Casually Classic: Four lessons we’ve learned from WoW Classic’s Season of Discovery so far


As I write this, we’re still a long way off from the end of WoW Classic’s Season of Discovery. A final stretch of leveling with all of its secrets lies before us, followed by some more endgame content. According to the roadmap, Blizzard has plans for this server well through the fall (and maybe beyond? The studio’s not making any promises at this point.).

Even though Season of Discovery isn’t done yet, there’s plenty that we have learned through this experimental server ruleset in terms of both Blizzard’s approach and the community’s response. In fact, I can think of four important lessons that this run has taught us so far.

Blizzard is embracing a maverick style

Honestly, I’m kind of loving this daring, envelope-pushing Blizzard we’ve been seeing this past year. For a company that’s always been about glacial development and safe-but-boring choices, this studio’s embraced more of a maverick style as it’s been trying several experiments (such as retail’s Plunderstorm and Mists of Pandaria remix) that may or may not work in the long run — but why not give them a shot for right now?

Season of Discovery thumbs its nose at the #NoChanges WoW Classic of 2019 in favor of so many changes “just to see” what happens. The temporary (or is it?) nature of these servers allows the devs to try out different ideas with enough breathing room to invite success or failure without undue pressure.

That’s resulted in the barely controlled chaos of tossing a ton of toys in the form of runes into the old Classic format alongside alternative objectives to send the playerbase scurrying in new and unexpected directions. If it ultimately flops, then we got a good year-plus of exciting game experiences. But if it’s got legs, then the studio is reserving the option to make these servers permanent or push the boundaries even further.

Players like the unknown laid on top of the overly familiar

Suffice it to say, the WoW community knows every square inch of Classic like a very familiar friend. That’s part of the cozy joy of going back to the vanilla era where many of us originally fell in love with Azeroth. Yet over-familiarity can breed contempt and boredom, which is why Season of Discovery was a smart move on behalf of this dev team.

It ended up being a real “have your cake and eat it too” scenario. You start with the traditional, plain Jane vanilla format and then inject a ton of new stuff into it. The real genius here was keeping players from knowing too much about each phase in advance so as to challenge a community together to crowdsource solutions. That “unknown” factor is the special sauce of Season of Discovery, and while it doesn’t last too long, it’s still more than we typically get from this game — and especially the Classic scene, where we already know everything about these expansions.

Oh look, quick development.

The Classic era is worth preserving

As basic and systems janky as it can be, it’s hard to deny that there’s real wonder in the World of Warcraft as it originally was. We simply needed a reason to look at it and experience it in a fresh way. We’ve had the launch of WoW Classic, fresh start servers, the previous season, Hardcore Classic, and now Season of Discovery that’s all served to draw the faithful back for one more run through this world.

Game preservation is important, but for MMOs, it’s not simply about keeping a particular title alive; it’s also about preserving certain eras before they evolved into something quite different. With initiatives like Season of Discovery, WoW Classic is kept relevant and engaging rather than stagnating into oblivion.

The Classic era is worth improving

But just because something is quite good on its own doesn’t mean it can’t be better if handled the right way. The whole “Classic Plus” movement revolves around this concept. Players don’t want to lose that Classic feel, but they want something new, interesting, and challenging to experience in it.

We’ll see where Blizzard goes with Season of Discovery, but I’m not alone in musing that this is really a test program to see if a more permanent Classic Plus server could work. Does WoW Classic deserve an alternative evolution, and will it draw in a population that’ll make it worth the studio’s efforts to develop? That’s the question running behind the scenes, I bet, but if this is any indication, I see that answer as a strong “yes.”

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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