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
I think one of the oft overlooked aspects of the retro server phenomena is the fresh start. Being in a familiar world again but back at the beginning with everybody else rather than in a world where most of the player base is clustered at level cap has its own draw. We have seen time and again that Daybreak can overflow its login queue by just launching a new progression server every other year. As Bhagpuss can attest, there is even a following in the Daybreak forums that just lives for that fresh launch feeling. They don’t stick around for all the expansion unlocks, they want that new server smell.
WoW Classic is clearly going to launch big. My question is whether Blizz will see what that have and launch fresh versions every now and then or if they’ll see people play to level cap, raid a bit, then leave and go back to telling people they didn’t want vanilla because they left.
That’s a great point, a shared experience from a common start, something that’s very rare other than with expansions. The sense of slowly opening up a new world is pretty great. I noticed in the Classic AMA yesterday they said they could add BC relatively easily now they’ve done the hard work of getting ‘Vanilla’ up. But that it will be a wait and see - many players may not want to go beyond Classic, while others will want to move through the expansions. Maybe another split at that point, into Classic and BC? It gets complex quickly once that starts happening - I imagine Blizzard must be studying Daybreak’s approach and fortunes.