We got the date this week. WoW Classic is coming on August 27th.
With that things felt… more real. People started making plans. I got an email from one of the old instance group, which we formed back in 2006 at just about the same patch level that WoW Classic is planned to launch with, indicating that we may yet again get the band back together.
I also started thinking about what class I might play. Do I want to go back again as a pally with an offensive spell that is only good against demons or undead, along with auras and judgements and five minute buffs?
You too can play with the talent calculator again.
I know Earl will go warrior and Skronk with a priest. Maybe a druid this time, so I can do the run across the wetlands just like back in the day?
More on that as it develops.
And, of course, with the date announcement there was an unleashing of negative responses, often in the J. Allen Brack vein that nobody really wants WoW Classic, that it will flop, or that even if it starts strong people will soon realize it sucks and walk away.
I would have thought the ongoing success of EverQuest retro servers would have answered this question. They form a part of the ongoing viability of the 20 year old game. I suppose you do have to believe that Blizzard will learn from that, which is always a dubious proposition. But even if Blizz thrashes about and moves at its usual glacial pace it should be able to make a success of selling nostalgia. It certainly has a larger installed base to work with than EQ, and they are already suggesting that The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King variations on these servers could be in the works if WoW Classic does well, though Mr. Brack does remain the doubter in chief on that.
All this also got me thinking again on the Cataclysm expansion.
Oh Cataclysm. If there were thirteen expansions, this one would cost 30 pieces of silver.
I have many negative thoughts about that expansion. Even in hindsight, where I take in other factors, like having played WotLK straight through from launch until Cata launched may have worn me out on WoW or that I followed Cata development more closely than any other WoW expansion which left me few surprises, there are still a lot of sins there.
And not the least among those sins was the reworking of the old world.
I get that Blizz was trying to improve the flow through the game to the current expansion, facing the problem of levels both with that and by limiting the expansion to just five more. It was a first, if not very effective, cut at the levels issue.
And I will admit that many of the redone zones are actually better. They have coherent focus and quests that further the story rather than the sometimes random series of of unrelated tasks that seemed to make up much of the content.
But MMORPG players seem to be an oddly nostalgic lot. In a game that you don’t pick up, play for a few weeks, or maybe months if it is a particularly excellent game, but play for years, the history matters. This was part of my “no good expansions” theory of the world, that expansion bring change, even to areas that otherwise remain untouched, which in turn leads to people pining for how things used to be.
In EverQuest many of the original zones have sat untouched for years, looking little different than they did back at launch, and yet Project 1999 is a thing, trying to bring back an original, untainted version of the early game, while purists decry the Daybreak progression servers as they include post-launch changes to the game. The purists are small in number however, and Daybreak’s nostalgia farming continues to do well.
So I wonder if Blizzard had dialed back their plans a decade back, decided not redo the world, perhaps opting just tune it up to allow flying, tacking on the starter zones for the two new races the same way they did with TBC, and then just focusing on the new zones and dungeons and raids, if we would even be talking about a launch date for something like WoW Classic today?
The strongest argument for WoW Classic is that you cannot simply go back to old zones and see places as they used to be. There is no was to easily simulate the old days, the way things used to be back at launch, because Blizzard changed it all. Some zones didn’t get hit too hard, but others were changed drastically.
In doing that, in removing the easy out option of telling people that the old game still exists if they want to visit places like the Mirage Raceway, did Blizzard set themselves up to eventually have to create something like WoW Classic?
I still feel like MMORPGs are new ground for Blizzard in some ways, even almost 15 years in. SOE launched it first nostalgia driven progression server a dozen years back when Blizzard was still trying to come to grips with WoW, the game that took over the whole company.
It feels like WoW Classic is them finally discovering yet another facet of the genre that makes it different from their stand alone games of the past, where you released something, maybe did an expansion, released a few patches, then moved on to other things.
MMORPGs are long term commitments.