Warcraft: Classic appeal

I’ve been trying to work out exactly why Classic has become so appealing.

There’s the obvious things like revisiting the very first outing for a game I’ve devoted long hours to. I wasn’t there at the beginning, so while many of the features are familiar from Burning Crusade, this will allow us to experience where it all started.

Then there’s the somewhat masochistic appeal of having to struggle instead of cruise. As has been well documented, unless you’re raiding ‘ahead of the curve’ the retail version of Warcraft has become a walk in the park when compared to ye olde days. I can’t remember the last time I felt any sense of danger or need to be careful in game, and purple loot is no longer a thrill, it’s an expectation.

Which is not to say the live game isn’t entertaining. There is entertainment aplenty, great storylines, beautiful design, and it still has the capacity to surprise even 15 years later. It’s just that it is now a different game to what it was – again, if you’re not raiding. Raiding has become the sole place where you still have to work hard and have a team.

I started thinking that concept of needing to work with other players gets to the core of why Classic might work, and Belghast’s terrific post musing on MMO communication drove that thought home:

The first MMOs worked and created the lasting relationships that they did in part because we had a serious need for other people. What I mean by that is that in order for us to have a fun night, we needed a bunch of other people to be similarly interested in doing the same thing. This meant that without really meaning it… you yourself were open to doing things that were maybe less than optimal for your evening because it would mean that in turn the other player would be willing to assisting you at a later date.

My fondest memories of Warcraft are raiding Karazhan with one or two close friends and a whole bunch of people I’d never met. We spent hours and hours working together through that epic Raid, slowly improving and progressing, helping each other gear up and talking tactics offline while we waited for the next scheduled run. It was epic, exciting, and the thrill of defeating each boss to allow us to move on was unbeatable.

Taking a team of friends into WoTLK raiding was similarly exciting, and although we only made it into the first wing of Naxxramas before real life struck, that first wing was incredible. We were doing something together through hard work and perseverance, marvelling when our strategy and preparation came together into a well oiled machine. Which didn’t happen often, but when it did it too was an unbeatable thrill.

Of course the same thing could be said to apply to raiding now, but the temptation to just do it in LFR or press a button, as Belghast put it, is often too great. Plus we’re all ten years older, so attention and time is far more thinly spread.

Classic feels like a chance to travel back to a time when teamwork and strong server-based bonds were requirements for success. It’s almost certainly a pipe dream to imagine being able to raid – those ten years aren’t nothing – but even running dungeons and epic quests like Rhok’delar will mean community and communication become paramount, and that might be something special.

#Blaugust21

Warcraft: Name day

The reserve-your-name event for Classic seemed to start about as well as the original launch by the sounds, which is appropriate.

I dutifully logged in at 0800 with a bunch of names ready to go, was briefly queued, then connected only to find that all the servers were showing as ‘Locked’. Mysterious.

Clicking on Arugal loaded up a ‘Logging in to game server’ message that sat there doing nothing until I clicked Cancel and tried again. Unfortunately the same thing happened. At that point I decided this could go on for a long time, so I bailed and went to work for the day.

Tonight I logged on again, and immediately got through and onto the Arugal server. A few moments configuring a Tauren Hunter later, I tried my original name – ‘Stroeb’ – and was successful! It pays not to want a real word or popular fake name. I also managed to get ‘Banehammer’ (a favourite WotLK character of mine and my original tank) on the Remulos server, and ‘Angler’ on Pagle – perhaps my favourite of the lot. Stranglethorn Fishing Extravaganza here we come (if/when Blizzard upgrade Classic to v1.7 that is!).

The idea of Classic has continued to curtail my time on Live, other than the Alliance dungeon progression crew. I’m occasionally dipping in and doing a few Nazjatar dailies, but it’s nothing like the dedication and enjoyment I got working toward Pathfinder I. While I will eventually unlock Pathfinder II I suspect it will be some time coming. Doing things very late in an expansion often works in your favour as buffs and rewards tend to be increased toward the end of days when Blizzard gets everyone ready for the New Thing.

Classic may turn out to be too much hard work once the reality sets in, but for now the idea of a true fresh start – no imported gold, no heirlooms, no muscle memory – is still tremendously appealing.

#Blaugust13

Warcraft: What’s in a name

The Classic server names have been released, and it’s an interesting mix. Some are names of famous lore characters – Mankrik(!), Faerlina – and some are well known factions like the infamous Hydraxian Waterlords or the Bloodsail Buccaneers.

There are twelve EU servers, eleven US, and only two for the Oceanic zone. That must reflect the active player base numbers, so we Oceanic players should be thankful there are any local servers – it would have been easy to leave them off, though given the infrastructure is already here for Live the incremental cost would be low. Still – thanks Blizzard.

Another interesting aspect of the Classic servers is the breakdown of types. I wouldn’t have guessed that PVP would be the most popular, but the US realms are broken down PVP (five), PVE (four), RP (one), and RPPVP (one). So overall one extra PVP server. In the EU zone it’s a similar story though the numbers are evenly split six each.

I assumed PVP was the minority these days, especially with the outcry over the factional warfare focus in BfA, but it turns out there’s an even demand for both – at least according to Blizzard’s analysis which we should probably trust given they’re putting hard money behind this.

So while the US and EU have a lot of chioce, for Oceanic there are only two: Arugal (PVP) and Remulos (PVE).

Now obviously the server name doesn’t really matter, but it’s always fun to choose a good name. If we look at the lore, Keeper Remulos is a famous Druid of the Grove – his father was Cenarius and grandparents Elune and Malorne. That’s some serious heritage. But he’s Alliance affiliated and not really part of the Horde story, so not a good match for a Horde player.

Archmage Arugal on the other hand is infamous for two things: unleashing the Worgen and being the final boss of Shadowfang Keep. In WotLK he is raised as an Undead and ends up leading worg packs throughout Grizzly Hills. All in all an entertaining and creepy figure, and much better suited to the Horde – you could even argue, as Rohan at Blessing of Kings does, that the Worgen should have been a Horde race.

So Arugal it is – though because it’s a PVP server I think an insurance character on Remulos is a good idea. And for my third reserved name there’s no question. There’s a US realm called Pagle after the legendary and heroic fisherman Nat Pagle.

Love at first bite

#Blaugust10

Warcraft: Delight and Delay

By the time I logged into the stress test today I think it was no longer stressful. The US realms were packed, but the sole AU realm was only at medium pop. It’ll be interesting to see if it gets full tonight when more people will be at home to give it a try.

I rolled a few Alliance and Horde characters to see how each zone was playing and what differences if any there were. The Alliance zones seemed a lot more popular – especially the Humans, but even the Dwarves were fairly busy. Chat was full of either people trolling each other, or full of wonder at the nostalgia hit. The Tauren zone on the other hand was relatively lowly populated, and chat was much more helpful and gentle, as befits the Tauren nature.

Not being overly familiar with the Alliance, it was entertaining to hear how their intros were far more heroic when compared to the Horde. The Dwarves were going to war with the ‘merciless Horde’, and the Humans were being told ‘now is the time for humans’ – racial supremacy seems to be their thing. I wonder if the current voiceover intro is the same…

…nope. Updated for Cataclysm, and also doing away with the Horde bashing and Human trumpeting. I guess Cataclysm was good for something after all!

The experience is very familiar, yet also very different. A Paladin starts with precisely zero melee abilities, having only the Seal of Righteousness buff to apply before you auto-attack with a hammer. Everything feels slightly slower and slightly more challenging, though I think respawn rates have been upped – maybe just for the test? Start zones have aggressive mobs again, and it feels like you have to put more thought into your play. Much of this is simply due to the overpowered nature of Live now we have heirlooms and streamlined levelling, but there’s also a sense of delight at a world which is a bit rough around the edges and a bit more dangerous.

I didn’t play long, partly because the characters will be wiped, but mainly because I started to get the thrill of the new, strange as that may sound. Despite incredibly familiarity with Mulgore and the Tauren starter areas, it felt like I was doing it for the first time. Things seem more like work, more like you have to earn your quests and loot and upgrades and skills. Looting a grey drop and equipping it because it’s better. Having to read the quests to find directions, and understand and learn the map as a result. Dealing with mobs dying slowly, and being cautious on pulls. Knowing that getting through a zone, or a dungeon, or even a quest, is going to take concentration and effort.

It felt like there was a real journey ahead, and one which would take time. It will be fascinating to see if the glow wears off once it launches, but for now I’m excited.


I jumped onto Live shortly after, and attempted the Nazjatar dailies, and the comparison was stark. Even though they’ve made the zone hard – I died a few times – it doesn’t feel like it’s hard because you’re learning, it feels hard because that means it will take longer, and because the map is frustratingly difficult to navigate.

Earning flying almost seems not worth it, and disappointingly punitive with the two new factions you have to advance – as Grimmtooth says, it feels like a slog rather than fun gameplay. I was looking forward to working to the flight unlock, but I think I’m starting to agree with Kaylriene’s theory on the curse of the x.2 patch:

I’d like to talk about what I’ve taken to calling the “ChoreCraft” effect – the point where playing the game distils down to a set of chores you have to do in order to enjoy the game … Since Pathfinder was introduced, no matter how good the underlying content is – no matter how artful the zones, beautiful the music, fun the raid and/or dungeon – it always will have the stink of being the place you go to do the chores.

I think Pathfinder should probably just be a single part, followed by a token quest chain unlock when the patch that enables flying drops. That would be far more satisfying, and allow the design of the new zones to focus on flying and fun instead of repetition and delay.

Despite all this I still like the idea of being land-locked for the first period of an expansion, but delaying it now via rep grinds is just busy work. It’s a worry for Blizzard when the initial narrative for a point release is that it’s annoying. There is some hope I guess as people seem to enjoy Mechagon, but there’s no avoiding Nazjatar.

#Blaugust09

Warcraft: Classic stress

A break from the regular FFXIV posts today to catch up with the goings on in Warcraft world.

The big event tomorrow is the Global stress test, starting Friday 9 at 0400 Australian time. For a moment I was excited to read that it would be ‘tomorrow 4AM’ on the official announcement page, thinking that meant 4AM California time and a perfect 9PM here, but quickly realised Blizzard have developed some kind of clever tech that displays the time relative to your OS locale or something. Curses.

Distressing

Still it will be fun to hop in and see the chaos and excitement. Also in that post are ‘minimum’ specs, nothing to worry about there – you can even play with (relatively new) integrated laptop graphics. And for those wanting to try it for the first time, remember to download the client in advance – quoting from the post:

  1. Open the Blizzard Battle.net Desktop App and select World of Warcraft in the game selection menu on the left.
  2. Under the Version dropdown menu, select World of Warcraft Classic. If you have more than one World of Warcraft account, you’ll see a second dropdown for Account. In that column, select the active account to associate with your WoW Classic install.
  3. Click the Install button. You’ll see an installation progress bar that will show you when the installation is complete.

There was some news released about the Classic realms, with the welcome announcement that RP-PVP worlds will be available. Slightly less welcome is it appears to be US and EU only for the moment, but we in AU live in hope.

Blizzard have also created something called Classic Connections which guides you through drilling down from faction to realm-type to your original server, and then posting your name and class in order to try and reunite with some of the people you played with. It’s a nice idea, though the pickings are fairly slim at the moment. Maybe as we get closer to launch it will perk up.

And finally, name reservations are opening August 12 at 3PM, translating to 8AM August 13 for Australia (and I think 11PM GMT on the 12th). Blizzard have done pretty well here choosing a time that means most people will be vaguely awake. An important job before leaving for work that morning – choosing which three names, and which servers, is going to be more stressful than the stress test I think!



Meanwhile on Live, our Alliance dungeon questing is almost at the end of the Classic dungeon set – tonight we finished off Stratholme, so only Blackrock Depths and Blackrock Spire and to go. The latter is a real favourite, a classic long dungeon crawl with amazing design, so I’m looking forward to that. Stratholme too is a great instance, full of tricky pulls and deadly postmen. And Baron Rivendale, who, typically, didn’t drop his mount. Though he did drop a very nice sword – 10% movement buff and constant self-heals? Now that’s a weapon for Classic.

#Blaugust08