Category Archives: WoW Classic

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.

Blizzard Adding Still More Realms for WoW Classic

As the grand opening of WoW Classic approaching, so the pressure on the servers via the name reservation system continues to build.

Classic is coming

Blizzard announced today that more realms will be opening up in both the US and EU regions.  These realms will be available Monday, August 26th at approximately 17:00 UTC, which will put them in reach just before WoW Classic goes live in some time zones.

For the US the new realms are:

  • Incendius PvP Eastern
  • Bigglesworth PvP Pacific
  • Old Blanchy Normal Pacific
  • Westfall Normal Eastern

For the EU region the new realms are:

  • Flamelash PvP English
  • Gandling PvP English
  • Mograine PvP English
  • Nethergarde Keep Normal English
  • Razorgore PvP English

That brings the total number of servers for launch up to 39.  I’ll go update my post about the WoW Classic server names again.

In addition, on Monday at the same time the name reservation restrictions will be lifted and players will be able to log in and create up to 50 characters, 10 per server, which is the limit that World of Warcraft had back in the day.

With a little less than four days left to go as of this writing, Blizzard is also once again pointing people at the community resources page for WoW Classic, in case you need to know what is going on and where to find further information.

The WoW Classic AMA and Layering

Another day and more things to mention about WoW Classic.  Earlier today some of the WoW Classic dev team took some time out to do an Ask Me Anything event over on the WoW Classic subreddit.

I’m going to need a new default graphic in a week

You can find the whole raw AMA here, or you can go read the nice, clean summary that WoWHead put together.

There were quite a few short and easy questions thrown out there with clear answers that I might sum up with:

  • No, you won’t be able to transfer from Live to Classic
  • No, you cannot send gold from Live to Classic
  • No, there won’t be character boosts
  • Yes, I found code I wrote back in 2005
  • Yes, we have contingency plans for crowding
  • No, really, we have contingency plans
  • Yes, we might consider transfers for Classic population imbalances, but we’d rather you pick a lower population server right now instead
  • Hunters were the hardest class to recreate and required a huge amount of work

But things went deep quickly when the team was asked about the plan and functionality of the layering technology that Blizzard is using on the WoW Classic servers, such that I want to reproduce it here:

We’ve seen some confusion about layering, both about how it helps support our launch, and how it’s supposed to behave while its active, so I’d like to both speak to it and clear up some misconceptions about it.

First, we’re absolutely committed to reducing to one layer per realm before our second content phase goes live, and the sooner we can get there, the better. The reason we can’t do that initially is that on launch day, everybody will be clustered in the starting zones, and having players so close together causes an exponential drain on server resources. In fact, the same number of players cause more server problems crammed into Northshire than they do spread across all of Elwynn Forest. We expect that even after the first couple of days, we’ll need fewer layers than we need for the initial hours of launch, and our stress tests have confirmed that expectation.

A related concern that was raised during our pre-launch test was that capital cities felt empty, but that only occurred because we left the pre-launch test running two days past its original end date, and we didn’t reduce the number of layers at all during that test. During our launch week, as the players spread out across the world, we’ll monitor activity and reduce layers as necessary, so the world continues to feel full.

Some players have suggested using sharding in low level zones to address launch demand, both because we talked about that at Blizzcon, and because it’s what they’re used to from our modern expansions. Unfortunately, while modern WoW has content designed to work with sharding, WoW Classic does not. The most obvious example of incompatible content is Rexxar’s famously long patrol path, but there are lots of other examples throughout WoW Classic. Since we want all that content to work as it was originally designed, we’ve made sure that every layer is a copy of the entire world, so you can kite Anachronos all the way to Orgrimmar, and you can ride the boat from Ratchet to Booty Bay with the same people alongside you the whole way.

Some players have asked us to use realm caps and login queues to handle the demand, and while those are tools we have at our disposal, we don’t want to rely on them exclusively, because they keep people from playing the game.

One of the most frequently reported problems during our tests was players transferring to a layer for what seemed like no reason. There were several bugs that caused this, and we’re confident we’ve fixed them. At this point, the only thing that should cause you to change layers is accepting an invite from a player on another layer. Additionally, it should always transfer the player who was invited to the layer of the player who invited them.

Nonetheless, after accepting an invite, the layer transfer doesn’t always happen immediately, because we don’t want to transfer you in the middle of combat, or before you get a chance to loot. During our pre-launch test, we saw a few reports of what seemed like random layer transfers, but when we investigated, we realized this was due to us making that transfer delay too long. The delay was so long that players could unintentionally chain one delay into another by starting combat immediately after looting. Because of those reports, we’ve fixed the transfer delay to give you enough time to loot, without being so long that you’re left wondering why you can’t join your friend. We’ll keep an eye on that, and we may decide to reduce it further.

We’ve also seen reports of people transferring suddenly at the entrances to capital cities, which was related to the transfer delays. If you’re waiting to transfer to your friend’s layer, and you enter a capital city, we ignore the delay and transfer you immediately. The long delays were making it more likely that you’d enter a capital with a transfer pending, and now that we’ve reduced the transfer delay, it will be a bit more clear that your transfer was the result of accepting a group invitation.

Regarding PvP, we saw many posts from players wondering if getting invited to a party is a good way to escape from PvP combat. I’m pleased to say there’s actually a separate, longer transfer delay following any PvP combat. We know a lot of world PvP enthusiasts are excited for WoW Classic, and we don’t want the additional layers to feel like they’re robbing you of your kills. When the time comes to withdraw from the fight, you’ll have to escape from your enemies and get to a safe place before you’re able to join your friends on another layer.

I’d also like to clarify how multiple layers work with logout. Early in our stress testing, players reported that logging out and back in would let you hop to a new layer to farm the same mineral or herb node on different layers. That was a bug, and we’ve fixed it. Your layer assignment now persists for a few minutes between logouts, long enough that by the time the game would choose a new layer for you, that node would have respawned on its own anyway.

I hope that all makes things a bit more clear.

That is quite a bit more that I knew or considered about the layering plan.  And, of course PvP complicates everything.  But the overall goal is to get the population down into a single layer while making sure that servers have populations large enough to be viable over time.

Another item of interest to me was the question of player caps on dungeons, which got the following response:

This was indeed a bug that we have fixed and you should be able to enter most lower-level dungeons with up to 10 players, as was possible in Original WoW 1.12. There are some dungeons that had specific caps by the end of Original WoW however. To be specific, all lower level dungeons available through Maraudon should have a player cap of 10, with Blackrock Depths, Scholomance, Stratholme, and Dire Maul being capped at 5 players.

As was the case in Original WoW 1.12, Blackrock Spire should also have a cap of 10 players.

Somewhere in the back of my brain I knew that you could have 10 players in a dungeon, but that was so long ago that it ceased to be a thing to me.  Also, we were rarely ever in danger of having too many people to go do a dungeon.  Our primary problem was getting at least five together for an instance.

Finally, there was an entertaining bug mentioned, which I will reproduce since it involves Skronk’s favorite priest spell:

There was a bug when two priests mind control each other the mind control itself would cancel out but the camera would still switch to each other. The result is both priests would be stuck watching each other move around which hilarious and very confusing.

And so it goes.  As noted up at the top, you can find the whole AMA here, or the more concise summary over at WoWHead.

Other related posts or recaps:

Addons and WoW Classic

As WoW Classic edges closer, the planning committee for the instance group continues its work.

Classic is as Classic does

Key items still to resolve include a time when we can all play together, which is proving trickier than I would have liked.  Getting older, having different responsibilities, and moving to another continent are all in the mix on that front.

Another item that came up was Addons.

I am torn on the subject of Addons.

On the one hand, I have run Addons of some sort for the vast majority of my time in WoW.  I think one of the first Addons I got was to speed up quest text, before Blizz put that option in the settings.  There was a time way back in the day where I ran one of those big combo packs that lumped together a whole bunch of Addons into a single unified project.

I have also spent periods of time with a very minimalist set of Addons.  That was especially true after support for the big combo pack I was using fell apart.  Addons are often the efforts of individuals, some of whom stop playing WoW and move on.

There have been points during the life of the game where Addons have seemed essential.  I remember a daily quest in Wrath of the Lich King where you had to run around a lab to find chemicals where the Addon that would highlight what you were looking for in the mess of the lab felt essential.  And then there was the Masterplan Addon, without which managing followers and their missions during Warlords of Draenor was a dreadful chore.  And then there are the Addons for pet battles, which make pet and team management possible without having to keep a spreadsheet open on a second monitor.

So I am hardly anti-Addon, though I do try to keep the number I use down to what I really need, if only to avoid conflicts, the pain of patch day incompatibilities, and the heartbreak that comes when support ends for one.

But, on the other hand, something about the spirit of WoW Classic, a sort of back to nature, seeing the game in a raw or primitive form, makes me feel like Addons might be a bit of a betrayal, a cheat, an option that would deprive myself of the full experience.

So I want to consider the whole Addon thing carefully.  I have almost a week left before WoW Classic starts, so I might as well take some time to think about it.  I’m not doing much else besides staring at that count down on the WoW Classic home page.

The Addon makers have been busy.  If you go look at just what is available for WoW Classic over at Curse, they are already into the 13th page of Addons, which at 20 Addons per page, is starting to add up.  And it was at page 11 when I started planning this post last week.  So that is well past 200 Addons and growing.

Addon makers have the experience of nearly 15 years of the game to look back on to decide what works and how things can be done.  And while WoW Classic won’t need Addons for things like pet battles or garrison missions, some things like Deadly Boss Mobs Addon have made the leap to WoW Classic.  I also see HealBot, TomTom, and some gathering and market Addons that sound familiar.

My gut says to start small, if at all, with Addons.  The only one I considered from the list immediately was one to auto-sell gray items at vendors, and even that one made me think twice.  There will be a point during the early game when gray items might be the best in-slot item I have, and any gear is better than no gear!

At some point I will no doubt consider something to help with buying and selling on the market.  Money will be a thing, especially if we plan to go through the full epic mount plan we did back in the day.

But some items I think I will avoid.  There are several quest trackers and Addons to speed your trip to level 60 by optimizing your route and telling you where to head.  But right now I am not worried about speeding through WoW Classic.  There is nothing much at level cap, save for an epic mount.  I won’t be raiding or anything like that, and there is no launch of The Burning Crusade in the offing.  At least not that Blizzard has announced yet… though if they are not at least thinking about how to get there, then they are making a mistake.

Anyway, that is my plan at the moment, six days before launch.  Keep it simple when it comes to Addons.

How about you?  What Addons do you think are essential for this journey, if any?

Blizz Adds More WoW Classic PvP Realms

After warning people that they should pick new PvP servers in WoW Classic lest they face login queues possibly exceeding 10,000 players, Blizzard turned around today and announced the addition of three more PvP Realms to the list.

Classic is as Classic does

They had already added one realm to each the US and EU lineup last week.  Today they announced three new PvP realms, two for the US and one for the EU.

The new US servers are:

  • Blaumeux – PvP – Pacific Time Zone
  • Skeram – PvP – Eastern Time Zone

While the EU server is:

  • Firemaw – PvP – English

The three new realms will be available tomorrow for name reservations.

Blizzard had said on Friday, when they started warning of gargantuan queues, that they would not add more realms until people shifted off of the most crowded realms, which were Herod (US) and Shazzrah (EU).  That they have now added more realms seems to indicate that people shifting off of those two were not sufficient.

It is interesting to see that PvP realms seem to be the most popular for this nostalgia driven event.  Is it memories of battles at Tarran Mill and the Crossroads driving this?

The last time I checked Bloodsail Buccaneers, the RP server where our group is headed, was one of the more lightly populated servers, which makes a certain sort of sense.  Some people fear to be near RP, lest it be found to be contagious.

The fact that no PvE realms have been required seems a bit odd to me.  But I have no fond memories of PvP in WoW when it comes down to it.  And we still have a week to go before launch, so more may be required.

Maybe somebody will ask about that at tomorrow’s AMA in the WoW Classic subreddit.

I’ll just go update my post about the server list again while we wait.

Addendum: In addition to the two servers mentioned, Blizz is also saying that the following US servers are now facing long queues.

  • Faerlina – PvP
  • Herod – PvP
  • Pagle – Normal
  • Thalnos – PvP
  • Whitemane – PvP

Again, lots of PvP, but also a PvE realm.  A sign of more servers before the end of the week?

Addendum:  Another server added to the queue warning list.

  • Mankrik – Normal

That least 2 PvE servers and the RP servers the only ones not facing a warning.

WoW Classic and What You Need to Know

Blizzard continues to wind its way to the launch of WoW Classic, now just 10 days and 45 minutes away from the time this post goes live.

Classic is as Classic does

A new FAQ has been posted summarizing all the details Blizzard has announced for the WoW Classic launch and what to expect when it comes to content and functionality.

WoW Classic FAQ

It collects together a lot of items that have been covered before, such as:

  • WoW Classic primer about running WoW Classic
  • The launch time for various world wide time zones
  • Number of characters you’ll be allowed
  • A link to the current list of realms
  • The six phases of content unlocks (still no dates though)
  • The status of battlegrounds
  • A link to an article about itemization in WoW Classic

Some tidbits in the mix include the fact that if you bought the original WoW Collector’s Edition and are using the same account on which you activated it, you will get the pets from the CE.

In hindsight I regret not buying the WoW CE, which is a turn around from my usual feeling of regret when I do by the CE.

However, codes from the WoW Trading Card Game will not be valid for WoW Classic.

Also, no Armory feature for WoW Classic.  At least not right away.

If the FAQ and subsidiary articles do not answer your questions about the launch, Blizzard has announced that they will also be holding an Ask Me Anything event in the WoW Classic sub-reddit on Tuesday, August 20th and 10:00 PDT, which is 17:00 UTC.  Expect queues for questions I bet.

Speaking of queues, there was an update in the forums specifically about the Herod (US) and the Shazzrah (EU) realms, both of which Blizz is estimating will face login queues in excess of 10,000 users come the launch based on the name reservation traffic they have seen so far.  Blizz would like people to swap to the two new realms they opened on Wednesday, and have said they will not open up new PvP realms until those two have filled up.

Finally, if you were wondering how the beta was going, the QA team at Blizzard posted a list of player reported bugs that were fixed over the last three month.

That is all I have.  I guess I can go back to pining for the launch.

All I want to do right now is Play WoW Classic

I’ve been in the for the four load tests, seen the game overcrowded and behaving badly, sat in long queues, been logged out multiple times, worked with the odd and archaic mechanics, and none of that has deterred me.  I am simply craving WoW Classic.

Why isn’t it the 27th already?

I had a Blaugust post planned for today, a lightly cautionary tale about how thinking you know somebody… and then acting on that… simply because you read their blog can be a mistake.  Something a bit contrarian for “getting to know you” week I suppose.  But I just can’t make that come together right now because I am a bit obsessed about WoW Classic.

If you are a long time reader here you might well be fully justified in thinking that of course I am all in about WoW Classic.  I can be tedious at times in my attention to the past, so you might be right to think this is just another nostalgia trip where I will get all worked up about the good old days yet again.

Didn’t I do enough of that for the EverQuest 20th anniversary already?

And you wouldn’t be wrong to think that I am, in fact, wallowing in nostalgia about now.  I have watched that video I made back in 2012 about the instance group and its first year in WoW more than a few times.

 

There are a lot of old sights in that video.  (I wrote a whole director’s commentary about it back when I posted it, if you are interested.  That would be a way to get to know a lot about me and the group.)

So, yes, guilty as charged on the nostalgia front.

But there is more going on here.  I am also in something of a gaming slump, and all the more so on the MMORPG front.

I feel like I should be logging in to Battle for Azeroth to work on unlocking flying and to see the new content that came with the Rise of Azshara update… but I don’t.  I have barely logged in at all for more than a month now, and the last time I did it was just to do some Darkmoon Faire stuff and a few pet battles.  I am just not feeling it.

There are, of course, lots of other MMORPG options.  I have a bit of a yen to go play something else, maybe get back to LOTRO for the Legendary Server to finish off Moria or perhaps some EverQuest II.  I just don’t feel the drive.  And starting a new game just makes me look at the choices then go back to binge watching Veep and Bob’s Burgers.

EVE Online is still there, but I feel like I am in a slump even in space.  To start with I have been continuously subscribed and playing since late 2011, the longest I have ever gone with any online game without a serious, six month or more, break.  But now there isn’t a war going on, our play battle deployment isn’t thrilling me, so I am feeling a lack of purpose.  I’ve been playing with some alts, but as with other titles, it isn’t holding me.  And the whole Chaos Era thing is hitting a point where I want to step back and let things settle down.  Chaos does not encourage commitment, it just becomes exhausting when it doesn’t stop.

And then I went and played in the WoW Classic load test last weekend and it felt so right.  Simple, fresh, familiar, easy, difficult, slow, fast, crowded, and homey.  I just want to run around and fight over kobold spawns or pick that first hunter pet and start working on skills or spend a silver on the skinning skill and skin all the corpses around the wendigo cave.

I mean, I might be singing a different tune out in Stranglethorn Vale some weeks down the road, trying to collect all those pages, or when I hit that level 40 quest gap.  But those are future problems.   I want the kobolds now!

But wait, there’s more!

I am also pretty excited that we’re getting the band back together for this.  There are still details to work out, like when we can all be online together to play, but we’re together on Discord making plans.  And, honestly, I miss having a regular group.  EVE Online gives me a sense of belonging, but I am always happiest in small groups.  And everybody in the old instance group seems pretty jazzed up about the idea.

And, finally, I really want to see how we do.  It has been a long time since the group first came together back in 2016… at the exact patch level that WoW Classic will be using… to roll up some characters with intent to do the five person dungeon content in World of Warcraft.

There are a lot of posts on the site about the instance group… it has its own category… but at one point I threw together a “summer reruns” post that collected the timeline of our journey through vanilla WoW.

It took us quite a stretch to get through from the Deadmines to unlocking access to Upper Blackrock Spire.  There was a six month gap in our narrative, which extended our time, but we were also pretty bad at doing instances.

Our being bad didn’t stop us back in vanilla.  Honestly, it didn’t really become an issue until later dungeons in The Burning Crusade, finally coming to a head during Wrath of the Lich King where our struggles to slay Prince Keleseth caused us to evaluate exactly how we were getting things done.  We actually took it upon ourselves to read some class guides over at Elitist Jerks, which improved our performance dramatically.

And while we are now about four and a half years out of practice as a group, we likely haven’t forgotten everything, so we won’t regress back to our 2006 selves.  That makes me want to see what experience has taught us.  Back in 2006 we took four runs at the Deadmines before slaying Van Cleef.  In Uldamon it took us three trips and multiple fights to bring down Archaedas, and it was a near run thing when we did manage it.

The Moment of Victory

Then there are the things we missed.  I don’t think we even did any of Dire Maul back then. (Okay, we did some of it for Bung’s epic mount and mine as well.)

So there is a question of “how hard were those dungeons?” versus “how bad were we really back then?” to be tested.  How much have we learned over the years plays up against how much have we forgotten and how much has more than a decade changed us.

There are probably more threads in the weave that is my longing to get stuck into Azeroth of old, and they are all bound together and making the wait difficult.  The proximity of the launch, just a week and a half off, seems so distant that I can’t stand it yet so close that I don’t want to distract myself with anything else.

This is going to be a long wait.