The WoW Classic Demo Is The Hell We Asked For

Chuck Norris references. Anal jokes. Killing two dozen raptors to harvest ten raptor heads. The Barrens. Shit, after two hours of the World of Warcraft Classic demo, I’m still in the Barrens. It’s an inescapable nightmare, which is to say it’s perfect.

We wanted it hard, and Blizzard is giving it to us hard. The development team has been working furiously since even before last year’s official announcement of the retro version of the MMORPG, cramming old code into a newer framework in order to undo all the streamlining and simplification they’ve done since 2005. So far, so good.

The WoW Classic demo, available for visitors to Blizzcon 2018 and those who purchased the virtual pass for the event, takes players back to 13 years ago, when Molten Core and Onyxia were the raids to beat. But demo players aren’t going on those grand adventures.

What, only four races on both sides? How am I supposed to make a Draenei Shaman?

No, the demo starts players off at level 15, with Horde and Alliance players sent to the limbo of their side’s choosing. For the Alliance, that’s the golden fields of Westfall, filled with coyotes, vultures, boars, bandits and gnolls. The mighty fortress of Sentinel Hill? Not so mighty anymore.

Where did the walls go? This fortress sucks.

From the starting area, players can accept quests incredibly slowly. Remember, back then the quest text used to crawl down the page before the accept button would light up. You can go into the game’s options and change it, but what about authenticity? It’s only 15 seconds out of your life every time a quest giver is clicked on.

GET ON WITH IT.

Once quests are accepted, it’s off to ... um. Huh. See, back then there wasn’t really a quest tracker. Players didn’t get dots or arrows on their map, showing them where their objectives were. And considering the landscape of Westfall changed significantly when the Cataclysm expansion dropped, most everybody on my beta server was just wandering about hopelessly.

It was horrible, but also beautiful. Wandering the countryside, searching for bandits, not knowing what I was going to run into—that’s the World of Warcraft that drew me in so many years ago.

And when I, only my second Alliance rogue of the demo, finally found the bandits I was supposed to kill, I felt like I had really accomplished something.

It’s so good to have Throw back.

But I didn’t spend a whole lot of time on the Alliance side. I mostly meandered about the Horde’s rolling golden plains, the Barrens. I created a mage, picked a suitable name, and set off to see if things were as bad as I remembered.

Horde players spawn at the Crossroads, and it was good to see the now-deserted area brimming with life. People were dueling, there was a dance party going on at the mailbox, and folks in area chat were going out of their way to make the seemingly never-ending level 10 through 20 hell feel like old times. Comments included:

“Anyone want to check out my livejournal?”

“Friend me on Myspace!”

“This zone is so big, it took Chuck Norris two spin kicks to cross it.”

“Let’s watch Tik Tok!”

Of course there was the requisite complaining about Blizzard. While a majority of folks in chat seemed to be loving the demo, they weren’t so keen on one of Blizzard’s other big Blizzcon announcements.

Many players expressed disappointment that the demo didn’t dial back their ages 13 years to when they were 15. Having been 31 when WoW launched, I hate those players, but I love them just the same. We were all taking a trip back in time together.

To the days when an orc named Mankirk would task Horde players with finding his wife, lost during a brutal battle with quillboars.

After which new players would spend an hour running about the ridiculously expansive zone, looking for any sign of “Mankrik’s Wife,” with no real indication of where to find her.

Oh wait, I found her.

To a time where our spells and abilities were tiered, and some folks would swear that some lower-tiered spells were more efficient than their upper tier counterparts. When we could buy skills from all three of our specialisations at once, and spend hours pouring over the branching talent trees to find just the right combination of enhancements.

How many Arcane Intellects does one need? At least one, dammit.

And of course, to a time when animals and monsters would only sporadically have the items quest givers wanted us to gather. Things one would expect them to all have, like zhevra hooves.

Zehvras are basically horses, so one might think killing one would get an adventurer up to four hooves, but no. Not in WoW Classic.

In WoW Classic we run through the plains, battling against other players for the few striped horses roaming about. There’s no kill sharing, as there is in modern World of Warcraft. The first person to hit the creature gets to credit. Warriors charge, mages use their instants. It’s a a struggle sometimes, but a glorious one.

Damn The Barrens is big.

And best of all, it truly is an inescapable hell. The demo is limited to Westfall and the Barrens. Should a player attempt to cross into another zone, they are instantly teleported back to either Sentinel Hill or the Crossroards. I’ve had nightmares like that.

World of Warcraft Classic will launch officially next summer. Between this demo and the passion the developers displayed during yesterday’s “Restoring History: Creating WoW Classic” panel at Blizzcon, I’m confident that fans like myself eager to revisit the bad old days are going to be quite pleased.


Comments

    just a minor note that the demo was based on a 7.x build that's why all the modern options are there. the blizzcon panel actually detailed what they are doing / what they are compromising on (no LFG, no flying, no achievement, loot trading, debuff limit of 16 etc)

    Personally, I think people who look back on Vanilla with fondness are insane.
    But it's cool that there's the chance to put your money when your nostalgia is.

      Does that mean you enjoy the dumpster fire that is retail WoW?

        BFA has its problems but on the whole, I do yes.

          To each their own. Classic was always my jam and barring a couple of Xpacs (WotLK & Legion) I've just about hated everything that has been done with the game since the beginning.

          That's not to say I didn't continue playing retail since 2005. I'm self aware enough to know I'm an idiot and a hypocrite.

        BFA has it's problems but on the whole, I do yes.

      Vanilla might have been the worst version of WoW to play, but it was the best version to play in.

        That should be concerning then, because WoW Classic is the first part. The community is what made the second part and that has irreversibly changed since 2004. I'm not so sure people are going to find the actual essence of what they liked about vanilla in this.

      Wrath was the high point for me. Still utilised a lot of the best ideas from Classic but with a lot more modern touches. But more importantly it hadn't really dumbed everything down yet so it still had talent trees and enchants and gems (that needed colour matching) and hit capping and so on.

      To a time where our spells and abilities were tiered, and some folks would swear that some lower-tiered spells were more efficient than their upper tier counterparts.

      See that was a real thing. Since spells not only ramped up in power they also ramped up in cast time and mana cost you could do some simple math and work out actual throughput and decide that say rank 7 was better than rank 8 because you could cast 10 spells that did 100 damage instead of 9 spells that did 110 damage. And that you wouldn't run out of mana while doing it. I'm also pretty sure that at one point hots/dots of different rank would stack. So you could put two of the same DOT onto a mob.

      When we could buy skills from all three of our specialisations at once, and spend hours pouring over the branching talent trees to find just the right combination of enhancements.

      This is one of the biggest things I miss. Being able to change the talents because you needed more mana regen or wanted to hybridize and be able to throw some heals as well as dps. Even simple stuff like taking +hit talents while you have crap gear but once it catches up dumping those talent points into something else. I can understand that it was hard for the devs to balance and even more so as they added more classes and races but it made for more meaningful player choices.

      I also understand that it would seem a bit overwhelming for a new player but I feel like the choices were a lot more understandable than trying to work out which azerite traits are better now. Not to mention having to rely on RNG to get the traits you want.

    I'll be playing WoW Classic for quite some time, even with lack of quality of life improvements over the years. I can't stand current WoW's system of RNG layered upon layers and layers of more RNG simply to keep you subscribed for longer.

    But Warcraft 3: Reforged has me all sorts of hyped.

      Many of us never considered all of the QoL changes as 'improvements'. For me, things like Dungeon Finder, LFR, BG queues etc completely ravaged the sense of community that was so strong and a huge part of why I loved that game before all of that.

      Amen to WC3:R.

        Nah I don't mean things like LFR, or Cross-Realm. They destroyed server identity, you used to be able to recognise someone just by the armour they were wearing!

        I more of mean 10min Pally buffs that required SO many reagents for a single raid.

          From memories Pallies didn't need any reagents for buffs other than symbol of kings, for blessing of kings.
          I used to fall asleep in raids playing a pally. Buff/support heals zzzzzzz

            I remember my first raid by the time I had buffed person 40 with Might the first person had about 30 seconds left.

            Glorious!

            Pally blessings were single target and 5 minutes long (it was a forever job just keeping all those up on a 40 man raid!) Greater Blessings were class-wide and lasted 15 minutes, but each one (Might/Wisdom/Kings) used a Symbol of Kings.

            Then Divine Intervention (the raid wipe-saver) used a Symbol of Divinity

            I'm so torn whether to play Paladin again in Classic, whom I've played since Vanilla or go with another healer like Druid / Priest.

              Being horde we never had that problem. Of course we still had the buffing assignments. "You're keeping up Mark of the Wild on groups 1 & 2". And I miss the fact druids were so valued because of battle res.

        People also forget that WoW vanilla also had a much smaller population than what it achieved post-Vanilla, therefore you needed to build those relationships. I have a strong suspicion that if you removed cross-realm play and looked at the giant population servers the social experience would be much closer to today than 2004.

        The appeal of Classic WoW doesn't exist for me. Forgetting the game play and glaring balance issues, the content itself is dated. Sure killing Onyxia for the first time and those subsequent runs was thrilling back in the day, but the strats are so well known now - the challenge is not there. Watch the content get stomped.

          This.

          The content will be done easily by almost everyone that can rustle up 40 people (probably don't even need that tbh, it's just that people essentially brute forced their way through the content because the mechanics were so simple). The vanilla servers will be a ghost town soon after each content patch. Plus what are they going to do once people are done with Naxx? Just leave the world as is? Or push it to BC? Then rinse and repeat and we'll end up in a situation where we have a server that's 10 years behind the currently version of the game.

          The numbers really depend on what point you're looking at. Do you call launch WoW vanilla, or everything up until BC for example? And what do you consider a small population? It got to around 5 million about a year after launch for example, with dozens of servers launching daily.

          But it got to a million not long after Christmas 2004, just a couple of months after launch. That was impressive at the time, the Lineage games being the only other million player games at that point. By comparison, EQ and FFXI got to about 500k at their peak and were major successes to that point.

          If they're talking launch WoW, I wonder if they're bring back the lag in the cities :)MontageForge was never fun :(

            I don't believe the oceanic population boomed at the same rate as the rest of the world until post-BC. After all the oceanic population was still largely contained to Proudmoore and Blackrock depending on PVE/PVP preference up to that point. I know there were other servers with oceanic populations, but they were vastly smaller. Back then server selection mattered more, for the whole world: queue times, for oceanic players: finding players in the same time zone.

            Hence it makes sense why an oceanic vanilla era player would feel the community was so tight: the oceanic community would have remained small yet highly contained. IIRC for Naxx on Proudmoore there were maybe 5 guilds in total that were raiding it, I can say for certain there was one that cleared it before BC but there may have been a second. Blackrock was doing better than Proudmoore but not by much more. So yes, back then it was much easier to keep track of who is who. Naxx was the raid where the oceanic community started to concentrate upper skilled players into the same guilds.

              Damnit, it lost my post. I was in Southern Wardens on Proudmoore, we were breaking into Naxx when BC launched.

              Didnt realise you were being specific to Oceania, and was just pointing out that it was only 6 months after launch that people were joining so fast the new servers could barely keep up. From an Oceania point of view, yeah, it mattered.

              I started on another server, cant remember which. It had a lot of Aussies on it though, dont remember much co-ordination though. Game didnt click with me though, it was only after workmates in SW convinced me a while later that I restarted on Proudmoore and got into it.

              Was on a bit of a break from Everquest at the time, our guild there raided pretty high and was in a bit of a rut.

          I was going to say I don't think the content would get stomped, but then thinking about the likely players (ie: hardcore fans) it just might. If you threw the modern casual fans into classic all the strats in the world wouldn't help them though.

            Vanilla content was tuned much lower than current mythic raids of the last few expansions. This was counterbalanced by theorycrafting not being what it is today. Add ons as well were much more simple and the availability of strats and videos was also limited. I know this because I came to WoW with an EQ guild.

            What that guild lacked in skill they made up for in coordination and organisation - after all, we had been raiding for years before WoW came out. In today's terms, that guild would not progress at the same rate because current WoW has much tighter requirements.

              I wouldn't say that. There were certain fights that were pretty straight forward but there were a lot that were "one mistake and it's over". Chromagus was pretty nasty as was most of Naxx and a lot of AQ40. Hell even ZG and MC were tough when they came out. It was only after you'd gotten geared they became faceroll.

              And on top of that, we spent ages building up fire resist sets for MC and nature resist sets for AQ. It's not just strats and videos there is a ton of work required to gear up. Casuals don't do that, the hardcore do.

              And even ignoring boss fights for a moment I can't imagine a bunch of casuals clearing the slowing pylons and trash leading to Broodlord let alone some of the bosses.

    This may get me back to WoW. I loved vanilla, and then each expansion pushed me further away. I used to love the community feeling on a server, the slap together groups for BRS, learning to clear Onyxia, MC, BWL. The opening of the AQ gates... it was all so good.

      Yup. And Nostalrius proved that it's still exactly the same today - it's not just rose-tinted glasses.

      I met more players and had more fun on that server than I have in the entire time since TBC ended.

    Wish they were adding the updated models and textures too.

      I logged in for 15 mins. And then uninstalled the demo. It is absolutely hell going back to that simpler time.

        I understand that some people feel like that. But hey, you still have retail wow. Enjoy!

        Have a look at the RuneScape model, for instance. There's RuneScape 3 for people who like the updated systems and modern graphics, and then there's OldSchool RuneScape for those who prefer the extremely dated look and mechanics.

        It's probably worth noting that OldSchool RuneScape launched to a lower playerbase than RuneScape 3, but is now currently 4-5 times more popular than the modern version.

        http://www.misplaceditems.com/rs_tools/graph/

          That's great. As someone who has played wow since 2004, I'm quite happy to keep moving forward. Even though BFA is pretty gutter trash atm. I still have my Rhok'delar on my hunter.

    I like the way quest items didn’t sparkle.
    You had to find them.
    I remember looking for a quest book in Scarlet Monastery and finally found it in the final boss (Whitemane or something) office on a library shelf. There was no sparkling but the cursor turned into a cog when I moused over it.
    Everyone else was leaving and I was frantically looking for the book.

    I cannot wait to jump back on my troll priest and grind like hell for Benediction again.
    Hands down the greatest achievement I have ever accomplished in a game to date.
    Simply Epic.

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