Monday, November 27, 2017

WoW Classic Announcement

I have to admit that I wasn't expecting Blizzard to actually make WoW Classic. It's basically a second game at this point, and I didn't think they'd be willing to go that far. But Blizzard is going to try, so we'll see how it works out.

I would like WoW Classic to be a success. If it is successful, maybe Blizzard will start nudging normal WoW back towards Classic, adding back some of the small decisions, inconveniences, and restrictions that have been smoothed away. Perhaps they will also dial back the focus on transient gameplay, bringing back an unapologetic focus on "extended" content.

Those are all changes which I think have weakened modern WoW, and I would be happy to see the pendulum swing back in the other direction. Of course, the opposite might happen. Blizzard might leave WoW Classic for people who like the rough edges, and make normal WoW even more smooth, in order to differentiate the two.

That being said, I think that a lot of people will try WoW Classic, run up against those changes, and start complaining. Are people really going to enjoy reagents, ammo, shards, dead zones, requiring exactly 40 people in a raid, top guilds poaching players from lower guilds, the hybrid tax, hybrids forced to heal, few viable specializations, very little loot, and all other sundry rough edges which have been smoothed away?

My prediction is that a massive number of players will sign up for WoW Classic, but they will all dwindle away in a year or two. The players remaining will be complaining that their guilds cannot maintain raids, and calling on Blizzard to smooth away the restrictions to attract more players.

I also think the mod community will make a determined effort to eliminate many inconveniences via mods. For example, I bet we see a Party Finder mod (with Gearscore!) quite quickly after WoW Classic is released.

Finally, I think the community will be surprised at how easy WoW Classic will be. I don't think WoW Classic will prove difficult for raiders used to modern mechanics and theorycrafting. Especially as everyone knows the strategies for all the old content.


  1. My perspective: I quit the game a few months into Cata. Only looked back once about six months ago, was disgusted by the starting zone hand-holding, and never looked back.

    In the past 2 weeks, I've been playing on a private 1.12.1 server. I've been loving it. That's the thing -- the situation tells you what Blizzard is most likely to do.

    Sales have been trending down since Cata released. (I'm the archetypical case.) Meanwhile, private servers have been getting more and more popular. (I was one of the ones who ridiculed people who played on private servers in BC. Now I'm on one.)

    Blizzard is bleeding subs (which is why they don't talk about subs anymore) and the vanilla servers have been picking them up. They really believe it when they say you (meaning, people still playing) don't want vanilla, you just think you do.

    So, here's the plan. Vanilla servers release at the same time as TCE (The Current Expansion, I honestly can't even remember what it is called.) You will have to buy TCE to get access to the Classic servers, and you will have to maintain a sub to The Game, which will cover both TCE and Vanilla.

    So what does that give Blizz? Well, right off the bat, they pick up close to a million subs from the private servers (they know the numbers, because they have been getting them as part of the settlements with the private servers) on top of the people they carried from TPE. Most people from TPE will check out the vanilla servers, absolutely hate it and go back to TCE. That will keep the player base up in TCE. In addition, some of the players who bought TCE solely for Vanilla will at least try TCE, because, hey, you bought it, you might as well give it a shot.

    So now, you've convinced TCE players that they really really don't want Vanilla, TCE has picked up some of the private server people who tried TCE and liked it (there have to be at least some), and Blizz can roll all of the Vanilla subs into the Subscriber Base and avoid making a distinction between the two. Bliz can just say at Blizcon the next year that "98.9% of players on Vanilla servers also have toon in TCE" insinuating that they are actually playing both, even if they just logged in, went "bleh" and went back to Vanilla.

    Finally, this gives Bliz the ultimate in AB testing. If TCE is more popular, they can finally be assured that they were right that most players don't want vanilla. If Vanilla keeps or picks up players from TCE, that tells them to tune The Next Expansion to be more Vanilla-like, and see how many players they can bleed off of Vanilla into TNE. And you can do the same "buy the expansion" trick by including with TNE... transfers to the new Classic BC servers.

    If Blizzard goes this way, it's pretty brilliant. That's the main doubt that I have -- Blizzard hasn't made any brilliant decisions in almost 10 years.

    1. Good points about enlarging the audience for both games, allowing people to go back and forth.

      And you're right that we'll finally get a real answer about inconveniences versus handholding. However, I think that experiment was already run with the Cataclysm heroics, and the results were pretty obvious. But maybe it will make a difference if the inconvenience is in from Day One.

    2. Cataclysm heroics are a bad example.

      At the end of WotLK we had
      a) easy heroics, that war
      b) required to be farmed daily, that would
      c) reward the awesome raid sets with their awesome set bonus.
      d) In addition to that we had the culture of running them with randoms because it was faster to run it random then to wait for a guild group.

      With Catalcysm they
      a) made them difficult, too difficult for randoms, that were
      b) still required to be farmed daily, but
      c) only rewarded lame blue items. There were no Epics and there wasn't even a set to collect
      d) In addition to that most people didn't have a guild or friend group to run them with because we all used the dreaded LFD since WotLK.

      TBC and Legion showed that difficult heroics/m+ can work as long as
      a) there is no LFD!
      b) the loot is worth the trouble
      c) you're not forced to play them daily (TBC achieved that by an absurd high daily cap on badges which made you not even go for the daily cap)

  2. I much prefer Vanilla to what we've got now, because of the story continuity. Sure, there's not as much in the way of story continuity in Vanilla compared to the story within a specific expac, but from zone to zone Cataclysm broke the story continuity as you level. Blizz kinda sorta hand waved around that by creating the "instant L90" (or whatever it is right now) to bypass everything during Mists, but that also eliminates WoW's main selling point: comparatively speaking, Azeroth is a huge game world to play in. By focusing completely on the endgame, Blizz has shrunk WoW down to a size that other MMOs can compete with.

    And, truth be told, WoW's storytelling is akin to David Eddings' The Belgariad on peyote: all of the expac stories are focused the highest and most powerful members of Azerothian society, not everybody else. If there's one thing that Vanilla WoW did right, it was that the story focused on the player with humble beginnings, not Thrall or Jaina or Khadgar or Anduin or Sylvanas.

    I suspect the XP granted per quest and per kill will be perfectly in line with original Vanilla WoW, and given what I know of the game (I subbed during Wrath) it'll take even longer than what I experienced in leveling, because the mechanics are going to be really different.

    1. I completely forgot about that. All the original stories which were removed in Cataclysm will be back in. Edwin Vancleef makes his triumphant return.

      I wonder if Blizzard will make a level 60 transfer from Classic to normal servers. That way you could get the original leveling experience in the correct order.

  3. Several UI and quality of life changes can be implemented into Classic like AoE loot, group finder, gear sets and so on. I wouldn't mind if the raids would be all re-tuned to 20 either. Having normal mount on lvl 20 wouldn't ruin it either, nor quest location on the minimap.

    What made Classic great were not inconveniences but
    - hard content (if you sucked, you wiped, even in a leveling instance)
    - no catchup: if Adam had X, you had to do what he did to get X
    - clear gear difference between noobs and pros (full epic dude 2-shotting noob in BG)
    - only the elite could do the higher raids.

    1. I think the vast majority of people who want Vanilla will disagree with you, especially group finder.

      I think if Blizzard does implement quality of life changes, they're only going to come after Classic has been out for a while. If people are clamoring for Vanilla, it's best to give them the full Vanilla experience. They can't complain about not getting it afterwards.

  4. Rohan, you said that you thought the community would be surprised at how easy Classic is, that it won't be prove difficult for "raiders used to modern mechanics and theorycrafting". I'd like to amend that, slightly.

    I think that boss fights in dungeons and raids will be easier. They were far less complex. But literally every other thing in the game will be harder. Leveling, dungeons, pulling, dealing with runners, aggro management, raid prep (flasks, anyone?), loot councils, finding actual useful gear, clearing trash in raids (remember AQ40?), raid attendance -- everything but the actual boss fights themselves will be far more challenging.

    1. Heh, that's totally true! Though I imagine some of these will be mitigated with mods. For example, I think threat meters will come out really fast.