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.
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.
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!