I suppose that my current affinity for WoW Classic isn’t exactly inexplicable. Surely last week’s posts about the effort put in getting to Ragefire Chasm, a dungeon of no particular significance aside from its low level rating and awkward location, doesn’t seem out of place for somebody who, say, put in the effort to build a 20km road in survival mode in Minecraft.
Still, there has to be something compelling here to get to that level of effort.
Much ado has been made about WoW Classic and what its essence really is, with assertions running along the vectors of simplicity vs complexity, ease vs difficulty, fulfilling vs time sinks, and even modern vs archaic.
There are two amorphous camps out there whose banners seem to be “Why would you play WoW Classic?” and “Why wouldn’t you play WoW Classic?” or something like that. But the messages can be indistinct and at times I have heard arguments that I was sure were in support of one side of the divide only to reach a conclusion that surprised me.
Meanwhile, I am always suspicious of my own opinion. I am an unreliable narrator on the gaming journey that this blog covers, and I have often said I would play certain games or that enjoyed specific activities, only to give them up and never mention them again. So when I say I am enjoying WoW Classic, there is some part of me questions that sentiment. Am I really? Am I sure about that?
The only way to tell is whether or not I keep logging in. I can say whatever I want, convince myself that I am having fun, write blog posts about what I am doing, but if I sit down at my computer in the evening and don’t log in to play, then the reality of the situation has been exposed. Regardless of what I tell myself, I won’t log in if I am not enjoying myself.
So that I keep logging into WoW Classic seems to be a good sign. In fact, I keep logging into it to the exclusion of nearly anything else. I suspect my play time distribution at the end of the month will be very much lopsided in favor of WoW Classic.
Naturally a big portion of this is related to the revival of the instance group. Getting the band back together to play is a huge draw, and one that is self-reinforcing, as the more the others in the group play or chat on Discord or whatever, the more we are all likely to log in and play.
There is also the chance for a fresh start. It has long been an open secret that one of the draws to the EverQuest progression servers is the start in a brand new world with everybody at level one again. That was part of what got me going on the LOTRO Legendary server as well, a chance to see the early zones alive, to have people all around you, to have a place not already filled with people where most every new character you meet is an alt, twinked up to level up more quickly.
And, honestly, I find some satisfaction in there being some effort required to get things done. Last weekend was the fourth time we, as a group, did the Ragefire Chasm instance.
We did it back during WotLK, over level, but keen to run into Orgrimmar.
We did it during our venture on the Horde side on the Lightninghoof RP-PvP server.
We did it during Cataclysm when we re-rolled a fresh group.
And we did it last week in WoW Classic.
Only one of the first three was a memorable event. The first time it was something out of the ordinary that took effort and some patience as we ran into Orgrimmar with our Alliance characters. That run sprang into my mind right away when we started talking about giving the dungeon a try. The other two though, if I hadn’t written blog posts about them and tagged them correctly with the dungeon name, they wouldn’t have popped up.
The second time we ran Ragefire Chasm it was as Horde, and there was little effort needed to get to the instance. It is right there in Orgrimmar. The instance itself isn’t all that exciting and serves mostly as a training dungeon. We moved on from there and it left no memory with me.
The third time, during Cataclysm, we did it with our re-rolled Alliance group. But that was in the Dungeon Finder era after everything in the 1-60 range had been reworked into Dominoes dungeons (done in 30 minutes or less) and the level curve had been goosed once again to speed people up into the latest content. We did three instances that night; Ragefire Chasm, Shadowfang Keep, and Stormwind Stockades, and none of it has any presence in my memory. Certainly the 11 minutes we spent in RFC left no mark. But what should you expect from low effort encounters?
Here is the thing. Difficulty or inconvenience or failure or shared effort to overcome obstacles, those are things that create memories, that make for interesting tales, that build bonds, and make what you did a solid part of your personal history.
That difficulty, that level of effort required to get things done, that was part of the MMORPG landscape of the time. Blizz just took what they found in EverQuest and made it more purposeful in WoW. Bhagpuss did a whole post yesterday that sifts through the level of effort and inconvenience with purpose aspect of this. If you haven’t read through that, you should. I am in agreement on how a lot of the effort seems quite well planned to get you involved with the world. The world was, as Chris Metzen said, the main character of WoW.
And finally, of course, there is nostalgia. This is a return to not just an older version of Azeroth no longer available in the retail version of the game, but even a return to mechanics and play styles long gone from WoW. I can understand why some might not prefer that over retail, but to claim there is no substantial difference between retail and classic seems to me to be deliberate self-delusion. If you draw back far enough, every fantasy MMORPG plays about the same, but those involved get into the details. You cannot do everything in retail that you can do in classic simply because the world and the mechanics therein are so very different.
I am logging in to return to a game that was no longer there, that retail has replaced, to have an experience that is quite literally no longer possible in the current version of WoW. I’m not saying retail WoW is bad, but it is very different and it is sometimes surprising at how wide the gap between the two really is now.
And it has also been eye opening to see how well made the original game was and how so much of what Blizzard has done to “improve” the game has only succeeded in taking some of the edge off of what was a pretty well honed blade. The reason WoW took off back in the day was because it was a well put together MMORPG that made much of what came before… an most of what came after… look like amateur night.
So WoW Classic has clearly clicked with me for a variety of reasons. Skronk jokingly said that Comcast called and wanted to know why they hadn’t turned on their TV over the last three weeks. If my wife played I might be tempted to make the same joke. Four weeks in I keep logging in daily to play. That is the tell, the indicator that my opinion is in line with reality. I am really enjoying WoW Classic.