Many of my posts about WoW Classic have focused on community reaction and if the game will succeed with the people who have been advocating Classic as a “better” game than modern WoW for the last decade.
I think something I have failed to convey in all of this (in part because my first post contradicted that!), though, is that I am actually excited for Classic, and I do think it will be successful, although not necessarily in the way many of us would predict.
To begin, I think the most interesting thing to me about Classic is that it will present us with an opportunity to see the original game through new eyes. One thing I think about a lot is that while I sort of understood the base dynamic of tanking in vanilla, I never actually played a tank in vanilla. How would it feel to have to place those Sunder Armors? How would I deal with snap threat? I know those things with every tank in the current game, but anything prior to Wrath for tanks is a mystery to me in terms of the actual, moment-to-moment gameplay.
The reality of the game at that time is that while you could have tried to level an alt (and even succeeded!), it’d be difficult to play an alt with the degree of play we can today – to truly know and understand the character, class, and all the mechanics involved. Similarly, I think the deep faction allegiance in vanilla originates with this same conundrum – most average players simply could not have a character progress through both factions all the way. If all you could really experience was Alliance, well, that connection is forged pretty deeply. Same goes for the Horde. A big reason I would cite for many of the early vanilla jokes and memes being either shared experiences (UBRS and the whelp room, Onyxia whelps) or low-level content (Mankrik’s Wife) is because it was harder in that era for people to share all the context around the higher-level content, and it was rare for someone to have experienced both factions completely.
For me, while I spent vanilla leveling and playing endgame content as a Night Elf Priest, healing for raids and immersing myself in the Alliance experience, Classic gives me a chance to play an Orc (probably!) Warrior, going deep on the Horde experience I never had and seeing a Horde without Garrosh, without frequent leadership changes and constant betrayal. I’m really excited to see how that perspective changes my view of modern tanking, of the modern Horde, and of the classic game as a whole. As a person, I have matured quite a bit from the young, fretful 19 year old I was when I started the game, and I imagine the stress of leading a dungeon won’t bother me nearly as much now as it would have then.
I think that many of us (us being those that have been somewhat skeptical of the sustainability of Classic’s success) are skeptical because the Classic experience is something that is idealized in a lot of people’s minds. If you look around the internet now, as the beta has ramped up, you can see that represented incredibly well via the growing list of “not-a-bug” things about the game. People have this impression of the game as a thing that must be harder than the beta – after all, the very nature of Classic is the database information of 1.12 ported to (at least) 8.0, and so if things feel different than expected, it sets off this weird dissociation. There have been complaints that elites hit too softly on beta (turns out most private servers overtuned this), fast runs during fear effects, wanted signs not having quest exclamation markers, and more. People have these varying impressions of vanilla, based on live gameplay, misremembered content and gameplay, private servers like Nostalrius, or just having played the vanilla content at varying points in time.
However – I think this is also something that can be an asset, too. Many of these things feeling new or weird could actually be great for players, as it will add this layer of learning/relearning the game which can enhance the experience for people. When talking about Classic, we as a community have often focused on two basic camps of people – those who played vanilla and those who didn’t. Those who did might look forward to recreating their own memories in the game, while those who didn’t want to see what the hype is about. The expectation I’ve seen (and had at points, admittedly) is that the latter audience will drop off quickly, once the sheen of intrigue wears off, while the former audience will tough it out but slowly decay to a core audience who really wants that challenge. However, I will propose that there is a third audience.
For people like me, I’m not really wanting to recreate my vanilla experience. I enjoyed it, but repeating it wouldn’t feel like a worthwhile use of time. However, there is a new angle that an audience who was there and feels the same can take. For me, I am excited for Classic because it will enable me to experience something new – tanking in vanilla content and leveling a Horde character. Many of my friends and guildmates are in the same boat – why play the same experience all over again, when there is fresh (for some definition of fresh, at least) content that can be experienced instead?
Classic definitely has some obstacles to overcome, and the launch plan seems to be smart in this regard. Rolling content out in a staggered way means that the game will have some degree of content cycle and hype that will retain some parallel to both the original rollout and the modern game – packing content a bit more densely than vanilla did, but also maintaining a similar pace (in theory) to the classic patch schedule. I do still believe that there will be a slow decay of players from launch as the curiosity wears off for non-vanilla players and the actual reality of the game shatters the illusion of nostalgia for some of the vanilla original audience. However, I do think many people will find themselves staying engaged, at least casually, as it will enable them to see those new perspectives they never got to experience the first time, and some of the curious players that did not play vanilla will convert into Classic players.
For me? I think it will be a lot of fun to dive into the content I never saw in the dry, arid landscapes of Kalimdor.
I might also finally fully understand just what happened to Mankrik’s Wife.