It's 2016 And I'm Starting World Of Warcraft

It's 2016 And I'm Starting World Of Warcraft

Before this weekend, I hadn't played World of Warcraft since a Saturday afternoon in late 2005. That was the only day of my life I spent playing one of history's most successful video games. A WoW-free decade later and with an archaeological curiosity, I'm giving it a fresh try. I've merely put my toe in it so far. I've done beginner quests in the game's free starter edition and have grown a Tauren hunter from level 1 to level 7. That took a little over an hour, with some stumbles along the way.

I'm not interested in levelling faster or buying my way into a higher character, because I want to play through the game slowly. I want to witness the sedimentary layers of a decade's worth of changes and improvements.

I'm banking on the idea that video games tend to get better the longer they're worked on. You can see it in expansions and sequels that often give level designers and artists room to flex their creativity in ways they could not for an initial game that, as they so often are, are beset with the technical struggles of just getting the game to work and be somewhat fun. You can see the improvement that a foundational game affords by picking up the 2014 game Destiny, playing through the dull quests it launched with and then advancing to the vastly more interesting and visually striking missions of its 2015 Taken King expansion. The game's creators made their game better once they got their initial attempt in players' hands.

World of Warcraft has enjoyed more than a decade of revisions, most notably through expansions released in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014, with another on the way. I'm eager to climb up past those layers and see what the game's developers at Blizzard accomplished. I know it won't be a straight line of improvement, and I know that Blizzard has gone back and revised plenty of WoW's early content. I'm excited to nevertheless see what I can see.

I started on Saturday, simply enough, by picking a server.

It's 2016 And I'm Starting World Of Warcraft

I had many races to choose from.

It's 2016 And I'm Starting World Of Warcraft

I chose Tauren, hoping it'd help me remember what I'd done that Saturday afternoon so many years ago. This time I decided to play as a hunter, not a druid. My WoW-whisperer and colleague, Mike Fahey, knew I wanted to be able to solo as much of this massively-multiplayer game as possible and said that a hunter would be good for that. (Fun side note! I'd last played in 2005 but didn't cancel my subscription until 2007.)

It's 2016 And I'm Starting World Of Warcraft

I had a purple bird as a pet. I'm not sure why and figure they added that at some point. Sure, why not? They'd added motorcycles, too, but sadly I didn't get one of those at the start.

The game begins, at least for Tauren hunters, with a dramatic, sweeping flythrough of a lovely forest clearing. There's some very serious narration that's larded with a glut of proper names that all blended together. I didn't understand what was going on. It didn't matter, because swooping and flying over scenery always looks cool, even in a decade-old game.

The graphics you see when playing a heavily-revised 2004 game on a good 2016 gaming PC are a fascinating combination of crude and crisp. Everything is so clear, but the game struggles to draw its scenery quickly enough. Objects that should be visible are invisible until they pop in at the last second. Much of the scenery is so primitive that the game looks like a pop-up book, its trees shaped from a small number of flat planes.

And yet the game pulls off a lovely trick right at the start by revealing that what looks like a canned flythrough is really a flythrough over a living game world. Real players' characters are down there on the ground. A bigger crowd clusters where you, the first-time player, will begin. Blizzard has given the other players quest-related reasons to cluster there, ensuring a first-time player will get the hint that this game will not be a lonely experience.

Here, for the record, are the settings I'm using for the game. My computer must feel like it's curling 2kg dumbbells.

It's 2016 And I'm Starting World Of Warcraft

World of Warcraft, like many other MMOs, is notorious for the tedium of its tasks, though I've heard the quest design got better over the years. As a new character, I was immediately asked to do the most rote things. Kill six of this. Find 10 of that.

It's 2016 And I'm Starting World Of Warcraft

I expected this. Witnessing the weakest parts of early WoW is part of the point of my playthrough. I'm hoping to see the game get more interesting the further I play into it and figure that sometimes a Level 1 character's just got to pay their dues. I think of this as my getting-my-bosses-cups-of-coffee stage of my WoW-playing career. If they ask me to go to the post office to mail a package, I'll go. I'll even grab them lunch.

I also am aware that a lot of the opening stuff in WoW was revised in 2010, so I'm expecting a potential dip in design quality if I ever get to parts that didn't get a makeover. My other WoW-whisperer, Gergo Vas, has warned me to lower my expectations when I finally make it to a place called Outland.

A technical note: For reasons not worth explaining other than to elucidate that, yes, I'm obviously a console gamer at heart, I'm playing WoW on my TV. My PC is hooked up to a decently-sized TV in my living room. WoW's interface isn't meant to be read from couch distance, not unless you blow it up.

Before:

It's 2016 And I'm Starting World Of Warcraft

After:

It's 2016 And I'm Starting World Of Warcraft

Much better!

With my pet at my side and my screen now feeling less like an eye exam, I started doing quests.

I delivered an etched note:

It's 2016 And I'm Starting World Of Warcraft

I practised the steady shot.

It's 2016 And I'm Starting World Of Warcraft

I was feeling good. My progress bar was filling up. Then... I got lost. I'd been following quest markers. I'd been doing what the game was telling me to do. Suddenly, it wasn't telling me anything.

It's 2016 And I'm Starting World Of Warcraft

I checked the map.

Any indications? None.

It's 2016 And I'm Starting World Of Warcraft

This seemed wrong. But it also seemed right. The cliché of WoW is that the game holds your hand, points you from one tedious fetch quest to another. This was not quite the WoW I was experiencing. This game expected me to figure some things out for myself. I found that tantalising. Maybe, I thought, the game wants you to wander and discover naturally.

Or maybe my game was glitched. I wandered for 15 minutes. Then I rebooted.

Nope. Same problem. So I deleted my character.

It's 2016 And I'm Starting World Of Warcraft

I wasn't going to wait another decade before trying again. I was going to start over and figure out what I or the game had done wrong. Mike suggested I play as a gnome. Gnope! I would be a Tauren once more.

It's 2016 And I'm Starting World Of Warcraft

I jumped back in. I watched the flythrough a second time and got a better grasp on what was happening (internal Tauren strife... not that important, really. Not really anything non-Taurens would understand.)

I did those initial quests again, poked around on the game's windows and bottom bar, figured out some key commands, even deduced out how to set a new personal best for screen clutter.

It's 2016 And I'm Starting World Of Warcraft

I soon figured out, to no one's surprise, that the game hadn't glitched. The mistake was mine. I'd lost track of quest giver Adana Thunderhorn, who stood in an unmarked part of the map waiting for me to notice the punctuation over her head and take on some new quests. Whoops.

Back in a groove, I did more quests and levelled up.

I burned three battleboar troughs. I killed 10 armoured battleboars. I obtained one Mane of Thornmantle. I placed an offering.

I earned gear and I applied it to my character, who was already starting to look cooler. Exciting! I'm a fan of characters looking cooler as you adorn them with better gear.

It's 2016 And I'm Starting World Of Warcraft

I'd seen motorcycle guys and wanted to look like them, but I surely was not ready for that.

It's 2016 And I'm Starting World Of Warcraft

In these early hours of WoW, I briefly considered reading the lore text for every quest I take on. Readers will kindly tell me if that is at all a wise idea, but I have decided, at least in the early going, that it is not.

It's 2016 And I'm Starting World Of Warcraft

I am, frankly, too busy to read this lore. I have busy-work to do. I need to level up.

It's 2016 And I'm Starting World Of Warcraft

Little of what happens early on in World of Warcraft is very exciting. You're clicking boxes and checking off boxes. You have very few abilities, so the combat is the same click-and-wait auto-attack loop. You have no incentive to do things with other players. You keep an eye on your task list, and you hope your experience bar will fill up so that you can get the chance to look cooler, do cooler things and finally be asked to do something interesting. The designers seem to be aware of this and accommodate your restlessness by letting you briefly fly. At least this is true when you're a Tauren, the only World of Warcraft life experience I have. Hopefully they do this for the other peoples of Azeroth, too.

The flying is, of course, as basic as it gets. The first time you do it, you turn into some sort of spirit bird and fly from a hilltop down to a town. The second time you do it, you ride a beast that, in 2016, looks like cool-looking origami. You can turn the camera but have no direct control. You fly to a guy in one town and then get a quest to fly back.

It's 2016 And I'm Starting World Of Warcraft

One of my favourite parts of my early World of Warcraft experience is seeing the intrusions of more modern WoW. There's those alluring motorcycles I spotted earlier. In the midst of my flying chores, I spotted this rocket.

It's 2016 And I'm Starting World Of Warcraft

When can I get that? This is, of course, me expressing envy, the animating force behind so many multiplayer games. I will see cooler things and keep clicking away until I too can have them. (Envy is a cousin of the fear of embarrassment and inadequacy, the motivating principle behind the success of another mega-hit multiplayer game, Farmville, whose players, the designers realised, didn't want friends dropping in and seeing withered, unwatered crops).

I'm expecting World of Warcraft to be more alluring the more I play it, but looking back at the footage I've captured, I see some good artistic intent even in these early sections.

Below, for example, is the spot where you get the quest that sends you flying on the back of a beast to a town up in the mountains. The quest-giver stands among the beasts, who rest while waiting to be mounted and flown. My eye hadn't been drawn to them, which might be a challenge of directing player attention in the open expanse of an MMO, might be a flaw in the layout or might be me just not being acclimated yet to reading the scenery well in a game like this. Regardless, in a still image, it's clear there's good work afoot:

It's 2016 And I'm Starting World Of Warcraft

As I've been playing as a Tauren, I've wondered what World of Warcraft's other species are doing. What keeps those panda people busy, right? I'm looking forward to finding out. In the beginning, though, Taurens are mostly around other Taurens. This type of cultural homogeneity is the default of so many games with characters of different types. In Zelda, for example, the Gorons mostly live with Gorons, the Zoras with Zoras. The under-loved Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks works against this and encourages players to introduce characters of one type to another. It's a great touch, but we are not here today to discuss under-loved Zeldas. Instead, I must note my fascination with this guy:

It's 2016 And I'm Starting World Of Warcraft

I look forward to finding out what Var'jun's deal is. I also note that his appearance was the first non-Tauren friendly (right?) face I saw. His presence hints at the multiplicity of beings that I'll encounter in this game's world. The quests started doing this, too. Seconds after meeting him I was taking on a new quest to check out a missing caravan and, sure enough, there was another species of character there in the form of Venture Co. Laborer.

I had to kill him, of course.

It's 2016 And I'm Starting World Of Warcraft

I levelled up.

That's where I stopped playing on the second day of my life that I've played WoW.

At this point, I'm level seven. I don't have a rocket, but I have a gun, a cape and that pet bird for whatever having a pet bird is good for. The concept of the quests I'm going on seems to be turning from one of internal Tauren strife to problems with outsiders. It suggests that a greater world is out there. I look forward to going out into more of it and maybe obtaining a motorcycle. My climb has begun.


Comments

    Despite it probably won't make a difference for a month or more for you but making characters on a dead server is usually a bad idea, however I'm willing to accept that making it all the way to 100 is the first step.

    Last edited 13/04/16 10:09 am

    I preferred the WoW questing back in the good 'ol days where you had to read the quest text because they'd tell you the thing they wanted is "To the Northeast, near the abandoned mill" so you'd get a general direction and have to go actually find the thing yourself.

    These days its more just personal preference if you want to read the dialogue or not, whether you're interested or bored by it. That said I haven't played WoW since about a month after Cataclysm came out...that's how long it took me to get bored of that expansion and quit again.

    As for the hunter recommendation....pretty much everything except priest would be easy and even then priest is fine too!

    Also - dissing on Outland!!?? That's one of my favourite zones, absolutely kicked the ass of the vanilla game when it was first released in the Blazing Crusade expansion.

      Nesingwary, finding that elusive panther queen with stealth in Stranglethorn. No matter how hard i read those quests... it didn't bring me closer to finding her. Thank god for thottbot. But yeh... it was fun not knowing where to go. At times a little frustrating, but it did build upon an experience me and my friends talk about to this day.

        Yeah, searching and failing was part of the experience. Often you ended up finding something else cool or an area that you needed later on.

      The questing and hunting you describe is part of why I loved The Secret World so much.

      If only the combat wasn't such a boring, frustrating chore. :/

    As a recent evictee of Nost I cannot believe how atrocious this game has become:
    You start with a pet? Wow. The initial hunter q's at lev 10 to get your pets were an instrument to teach you how to look after your companion and about the unique skills each had. I take it from the "give pet at start" this is no longer the case and pets are more of a vanity choice and have no actual in game difference.
    I briefly considered reading the lore text for every quest I take on - The lore in WoW (was) part of the magic, I'm extremely disappointed people are rushing through this. Not that i'm surprised, everything about the "updates" have been to get to end game as quick as possible.
    Unfortunately Stephen your climb will be brisk and unfulfilling. I truly lament the demise of this once great monolith. Such a shame. Everything i see and read points to a rush through of the game. In the original incarnation (and for the following 2 expansions imo) you could literally just stare at the environments for hours, taking in all the little details and designers hard work - I would be surprised if you could recall what the background setting in a certain zone was now as you rush through it to chase the cap.
    R.I.P Classic WoW - you defined an entire generation and will be remembered fondly, not the bastardized aberration you've become.

    Last edited 13/04/16 10:19 am

      Yep, quest text was once key to even know where you needed to go. Nowdays it's just spam through it and follow the marker like every other MMO.

      To me what really killed WoW is just time. I can never go back and get the feeling of experiencing it for the first time again, will never play with the same group of people again, will never see the MMO genre emerge and take shape again...Nostalgia is a bitch.

        Playing through some of the content in vanilla changed with cata is great though. There are some amazing story lines in certain areas now.

          Yeah, I did some of that after cata released but it's not the same as the first time which is the experience that I enjoyed the most.

          Since playing WoW I haven't been able to stick with another MMO. Think the best I managed was a month...most are around 2 weeks if that. The whole genre is pretty much dead to me.

            I agree, I dont think WoW changing was the problem, I think its just the genre is stale. Im not sure how you would fix it.

              Make it feel new again. The problem with MMOs is they've gone stale because they all follow the same patterns, same mechanics, same gameplay. There's a few that have tried to break out and do different things but they have "failed" for other reasons. Black Desert Online seems to be the latest hit...I'm not interested at all though because it's just one huge grind. I don't have hours upon hours to throw at one game so it's not a game for me.

              I've got ideas on how to improve MMOs but that's probably all they'll ever be....just ideas.

        quest text has never been key, even back in vanilla, all you ever had to read was the summary which is still present.

          It was definitely key in vanilla...the number of people who got lost trying to find quest objectives was pretty high. First thing I always said was read the quest text and then they'd go "oh"

            i only ever saw that in chat when a new patch would be released and those idiots who used quest tracking mods couldnt quest because patches would break mods

              I'm talking about before the mods were commonplace

              Yeah the mods didn't exist for quite a while. Hence the joke about manariks wife.

    Ignore this article.

    Wow is horrible nowadays.
    If you want to play the game, look up private vanilla servers. In particular, Kronos is a good option (now that Nostalrius is gone).

    I can't believe an editor of a video game website deleted his character because he couldn't find a quest marker. In the past, players would simply ask in the in-game general chat.

    Further proof that social onteraction is dead in retail wow.

    Last edited 13/04/16 10:26 am

      I'll have to check Kronos out @chinesefood - many thanks!!

        Kronos is the most popular.
        Other options are The Rebirth, Valkyrie, and our Australian servers 243vanilla and Jamhouse (www.243vanilla.tk and wow.jamhouse.net.au).

        Personally, I'd love to play on the Aussie servers, but they are pretty unknown at the moment, so not many players.

        Would play on official servers in a flash - but these definitely do the job.

      Iirc you can't post in an area chat using a free account until level 10 or so.

      Vanilla was horrrrible.
      There is a reason WOTLK was the height of wow, it was the best storywise and gameplay wise.

        A lot of people disagree there, I enjoyed vanilla WoW quite a bit. Blazing Crusade and WOTLK improved on it imo, but it was never horrible to begin with.

        So far off the mark it's not funny.

        Vanilla is the only version where the world feels like an actual world. The focus is on the world itself, and the two factions fighting within it.

        WOTLK just had a nice endboss.

          Ahh yes vanilla, where in order to get into a raid guild you must already be in a raid guild. in order to get gear, you must already have the gear. Vanilla, where Blessing only lasted for 5mins so by the time you finished blessing the raid you had to start blessing again until 15min group blessing were added. Vanilla, where if your class had the ability to heal, you were made to heal and only heal. Vanilla, seeing the tears of mages and locks when a paladin wins the mageblade. FROSTSHOCK!!!!! FUCK MORTAL STRIKE ITS OP!!!!!111!!11111

          Oh hey look, Sharman loot dropped, but we dont have shamans on Alliance. Ok look Paladin loot but we dont have Paladins on Horde. Man decursing sucks. Man Decursing is easy now thanks to Decursive. WTF BlIZZ WHY U KILL DECRUSIVE!!!!!111!!!!!!1. WAAAAH!!! a Warrior stole my fist weapon. WAAAH! a Hunter stole my gear!

            I miss decursive and staring at 40 health bars. I did eventually change to a non-healing class though.

            Played a face melter in 'nilla, always put in the MT group on raids because of the VT goodness. Good times.

            Don't miss sitting out the front of MC on a mage alt pumping out conjured items cause people were too lazy or poor to buy food/drink themselves.

          As someone who has played consistently since the original beta to now, I think you're the one that's far off the mark. Vanilla was great fun, but it was absolutely flawed. There were plenty of unnecessary grinds, bland repetitive quests and largely directionless storytelling. Technology like phasing (introduced in Wrath) significantly improved the narrative and storytelling power of the zones, and made the world a lot more believable - something you could influence, not merely something you participated in and then it reset when you were done.

          There's no shortage of social interaction either. Barrens chat (now Northern Barrens) is still quite vocal. Dungeon groups assembling in trade chat are certainly less frequent since the dungeon finder was introduced but there's still a ton of conversation, lore talk and roleplay going on. I stop by the starter zones sometimes to donate bags to new players and there's always some chatter in general, and people asking questions.

          I'll grant that maybe your experiences with the live game were on an inactive or faction-imbalanced server, but it doesn't hold true of the med/high population normal and RP servers that I've played on. My server still has regular Tauren story circles every week that dozens of people show up to, as well as a goblin nightclub in Azshara complete with streaming internet radio station. There's tons of stuff going on.

            You understand that I have multiple level 100's, as well as vanilla characters?

            While I appreciate your reasoned response, I respectfully disagree. Everything you listed feels gimmicky. And on the Oceanic cluster, world chat is most definitely dead whilst leveling (certainly compared to the various vanilla servers I've been playing on).

            Cities are dead too. On Nost, Thunderbluff alone held up to a thousand players. On the Oceanic cluster, you might find the odd <10 Tauren handing in a quest. Everyone is either in their Garrison, or in Stormshield/Warspear).

            Heirlooms mean that world PVP whilst leveling it totally imbalanced. You either wear them, and COMPLETELY ruin the leveling experience but stay competitive for PVP, or don't and get destroyed every time you cross the other faction.

            Flying mounts have made the world feel tiny and immeasurably less interesting to explore.

            I won't go on. The fact remains that current WoW is a different beast to old WoW. Some people like what the game used to be, others like the more streamlined, solo-player orientated game it is today. We're just lucky private servers mean both types of players are currently being catered to.

              Multiple characters - from vanilla and not on these "private" vanilla servers though? Because I hate to tell you this, there were never 1000 people in thunderbluff in vanilla, Why would you ever stay in thunderbluff? everyone was in Org, the same as now.

              I get the flying mount thing, but the thing was that the new content patch areas usually didnt allow it and there was still a lot of high end world pvp going on, like on that sunwell island and I dont play anymore, mainly because I get addicted, not because im bored, but Im pretty sure Pandaria had a place like that as well.

              I feel its more likely private servers are filled with cheap kids, or people who feel paying for a service is somehow abhorrent, even though it gives you free content patches to keep things fresh and interesting.

              Last edited 13/04/16 1:07 pm

                I started WoW back the week it opened, so both.

                And I know this (regarding TB being quiet on vanilla wow), but that's just how popular Nostalrius was. Every capital city was packed - the game felt more alive than it did even back in the day. The Horde and Alliance felt like armies. I used TB as an example, because it's always dead on retail realms (and was pretty quiet even back in 2004). Orgrimmar and Ironforge were out-of-this-world busy on Nost - but it was nice to see TB and Darn being used as actual cities for a change.

                And this cheap kids idea is silly. Nost, much like most "western"-centric private servers was full of people who had completely dedicated themselves to the game. Very large numbers of endgame guilds rolling MC/BWL. High Warlords, Generals, Legionnaires, Champions, Marshals etc everywhere. I, and literally everyone I became close with on Nost, would have loved Blizzard to open vanilla servers. Vanilla WoW is the kind of game you dedicate a significant amount of time to - leveling takes months for many people, not the week it takes in retail - the chance it can be taken away at any moment by a legal letter truly sucks.

                No-one wants to scam Blizzard. They made vanilla wow, they deserve our money, hence why myself and a hell of a lot of other players I knew out there kept our subscription active (which I cancelled last week, might I add).

                If Blizzard makes real vanilla servers, it will pretty much kill private servers, except for some Russian/Chinese players who perhaps don't have the same expendable income as Australians, Americans and Europeans.

                  I get that it's why your doing it. I just think your underestimating how cheap a lot of people are. Especially kids.

              You're comparing apples and oranges. The cities are quieter now than in previous expansions because they're not activity hubs this expansion, Ashran and the garrison are. It's like looking at Westfall and wondering why it's so quiet when everyone's moved on to more appropriate content for their level.

              World PVP was never balanced. I ran it a lot during vanilla, it was easily in its worst state then than it has ever been. Structured PVP instances were introduced specifically to address those imbalances and that's where you'll find better PVP. Except AV, that one I'll give you.

              If you don't want the world to feel small from flying, don't fly.

              Absolutely, WoW is different now than it was 11 years ago. If it had stayed the same it would have died a long time ago. If vanilla is what you're after, by all means go elsewhere. But it's not vanilla your posts are pining for, it's the social layout of the game that existed 11 years ago you seem to want. I may well be mistaken but the impression you're giving me is that you're using the fact the game has mechanically changed to justify shutting everything else out and then complaining that all that social stuff isn't there any more when it is, it's just moved.

              What's your main character's name and server? I'm curious to see what content you've done on live over the years.

                I'm not sure why we're arguing with each other. You obviously like retail, and I'm obviously very happy back in vanilla.

                We just expect different things from the game.

                (Why do you want my characters name? What content are you looking for? Time spend running PvE raids or something? How many "achievement" points I have? /barf)

                  I told you why: I'm curious to see what content you've done on live over the years.

            I agree, I played since open beta and Vanilla had some serious issues.

            The big one was ranked pvp being based on how long you could play without sleeping.
            Having to sit in queue near the battlegrounds for hours waiting for the battleground queue to pop, which used to take like an hour (this was pre-queing in cities and pre-cross realm pvp).

            Secondly the hardest thing about the raids was just actually getting 40 people together and slowly gearing up enough. They had mechanics, but it wasnt that hard or skill related to the majority of the people in the raid.

            The quests and landscape were certainly not as good as TBC or WOTLK and like you say, phasing helped a lot in WOTLK to make the story a lot better. Also remember actually seeing the results of your enemies actions in the quests across the place? Vanilla had none of that, TBC and wotlk did, wotlk certainly to a greater extent. The Lich King does appear throughout the story constantly.

            Wotlk also got the point where all classes had pretty much every spec usable to some extent, this was never the case in TBC or Vanilla. Vanilla was the worst with some classes really only having 1 viable spec and certainly only 1 set of gear. I remember the shaman and druid gear had stats for everything on them, it was the worst.

              I agree with pretty much everything there, but as a former progression raider in vanilla (world 12 MC woot) there were definitely some rough encounters. MC's hellhounds were a pain, and Naxx60 was just brutal.

                Haha. The corehounds were a shit mechanic.
                I did actually play some naxx60 but not enough to comment on it.

                  Oops, corehounds yes, not hellhounds. Sorry, I've been doing HFC too much recently!

    Every now and then I go back to start a new toon... But as soon as I see people running around in heirlooms 1 shotting everything I lose the will to play.... And the dungeons are just steamrolled by heirloom characters...

      I tried leveling recently. Heirlooms completely ruined it, obviously, so I took them off and used greens.

      I was still one-shotting everything, so I swapped to whites.

      Still one-shotting, so I swapped to a combination of greys and nothing.

      At this point, the scaling felt all off. Both hits and damage taken were irregular. It wasn't like fighting the finely tuned mobs of Vanilla/TBC.

      They have made 0-80 completely irrelevant. And a lot of their player-base isn't happy.

        leveling was never hard or evenly balanced in vanilla, you just got used to it, or have you fogotten about being given quests coded yellow only to end up having to fight an elite that was 2-3 levels above your level. And oh the joy of grinding out levels 30 to 45 when quests were few and far between during that period.

        Also Vanilla WoW was still considered easy mode when it released when it compared to the likes of EQ and MMOs before it due to having quests, Instanced Dungeons and the ability for all class specs to level to max solo

          No, I haven't forgotten.
          I've been playing Vanilla again, and it's tremendous. I also have all expansions for retail, which are a horrid easy-mode mess, unless you're a strict 'endgamer' who likes to sit on Discord chat and raid mythic's.

          In fact, speaking of vanilla, upon returning, I died in the first cave in Tirisfil Glades when I accidentally pulled an extra spider. And it was great - the world felt alive and dangerous again - I actually had to pay attention, instead of rolling my face across the keyboard.

          Stop spouting the same old nonsense, enough people have gone back to Vanilla now to realise it wasn't just nostalgia. Sure, WoW was never Dark Souls, but it was certainly a lot more interesting to level in than it is now. I was talking to an old guildy the other day (on a private server), and he said the thing that finally drove him away from retail was when he convinced got his very casual-gamer girlfriend to give retail WoW a go, and she complained that it was too easy, quitting at level 13.

          Regarding Everquest - I tried Project 1999 recently (the EQ vanilla server), as I missed playing it back in the day, but unfortunately the game has dated a little too much for me. But it's good to see it has such a strong cult following.

          Meanwhile, Vanilla WoW's art style and gameplay feels truly timeless. Nostalrius was the most alive I've seen WoW in many years - but if it's not your thing, no biggy. You have retail. But for a lot of us, it's the journey which counts in WoW. I personally love level 30 to 45 - exploring Stranglethorn and joining in on the world PVP, running over the Arathi highlands and rediscovering the pirates cove, or simply culling the Kolkar clans in Desolace. Some of the best times you can have in an MMO.

          The fact remains, people play WoW for different reasons. And retail WoW simply doesn't cater for a large number of players anymore. And it's people like you (who think leveling from 30 - 45 was awful) who helped make it into what it is today.

            I'd say the gameplay of wow being hard was basically the same till tbc, but then it was taken down a notch since then. A big thing was a lot of specs were also very not viable for leveling compared to others. Hunters were def the ezmode noskill of vanilla. Leveling since wotlk has def been easier, trying to make you feel like your overpowered/special/hero cutting down tons of enemies. Wow has mostly always been easy quest wise, outside of those endgame kind of areas they make especially to be group content, like the sunwell island thing, silithus after the AQ patch etc, the argent tournament etc.

            I think a lot of it is nostalgia of people, its also just because wow is so old now, the same things dont stay interesting forever. I doubt on your private server your seeing real world pvp going on in strangethorn or arathi highlands (btw in vanilla it was just zergs or rogues ganking you, it wasnt really great?). Also if you have every expansion, how are you exploring things still? I know where every single thing in that game is, including all the weird wall jumping areas.

            Last edited 13/04/16 1:17 pm

          They only really removed that whole random super hard group quest thing during wotlk, and not even at the launch of wotlk.

          There was like 3 zones for every level range, there was never this big gap between 30-45. It did take way longer than it did now though for sure.

            while there were 3 zones, not all of them were filled with quests to actually get you though the zones, theres a reason why everyone hated Desolace and Hillsbrad Foothills.

            I was a little disappointed that they removed group quests, at the time. But that's mostly because I was playing a DK who found some serious challenge (and pride) in defeating them solo. When they made the change, anyone could beat them solo, so all bragging rights were gone.

        If you're finding the content too easy, move to higher level content. You don't have to do every quest in every zone. You have the ability to control your difficulty throughout the game, if you don't avail yourself of that option that's your choice.

        1-80 isn't irrelevant, it's just streamlined to help new players get to the content their friends are doing faster. You can still very much enjoy the leveling zones if you want to, and the revamped zones have much more interesting questlines and storytelling than their vanilla counterparts.

          Is that so?

          Google "wow leveling too easy" and check out the enormous number of people who agree with me.

          I tried going to Ashenvale early, but it still felt like a joke. Not to mention dungeons, which can LITERALLY be solo'd by a warrior without heals now.

          In fact, when WoD released, I was able to level a warrior solely by soloing same-level and higher dungeons.

          Surely you can understand why this is a problem?

            Yes, that's so. The fact you can find people online who think your way doesn't make it right, just search "vaccines cause autism" for why. It's easy to make the game more difficult if that's what you want.

            To some extent you need to understand that the game isn't going to be tailored to your specific skill level either. MMOs designed for the hardcore audience only die. The ones that survive do so by catering to everyone. That means some content is going to be easy, some is going to be hard, some is going to be soloable, some is going to need a group, some requires a little dedication, some requires a lot. Leveling content in WoW was never difficult by default, it was just time-consuming. If you wanted more difficulty in vanilla you had to seek it out, that's still the case now as well. Go to higher level zones, run orange/red level dungeons, don't use heirlooms or boosts, drop gear. It's as hard as you make it, unless you're trying to tell me you're running red level dungeons completely naked and it's still 'too easy' for you.

              I feel like you've missed the point entirely.

              You sound like a hardcore raider who probably has a never-ending lust for "more content".

              Look, no offence. None of this was aimed at you. You definitely sound like you should stick with retail wow, as there will be a constant stream of expansions and new raids for you and your guildmates to run.

              But there IS a large group of players who don't enjoy the current iteration of wow, but love the old game. This idea of "more content" or "more raids" literally means nothing to them. They don't need a constant stream of content - just a difficult, fun leveling experience with glorious world PVP and some fun 5 mans - with a sprinkling of raiding if they ever lose their job or go back to university.

              Things that annoy us probably mean nothing to you. For example, I cannot stand the name change service. Reputation MEANS something on a private server. On retail, you can be Angryhitler one minute, then just change your name later to Kingcarebear and no-one knows who you are anymore.

              You honestly just don't sound like the sort of player who suits vanilla. That's fine - there's still 3-4 million or so of you. Mind you, there was almost 1,000,000 accounts made on Nostalrius, and there are plenty of other servers out there too (with large numbers of people on the official WoW Reddit stating they would love to play again, but are waiting for an official server so they feel safe with progress), so this whole idea that no-one cares about Vanilla, or we've just somehow forgotten how bad it was, it completely ridiculous.

              All the best - see you in Azeroth (assuming you ever leave your Garrison, or Class Table).

                This question may sound rhetorical but it's genuine: How many of those 800,000 accounts were because Nostalrius was vanilla, vs how many were because it was free and relatively well-run? I mentioned this in the actual Nostalrius shutdown article here, but the numbers on pirate servers don't translate to anything meaningful about what players would be willing to officially pay for in the same way piracy numbers don't translate to lost sales.

                Definitely there are people who would be happy to pay a subscription fee for vanilla servers if they were officially available (you being one, by the sounds of it) but how many pirate server players feel the same way? For that matter, how many say they would vs how many actually would if it were to happen? When I was younger I played on pirate UO servers because I couldn't afford to play on the real thing, and I'd say most people on the servers I played on were mostly motivated by price. It's hard to imagine there's not at least a significant minority that have similar attitudes towards the price on WoW pirate servers.

                  Fair question.

                  The fact is, there are private servers for every expansion, including WoD, and Vanilla is by-far the most popular (followed by WoTLK). WoD servers only see some play in non-English speaking countries (Russia/China), where perhaps the price is prohibitive.

                  You have to remember that for those who wouldn't pay for legitimate servers, there are also many others who wouldn't risk playing on private servers, instead preferring to play nothing (or another MMO / MOBA) until legitimate ones are released.

                  There has actually been an influx of players to private servers over the past week, as the news about Blizzard shutting Nostalrius down on gaming websites has put the word out that people CAN play Vanilla WoW still. I myself have a friend who moved to Melbourne text me about it 2 days ago, and who is now leveling with me on The Rebirth (one of the smaller servers). He had no idea vanilla was still an option, and for both of us the most difficult thing is knowing that Blizzard might shut our playground down at any moment.

                  People don't sign the change.org petition because they want a free server. They do it because they want legitimate ones:

                  https://www.change.org/p/mike-morhaime-legacy-server-among-world-of-warcraft-community

    Pretty consistent thread in the replies so far....

    The levelling experience isn't what it used to be, with so many expansions and constantly increasing level caps the original content is meant to be blazed through so that you can slowly slog through the 5 or 10 current levels pertaining to the most recent xpac.

      It's a trade off between people who want to absorb the whole game from start to finish and those that want to do the same stuff their friends are doing. The vanilla zones are streamlined in terms of leveling speed but the great storylines are still there, so individual players can choose which part they'd rather focus on.

        Oh I'm not saying it's a bad thing, with 100 levels and each expac region meant to take a week if not more of questing to complete they needed to streamline the process otherwise people would sink 3 months of sub time just trying to reach max level. Just meant it as a reference for the author that he isn't exactly seeing what the grind is/was and he won't until he gets to the current xpac. I mean back in the day the estimate time to reach cap was 1-2 months of questing, now I've managed to go from 1-85 in 1 week.

          1 week?

          What a wonderful experience.

            I suppose the last announced of 5-6 million people still playing the game probably means a lot of people certainly hate what Blizz are doing to their IP.

            Fact is without heirloom gear going from 1-100 takes about as much time as it used to take to get from 1-60 if you're new to the game.

            Only took me around 3 weeks to level 1-60 in vanilla and that was 60 levels. The expansions @pupp3tmast3r is talking about are 5-10 levels. Why would you expect any differently when the base game took 5 years to develop and the expansions are 2 years at most?

    I would really recommend starting a panda. not because they are a panda but because their early leveling experience is pretty fantastic, loads of variety in quests, cool looking gear and so on.
    I'll play devils advocate here and say that the time you spend exploring in WoW is some of the greatest time you will spend in a video game. getting to a new area and exploring new nooks and landscapes, finding hidden quests or a rare NPC that drops an above average item of loot.
    There is just such a colossal selection of zones to go visit, starting areas especially come to mind, some of which you won't even see till after you get closer to level cap.

    Regarding load times of objects, most of that comes down to the time it takes the online component to decide where an enemy or NPC should be. Also with the addition of progress phasing it often will take a few moments to decide which stage of any given area you are up to before loading it in, say you are questing through an area and one quest has you fend off an attack or something, when you go back to the village it may be a burned out husk of what it once was, those 2 versions of the village exist but what gets loaded depends on progress.

    Another reason why Vanilla was great back in the day, is the leveling experience. Some quests were broken (spider ichor anyone?) people were stuck with the same thing, 20 people trying to kill the same npc?
    It didn't matter, the areas were packed so you could choose to level or spend your session ganking other players.
    They've made improvements by adding the LFG for dungeons, but that's also because it was so much more difficult to find a group.
    Finding raiding groups / using DKP to organize loot, 40 man raids. It was brutal! But there were so many hilarious moments that came from the quirks of the game.

    The changes/improvements that were made to the game needed to happen.

    I always see WoW and think I would like to try, however as someone who only ever played World of Warcraft for 10 minutes and maybe sunk about 90 hours into Hearthstone I don't think I have what it takes to get started.

    Is this theory correct?

      Nah. It does world-building really well, if you read (or at least skim) the text. It assumes that you don't know anything and the quests take the time to inform you about the lie of the land.

      The only time you'll probably feel like you're 'missing something' is if you skip quests because you've out-leveled them (which is a chronic balancing issue, tipped squarely in favour of the folks rolling alts to get to the max level ASAP).

      Depends what you're there for. If you want the narrative, I'd recommend taking your time. The 10+ yrs of content means there's some really long-running, deep stories there.

        My friend played WOW so much, that he was able to sell his character for $1,000.

        Will I lose my life to this game?

          It is possible to get a little caught up in it... it makes industry-standard use of 'skinner box' mechanics. But it's not for everyone. I've known a few folks didn't get what they were looking for and dropped it like a bad habit. I was kind of addicted, myself, for several years. Ran a raid guild and all that sort of thing.

          Probably the biggest mental hurdle I can think of might be to do with the chronology. The events of 'vanilla' (ie: 2005 WoW) were basically made inaccessible when the third expansion rolled around, so levelling to 60 means you temporarily go back in time for a bit.

          So I shall SPAM WITH POSTS because the blocker is in effect!

            ** DISCLAIMER ** PLEASE NOTE: THIS ALL SOUNDS A LOT MORE COMPLICATED THAN IT ENDS UP FEELING.

            Spoiler free summary: The main world is Azeroth - from the other warcraft games; 1, 2 and 3. Levels 1-60 took place here.

            When expansions launched, we saw:

            1) The Burning Crusade (TBC) - a new zone called 'Outland', a fragmented/destroyed world called Draenor, where the Orcs who invaded in WC1 and 2 came from. This Demon-focused expansion begins when The Dark Portal that funneled the orcs into the world in WC2 has been re-opened, and Azeroth is reunited with the friends - and foes - who were trapped on broken Draenor years ago when the portal was closed in WC2. Turns out they've all been quite busy. That's typically accessed at level 55, with content up to level 70.

            2) Wrath of the Lich King (WotLK or 'Wrath') - takes place in far northern (Arctic) Azeroth, after the events of TBC. It focuses on wintery Northrend, home of the undead, featured in Warcraft 3 and its expansion, dealing with the Lich King who raised the Undead Scourge, and his nearly-completed army getting ready to roll south. Azeroth's forces band together (ish) to stop him on his home turf. This expansion takes players from level 70 to 80.

            3) Cataclysm (Cata) - this is where the timeline gets tricky. When the Cataclysm expansion launched, it REMADE THE WORLD. The old 2004+ era Azeroth was sundered and remade due to the 'cataclysmic' impact of the mad dragon Deathwing and some world-ending cults. The original 1-60 levelling experience was completely replaced by this new experience, which allows levelling from 1-60 (or 55), and then fragments the timeline for you to go back in time to TBC expansion 60-70, Wrath for 70-80, and then re-enter Azeroth's higher-level areas to level from 80-85. So, people you encounter from 1-60 will be talking about events that occurred in TBC/Wrath that you haven't actually encountered yet because you weren't there at 80.

            In practice, this isn't as complicated as it sounds. You'll adjust. It's just a little mental switch you flick.

            (Continued for @highperformance)

            4) Mists of Pandaria (Mists, MoP, Pandaria) - takes place after the events of Cataclysm, putting us firmly back into a sensible timeline again. Levels 85-90 take place on a newly-discovered 'roaming magical continent' which has only just revealed itself after the elemental climax of Cataclysm's end. The discovery has natural enemies Horde and Alliance fighting each other (and eventually themselves) in their rush to exploit the rich natural resources and strategic positioning of this new land. It's full of Chinese'ish kung fu panda-people, which unfairly earned it scorn for ripping off Kung Fu Panda. Unfair because the Pandaren were actually put in Warcraft games years before the movie came out. Technically it's a rip-off the other way around. Anyway, this expansion has its own voice and some interesting riffs on colonialism.

            5) Warlords of Draenor (WoD, Warlords) - Takes place after the internal battling that closed out MoP. The Big Bad of that expansion escapes justice with some demonic assistance, and tears open the timeline to find himself in an parallel-universe version of Draenor (the Orcish homeworld), only back in time - before warlocks blew the place up into Outland, the territory of TBC. The Big Bad marshals the champions of that time, quelling civil/tribal wars with advanced technology), into a formidable force to threaten plain old regular 'Earth 1' Azeroth.

            WoD is the current, latest expansion, taking players from 90 to 100.

            The next expansion will be 'Legion' (just Legion), and it should be 100-110, focusing on the demonic Burning Legion's frustration with 'subtlety' not having worked to conquer Azeroth, so now it's rolling up its sleeves and just going all-in for outright war. Should be out by September, if the material they sell preorders with are anything to go by.

    I did something similar not too long ago, when Hearthstone introduced an alternate Paladin hero you could only get by levelling a new character to 20. So I thought what the hell and installed the game (all 30 gigs of it), created my female draenei mage, and thus began the adventures of PurpleSkank.

    It took me about 4-5 days of modestly heavy play to hit the F2P level cap of 20 and unlock Lady Liadrin (what, you didn't think I was going to PAY to play did you?) and by the end I'd drawn one simple conclusion about WoW- by GOD it's boring! Seriously, maybe I've just been spoiled by vastly superior games like Guild Wars 2, but it hit me full in the face with all the tired cliches that MMOs should have outgrown long ago- boring fetch quests where you have to kill 20 bears, collect 20 bear asses, or wait for the elite named bear to spawn so you can kill him, lots of meaningless running back and forth, huge empty areas which all looked more or less the same with little in the way of landmarks, and a combat system that boiled down to "click on an enemy to select them then throw all your spells at them until it dies- or just spam 1 once you unlock Arcane Blast." I almost never felt challenged at any stage and only died once (when one of the aforementioned named elite mobs, a giant spider boss, spawned on me while I was busy clearing out the lesser spiders from its spawn area out of boredom and I panicked). There was absolutely no interaction with other players (because other players in WoW PvE outside of dungeons and raids exist solely to steal your kills and loot) and by the time I hit level 20 I was... well not EXACTLY bored stiff because the absolute last quest I did before ticking from 19 to 20 was actually moderately exciting, but thoroughly done and aching to go back to GW2 again.

    WoW is WAY too goddamn old, and not all the updates and remodeling in the world can change that.

    It's kind of amusing to read this. Complaining about MMO cliches being in WoW is like rolling your eyes at how many Simpsons quotes are in Apocalypse Now.

    (Meant to have been a reply to guest Arcane Azmadi.)

    Last edited 15/04/16 3:44 pm

      I'm glad you're amused, but that changes nothing. I wasn't bothered by cliche. I was bothered by the BORING.

    Even though graphics aren't everything.. I really wish they'd update the darn graphics! I played for the first 9 months the game was released.. I didn't get bored so much as ran out of spare time at that time of my life.. I've often thought about going back.. even starting again from scratch... but the extremely dated graphics keep me away.

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