There was another big, huge WoW announcement worth talking about that I have skipped out on so far.
No one expected Blizzard to actually announce this. I certainly didn’t. Sure, while the announcement was more barren than the actual Classic Barrens, it…existed. There was even a pseudo-cinematic and everything!
Here’s the thing – I, frankly, have hated the concept of a Legacy Server for a long time because of the community around it. A lot of the people tend to be inflammatory, particularly once Elysium came forward and went down. Armchair lawyers, people who believe that those that play the current game are suckers or worse, and more in the deepest dregs of YouTube comments.
But, fundamentally, my biggest reason for not being excited for a Classic Server is this: Vanilla WoW just isn’t that fun at this point in time, at least for me.
And here’s the kicker, having led with that statement – I loved Vanilla WoW. I have played since June of 2005, and raided multiple tiers right up until the launch of Burning Crusade. The game design captured me with it’s world, gameplay, and sense of immersion and ability to lose myself in the game.
At the time, yes – World of Warcraft was a revolution and tour de force in MMO design. While games like Everquest had experience penalties upon death, and many games in the genre didn’t make use of instanced content, WoW made huge gambles. It assumed:
-MMO’s have a market cap beyond 500,000 players (the peak for games like EQ) and to reach that potential, mechanical complexity and gameplay punishment had to be reduced.
-All players should have an opportunity to experience the top bosses and content in the game, without waiting through ridiculous outdoor spawn-timers and rampant ganking on the spawn point. (with few exceptions)
-The world is as big a character as any individual person or NPC.
These gambles paid off in spades. WoW reached over 5 million subscribers back then and grew further beyond that point.
However, I do think it is worth saying the obvious point – the game design and mechanics of 2004, with development origins in 1999, don’t hold up in 2017, let alone 2018 or 2019 or whenever the game ends up relaunching. While WoW: Classic was indeed a huge innovator in ease of gameplay, there was still a great amount of grinding – PvP rep farms requiring near-constant gameplay, even basic tier raiding mandated consumable farming for far longer than we have seen, and the leveling grind took months to reach level 60, not due to any large amount of content, but a lot of back and forth flying and boating between zones. Mounts? Good luck. Flying? Nope, and not just not on Argus.
But there is a lot of analysis outside of this blog of those points, and for some types of people – those things are the point.
I think, however, that the biggest argument against Classic is this – the Vanilla experience for many players is the sum of their lives at that point.
For me, Vanilla was an escape from a lackluster real life. I had a shitty job, poor living situation, and at that point in time, Vanilla WoW was my best escape. More so than television or any other game, WoW sucked me in and allowed me to think about better things for just a while. As my situation improved in real life, the game improved with it – new patches of content, and the ability to raid upon reaching the level cap. My journey through original WoW content is tied inextricably to my life journey at that time, and it is a thing I think about constantly. Would I be happy to play Vanilla WoW in my current life-state? No. The game demanded hours upon hours upon hours, an investment I was happy to make when the real-life around me wasn’t that great and I had time to pass in order to stop thinking about it – but today? No way.
But at the same time, I am happy Blizzard is doing it. I might try it. I am certainly happy for the people who want to play it, and for those who never got to see it and want to. I don’t write this to try to dissuade anyone from playing, or certainly to stop people from feeling excited. I do find myself very curious as to what happens if indeed the nostalgia alone cannot propel this effort to the success that those who support it tend to envision. Legacy Servers, even the most popular, often drew large numbers of players solely because they were free. At its peak, Elysium had 150,000 accounts. These were not concurrent logged-in users, but just those who created accounts. When the server community migrated after the Blizzard C&D, their new server effort raised money through a T-shirt campaign, an effort which sold an embarassingly small number of shirts. At the newest home of the Elysium technology, a pair of founding members walked off with the crowdfunded cash for the server, and made out with a whopping sum of cash…just north of $2,000 USD. These things are why I highly doubt the potential success of a legacy server – people can create accounts for free but when the time comes to vote with their wallets, many of these vocal individuals don’t put up the cash to support the effort.
Now, you’d be right to point out that there is the very-real possibility that an official server from Blizzard would have automatic trust, the value of which will increase the number of people willing to pay for such a server. This is a point with which I agree. Further, a lot of this is hypothetical, as we have no indication from Blizzard as to what, if any amount, that Blizzard might charge for the server access, or if it might be a freebie with a current game subscription, or somehow embrace some other business model.
And all of this also depends on a large number of other questions, which we have no answers to. What version of classic WoW do we get? Is it just 1.0? Do we jump right to 1.12? Does it maintain a similar release schedule to simulate the same feeling of watching the game evolve? If so, does the game eventually upgrade to Burning Crusade and then Wrath of the Lich King?
I guess my point in writing this, besides drawing an unnecessary line in the sand is this – as someone who enjoyed WoW at launch but doesn’t think it would hold up in a current gaming world, I wonder how durable the audience for this server is. There is no doubt the demand is there, however, will it hold?
I guess we’ll all find out, once Blizzard pops out their next taste of Vanilla.