning Crusade came to town. Now I’ve heard a lot of commentators talking recently about what features Burning Crusade Classic will bring, but about none of them are talking about the very first thing anyone noticed when they stepped through the Dark Portal.

Questing got way, way better.

OK, so it wasn’t like reading Shakespeare or watching Lord of the Rings, but I found that the questing system went from night to day when I got to Hellfire Peninsula. Blizzard obviously spent a lot of time evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of questing, and it refined that system into a much more palpable product.

Suddenly, instead of sprawling, continent-hopping treks, a great majority of quests picked up in convenient, centralized hubs were done in that very zone. There were more than enough quests to level without having to hit the brakes and grind for a few hours, and — what was perhaps the best addition of them all — many of the quests showered players with useful gear and items.

And not just some gear, but the infamous greens-that-replaced-purples. In the years afterward, we’d recognize this as Blizzard slamming its hand down on that giant reset button, but for those of us casuals who felt increasingly discriminated and alienated from the raiding overlords, it was hard not to be constantly snickering at all of their whining in general chat.

It was such a massive shift that for years afterward, I would come to absolutely loathe old Azeroth’s questing on any new characters, eager for the day that I would hit level 58 and be set free to enjoy the game as it should be.

These days, I feel much the same as I slowly slog my way up through levels in WoW Classic. There’s a lot of enjoyment and fun to be had, to be sure, but having Burning Crusade Classic on the horizon — and knowing exactly what its questing design entails — dampens my current spirits somewhat.

So while I will never be the one to hold up Burning Crusade as the most amazing WoW expansion ever, the shift in questing philosophy is but one of the reasons that I was — and am — more than happy to jettison old Azeroth in favor of a more casual-friendly MMO.

Stepping back into the MMO time machine of WoW Classic, Justin Olivetti offers up observations and ground-level analysis as a Gnome with a view. Casually Classic is a more laid-back look at this legacy ruleset for those of us who’ve never stepped into a raid or seen more than 200 gold to our names.

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Techno Spice

This article was written by someone who either isn’t very old or is an idiot. “What was once heralded as an incredible step forward for MMOs..” seriously? So many MMOs have been out with great “narrative overlay” before this.

Hub-based questing feels convenient but earlier MMOs stayed away from it on purpose to make people get out and explore the world. WoW in general made questing formulaic and linear instead of an adventure. This writer needs to be fired.

Pheeb Hello

For me it ruined it and I quit when TBC came out, I tried modern WoW but I hate it…. I only came back for Classic and I love it. The problem is though I want Classic with new content, but them sticking to the original games philosophy.


Yeah, I remember that shocking, depressing moment back in ’07 when the 1st Green BC quest reward replaced my Epic Purple MC gear.
I had to spend a lot of real world “gold” on grief counseling back then..

Bryan Correll

Vanilla: Kill boars until you find enough boar livers to complete the quest.

Hellfire Peninsula: Lead demon-boar around, kill stuff for it to eat, wait for it to poop, and dig through said poop until you find the keys it swallowed to turn in for the quest.

Vanilla: Where’s Mankrik’s wife?

Hellfire Peninsula: Where’s the assassin?

Unless you’re Alliance, then I don’t care what your quests were. Though both sides get to dig through poop in Nagrand.


Justin says revolutionised, I say broke questing.

I saw BC as the beginning of the “everyone deserves a prize” mentality, even if they didn’t really earn them.

Welfare epics indeed.

Oleg Chebeneev

One of those rare cases when I completely disagree with you Justin.

TBC = the same boring “kill x”, “gather y” quests like vanilla. Its hard to find even a few quests through whole expansion that stood out. And the fact that Blizzard throwed them around hubs makes nothing revolutionary about it.
Hellfire Peninsula is a snoozefest of questing and imo one of the worst zones in WoW.
Questing started to evolve in Cataclysm and made a big leap in quality in WoD.

Ive read discussion on mmo-champion forum after Blizz allowed to pick expansions for leveling. And I remember so vividly how many people were relieved that they didnt need to level through frigging TBC again because everyone hated leveling there.

Dug From The Earth

For me the difference between vanilla questing and retails is this.

Vanilla right off the bat feels like busy work (most quests). Most are just “Do this task and come back” No story attached. They are boring right from the get go, however you are doing them for the notable amount of XP they give rather than for some storyline experience. Hence, you can grind them out alt after alt because there are no expectations other than that. Vanilla has a couple story driven quests, but they by far dont make up the majority.

Retail is stock full of very story oriented quests. Gone are the days of doing a quest to kill wolves just because a farmer doesnt want them to eat their chickens, and instead they are replaced by a sequence of chaining quests all progressing a much longer story narrative. These are great to play through the first time around as the storylines can sometimes make you not focus on the goal of earning xp. Where this starts to fall short, however, is the 2nd… and 3rd, etc, time you play through them on Alts. Once you know the story, these are just extended and more lengthy versions of Classics questing… Whats worse is that progression is linked to the entire chain kinda forcing you to have to play through the whole thing.

Classic on the other hand… you could run into a town, grab 5 quests… do 2, abandon the 3 you didnt do, run to the next town, and pick up more quests. Most of the time, there was no being locked into this chain that kept you from unlocking the next towns quest content. It gave you much more freedom to do and play how you wanted.

Why Blizzard has been unable to come to a happy medium between these 2 is beyond me… The freedom to pick and choose and go any which way from classic, but with the much more interesting and detailed stories attached to the questing would make the perfect system imo.


Still prefer vanilla questing over the insanely repetetive pattern we see in retail. Only thing I dont like are those drop rates of quest items. Rest is all good.

maydrock .

Farmed your stygia/anima/soul ash for the day/week?

Glad you enjoyed, guess what you get to do tomorrow/next week, and the week after, and the week after…….

Nothing better than grinding a week for…….a gem slot! *shakes head*


Haha! Ye , I got 1800 arena ratin in SL then quit. The pve in retail is pure garbage compared to classic/TBC. In SL the dungeons/torgast feel like some arcade game and the dailiy/weekly chores are boring af.


Classic was an attempt at world-simulation, with adventures in that world. Some of us still want that.

TBC was a much more deliberate attempt to build a word for adventuring in this style. OF COURSE it was better.

Let’s remember too that nobody had any idea how big or dominant that it was going to get, or that there would even BE a sequel. There wasn’t future proofing* of the game nor mechanics, nor deliberate building of buttresses onto which future content could be structured**.

*there still isn’t because Blizzard has little understanding of even its own mechanics, and has “shrugged” at trying to balance things so they just wipe everything down and start you over with each expansion.
** as above, except instead of working within the framework of the world they built, again it’s just simpler to give you a new one.

notReginald VelJohnson

The quest rewards in Vanilla were generally awful, I agree, but I liked having to travel all around for quests. At least before you got the flight plans, it made the world feel expansive.

I liked questing in TBC too, but there’s something inherently immersion breaking about having quest hubs so close to every objective. As I accept the quests, I find myself thinking, “Why don’t you go do/get/kill it yourself? It’s right there.”