The Factions of MMO Nostalgia and Progression Servers

I feel like I am a bit ahead of the game here.  In the last few months people have been writing blog posts, myself included, about what Blizzard should after WoW Classic.  Blizz can’t just stop at vanilla, can they?

The Classic Background

But I have been watching debates rage over how classic servers or progression should be handled for about a decade over in the EverQuest forums.  Remember, SOE put out the first EverQuest progression server back in 2007.  That was just eight years after the game launched, proving once again that it takes Blizzard twice as long to do everything I suppose.

So I had to chuckle a bit when Kaylriene suggested this might be unknown territory in his post the other day.  Unknown only if you focus solely on WoW I suppose.

Now, granted, what Blizzard is attempting to do is way above and beyond what SOE/Daybreak have ever attempted, which is to create an authentic 2006 experience.  This has set expectations which means that they won’t be able to half-ass their way through adding additional expansions.  And I think that they must, at some point, go that route.  Again, given the EverQuest experiences with this over the last decade, an authentic revisit to some of these old expansions is worth as much in subscriptions as another new expansion.

The problem is that the WoW audience is not a unified group.  No MMO audience is.  And this progression/nostalgia idea tends to sort people out into a few different categories which I have noticed and noted over the years.  They are:

The Classicists

These are the people who are not interested in progression.  In fact, they’re complaining that WoW Classic is coming in at version 1.12.  They are the ones arguing about what vanilla WoW really was.  They don’t want a 2006 version of the game, they want the November 23, 2004 version.  They want all the warts and issues of the first day of the game.  No looting bug, no deal!  And they sure as hell don’t want any expansions.  They want the game to stay right there, locked in time.

The Progression Raiders

These have been the key drivers for EverQuest, and will likely have a notable role with WoW Classic.  These are the old raiding groups that get back together to race to level cap in order to be world first/server first to take down bosses, farm raids for gear, and advance to the final boss in any expansion.  They want a specific phase to last only as long as it takes them to bring down the boss and farm for enough gear to move on.  They are always pushing for a faster unlock pace.

The Nostalgia Tourists

These are the people who want to relive the good old days, but are not too concerned with total authenticity or wearing the launch day hair shirt.  I am mostly in this group.  I want to take my time going through the content, so I am not in a hurry to see the next expansion show up.  However, I still want the game to advance eventually.

The Fresh Starters

Bhagpuss first identified this group to me.  There is a group of players out there just loves that fresh server smell, running out into the newbie zone with a mass of low level players, and just enjoying the spectacle of a new world coming alive.  They just shows up again and again at every new special server launch, hang out for a while, get to a point where they are done, then wait for the next one.  If nothing else, an easy crowd to please, and their subscription dollars spend just the same as everybody else’s.

The Cult of PvP

This is sort of a sub-group, since people here usually identify with one of the other groups as well.  But they just want you to know that PvP is the most important thing and the biggest draw and that if you just focused on PvP everybody would be happy and the servers would overflow.  When this hasn’t panned out in the past, at least in Norrath, the PvP response has always been that not enough focus was spent on PvP.

The Live Purists

These people want all the other groups to just shut up.  They are all about the live game and see any diversion into nostalgia servers as players and resources stolen from their game.  J. Allen Brack is their patron saint and they will repeat ad nauseum that nobody wants this and it is all a waste of time and the servers will be dead in three months and so on and so forth.

And they are not totally wrong.  There is always some impact on the live game player base, and development time can be a bit of a zero sum game.  There are only so many people on the team and hours in the day.

Then there are The Outsiders, who are not really a direct faction, but who wander into the picture now and again.  They are generally noticeable for being against the game overall, retro, live, or whatever, but still insisting that their voice be heard.  They can be random passers by who just drop a line and move on, or they can be the die hards who show up to bad mouth various games any time they are mentioned anywhere on the internet.  You know who I am talking about.

They occasionally make temporary common cause with one group.  Right now they fit in with the Live Purists because they are loudly predicting failure for WoW Classic.  But often seem to just be at war with them all.

None of these groups forms a majority, and the boundaries between them can be pretty soft at times, with the PvP group something of an overlay on a couple of the other groups.  Depending on the circumstances, various groups will be natural allies or opponents.

If the topic is whether or not there should be nostalgia servers, it will be everybody versus the Live Purists.

When it comes to content, the Classicists tend to be at war with the other pro-nostalgia groups.

Content pacing, and suddenly the Progression Raiders are the loudest voice, and more often than not get what they want over the objections of the other groups.

When things are taking too long or when the server launch is way in the rear view mirror, the Fresh Starters start asking for the next server.

And the Cult of PvP remains consistent in its demands for focus to be on PvP ahead of everything else.

I have not seen anything so far to indicate that World of Warcraft and WoW Classic will end up being any different.  The question is really just how soon Blizzard gets going on creating an unlock, advancement, or progression system to allow people to move forward beyond vanilla.

Until then, the Classicists sort of get what they want, even if it isn’t the exact right version.

Which group are you in?

(The poll above may not appear if you have Firefox set to extra protective mode)

Of course, there is an “other” option if I have missed a group.

Addendum: Ehrmagahd, Massively OP totally stole my idea! Go vote in their poll!  That will show them!

11 thoughts on “The Factions of MMO Nostalgia and Progression Servers

  1. bhagpuss

    I ticked Fresh Starters but I’m about 50/50 that and Nostalgia Tourists. There’s a good chance I might hang around long enough to get a character or two to the level cap if I find the gameplay fun, which I think I will.

    After that, though, I kind of slip into Classicist, but only for WoW. I really disliked the Burning Crusade open world zones and I wasn’t impressed by the WotLK ones either so I have little to no interest in moving on to either of them. In EQ or EQ2 that would be the opposite because there are plenty of expansions for both that I really like.

    I think Blizzard are going to end up running a fairly major retro-sideshow that goes on indefinitely because, as SOE/DBG and Jagex have found, nostalgia makes money. And when you’re talking about WoW that could be a lot of money. If they’re smart and manage it well they could effectively have WoW2 without even having to create any new content.

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  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Bhagpuss – I was trying to set the poll up to allow people to choose up to 3 options, but it wasn’t working for whatever reason, so you have to choose a primary.

    The Burning Crusade was certainly no Ruins of Kunark in my mind, and I frequently rate it mid-pack in the stack ranking of WoW Expansions. The solo question experience seemed to be driven by the idea that if killing ten rats was good, then killing 15 was at least 50% better.

    That said, the five person dungeon experience was pretty good. Classic was kind of all over the map when it came to dungeon design, which was both good and bad. TBC settled that down a bit, or at least seemed to put some parameters around dungeons. There were no more five hour Wailing Cavern, here comes respawn time, death marches.

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  3. Kluwes

    I think I’m closest to a fresh starter in more ways than one. I don’t have too much experience. This seems like an interesting jumping in point. I can’t deny I’m excited to start on a fresh server with everyone else. I’m also a bit of a tourist. It kind of feels like a musuem is about to open and I want to see what’s in it.

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  4. Yamael Angmar

    I put my vote down with the Live Purists, though to be honest I may yet become a Nostalgia Tourist for a short time. For me, the game as it is now is, if not at its best, not far from it (if only they could get rid of PvP and factions…).

    I played WoW classic in 2004 and back then I already disliked all the troubles you had to go though to do any group content. Once I got to max level, the only thing I felt like doing was rolling a new alt and go through it all solo again, and eventually stopped playing. And I was at a point in life where I had the time to go through all those hoops, being a student.

    Now I’ve got a full time job, a family to take care of, and much less time, so all those quality of life additions that have been made to the game over the years are very welcome. I play less than I did back in vanilla, but at least I feel that I can log in and get something out of it. Through LFG and LFR I can at least see the end zones I could only dream of 15 years ago. Sure it’s not the same experience as going through those with a group of friends, but if you didn’t have a group of 40 to play with forget about even taking a peek.

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  5. Shintar

    I voted Classicist, because even though I’m very happy with 1.12 and would quite like to see a BC server eventually, I do think that the Classic experience should be preserved as is and nobody should be forced onto an expansion server in the future.

    I find your progression raider grouping interesting because that’s one viewpoint I haven’t seen in the Classic WoW debate at all so far. Have you seen anyone express it or are you just extrapolating from EQ? I suppose it could become a thing eventually, but the way I see it there’s also a chance that as far as WoW is concerned, the hardcore raiders might be quite happy to just stay busy with the live game’s offerings.

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  6. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Shintar – My picking out that group was based on my experience with EQ servers. But I also note that raid progression was something addressed early on as part of WoW Classic and I have certainly seen no shortage of people talking about raiding being a big focus. Raiding has always been a big part of the WoW experience as far as Blizz is concerned. That isn’t Hogger they have on the launch date graphic I have been using.

    That there is no expansion progression means that the progression raider demographic isn’t in play the same way it is in EQ, since there is currently nothing promised beyond the vanilla experience. But they are still there.

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  7. The Alien

    I don’t think classic WoW is interesting. I played it at the time. The game got a lot better with Burning Crusade and Wrath. It seems to me that spending all this time, effort and money to produce this is silly. But this is Blizzard. They didn’t go from “You think you want it, but you don’t.” to “Let’s dump a load of resources on this!” without people wanting it. So there must be people who will be into it. I hope they have fun. It won’t hurt me…I mean, unless they need to drop a raid tier in the live game because of it. Or launch an expansion with a broken core mechanic. Or not make tier sets. Or, you know, something. I guess that could hurt me a little.

    But joking aside, I hope people have fun, so this will have been worth the time assorted Blizzard employees spent on it.

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  8. Quin

    I chose Outsiders, though my cross over is not with the Live Purists, but more with the Classicists or Nostalgia Tourists. My view, as I’ve discussed a few times, is that MMORPGs in the late 1990s/early 2000s were more like living worlds and thus more enjoyable to exist in. However, I also argue that WoW was the first step on the dumbing down and the themeparkification of the genre.

    So I’m keen to see a version of WoW that is far from the live version succeed as proof that the older style of games do have a big following. But I am also unlikely to play WoW Classic as I fell into the “anti-WoW” camp when it was first release, and only begrudingly played it a few months later. I get my classic MMO fix in EQ, UO or SWG.

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  9. Archey

    I voted Nostalgia Tourist and that’s my main category. If we had multiples I would have said a little bit Classicist and a little bit PvP cultist. I played on a PvP server from launch even though I’m not a very good PvPer. The sense of danger and having to watch your back was always a critical ingredient for me.

    I don’t know how much time I’ll have to try out Classic, but I hope to at least clock enough time to qualify as a Fresh Starter.

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  10. Alli

    Fresh Starter is me to a T! Personally I wish WoW was doing more of a progression server than just classic forever and ever. I’m hoping they’ll make a BC server eventually and we’ll be able to port our Classic characters to it if we so desire. I realize there’s cons to that, but BC was my favorite expansion!

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  11. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    Results from the “Other” category:

    -New player
    -BC was better than Vanilla [Editor: Nuh-uh!]
    -A Person Who Likes WoW’s Old Design Ethos
    -the missed it the first timer….started in Cata, never saw the old world.
    -Passenger (following friends, game indifferent)
    -Sandboxers – don’t want the Gear Treadmill Progression brings, just enjoy world

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