First note, Stormrage queues are still in the 3000s, and waits nearing 2 hours. Still no peep from Blizzard on the issue. No other server has a queue above 10 minutes. It’s fine from the outside, since I haven’t renewed a sub, but it certainly blows chunks for those that are trying to play. Getting a DC and sitting in a 90 minute queue has got to hurt.
I like ’em, plain and simple. I like the fresh(er) take on a game. It fits a good spot between horse armor DLC and sequels that are just re-skinned games. MMOs have a very poor track record on sequels, and their concept of DLC is either patches or the item store for sparkle ponies.
But an expansion, woo, that scratches an itch.
I played through a half dozen with UO, similar with EQ. I tend to go back to older MMOs when they launch one – RIFT being a good example. Not only do you get the new content, you also get whatever patches were put in between when you stopped and now. Aside from the people (which are really the basis of an MMO), playing the game every 6/12/18 months is a really good deal. For $15, you get a ton. For $50, you get the expansion and everything before it. The downside is that you have to relearn all the acronyms.
I made Asmiroth, my Rogue, on launch day in 2005 on Stormrage. The servers barely worked until January 2006. While my Rogue was the main, I also ran a hunter to max level. I tried PvP servers, RP servers, all the classes… but the time investment was crazy. WoW vanilla was better than other MMOs of the time, but looking back it was really rough.
I played all the way until Burning Crusade came out, raided for the first bit there and then moved on to other pastures. Enough to get my Netherwing drake mind you! If I remember anything it was that BC was hard and flying was a massive accomplishment for survival. There were no catchup mechanics, and gating was a nightmare. That said, the world was solid and interconnected, dungeons were fun, and there was a reason to log in daily.
Lich King I raided a tiny bit at the start, managing a few 3DS attempts and then life took over again. I came back for ICC. Catchup mechanics and LFD showed up here, which were amazing for my casual playstyle. There was too much Lich King for my tastes, and a simplification of many parts of the game. DKs were way OP. This is the expansion where you could clearly see the shift from “hardcore MMO” to “casual MMO”, for better or worse.
Cataclysm I played for about 2 weeks. I am truly struggling to recall much good from that expansion, aside from making alts a joke to level up. I did get to try Firelands mind you, and that daily zone was solid. I truly believe that if Cata had followed BC, it would have been a success. The problem here was that the pendulum swung so far from the ease of LK to the bash-your-head of Cata dungeons that people just gave up. LFR showed up here because less than 1% of the population ever set foot in Firelands heroic. This expansion was the death of “hardcore MMOs”, for every game on the market.
Pandaria I played a lot, both at the start and at the end. The island of open quests and gear pinatas was cool and fun. I really appreciated the lore here, even though it had nothing to do with Warcraft. The zones were great, monks I liked, dungeons were fun. Unfortunately the devs didn’t understand what worked in LK and what did not in Cata. We ended up with daily quests for everything, gating a lot of stuff. Which is too bad, because there was a great opportunity for more content. Scenarios were great. Proving grounds were an amazing implementation. Re-roll tokens were good. Raids were smart. The farm was neat. The big picture worked, but the reason to log in daily didn’t work until the Timeless Isle was introduced, way too late in the game. Plus, it took nearly 2 years to get the next expansion.
Warlords I played for about 2 months. Well, more specifically I played the actual content for about 2 weeks or so, the rest was sitting in my garrison playing farmville. I completed 1 dungeon and a few raids in LFR. If I recall, I was making about 2K in 15 minutes of work per day across all the alts. This was another pendulum swing from Pandaria. No more dailies, do what you want, when you want. Open quest areas. Dungeons were useless past the first 2 weeks. 1 patch (selfies are not a patch). Even the lore (aside from sending Gul’dan to start Legion) is meaningless.
As for Legion, I’m about 5 days in. Once the server stabilizes, maybe I’ll go back.
BC, to me, was an extension of Vanilla. It mostly addressed bugs and provided some new content, with some tweaks here and there (most notably adding flying and removing resistances).
Lich King on, we saw iterations on design and a generalization of MMOs, and each expansion made some rather significant changes to core systems. Sometimes the changes were good (talent tree revamps, as only 2-3 builds are ever viable), sometimes not so much (the badge system is the answer to making content relevant). Each expansion feels more like an interconnected sequel, where you can import a previous save, as there are few ties to what came before.
Not that it’s a bad thing, so much as understanding that the people who liked hot dog v3 and have eaten nothing but that for a year and a half, may not be all that pleased with hot dog v4 when they can no longer get v3 at all. That puts a lot of trust between the players and developers. Even more so since there’s a vendor down the street that’s selling something that look a heck of a lot like the v3 hot dog.
And I think it’s fair to say that WoW passed that point a while ago with the majority of it’s playerbase. People return to the expansions with a hope of nostalgia. They get a hint of it, then find a crunchy bit they don’t like and move on. I know I’m in that bucket. Time will tell how many other folks are there too.