At BlizzCon, Blizzard announced that Warcraft Classic — the vanilla experience based on the game before any of its expansions — will go live next summer and be included in the standard WoW subscription. Interestingly, the entire sweep of game content will not be available when the game goes live. Instead, players will have access to Molten Core and Onyxia, the two 40-man raids that Blizzard implemented first in the original 2004 title. The company isn’t strictly duplicating the original rollout timeline; Dire Maul, Lord Kazzak, and Azuregos will all be available to kill as well.
Stage 2 of the rollout will feature the 40-man Blackwing Lair and the introduction of ZG, while Stage 3 will introduce the Gates of Ahn’Quiraj and the opening of AQ as a major server event. After that will come Naxxramas and the Scourge Invasion world event. Did I mention I still have items from the original Scourge Invasion world event sitting in my bags on my primary character?
People often forget that what we call “Vanilla” in World of Warcraft was anything but static. Blizzard overhauled the functionality of every single class during the original base game. God knows it needed it. There were two basic ways for Blizzard to approach a vanilla server. The simple — “simple” — method would have been to simply dump all the “Vanilla” content as it existed the night before the Dark Portal opened again and call it a day. But that’s not what Blizzard is doing. Instead, the company is attempting to recreate the actual server-wide experiences people had with content, including major world events and new introductions.
This is an order of magnitude more complicated and it could help recreate the feeling of camaraderie that many people loved about the original game. I remember contributing to our server drive to unlock the gates of Ahn’Quiraj, although the actual launch event was a disconnect-driven disaster (I died when the gryphon I was riding despawned in mid-air due to extreme server lag and ultimately couldn’t even enter the relevant zone). This time around, that shouldn’t be a problem.
The bigger question is whether people will want to play a game paced so very differently from WoW today. World of Warcraft in 2004 was a much slower game than it is now. Players didn’t receive their first mount until Lvl 40. Character classes were far more limited and the options for stuff “to do” in-game were much smaller and less varied than they are today. Over the years, WoW has added features like daily repeatable quests and pet battling systems alongside various collectible challenges. These more or less didn’t exist in the classic game and it’s not clear which features from the modern UI are coming along for the ride to yesteryear. Hopefully, we won’t have to stand in Stormwind spamming chat channels to find groups, but the LFG tool didn’t get implemented until Wrath of the Lich King, two expansions later.
I don’t doubt that there’s a hardcore group of players that want to experience the original game. I have some of my own nostalgia for this period, though I don’t think I’d roll a Paladin again — having spent 2+ years as one originally, I feel like I paid my dues already. But I wonder how many people will fall back in love with grinding thorium ore or black lotus by riding endless loops across the EPL or Winterpsring, pausing only when forced to fight for a node or when dazed? Do folks want to go back to the era of one-tag-per-mob, no kill sharing, slow leveling, slow movement, and the difficulty of finding 39 other well-geared and at least minimally-capable humans to spend 3-5 hours per night, 3-4 nights per week slugging out in dungeons and instances?
We’ll find out. But Blizzard’s decision to roll content out in stages and to recapture some of the major world events does at least imply that the company is going to give its Classic game a genuine chance to succeed. If you want to read more about the experience of actually playing the Classic game again, Mike Fahey at Kotaku has a writeup, aptly titled “WoW Classic is The Hell We Asked For.”
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