A hint of Vanilla: My thoughts on the original game

There has been a fair amount of Vanilla WoW bashing going on recently, both on twitter  (*) and on the forums. However my memories of the original game that I started playing back in 2005 don’t quite seem to tally up with everyone else’s. I’m not saying it was perfect, far from it and I can understand why Blizzard made a lot of the choices they did, but rose tinted spectacles aside, in many ways, it was the part of the game I enjoyed the most. Now I know a part of that, at least, has to come down to that sense of amazement and awe of those first few weeks and months of playing. Of discovering sea monsters off the coast of Darkshore and being chased by crocolisks through the Wetlands. The Deeprun Tram and Stitches patrolling the road in Duskwood, yes all these played a part in my love affair with WoW but there was more to it than the visual side.

Same server battlegrounds:

Yes the queues were horrific for the Alliance on most PvE servers and the Horde on most PvP servers but PvP is best played when personal. When it’s guild versus guild or you versus your nemesis, the guy you’ve hated since you were both level 30 in STV and you spent the better part of an afternoon taking turns to kill each other whilst fighting quest mobs. I was also rather partial to 24 hours Alterac Valleys when you could go to bed at 2 am and get up and find the game going on eight hours later. In particular the guild versus guild AVs were especially fun but they also served a purpose, as nothing builds teamwork and better game play than trying to beat people who will go straight to IRC and brag about it for the next year if you lose.

World PvP:

Pre battlegrounds, World PvP was prolific and far more fun than it is now that flying mounts factor into the equation. You had a reason to group up for leveling because numbers counted, as shown by the fact that a group of three level 40s in STV could take down a level 60 if played right. Southshore/Tarren Mill and Crossroads provided hours of fun between willing participants. As there was no gear originally associated with this, you could guarantee that everyone was there because they wanted to be there, thus the name calling and whining was kept to a minimum.

No name changes/server transfers:

An officer in my first proper guild said to me one late night, “All you have in WoW is your reputation” and back then it was true. Behave badly and your chances of a decent guild, good runs or being asked anywhere were pretty much zero. Community mattered,  both in and out of guilds and was cemented by the same server battlegrounds. I knew pretty much everyone on my faction at level 60, either because I’d played with them on some dungeon run or other or through pvp or simply by word of mouth. Now I know a handful of people on my current server and through the use of LFR, LFD and random battlegrounds have no incentive to get to know anyone.

Attunement Quests:

Not because I liked running UBRS over and over and over again to help everyone in a 40 man guild get their attunements to Onxyia and Blackwing Lair but because of the story and the sense of achievement. That raids weren’t just slightly bigger versions of dungeons but something a bit special so you entered with a sense of awe. You couldn’t simply stroll in and start killing. They also served a purpose in helping you get to know people outside raiding, in building the team you needed to take down the bosses hiding within.

40 man raiding:

My first ever raid was Molten Core and could be described as a bit of a disaster but that feeling of fighting along side 39 others was intense and immense. That’s what drew me in and addicted me, once I got over my feeling of “omg what if I screw up!!!! and waste everyone else’s time”. I suspect that’s what ruined 10 man raiding for me as well, having done plenty of 10 man Stratholme and Scholomance runs back then I just can’t see 10 man raiding as something epic or exciting. Yes, not all 40 were ever equal but that’s true of every size raid group. There will always been someone or another who is being carried by the rest of the team. Having struggled for weeks to clear our way through AQ40 for example, when we finally managed to kill C’thun as a team it was an amazing feeling, one which wasn’t recreated by any of the boss kills which came afterwards.

No reward for playing badly:

You couldn’t get “good” gear by making mistakes or by doing dailies. You either had to “grind” to rank 11 or higher or you had to raid at a decent level. There was incentive to improve thrust in your face on a daily basis if you wanted to see the entire game. Screw up on a couple of dungeon runs and the whole server knew your name and if you wanted to get asked on other runs, then you had to improve and be seen to improve.

Healers versus Dps:

I could take on most players in 1 v 1s as a Holy Priest and I had a good chance of winning. By the time I had proper pvp gear, warriors could pop recklessness and still lose against me. Now, they’d have to be afk or really bad for me to have a chance of winning.

The 5 second rule and downranking:

These were two of my favourite aspects of being a healer and I have to admit that I was sad to see them go. By the time Naxx rolled around it was amazing what you could do with low level heal spells, especially if you timed it right.

That constant and continuous  feeling of the World:

Very few loading screens and no phasing getting in the way when you’re trying to save guildmates from being ganked.

In conclusion I can’t help shake the feeling that perhaps we’re looking at it wrong, that vanilla, that most boring flavour of all is best applied to the game in it’s current incarnation. When all play styles are accounted for and the distinction between striving to be the best you can be and just bouncing along doing as little as possible is tiny, then there is something wrong. Botters are rife, so are loud mouthed and abusive jerks in every aspect of the game because there are no consequences to  obnoxious behaviour. Blizzard have tried to give us everything we wanted and yet the social side of the game, that huge and important aspect has suffered as a result. I can raid, dungeon and pvp without investing any effort in the people I play with and that is reflected in the way people behave. “Oh I’m never going to see this person again… so I’ll roll on X loot, call him a bunch of names and then pull the boss and leave”, we see it again and again in blog posts, on the forums and on twitter…. somewhere along the line we have created our own form of hell.

* Sorry for borrowing your post but you had the twitter conversation all nicely laid out already!

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20 Responses

  1. I realize it may come as a shock that I read other things but WoW-related topics, but this blog post was fascinating to me, and I think it’s relevant in terms of “we’re given everything, but still not happy:”

    http://teachertomsblog.blogspot.com/2013/02/our-children-are-not-our-masterpieces.html

    • So tempted to email that link to my Mother. Although it might be a few years too late :(

      I do think there is a direct correlation between the more we have and our happiness, because we start to expect getting our hearts desire and that’s guaranteed to lead to heartbreak.

      • I think it is due to the effort you put in to the things you do. If you work hard for something there will be a sense of accomplishment that you don’t get if things are given to you. And that sense of accomplishment will in itself be a source of happiness that last longer than the joy of an upgrade.

  2. Another rose colored :”oh my god vanilla was awesome post” it wasn’t that good.

    • I never said it was awesome, in fact.. I distinctly remember typing this:

      “I’m not saying it was perfect, far from it”

      I merely stated the various aspects of the game which I enjoyed a good deal back then. Personally I had a lot of fun playing through vanilla, especially 40 man raiding and pvp which is why I don’t agree with the black and white view being posted all over the place stating that “Vanilla sucked!!!!”.

  3. I miss certain things about Vanilla, the epicness of 40 man raids for once. As a mid-range (or at the moment, sadly even low-range) guild we’re having a hard time to get people to commit. Back in Vanilla I remember everyone having to show up outside of the raid instance 10 minutes before the raid or there was no chance of you even getting a spot. These days people seem to think it’s okay to stroll in around the raid start time, and spend the first 10-15 minutes of the raid moving there and getting ready.

    Also, everything was new and shiny. I miss that a bit. That feeling of awe that was so frequent back then.

    5-second rule.. Oh, the memories! I still have to stop myself from thinking that “I’ll just wait a few seconds for mana”, even after all this time.

    I used to love PvP back then. These days I usually find it frustrating. Not because classes were necessarily more balanced back in Vanilla.. but I don’t know. It was just different.

    The accountability you mention does feel like something we’re missing these days.

    That said, there are improvements as well of course, and there are some things I don’t think I’d want back. I think Vanilla was both good and back, but I get a little bit frustrated with the people who will vehemently say that “everything was better then”. Which of course it wasn’t. Some things were better, some things were worse. I guess it’s a trade-off. Maybe some things can be improved upon (again). One can only hope..

    • Oh definitely there have been improvements as the game has progressed, I adore aoe loot for example (just wish it hadn’t taken them so long to add) and the changes to the Darkmoon Faire and profession changes and so on and so on. However, if I could cherry pick from each expansion there are definitely a few things that we’ve lost that I’d love to bring back from vanilla (I guess that’s a post for another day).

      ” I think Vanilla was both good and back, but I get a little bit frustrated with the people who will vehemently say that “everything was better then”.

      I agree, just as I also get frustrated with those who say the opposite. Every incarnation of the game has had some plus points and some negatives and that includes vanilla.

  4. I agree, vanilla was great. And sure, there has been improvements over the years. But there are also changes that has turned out to be the oposites (imo).

    And yeah, I still miss down ranking as well. And I do miss not having a nemessis any more. Used to have a few back in those days. It’s just like you write, pvp was personal to some extent back then. And those great days of Tarren Mill/Southshore and Crossroads/Astranaar. I have some of my fondest pvp memories from those days.

    • I definitely miss having people I knew and hated to pursue. There was this Mage on our vanilla server who was a loud mouthed ganker who ran and ran and ran when his own health was in danger. Killing him always gave far more pleasure than slaughtering a random person.

  5. I suspect AV was simplified so drastically because the focus shifted from fighting in battlegrounds to finishing battlegrounds. We needed just as many AV marks as those from WSG, AB and EotS to buy gear, but AV had been taking twenty times as long. I find that doubly terrible because it’s an example of the carrot-on-a-stick reward taking precedence over the actual playing of the game, which seems like the confused priority system that has led to some of the worse changes in WoW.

    Thinking of confused systems, I also feel the mistake in making PvP and PvE gear so separate has become exceptionally clear this expansion. As such emphasis is placed on all the different ways you can play WoW, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that there’s an artificial boundary that’s been put up between two of the major pools of activity within the game (PvE and PvP). That bloody gear is surely one of the main reasons world PvP is down so badly: in vanilla, a group of lower-level characters could overwhelm a level-cap character, as you said, but now that level cap character is probably decked out in resilience and there’s no between-expansion-cap kit to bring the levelling toons anything to compete with.

    I guess world PvP was always going to suffer from the increasing level cap, mind. Level 40s might have a hope against a level 60, but with 50 levels between them and the top folk? The potential for lowbie bloodbath was always going to hike on up. So I do miss the old Hillsbrad brawls, but the loss of them was inevitable.

    So anyway, I note this comment is becoming a sprawling monstrosity. Personally I adore MoP and I don’t want to go back to vanilla at all, but I think Blizz should probably address some of the problems that have accumulated over years of light tweaks and fixes. I think AV could go back to what it was, what with AV marks long gone and the BG queue tool well-established. A separate “epic BG” queue would be excellent, for those who want to brawl for ages.

    I do disagree with you re: “no reward for playing badly.” I don’t feel grinding dailies is necessarily playing badly, for one, and it was far, far easier to carry a terrible player in 40 man raids. My guild did it every week, and most of them got away with it. Content was very loosely tuned for the individual – at least if you compare it with equivalent content today.

    • I agree and I think AV suffered as more and more battlegrounds were added because Blizzard wanted people playing all of them, not hanging out in AV for weeks on end.

      I think with hindsight I didn’t follow through on “playing badly” properly, the point that I was attempting to make was that getting valor points albeit at a dribble for doing dailies was wrong in my opinion.

      As for carrying bad players in 40 mans, sure it happened. However when I think back to say our C’thun kills and original Naxx, carrying really bad players was impossible. We had damage metres by that point and they were really closely studied at least by my guild and anyone repeatedly not performing was told to improve and then replaced from the raid team if they still weren’t cutting it.

  6. You’ve hit the nail on the head with a few things that I “miss” from classic World of Warcraft, however it’s mainly because I have so many fond memories from those days.

    To this day I still miss the “epic” feeling of raiding with 39 other players. Personally I think it really made bosses feel a lot more intimidating and powerful.

    I’m not sure the World of Warcraft would still be alive and kicking to this day without some of the massive changes Blizzard made.

    • Possibly not, I think certainly had Blizzard not adapted, it wouldn’t have the size of player base it currently does. However as much as I’ve had fun playing subsequent expansions, I would still like an option for epic AVs without resources and for a bit more world PvP. I’d even settle for cross server Tol Barad/Wintergrasps.

  7. Great post :) i find myself thinking similar thoughts lately. I have a lot of fond memories of those days, it just seemed a bit of a different game. For one the community and server ‘pride’ was a big deal. You made a name for yourself, I miss that a lot these days. I log in now and see all these people from different servers thanks to CRZ and sort of feel a bit far from home, just feels weird.

    I do like a lot of changes, there is so much to do these days, I really love that. At the same time I think we lost something, in turn, with some of the changes over the years, something feels missing. I think it is the connection and community that just feels disjointed.

    • I think part of my issue, at least in terms of community lies in my lack of time to play. Back in vanilla, I raided 6 nights a week with a relatively commitment free life, now I work long hours and spend at least during week nights maybe 2 hours playing max.

      The CRZ is currently annoying me because I can’t tame the pet I want because of fifty million hunters from other servers camping it :(

  8. “I knew pretty much everyone on my faction at level 60, either because I’d played with them on some dungeon run or other or through pvp or simply by word of mouth. Now I know a handful of people on my current server and through the use of LFR, LFD and random battlegrounds have no incentive to get to know anyone.”

    I think this is probably why I gave up WoW in favour of EVE Online. I only started playing WoW early in WotLK, and I can’t imagine ever having known all the high-level people on your server.

    EVE, on the other hand, has a server population of 450,000, with no opportunities for name changes, and detailed employment histories for everyone in the game. While most of the people you come across are new names, there’s nothing like just stumbling across a prolific forum poster in the Recruitment channel ingame or recognising them on the forums because you flew with them in that incursion one time or shared boosts while mining.

  9. Not wanting to get into the “better now, better how it used to be” debate too much, especially as I quit in Cataclysm, but…

    Having a server reputation that mattered. I know the arguments as to why cross-server grouping came in. I played through areas and instances where the only way to get a group to do that content was to be lucky, or have a good guild. And for that, what goes around, came around – I think I helped rescue Reginald Winsor upwards of 30 times – and it wasn’t just because he had a good butt, and I liked watching him in his underwear!

    The cross-server stuff was the beginning of the end for me. Once I had the hang of the good guilds and the… less choosy ones on the server, I had a reasonable idea what to expect when I chose to group with someone, and they with me from my guild tag. I knew that if I was an idiot, it’d potentially rebound on my guild, and vice versa for my guildmates’ behaviour. Booted from guild = less access to crafting, help with instances, etc, etc.

    As has been said, once that accountability was taken away, a lot of people chose to prove that anonymity can indeed breed misbehaviour.

    I couldn’t find a way to use the cross-server grouping without feeling like I was being treated as a convenience by the other members, and not a really, thinking feeling person who was there to have fun too. Since I usually played tanks and healers, I suspect I got the bad side of this.

    It probably was a step forward, in a lot of ways. But I did strongly dislike the accountability that got thrown aside along the way, especially since I’m not aware of any sort of effort to bring that back, and I hate the attitude that appeared to replace it.

    Sorry for the whinge, and best wishes.

  10. [...] spotlighted an article that analyzed a lot of the “features” of vanilla WoW.  This article, by Erinys of The Harpy’s Nest, responded to some of the many complaints that have been being [...]

  11. I’m reminded about the great laugh when someone screamed “don’t loot the hound dogs” in AV as an alliance.

  12. In a nutshell, I think the game has been oversimplified to death.
    Today your class doesn’t mean a thing. They might as well go the final step and substitute mages, warlocks, warriors, priests etc with healers tanks and dps as classes. It really wouldn’t make much of a difference the way the game is now.
    Being a rogue used to be hard work. You had to find places to level your lockpicking and you had to make your own poisons.
    Shamans had to go on lengthy spiritual journies to get their totems. Druids had to jump all sorts of hoops to learn their forms.
    It’s all gone now.
    Today you just click to learn spells. How exciting.

    The expansion of the UI has ruined the game in MY OPINION.
    There’s no adventure to be had in azeroth anymore.
    No danger. No sense of accomplishment in anything you do. Just meaningless achievements.
    You’d have to be afk to die in the world.
    Want to do a dungeon? No need to go anywhere. Just click here.
    Battleground? Click here.
    Click click click click click
    It’s almost as bad as diablo 3.

    The social aspect of the game was sweet.
    Getting to know people as you quested was all part of it. Group quests,Red/Orange quests, Dungeons, etc – All these things required you to talk to people and band together on an epic adventure.
    All gone.

    Seeing what wow has become makes me sad.

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