With the WoW Classic server coming up, I’ve been thinking more about Blizz’s method of iteration. Credit where due, when Blizz decides a system isn’t good enough, they go to great lengths to remove it from the game (WoD housing is a prime example). Most other games have an incremental approach, where systems are added over time. This tends to cause a serious amount of bloat, as compared to Blizz’s more focused development.
That makes me think a fair bit about Classic. I made a Rogue on day 1 (my main ’til MoP, and still at max level), and I did up to BWL before the cray-cray of organizing 40 people drove me to take a break. Aside from the storyline (with minor retcons) and the general high level map, there’s not a whole lot from Classic that as survived. Let’s take a look at some of the larger bits that simply don’t exist anymore.
- Questing: The largest change was in WotlK where phasing came by, but even in BC the idea that leveling through quests had taken hold. Classic has very few quests to level with, and past level 30 it’s mostly grinding out in the wild or dungeon runs.
- Leveling speed: I still have an old guide I wrote to optimize leveling in Classic. 5 days /played. Today, you can level from 1-120 on 2 characters in the same time.
- Weapon skill: To hit with a sword, you needed to swing a sword – a lot. There were plenty of people who got great drops at 60 and simply couldn’t use them until they raised their skill in the wild.
- Hit rating: Enemies dodged from everywhere, and riposted from the front (hit you back). Dual wield penalties too.
- Ranked skills: Hit every other level, go to a trainer, get a rank increase to do more damage/heal. Down-ranking was the process of using a lower ranked skill as it was more mana efficient.
- MP5: Mana users only regenerated mana after not casting spells for 5 seconds. Chain pulls in dungeons were not possible, and in raids… well you had healing rotations where people just sat down until their mana came back.
- Gold: Getting 1 gold was a great event. There were no daily quests, so 99% of the gold you received was from farming. Repair costs ate most of what you had. It felt very rewarding to have 100g.
- Mounts: Mounts were not only slow, but they came at level 40 and cost nearly all of your gold to acquire. There’s zero flying, and you automatically dismount in water. (Side note: MoP’s Water Strider is/was popular for a darn good reason.)
- Flight Points: You could only do 1 at a time, so AFK while travelling wasn’t an option.
- Talents: Every level you got points to put into a talent tree. Getting lower in the tree required unlocking earlier skills. A very traditional model. Thing is, there are many choices that are not just weak, but detrimental. Making changes had an ever increasing cost in gold – making spec swaps very difficult.
- Hunter pets: They were only good for DPS, and attack speed was king. Nearly everyone had a cat for that reason.
- Spec variety: Nearly every class had only 1 viable spec until late into Vanilla (some waited til BC).
- Guilds: Tabards and guild chat. Oh the days of DKP.
- Soloing: Classes took forever to solo, and could only really handle one enemy at a time. Healing outside of combat required food, and death was extremely common.
- Grouping: Meeting stones made groups, but didn’t summon anyone. You need to travel there and find the entrance.
- Dungeons: BC had great dungeons. Vanilla…less so. Gnomeregan, Sunken Temple, Razorfen Downs/Kraul, Blackfathom, Mauradon were either very hard to get to, or a near maze to complete. The good bit here is that there were 19 different dungeons, which account for ~20% of the entire game!
- Raids: You needed to attune for a dungeon before getting access. That was a crazy adventure! Multiple steps, and often steps that could only be completed by 1 person at a time (imagine running a dungeon 40 times to attune an entire raid).
- Crowd Control: You needed to sap/sheep/hex targets in order to progress with dungeons. AE attacks were few and far between because of it. When’s the last time anyone has seen a sheep?
- Whelps: Leroy Jenkins was a thing because whelps were a thing. In fact, being feared was usually a wipe in any dungeon.
- Resistances: You couldn’t really complete MC without fire resist, or BWL without shadow. AQ needed a ton of nature resist. Resists don’t even exist anymore.
- Item drops: Leveling item drops were not targeted but random across any 2 stats. STR/SPI on a dagger? Sure. Made from some horribly useless bits but also one of the only ways to gear up while leveling.
- Mods: The big ones of the day were threat meters, titan panel, and map markers. DBM didn’t matter, since most fights were tank/spanks and all you had were raid checks. It’s practically unheard of to play WoW today without mods, and even the base game has incorporated some into the basic UI. (Classic will support a LOT more mods than original Vanilla.)
Not a single one of these systems is even remotely recognizable today. Every one has been iterated and streamlined. While a lot was changed in BC and WotlK, Cataclysm (9 years ago) really was the break point between the older model and the newer one. In one way, you could say that we’re playing WoW 2+ today. I’m sure there are plenty of people who want to see this older version, where the people connections were essential to enjoyment. I’m just curious as to how large that audience is as compared to every other gaming option available today.