‘World of Warcraft Classic’ Is a Nostalgia Trip For a Game That Doesn't Exist

World of Warcraft doesn’t change. Except it has. World of Warcraft Classic is an attempt to capture something special—the game, as it was, when Blizzard released it in 2004. It’s a nostalgia trip for anyone who played at the time, and a curiosity for those who grew up playing different versions of it. A lot has changed in 15 years. The games industry has changed. MMOs have changed. I’ve changed. Azeroth, World of Warcraft's fictional world, is not somewhere I want to be anymore


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/3kxd8y/world-of-warcraft-classic-is-a-nostalgia-trip-for-a-game-that-doesnt-exist
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I’m surprised at how well this holds up, but it also reminds me of how all-consuming it was for me in high school. I already implemented parental controls to limit my daily playtime just in case.

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I’ve really been enjoying WoW Classic. Modern World of Warcraft is a much sleeker, more streamlined version of the game that takes away all of the barriers to entering content that you used to have, like finding a group or needing a guild to experience content. In other words, the modern version of WoW has become a better single-player game.

I have to say though that I find World of Warcraft Classic to be better at being an MMORPG. I’ve put a fair amount of time into Classic so far, and what I’ve enjoyed and remembered most are the human interactions. All of those little details that made it feel like you were part of a big community.

Yes it’s clearly less convenient and more time-consuming to just be limited to interacting with characters from your one server and to have to recruit nearby people to form a dungeon group (and then run there), rather than pressing the “dungeon button” and having a group of players from one of 15 servers instantly teleport to a randomised dungeon experience. However, every other part of the MMO experience other than experiencing the combat of the dungeon is lost. I won’t ever meet or remember any of these people again, and I won’t even have the chance to.

I understand why it’s “best practice” that they gradually converted WoW from an MMO to just a single-player game that several people are playing, but in a lot of ways I do think it’s a shame. I’m glad to see this back as an option too.

It’s not something I have any interest in trying, and it’s tied up in a lot of obnoxious elitism about how Tough and Not For Casuals the game used to be, but the whole thing does make a case for ideas we’ve lost from that era of game design.

My go-to comparison of generational differences is TF2 and Overwatch, where the latter is unquestionably much more user-friendly and quick to deliver those small bursts of fun, but the former’s inconveniences and slower pace encouraged players to interact with one another on a small scale and not take things too seriously.

Most modern games are built around those quick high-intensity sessions, with other people being the mechanisms for that content delivery, and I do genuinely miss the times when an online game was a place you can just be without any macro-level concerns.

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God this is so much why I don’t want to play WoW Classic.

I have a lot of nostalgia tied up in WoW up to Wrath of the Lich King, and so much of that is how friendly is felt as an online fantasy RPG for me, a more casual player? I had fun exploring, doing quests, and with the light socialization that came from LFGing for dungeons without ever having an interest in high level PvP or gearing up for raids or grinding professions. The magic of World of Warcraft’s early days was that it felt like it had something for everyone. My mom played it on my account for a while, and she hadn’t played a videogame since Combat on the Atari 2600. It was a casual MMO.

WoW classic, for my friends who desperately want me to play, is tied up in macro-level concerns. We need to reach max level, we need to run Scarlet Monastery to get x- Rare item because they know everything about the game. You can’t put the genie back in the bottle. Original Azeroth already existed once. People are going back to it with a checklist and with the objective of hitting that checklist optimally.

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Also it’s tied up in the cults of personality around streamer and video personalities, who love feeding into those macho ideas of hardcore difficulty being the primary draw of the vanilla game. People here probably know the dudes I’m referring to.

On the better side of that, Dan Olson has been steadily going through the classic leveling experience on his stream, which has been full of deep-dive conversations on the game’s odd design idiosyncrasies and how it’s changed over the years. I recommend it as a good background listening source.

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It’s funny because difficult isn’t a word I’d use to describe any iteration of WoW. What I missed was the time when every region of the world had people in it doing things as well as the slower pace of progress. Whenever an expansion came out it would just turn the previous areas into ghost towns.

I’ve only ever played Wow a couple of times, never for long enough to get very far. Once when I was a little kid at a friends house (I think I was playing classic) and once when a couple friends convinced our group to try out WoD and see how we liked it. Needless to say, no one stuck around for long in WoD.

I play FFXIV with a group of four friends regularly and have been playing with them since the start of Heavensward. Most of these friends played Wow vanilla, and stuck around till at least Pandaria. When they found out Wow Classic was going to be a thing, they immediately started talking about revisiting it. Not because they thought it’d be fun. The more they talked about vanilla, the more they remembered the old jank, and frankly, wild bullshit, that people put up with in vanilla. At first when they described vanilla, I wanted nothing to do with it. They assured me that it probably wouldn’t be for me because I didn’t have the nostalgia for it. That it’d be a huge culture shock to go from Shadowbringers, one of the best MMO expansions ever for what is currently the best MMO on the market, to an MMO stuck 15 years in the best.

But the more I learned about how buck wild vanilla is by modern standards the more curious I became. Especially when my friends all agreed that as old and janky as vanilla is gonna feel, it’s probably still more fun than modern day Wow.

So last night I took the plunge and subbed for a month of Wow. I started an Orc Warrior alongside a friend of mine who started an Orc Warlock. Right off the bat I got the jank I was expecting, but what I wasn’t expecting is how much fun it was. I had a great time running bullshit quests with my friend. I doubt this will be replacing FFXIV for me anytime soon, I don’t know if I’ll renew my subscription, but I’m excited to explore Classic some more. I wanna see all the wildly out of time mechanics this game has. Everything I’ve heard about crafting sounds wild in a bad way and I gotta suffer through that before I’m done with classic.

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I’m guessing you gathered that from Reddit and the Blizz forums. While tough, the game is better suited to casual play than many other games I’ve played in years. Each class is viable and unique, and brings it’s own value, so if you’re playing a class that suits you the game treats you as unique and valuable for being you.

This is from a resto druid main in vanilla through BC, if you’re looking to be DPS in a raid group, then I don’t think you’re playing casually to start with.

Honestly the more I play the more I’m tempted to make some kinda LP/Journal thread about my time in classic cause there is just so much to talk about in so many regards.

Like some of this stuff is quaint in a really charming way, like only being able to smelt at a forge in town. But other stuff is just, buck fucking wild by modern standards, like HUNTERS HAVING A MINIMUM RANGE TO USE THEIR RANGED WEAPONS??? WHO THOUGHT THAT WAS A GOOD IDEA???

(also i gotta vent about how yikes Trolls, Tauren, and Goblins are)

Patrick put out a call on Twitter a little while back for people who’s experiences with WoW amounted to actual trauma. I’m not sure I’d go that far, but, man. Even the very idea of playing this game again sets me on edge, and I wasn’t half as deep into it as a lot of people I know. Urg. I love games, I think games are for the most part actually positive. But I’ll never characterize my time (past the first 60h, maybe?) in this one as anything but a mistake.

It’s really something that they keep doing that without any problems.

All I know is that I dropped the $15 because, why not? I miss my gnome mage, and I wanted to see if the magic was still there. It feels great so far. I’m playing with a friend of mine who I don’t hang out with regularly, and it’s nice to catch up over chat while we quest (although my quick typing while auto running skills are quite rusty) - It’s a nice place to be in for awhile.

That said, the Barrens chat is mostly a dumpster fire, and anytime things calm down, someone goes and puts “TRUMP 2020” into the chat in order to stoke the flame. Once you’re out of the “lowbie” areas, the game gets much more bearable. Trolls tend to keep to the starter zones. (Internet trolls that is, the Warcraft trolls are all over) Racist Anachronisms aside, we’re enjoying it.

Will I keep going for several months and get a character to 60, finally experience a 40 person raid I missed the first time through? Maybe, maybe not. But I’m enjoying getting to team up with old friends, make new ones (I’m the guy throwing buffs on you as you leave the inn), and experience this expansive world again.