WoW Factor: Why WoW Classic players are mad about the Burning Crusade character boost

    
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The stars are over Dun Morogh.

I’m not going to lie to anyone here: When the World of Warcraft: Classic team first announced the idea that you could boost a character up to be ready to go into The Burning Crusade right away, my reaction was a shrug and a big fat “so what?” But boy, if that didn’t turn out to be the underreaction of the year, I don’t know what did. This has become the flashpoint of discussion for this particular update, and on some level, it’s not hard to see why.

Making changes to any part of the classic experience was always going to trip some people up, but this is in some ways a very fundamental shift of philosophy and design away from the one that had previously been endemic to WoW Classic. Yet on another level it’s also barely even a footnote, doing nothing of particular note that should require remark. So today I wanted to talk about this back and forth for a little bit, both from understanding and not understanding the brouhaha that’s surrounded this particular hashtag-some-changes.

First and foremost, let’s note the obvious reality of the situation: This isn’t new territory for Blizzard or World of Warcraft. It’s not even unfamiliar territory. We’ve been getting a level boost included with our expansion purchases for ages now, and as soon as level boosts were introduced, we were also given reason to get used to purchasing more of them. This is really one of those cases where the company finds the money intoxicating enough not to matter.

Except… wait a second. Those level boosts existed to get people up to the most recent expansion because there was a whole pile of other expansions in the way first, so you couldn’t get to Warlords of Draenor without first going through several other things you might not have wanted to. (Leave aside the question of why anyone would want to get to Warlords for a moment, please.) This problem does not exist in Classic. It’s solving a problem that doesn’t exist.

But a different problem does exist. One of the things that I’ve noted multiple times is that there were some pretty major philosophical shifts in the way that WoW has been designed over the years, and just the other day I noted that TBC was the point when a lot of specs got introduced to the idea of viability. It’s possible that there are people who are interested in playing a classic version of that expansion who might not have been interested in playing Classic itself from day one.

Yet at the same time, why not just go back through all of that stuff again? This was actually the experience of playing back in the day, which is at least the ostensible purpose of having these servers… and you get the idea. You can kind of keep going back and forth with these arguments functionally forever because at the end of the day, it’s more a difference of philosophy than one of ethics.

Floatland.

Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely an ethical component to be considered here when Blizzard is charging basically the price of a new game to boost a character in an old one. But the dimension being argued more aggressively here isn’t even the question of whether or not changes are a problem. It’s about why those changes are being made and what purpose they serve.

Let’s start with the least charitable reading of the people who are upset about the boost: They’re upset because this disrupts the hierarchy that Classic imposed. We can’t ignore the fact that this type of gamer exists, and some of them are doubtlessly very upset that after an entire game built on hierarchy and aggressive social dependency, the first expansion is letting people bypass all of that nonsense with a single purchase. That’s got to smart if you were kind of hoping to lord your Naxxramas gear over everyone else now trying to catch up in Classic.

But I don’t genuinely believe that’s the majority of people who are unhappy with the philosophy of this particular change. Instead, I think there are two different groups who make up the majority: the people upset at seeing some of the aggressive setup of modern retail WoW creep into this game, and the people who are actually concerned with what this potentially means for Classic as a whole.

Let’s cover the second one first. One of the main things that can be used to ease up the still-present and aggressive social dependencies of the Classic game is and always has been a reason for an influx of new players – like, say, suddenly finding out that you had good reason to go back and level a character you may have previously abandoned or to start over fresh on a new server. By removing the need to do that, the issues with underpopulation at lower levels remain unchanged, even when you have new low-level content that should theoretically address that.

As for the philosophy of modern WoW… well, here we get into the problem of diminishing returns.

So tired of re-labeling these.

See, we’ve all known for a long while now that there’s a very straightforward and cynical reason that WoW continues to get the same resources even as subscriber counts go down, and it comes down to making money by extracting more. If you can’t keep up 10 million subscribers, having 1 million paying 10x as much works just as well. (Note: These are abstract numbers. Do not go debating them in the comments or you will be branded a fool.) There is not a linear relationship between subscribers and money made.

This has not been the case with WoW Classic, however, and in many ways it kind of ties into the idea that the older version of the game was in some ways more pure because a better game got more subscribers and thus made more money. Adding in a character boost fundamentally breaks that relationship again. Once more, it’s not actually a question of how many people are subscribing but of how much money is being made, even from a smaller population.

I don’t think this one has been explicitly stated as a reason all that often, but it’s still there in the subtext. And the fact is that I kind of agree with it. Just like Blizzard counting dubious multi-game MAUs instead of subscribers, it’s another way of obscuring how well or poorly a project is actually doing with metrics that may or may not be useful for analyzing quality and player satisfaction.

Ultimately, I understand the reasons behind the boost being in the game. I don’t even begrudge it all that much; I completely understand how it can appeal, and it’s tempting even for me as I debate whether or not I want to take a dip back in the waters of TBC when that finally comes out. But at the same time, I also find myself understanding the rationale offered by people who are less than enthusiastic about it, and I can’t say they’re wrong or even disagree with them.

From an accessibility standpoint, it’s probably a decent choice. From an image standpoint and a philosophical one? It’s probably a bad one. And I think that ultimately that does have the edge, even though it’s still going to happen regardless.

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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Strixxx

First of all, classic wont be getting any boosts. This is for TBC classic. Secondly, classic has been out for almost 2 years. There is 1 boost per account for those who just wants to play TBC. There are so many people who didnt want to play classic and now they get a chance to opt in for TBC without having to spend months leveling. Why is this even an issue?

I have 2 IRL friends now that I will play with in TBC > Wotlk thanks to this boost. This is years if gameplay that they wouldn’t be into if this boost where not available.

The boost is optional and 1 per account and for some it will be a well worth investment.

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kjempff

One reason could be that players who want to play the earlier versions of WoW, do it because that was before the game got tainted too far.
It is very simple, character boost is considered one of the serious wrong turns, and therefore those players feel it is misplaced in the classic or early experience.
And tbh, character boost is a sign that something serious is wrong with your game… Players given the option to NOT play half of your game, because you made it too uninteresting.

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Jiminy Smegit

This was all signposted a fair while back when Holly Longdale (and I think a few others?) jumped ship from Daybreak to Blizzard. Gouging a small pool of nostalgic, middle aged gamers out of their cash on the Everquest progression servers was refined to a fine art so it was somewhat inevitable that WoW Classic would follow suit.

Initially, I saw the level boost and didn’t care but when you realise that it will be used by the professional botters to use stolen credit card details to purchase level boosts to run characters till they are eventually banned. Not so fun when the botters outnumber the demons and it becomes The Botting Crusade. I hope I am wrong.

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wjowski

I’m just kind of wondering why you’d want to buy a boost for what’s essentially just a nostalgic tour in the first place.

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Nathan Aldana

I’d guess because some of those selfsame nostalgia people dont have the time to grind to cap these days, and Blizzard will gladly charge premium prices.

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Bruno Brito

Yeah. I’m wondering that too.

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Strixxx

What? TBC has the best endgame.

latorn
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latorn

If I wasn’t already boycotting Blizzard this would be the dealbreaker for me, and it would actually be for reason 1 and 2.

I’ve never had a character maxed out in Nax gear, and I’ve never been at the top of the hierarchy in an MMO. However, I firmly believe that people who work hard, and dedicate enough time to make it there, shouldn’t have their hard work stripped away from them by someone’s credit card. Even making it to level 60 is a milestone that places a player’s character on a hierarchical totem-pole, buying a character with IRL money completely destroys that.

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Nathan Aldana

..Dude, theyre gonna have it stripped away from them anyhow the second people hit cap in BC becauise Naxx gear is worthless at level 70

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Anthony Clark

I don’t see this as effecting my personal gameplay.

If I’m not the one being charged, I just don’t care.

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KoboldWhite

Don’t like it, but I feel like the paid character copy is a more egregious scam.

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Hurbster

I love BC, but I realised that I wasn’t in my 30’s anymore when I played Classic. I’m not giving Blizzard any more of my money.

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Amanda Brown

Players want WoW to go back to the way it was in early Vanilla and we want it to stay that way.

Back in late Vanilla before any expansions, Blizzard did a massive nerf to the experience needed to level from 1-60 and it really ruined the leveling experience and ultimately, the game.

In the early days of Vanilla, leveling to 60 took a long time and it was a really big deal when a player hit 60.

You actually had to go to most if not all the leveling areas and do all the quests and the questing was actually fun unlike now. They need to scrap everything and put the game back the way it was.

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Bruno Brito

Speak for yourself. The leveling nerf happened in inclusion with added quests because WoW had an extremely lack of endgame quests. It was not just traveling, you had to do a lot of GRINDING.

Thorium Point didn’t exist, Mudsprocket was added in TBC.

WoW is not Everquest. WoW will never be Everquest. TBC was the definitive jump that made Blizzard believe that the endgame was more important, which means that even by their Vanilla data, players were hitting 60 enough that such change was warranted.

Would i like a slower paced game? Sure. Absolutely. But i can’t wrap my head around how WoW players seem to struggle to see that leveling in WoW has been largely irrelevant every time you hit level cap.

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Amanda Brown

I do speak for myself and many others I hope.

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Nathan Aldana

and the unspoken : “and fuck anyone who doesnt think like me”

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Croquantes

I don’t see how other people purchasing level boosts affects you whatsoever.

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Adam Russell

So do you think classic should not move on to burning crusade and just stick to initial release? Because Im thinking the reason for that was people had finished with classic and were getting bored? Am I wrong?

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Amanda Brown

I can see your point but from my perspective, the players who got bored were just in it for elitism and constant raid progression but that’s not what the original launch was about. World of Warcraft was originally about STORY. Also, in Vanilla there was open world PVP and I find those two elements (story and open world pvp) are missing or lacking in the later expansions, hence the need to create this bizarre universe with pandas as a playable race and enormous amounts of extraneous content with no substance or resemblance to the original release.

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Adam Russell

Ok I can see your point. If the original announcements implied it would be just classic and not progression then its wrong that they should change that. They should just open a new server for people that want to go beyond vanilla.

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Bruno Brito

Which they didn’t, and yet Blizzard will keep vanilla servers. Miss Amanda is honestly already being cattered here and she’s complaining about a TBC boost.

I don’t get it. Again, i don’t like the boost nor do i think Blizzard is doing it for the players but it’s weird to think they ever did it for them. They didn’t. Blizzard was always known for their wacky design choices, but this involves money so i understand why it angers the playerbase but…

It doesn’t affect vanilla players.

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Bruno Brito

World of Warcraft was originally about STORY.

I like to shittalk Blizzard and Retail as much as the next person, but pretending that their expansions weren’t about story when story was being told left and right is either being blind or bad faith argument.

For EVERY xpac being launched, there’s a story being told. You may not like it, but it’s where it went. I don’t like it either nor do i care to play WoW anymore, but to claim that you know what the designers wanted better than the designers themselves is a really weird hill to die on.

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Amanda Brown

I can bake a cake and I can add additional layers to the original cake just to be able to say that I did but that doesn’t mean the additional layers of cake enhanced the original and in fact they may have detracted from the original depending on the content of the added layers.

The same can apply to WoW and in my opinion the added content has not enhanced the original game, it has destroyed the whole.

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Bruno Brito

I can bake a cake and I can add additional layers to the original cake just to be able to say that I did but that doesn’t mean the additional layers of cake enhanced the original and in fact they may have detracted from the original depending on the content of the added layers.

Irrelevant. The fact YOU don’t like the story doesn’t mean the story isn’t a focus. The entirety of WoW’s lifeline is being told as a story, and yeah, it’s a really bad story, but it’s a story.

The same can apply to WoW and in my opinion the added content has not enhanced the original game, it has destroyed the whole.

The problem with this line of thinking is that WoW has been around longer as a endgame-focused-MMO, than as it’s “original vision” as you put it. Which means even the original devs had seen that your “original vision” didn’t work for their game.

Let me make this clear: I don’t like the direction Retail took it either. And you have the right to think it “destroyed” whatever. But what you can’t, is to keep moving goalposts. Either the game has a story focus or it hasn’t. If the story is good or not, it’s irrelevant to your former argument.

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Danny Smith

Well people have done the math and not only is it going to make gold farming bots more money by a significant factor of multiple times over but that in turn is going to crash economy’s in a period where professions were at one of their most useful. Its going to be a hot mess.

But its short term profit and this is actiblizzion sooo