This past week Blizzard opened the doors on World of Warcraft Classic, and I took my first steps back into a world I haven’t seen since 2006. I purposefully spent very little time in the beta and stress tests to minimize fatigue and enable me to have a clear impression of it right from the beginning. Make no mistake; this is not a recreation of the game it was when it first launched back in November 2004, rather a recreation of what existed before Burning Crusade rolled out in 2006. Of course, some of the content available back then is not currently available due to the plan of a staggered rollout. That said, this is the closest approximation of the original game which has existed since BC changed everything.
The first hurdle is getting into the game in the first place. Right from the beginning server queues have been staggering on the more populated realms and even on the smaller realms, there have been some decent queues. Though with the addition of more servers and the initial rush over queues has quelled. As I sit here writing this on Sunday afternoon, the most popular servers in the US region have a queue of about 7600 people with an estimated wait time of 200 minutes. The Low, Medium, and High pop servers have no queue at all. Of course, where you decide to play will have a significant impact on how difficult it is to log on. On the upside if you accidentally leave queue or get disconnected after logging on there is a grace period where you can either get back in line in the same spot or log back in immediately.
I want to take a moment and discuss Blizzard’s estimated queue times. First off, the estimated queue time Blizzard provides is terrible. On Tuesday I never saw a queue time of more than 90 minutes, but I waited for three and a half hours. When I got to a 20-minute estimate it took an hour before I got through. I understand these are just estimates and giving an estimated time is difficult because there are a lot of variables which go it into but having the estimated times so far off make me wonder if they might not be better not offering a queue estimate at all. I’d rather see a long queue time and then get in quicker than having to wait longer than what I was told.
All of that said, once I did get back into the game, it brought back a lot of memories. So much of the original questing experiences I knew were destroyed during Cataclysm were right there in front of me again. Honestly my first few minutes were spent just looking around and putting Mark of the Wild on EVERYTHING. And hugging young sweet innocent Baine, before everything got terrible for him! Once the initial “OMG” of it all wore off I set about questing and the long process of leveling up. Which quickly reminded me of how much I’ve come to depend on quest givers being shown on the minimap.
I’m playing as a Tauren Druid, and right away there’s a couple of quests to deal with the Bristlebacks nearby. So, as a good Tauren I went out that way and stumbled my way in through the backside because I couldn’t find the front door because I came from the opposite direction than was intended. I quickly knocked out the quests, without drama over killing the chief either. Everyone was grouping up to help each other out which was a pleasant surprise. As I was running back to town, I saw an older Tauren woman who asked me to bring a jar of water to our chief. No biggie. I went to the chief, and he sends me to talk to this other Tauren, who then gives me a quest to go right back where I was fighting the Bristlebacks a few minutes ago. The Tauren Women wasn’t very far outside town; I didn’t notice she had a quest for me when I was running around picking up quests. Moral of the story is look around the areas you are questing in, lest you wander right by something important/interesting.
I’ve always remembered how broke I always was back in Vanilla; I had to borrow money to get my first mount and getting an epic one at 60 wasn’t even an option. I did, however, forget how expensive the class skills are. Leveling up feels good but going to the trainer to learn a new skill or a new rank only to realize I don’t have enough money feels terrible. It’s only a matter of time before I find myself running a dungeon and it’ll turn out the healer didn’t learn rez because they didn’t have the money for it. This is true to the Vanilla experience though so I can’t knock it too much. Also, the healer will be me this time around so sorry in advance!
One of the critical things which cannot be recreated is back then we didn’t rush for max level. When WoW launched there were limited things to do at max level at all, so rushing there was pointless. Of course, as the game went on, and more things were added, and WoW gained popularity the rush for endgame started to be a thing, but back, in the beginning, it didn’t exist for me or anyone I played with. In Classic though there’s already people killing Rag and Onyxia. This shouldn’t be surprising though. These paths have already been trodden. We know how to do all the things already, and regardless if anyone is willing to admit to it raid fights have gotten more sophisticated over the years. These old fights are simplistic in retrospect. In terms of anything offering a real challenge Classic isn’t the place to look for it.
My point is blizzard has done a great job of recreating Vanilla in the Classic form. I’m having a blast enjoying the game, but we should not kid ourselves about what this is. This is not the game as it was back when all of this was new. It’s a close approximation with some QoL changes thrown in. I’m curious how everything plays out long term. Will the populations stay steady? Will we keep having queues? Or will this end-up like pretty much every MMO where there’s a core that plays all the time and then large numbers comeback when new content opens. Either way, I’ll be back in one week with my full review!