Monday, September 9, 2019

Returning to World of Warcraft Classic

I came back to Blizzard specifically for WoW Classic, I admit. I wasn't sure if I would or not....but yep, I resubbed for one month just to try it out.

I am trying to pin down what the attraction is, and it seems (for me) to be the following items:

1. the specific way the game fostered a social environment at that very specific point in its implementation resonated well for me;

2. the mechanical elements were more enjoyable than later changes made to the game (I always liked leveling weapons, saving up to buy skills from the trainer, deliberating over skill choices, and having to factor in these resource needs in level-up process);

3. and (probably most importantly) the game felt exceedingly new and different back then, and oddly enough this time capsule experience now feels unique compared to today's market.

That said.... graphically it feels less exciting now (duh), but somehow it looks way too good for the experience I remember.  I realize now that running it on max graphics with a 4K resolution wasn't helping with my nostalgia parade, but at this point I'm not going to dig up an old pentium PC with a CRT monitor and a 56kbps* connection to maximize my trip down memory lane, so I'll just keep having fun with the specific "re-enjoyment" of it and then bail as I usually do. In my defense, I bet I've played WoW in total 1/20th the amount of time everyone else pining for Classic has, and I have never raided in the game, period.

All things considered I am probably enjoying this most of all because it takes me back to a time when WoW and indeed the entire MMORPG genre was young, new and intriguing, especially to me. I'd never played an MMO before WoW, and this game set off a lengthy number of years exploring the genre. While I greatly enjoyed Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King, after Cataclysm the game changed too much, became a little too self-aware of itself and focused too much on a mix of "easy casuals" vs. "hardcore elite" type players, while I fell somewhere in the middle. The leveling game abruptly became too boring and unchallenging even as the endgame became too laborious and demanding, and my interest gradually died. Blizzard wanted people to power-level through to endgame content, but for players like myself the leveling experience and accompanying exploration was the sweet spot, not the endgame raids and events.

So's kind of fun getting to see the version of the game where I had the most genuine enjoyment again.

PS: There's one significant thing I realized over the weekend that's different from current WoW that I really like: when you see someone with a pet, mount or suit of gear you know it's both what they earned and what they actually "have" at that moment. No one's buying stuff in a RMT shop and accounts do not have account-bound critters and stuff, meaning that once again I can balance the weight of "accomplishment on this character and this character alone" against the convenience of "now I can share all crap on all my PCs and learn to ignore how immersion breaking that is."

I can't stress enough that when games in general went the direction of "account-wide unlockables" I was torn between liking the convenience but feeling like it destroyed the "story experience" of the actual characters in your corral. I accepted that the latter must be a distinct issue only to the subset of gamers like myself who seek verisimilitude and continuity (even in an MMO) but truthfully? Yeah, this transition for most MMOs badly damaged much of my enjoyment for the genre by degrading the accomplishments of the character's story that I could experience as the player and diluting it to the "player's experience with his account and all stuff attached" which pulled the story-feel right out of the game and turned it into a metagame experience. As a player it was nice to have those unlocks, but it also demotivated me to enjoy my alt characters as much as I wanted to....the rewards had been earned, if you will, and the desire to continue on them was lessened as a result.

*Blizzard has had enough wonky lag and a weekend DDOS attack however, so they've accurately simulated the old days of crappy latency in 2005 Seattle I experienced.

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