One of the differences between running a “classic” server in World of Warcraft and other MMORPGs doing the same is how Blizzard handles classes.
For example, we’ll take my benchmark for retro servers, EverQuest, which did its first such servers back in 2007, when the game was a mere eight years old. The team at SOE, and later at Daybreak, didn’t spend a bunch of time worrying about classes
That isn’t because things haven’t changed in the game over the years, but due to how they have handled change. Rolling up a level 1 warrior and dropping in Qeynos today you’ll find a lot has changed since 1999. You earn xp faster, your health regenerates faster, you’ve had to bypass a tutorial and other starter zone options, and the UI has changed with the times, just to name a few obvious updates.
But if you put on your rose colored glasses and squint your eyes a bit, you can attack a snake out in front of Qeynos with your basic skills… kick, taunt, and shield bash I think… and get the occasional skill improve and generally feel the way you did back in 1999.
That is because the team has mostly handled class changes for expansions by using skills or spells or alternate advancements or special abilities within the context of a specific expansion. When it comes to classes, expansions are somewhat compartmentalized, in that they don’t effect the class as it played up to that point, but adds or changes things that go forward.
That is a general rule, and there are some exceptions. SOE redid spells at one point so you don’t get them every five levels, for example, and that affected everybody from level 1 forward. But for the most part they have kept to that rule. So when you go back to an old expansion on a retro server, it at least plays and feels mostly like it did at the time.
This is, of course, in stark contrast to how Blizzard has handled classes in World of Warcraft when it comes to expansions. In WoW every expansion revamps your class. Sometimes a little bit, sometimes a lot. Sometimes your favorite class and spec becomes unfun, and sometimes things get a bit better.
Between vanilla WoW and The Burning Crusade the class changes were not very radical. My paladin and my hunter, the two classes I have played continuously since I first started with WoW, got some updates, but there wasn’t any radical change as to how the classes played.
My paladin was still putting up seals, judging them on every cool down, to improve damage and, in the case of my protection pally, hold aggro by enhancing holy damage. Likewise, my beast mastery hunter still had to run off and tame other pets to learn skills to train his main pet, who needed to be fed pretty regularly.
And that seems pretty logical, given what we know. The WoW team spent a lot of the time during vanilla just honing the game, udoing false assumptions, and really trying to make the whole thing work. So there wasn’t as much time for radical class changes as they prepared for Outland.
The road to Northrend though, that seemed to have room enough for class reworks, and I have been trying to get on board with them.
With my paladin, Wrath is the first of a long line of expansions where somebody felt it was time to rework seals and judgment. Or judgements, because with Wrath you get three flavors of judgement.
Seals are also flat rate now, no ranks to them, and last for 30 minutes or until you judge. So there is some getting used to things on that front.
On the other hand, exorcism is no longer limited to undead and demons, so my pally now has a single target ranged attack for pulling.
For my hunter, on the other hand, the Wrath pre-patch has been like Christmas.
I did a quick re-spec of him after the patch and was doing some lazy questing and, with just auto-shot most of the time, he got a 100 DPS bonus before I started digging into things.
His pet now has its own talent tree with some interesting abilities, like Heart of the Phoenix, which totally not OP.
I did the Hemet Nesingwary quests solo with my hunter, including the final named mobs, and solo’d them without problem. I had to use the Heart of Phoenix skill once, but my hunter and pet were otherwise blazing away without issue.
And, while we’re not there yet for the removal of ammo yet… hunters free up that ammo pouch slot with the Cataclysm pre-patch… ammo now stacks in groups of 1,000 rather than 200, which means you really have to neglect your supplies to run dry. My 16 slot ammo pouch now holds 16,000 rounds rather than 3,200. Or, I can just get a regular bag and keep some ammo in there because ammo pouches no longer give you a bonus.
Meanwhile, I am still trying to figure out my druid. There were some changes to feral spec, but I have been mostly distracted by having flight form, which is one of the single best things about druids in WoW.
I haven’t had time for any other classes so far. My warrior is still level 60, and the next highest character after that is my level 40 rogue.
My goal is to get a few characters to 68, or as close as I can, while the experience bonus remains in the game, because when that goes away it will be a bit of a drag to level character up through Outland. If there is a reason to regret not getting the dungeon finder in Wrath Classic, it is that it was the fastest way through Outland.