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?
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:
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.