WoW Classic and What We Left Behind

In the post I did late last month about the metaverse and VentureBeat’s summit, I included a video from the Folding Ideas channel on YouTube about NFTs and crypto and what they’re really about.  I do recommend listening to that video (you can watch it, but I think you get 90% of the content just through audio, which I’ve done twice now) even if it is two hours long.

Impressed by that video, I went an explored what else the channel had to offer, which includes an interesting and deep look at the Ralph Bakshi Lord of the Rings movie from the 70s, but the more relevant gem I uncovered was a video about WoW Classic.

Classic is as classic does

The video, which runs 40 minutes is a look at World of Warcraft back in the day, how it was part of the role playing game genre, its roots in EverQuest, and a comparison between WoW of 2006 and the more recent version of the game.  As with the previous two videos I mentioned, it is a thoughtful examination of the topic, delving into mechanics, social dependency, and self-directed play.

As a note, the video is more than two years old at this point, and much of the comparison being done with vanilla WoW focuses on the Battle for Azeroth expansion though, as you might expect, Cataclysm also come under some scrutiny.

For me, the comparison between Battle for Azeroth and vanilla, and how the myriad of options that expansion offered when it came to things to do could quite easily lead to a sense of obligation, a feeling that you HAVE to do all the things to keep up and current, seems even more relevant in the era of Shadowlands.

Shadowlands, having shortened up the already short run to level cap that Battle for Azeroth offered, stuck me as an expansion almost entirely devoted to generating a sense of obligation within players, a false need to get out there and work on faction rep, do the dailies, run Torghast, and work your way up towards the current raid meta.

Whatever gripes I have or had with Battle for Azeroth, I did play it through, getting multiple characters to level cap, unlocking all the allied races, unlocking flying, and generally “doing all the things” that could be done without having to queue up to play with strangers.

So for me it was interesting to consider the direction Blizzard went with Shadowlands and how its design runs against the idea of self-directed play.  I made it through to level cap with a single character, then fell off the wagon without even a thought of coming back later to pick up the thread.

Anyway, a food for thought video on a Saturday.

7 thoughts on “WoW Classic and What We Left Behind

  1. PCRedbeard

    “Shadowlands, having shortened up the already short run to level cap that Battle for Azeroth offered, stuck me as an expansion almost entirely devoted to generating a sense of obligation within players, a false need to get out there and work on faction rep, do the dailies, run Torghast, and work your way up towards the current raid meta.”

    This hits on my biggest dislike for TBC Classic. Not the content itself, but that people took the current Retail approach of doing the Meta to do all the things so that you had an optimized strat for leveling and gearing and raiding. Doing that reduced a game –WoW Classic and TBC Classic– not designed for a Meta into just that, a pale echo of Retail. Because of people religiously following that Meta for raiding, people burned out and left the game, embittered by the experience. I’m definitely in the “embittered” camp, and I did leave progression raiding (but for other reasons than burnout), but I’m more disgruntled by and about the people who couldn’t simply enjoy the journey and just had to push the envelope and crunch the numbers and miss out on the fun happening all around them. It wouldn’t have been as big a deal if their behavior didn’t affect things such as grouping, instance running, raiding (pugs or in guilds), and PvP.

    I watched Josh Strife Hayes’ video on the breakdown of what happened to New World, and one thing stood out to me: all of the people who published YouTube videos (once the NDA lifted) on the Meta for New World that was STILL IN BETA meant that there were going to be a ton of people blitzing through the content, reaching the end, and then saying “I’m bored.” Because of that, Strife Hayes believed that New World would have to pump out content at an extreme pace in order to just keep ahead of the Meta. In a real sense, this Meta is ruining games before they even have had a chance to be released into the wild.

    In that context, what chance did an old game, such as WoW Classic or TBC Classic, hope to have?

    I guess you could argue that changing some of the content or gear bonuses would throw a monkey wrench into the works, as well as elimination of the PTR, but New World also shows that the PTR is needed to catch critical bugs before they got released into production. It’s truly a “pick your poison” scenario.

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  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @PCRedbeard – Yeah, TBC Classic. My relationship with TBC is a bit fraught, as it is the expansion I feel like I should like but do not. It does have a lot of good five person dunegons, but the overland content felt like such a grind.

    And, to be fair to those who pushed the raiding meta for TBC Classic, Blizzard set that tone with the expansion as it originally shipped back in 2007. I recall a bevy of online arguments about why so much focus on raiding and somebody pulling out a statistic about the number of players who had been in on a specific raid boss kill indicating that a majority of WoW players raided.

    WoW Classic was a lot of fun, but TBC Classic… fun kind of fell off for me there.

    I’ll have to go watch that video about New World. Our group, limited to playing weekly (because no alts), is way behind the curve there.

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  3. bhagpuss

    @PCRedbeard – When I was playing and thoroughly enjoying New World I was reading blogs by people who were blitzing through the content, initially having a great time and then finding they’d hit a wall and weren’t having fun any more. They then blamed the game as though there’d been some kind of bait and switch. Meanwhile, I carried on and ended up with considerably more hours played and yet never got to the level cap at all.

    New World has a lot of flaws, most seemingly caused by the devs inability to handle the design tools, but the fundemental game seems to me to be perfectly fine… so long as it’s treated like the territorial PvP sandpark it was always meant to be. The late-development decision to throw a load of rather basic PvE quests on top certainly brought in the numbers but in retrospect it also seems to have raised expectations that the studioisn’t able to meet. That’s almost certainly where the problem with the “meta” came in.

    @Wilhelm – I’ve just (almost) finished listening to the Folding Ideas video on NFT/Crypto. Very interesting and informative although I could have done without the drum solos. He takes a very long time to explain in exceptional detail what could be summed up in a few paragraphs and I’m not sure how much I’ll remember tomorrow but I do feel I understand the whole thing at a deeper level than I did before – and I already had a working understanding of it.

    It’s very hard to see how any of it could ever really go mainstream. The entire process seems to be predicated on a relatively small number of people taking advantage of a larger but still small number. As he says at one point, the whole thing starts to fall apart if it gets too successful. The fears he has about what the world would be like if NFT/Blockchain became so entrenched in digital culture that the average person wouldn’t be able to function without joining in seems paradoxical when taken with all the other things he says about the fragility of the processes involved. Either those would de facto have to become more secure to the point of at least matching what we have now or else the entire financial and commercial structure would collapse.

    As for gaming, NFTs clearly make no sense whatsoever and he does a great job of explaining why Play to Earn is a total non starter. I’d already worked out the fatal flaw, which is that the games have to be fun enough for people to be playing them for their own sake for the people playing them to earn to have any hope of selling the assets they’re earning. Given the success rate of developers in making games that are as much fun as that under the existing system I think we can all imagine what the chances of that happening are.

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  4. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    I watched that JSH video about New World and… wow, there is a long list of stuff that went wrong. I remember quite a bit of it, too. I think the instance group started playing seriously when they stopped all player coin transactions, which was well down the line of issues. The economy was pretty much broken by then, with people who were able to take advantage rolling in gold while I still can’t afford a house yet.

    JSH also has a decent “what is the metaverse” video that is fairly grounded in what it really means versus many of the ideals.

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  5. Archey

    I’m still playing TBC Classic, now on my second character in Outland and still engaged. I have zero characters ready for raiding and honestly, I think that’s a big reason I’m still there.

    I think Classic/vanilla, with its long leveling and many possible non raiding endgame activities, was the best state of the game, but it didn’t get noticeably bad till much later. That said, I’m not surprised that Shadowlands (which I never actually bought) is at least tacitly of a “non raiders need not apply” mold. They were moving that direction for years.

    I feel like making raiding the only real end game is a poison pill. It gives you a reason to log in regularly, but its unforgiving nature tends to burn people out and cause all kinds of social issues like FOMO and gear and skill envy if you are doing anything short of no-lifing it. But the more forgiving/nerfed the content is, the less it seems worth doing.

    The only solution I see is to have a variety of non raiding things to do at endgame that don’t all somehow herd you to raiding.

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  6. Shintar

    I saw that video when it first came out as I’ve been following Dan’s channel for a few years already. What really impressed me and stuck with me was the comparison between the entrance to Orgrimmar then and now.

    Your criticism of Shadowlands being too focused on raiding surprises me because I’ve been playing casually without ever setting foot into a raid and it seemed to me that there’s plenty to do. Anything to do with your Covenant, seeing the different stories and exploring their unique gameplay options seemed quite neat to me, and also designed to work as long-time goals that you don’t have to rush. I mean, people have plenty of gripes about Shadowlands, but I don’t see how it’s particularly more raid focused than any other WoW expansion.

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  7. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Shintar – Maybe it is a matter of being less focused on other things. The obligatory dailies are still there, but it also feels like Toghast is a mini-raid training simulator to me.

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