Twelve months ago I started writing a series of articles called MMORPG Memory Lane chronicling my journey through playing Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games. I started with Ultima Online in 1997 and so far have worked through 10 years of MMOs, explaining the gameplay mechanics and my experiences in games such as Anarchy Online, EverQuest 1 and 2, and World of Warcraft. World of Warcraft is such a huge game that released in November 2004 and took over the MMORPG genre as we knew it. To date I’ve written three parts of the memory lane series based on WoW covering 2004 to January 2007. Having now started playing World of Warcraft Classic, I’m pleased to say my memories of those times were pretty accurate.
World of Warcraft Classic launched on August 27, 2019 and is a version of the game that recreates the same gameplay elements and even the same glitches and graphics of the first year of it’s existence. A summary of my first memories of playing WoW in 2004 are of login queues lasting hours, hundreds of players running around the starting areas fighting each other to kill npcs for quests, and the general excitement amongst my friends and I. When Tuesday rolled around, I got up at 6am for the global launch of WoW Classic to be greeted with a 2 hour login queue on the Oceanic PvP server of Arugal. The PvE server Remulos allowed me to log straight in, which goes to show what kind of WoW gameplay the masses are craving. The difference between a PvP and PvE server is, on Arugal anyone from the opposite faction can kill you, whereas on Remulos, PvP is limited to consensual duels or in Battlegrounds.
Blizzard have emulated the exact experience we had 15 years ago! To their credit, they progressively added more servers globally to handle the sheer volume of players trying to login to the game. One of the problems here is we now have famous Twitch streamers with hundreds of thousands of followers playing the game. They have always played WoW but now they play ‘publically’ with huge viewerships. On Tuesday, there were over 1.1 million viewers on Twitch watching people play World of Warcraft, overtaking the likes of Fortnite. Streamers such as Asmongold, Shroud and Method guild had anywhere between 20,000 to over 100,000 concurrent viewers tuning in. You can imagine alot of these viewers would love the opportunity to play on the same server as these legends, so the login queues for some of the most popular US and UK servers were over 8-10 hours long, and yes that’s a real-time wait in a login queue. For us in Australia, we had queues of over 6 hours to get into the oceanic PvP server Arugal on Tuesday. Being a dad gamer, I don’t have much play time in the evenings. I can’t afford to be waiting hours to play the game, so me and my mates elected to play on the PvE server Remulos as there’s never a queue.
The game’s graphics are showing their age, but this was done on purpose to represent the game’s technology back then and adds to the charm of playing WoW from scratch. I’ve played retail WoW on and off over the past 15 years, and mainly when a new expansion comes out. I will be excited about new content that has been added, but soon I would realise just how far apart me and my mates characters are and the feeling of a lack of challenge from playing the game. For example, my mate Johnny Garbz has been playing the latest expansion, Battle for Azeroth, and has several max level characters. Whereas my highest level character is from the Legion expansion a couple of years ago, so due to my own fault of not playing regularly, I’m always playing catch up to their level. It’s relatively quick enough to catch up the level gap, but it all feels too easy. Like everything is laid out for me with quests and items that I don’t have to think, and there’s no real risk involved in the gameplay. This is why I enjoyed playing on PvP servers back in the day, because you never knew if there was a stealthed rogue character behind the tree in front of you, waiting for your health to drop enough for them to backstab you. It kept you on edge.
In WoW Classic, we all start at level 1 and are generally staying within a level or two of each other which is amazing. Noone has high level characters that can craft the best gear for new characters. Everyone is wearing cloth armour and basic weapons. There are no highlights on the game map showing you where you have to go, you have to read the quest information. You have no money so you need to kill monsters, loot their items and sell them to be able to afford to buy new skills. You have to manually click repair to fix your items that degrade during combat. It’s this oldschool style of playing where I have to think about what I want to do that is so appealing to me. It’s even bought a few of my mates back to WoW who haven’t played the game for 5+ years, and the nostalgia is huge for us. MMORPG’s are great at bringing people together, where they’re your real life mates, or if they are friends you’ve made in the game over the years.
It was a very stressful Tuesday for Johnny and myself. We had some big decisions to make. Which server do we make our main one, what class will we play first, and what are we going to name our characters? To get your favourite character names, you’ve got to be bloody quick. To help with this, my mates and I will login and reserve our favourite names for each other. That way, when we are able to play they can delete the character so that you can create it on your account. After playing MMORPG’s since 97, it is super rare for me to get my proper nickname Inferno. I always miss out on getting it, and sure enough, I missed it again in WoW Classic. Over the years, I’ve built quite a repertoire of funny names for my characters. Well, I find them funny. There have been times where a game master has appeared in front of me informing me that I’ve received reports against character names (which I won’t divulge here!) and had to change them. Most games have name filters for obvious swear words and the like, but I like playing on words, as you can see in my character list. My philosophy is, you’re going to be staring at the character for hours on end so you may as well have a laugh.
I asked a couple of mates I know that play the game about why they have come back to WoW Classic and their thoughts on it.
Q: When did you first start playing WoW?
Garbz: I started playing WoW day one on release in 2004 with you. Initially I was going to play Everquest 2 but my mind was changed when you were telling me about all the gameplay mechanics and showing me the gameplay. 15 years later I’m still playing WoW. My first character that I made was an Orc Warrior on Blackrock. I remember the queue to get in was something like 3k deep and a few hours waiting time. I think we decided to both wait and finally got in and loved every minute of it. Eventually I got a whole bunch of other local mates into WoW and we had an instant guild over night. Later we moved over to Khazgoroth once Oceanic servers were brought in. We made a guild and over the years we brought in other friends of friends and randoms we met in dungeon runs or questing across Azeroth. I’ve met some of my best friends through WoW.
Tidget: I started just before the Gates of Ahn’Qiraj opened (2005/2006). I played WoW for the immersion of the game. No other RPG gave me friendships and an escape from real life like WoW did.
Rephl3x: I first started playing WoW back in 2005 (I found my original box with 5 cd’s and guest pass cards still valid!). I always purchased the expansions and would play for 3 – 4 months after each expansion. I never did 40 man raids in vanilla WoW so now I’m genuinely excited for it.
Q: Was WoW your first MMORPG?
Garbz: My first MMO that I devoted time into was Star Wars Galaxies back in 2003. You showed me Ultima Online and I thought it was cool, but not for me. Then you told me about SWG and I thought I have to give it ago being a massive Star Wars fan that I am. I loved SWG. The skill levelling, being able to play in the SW universe was also pretty cool. It did lack a lot of game play mechanics looking back on it now but it was still great fun to play with like minded people.
Tidget: WoW was my first MMORPG and none of it is a pure as the immersion you got in vanilla WoW. It was exploring a new world without knowing what’s over the next zone. Every day had progression and it was hard to get angry at the game, unlike games now. I’ll rage at games like Overwatch and go to bed angry, which isn’t what I want from games.
Rephl3x: Yes WoW was my first MMORPG. I never really made it to max level 60 back then as I started playing too late and all my friends were already 60 doing major end-game raids.
Q: What made you come back for World of Warcraft Classic and what are you enjoying about it?
Garbz: WoW has always been that one consistent game that I have played over the years. I love the fact that I can pretty much do whatever I want. Whether that be just running around doing quests, or be a hardcore raider, or even chasing achievements and ‘transmogs’ in the main game with Colonel Kane. No matter what I do I’m always having a laugh with Kane and anyone else that wants to play with us. WoW has changed a lot over the years to the point where it has become a little too easy to play. One of the things I loved about original WoW was having to read the quest and figure out where I had to go to complete the quest but now you have quest markers to tell you where to go to finish a quest and so forth. I also loved that I had to run everywhere. Yes weird I know but it really got you immersed into the game areas and learning about Azeroth, whereas now in the main game you have a flying mount and just fly over all the cool little things that Blizzard have put into the game over the years. I don’t think it has been good for WoW to make it as easy as they have but it is what it is and I still enjoy the game every time I load it up to play.
Tidget: I came back for WoW Classic because this game was a huge part of my life and started off my continued relationship with WoW, including friendships and a 15 year commitment.
Rephl3x: What made me come back was the fact I get to start again from the beginning. We are all equal again and we get to hang out and level together. I’m enjoying the nostalgia and a group of friends I haven’t seen in years who are back and are hanging out again! It really is good fun!
World of Warcraft Classic isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Aside from having to wait for sometimes hours to get into the same server as your mates, you will be fighting other players for kills of specific mobs for quests. In the dwarf and human starting zones, you are tasked with killing wolves and collecting pelts. In this version of WoW, you have to hit the wolf first to tag it as yours. If you don’t, you won’t get any credit for the kill. If you’re playing a melee character like a Warrior or Paladin, you may find a mage or a hunter shoots the wolf right in front of you, tagging it as theirs. As you progress these early quests, you will be tasked with killing a named mob, for example the leader of the bandits east of Northshire. Given this tagging system, players were being humble and lining up in an orderly fashion, waiting for their turn to kill the bandit leader.
I personally didn’t see this in-game, however I was on a low-medium population server. At most we had 2 people queuing for the same mob, so I just invited them into my group so we could all get the credit. If I was faced with the above, I would have just dropped the quest and moved on. However I say this because I’ve been playing MMO’s since 1997 and if something halts my progress of getting xp, I’ll find something else to level up quicker. One thing I will say about the community is that there are many helpful players in the general chat. If you have a question about the game or a quest you’re doing, you will get a flood of good responses from other players. Sure there are the usual nasties, but majority of chat I’ve seen has been fantastic. Even when the servers seemed to have lagged out the other night. Our characters were not moving and we couldn’t accept or complete quests (we couldn’t even log out it was that bad). Instead of getting p**sed off and hurling abuse in chat, everyone was just having a laugh with each other. After a few minutes everything jolted forward and we could carry on playing.
I wish I had more time to play WoW Classic but work, family and Dad duties come first, but I savour the day as I know later that night I’ll be able to jump back into Azeroth and have some fun playing World of Warcraft with my mates again. I think in a week or two, the server queues will settle down, and those that aren’t enjoying the nostalgia as much as they thought will move on. I can see my mates and I playing WoW Classic for a long time to come, and it will be interesting to see what Blizzard do with the retail version of the game running alongside this Classic version. WoW turns 15 in November this year, so we shall all #ToastToWarcraft!