A return to a simpler time, such as WoW Classic, may not be necessarily for the better.
We know that WoW Classic is well underway and is scheduled for a release date of August 27, 2019. Players who are currently playing in the beta are also erroneously reporting “bugs” that aren’t really bugs. This leads to the question: are people who are diving into WoW Classic for the first time (aka those who haven’t played Vanilla between 2004 and early 2007) really ready for the game? Or is the wave of nostalgia just false hope for those players who continue to be spoiled by the watered-down features of retail World of Warcraft?
The wave of nostalgia is all-consuming and all-powerful.
The wave of nostalgia has swept over every single thing on the planet. Movies, music, TV, video games, you name it, nostalgia is claiming it. For example, popular boy band The Backstreet Boys have been active for over 25 years, but had their heyday in the late 90s and early 2000s. In February, the group released a new album that debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart. The album, DNA, came almost 20 years after their last number one album, Black & Blue. This is proof that the Backstreet Boys are, quite literally, larger than life. Parents who listened to the Backstreet Boys in their heyday are possibly introducing the band to their children to create an entire new generation of Backstreet Boys fans.
Like it or not, nostalgia will always be part of the pop culture scene, especially with music. The Rolling Stones have been around for over 50 years and are still performing to this very day. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards are probably household names for your parents and even your grandparents. Reunion tours for bands of yesteryear are always happening.
But what about video games? They are no exception to the rule. The remake of Final Fantasy VII has been in development for over a decade—this is before the PlayStation 3 came out. Nintendo has re-released the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) for fans who weren’t even alive when these iconic systems were flying off the shelves. What makes World of Warcraft any different, you might say, than the music industry?
The lack of preparation for nostalgia.
Players who are spoiled now may be forced to work hard in Classic.
Today, players can get mounts as early as level 20. People can queue for dungeons with complete strangers and never see them again, which is a huge roadblock to building a community. Every class is different than it was in 2004. Death knights, demon hunters, and monks didn’t even exist. Your value as a player is determined by your Raider.io score. If you don’t link your AOTC achievement or have a high Raider.io score, you can’t clear end-game content. Today, this has been drastically reduced to a couple of raids and farming Mythic+ dungeons every week. Players now hope for an upgrade that will either warforge or titanforge with a socket. To a lesser extent, players will hope to rank on Raider.io because they cleared a +20 key.
While all this requires hard work, this is nowhere near the hard work that was required in Vanilla WoW, and this carried into The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King for the most part. Many of my former guildies quit after Wrath. Of course, we’ve had five expansions since then, and people are always going to be joining and quitting.
Before I go on, there is no doubt in my mind that World of Warcraft will remain the most popular MMO of all time. Nobody has really figured out how to dethrone it, although games such as Final Fantasy XIV have made strides in doing so. Attuning to raids, server-wide gathering of resources to unlock the gates of Ahn’Qiraj, and the building of communities within servers are challenges that required amounts of time that players may not have the time nor patience for anymore.
Many players who joined after Wrath may not like the slower pace of Classic.
The beginning of a World of Warcraft expansion always brought a few people back. For the most part, many players who did play in Vanilla are now done with the game. Every time Blizzard releases a new expansion, these people pop back in to see if anything has changed. Quite a few people leave when they find out that gearing up and clearing endgame content is more of a job than an enjoyable experience.
What made Classic so great, then, if everyone lacks the patience to attune to raids and gather resources for a greater objective? The answer is nostalgia. But there are dangers to such nostalgic feelings. One of the biggest obstacles will be to walk everywhere until Level 40. I remember being excited to ding Level 20 or even Level 30 (this was when the max level was 70) because I wanted to get on a fancy mount and go places faster.
As previously mentioned, players were reporting bugs that weren’t even bugs in the first place. One of those bugs? “Creature respawn rates are much slower than in Battle for Azeroth.” You won’t find people hovered around world quests trying to kill X number of enemies. You’ll actually have to wait for enemies to start respawning to do a kill quest if hundreds (if not thousands) of players are funneling through The Barrens and trying to find Mankrik’s wife.
Players may find old gameplay mechanics annoying.
In Vanilla, there were obvious class imbalances. One of those class imbalances can be shown in this YouTube video below, when 40 priests took down Onyxia.
Certain specs were not viable in Vanilla. Paladins, for instance, mostly tanked or healed. Some classes may have been brought into raids just for the utility they provide. The list is endless, and could even be an entire article in of itself.
Thankfully, we have 3 months before WoW Classic drops and we can (hopefully) prepare for all the things we once held dear about the game before then. But the dangers of nostalgia are still present. We have to prepare to address them and how we will deal with them when the game drops.