Thursday, August 22, 2019

Slip Into Something Classic: WoW

Yesterday I re-subbed my World of Warcraft account and Mrs Bhagpuss's too. Just for a month. Let's not go crazy.

Mrs Bhagpuss hasn't touched WoW for a decade at least so I was skeptical about the chances of finding the passwords and so on that would let her pick up where she left off, but in the event it was fairly easy. I had to reset an email password but other than that it all went quite smoothly.

The main delay was downloading the game itself. The footprint came in just short of 60GB. It took a couple of hours. I had wanted to transfer my files across the local network but Windows 10 really doesn't approve of that kind of thing. Then I tried moving them onto a USB stick but the estimate for that was "one day".

In the end I just let the BattleNet patcher do its thing, which it managed with the expected efficiency. There was another small patch, just a couple of gigs, to update the client for Classic and that was that.

When I logged into Classic to make a character and reserve a place on my server of choice, Bloodsail Buccaneers, I got a nasty surprise. Even though I've been playing the free trial recently, I completely forgot that WoW is effectively region-locked.

You can play on US Servers from the UK but you need a US WoW disc and/or key and you have to pay a seperate sub. If you buy your box in a UK retail store, as I did ten years ago, you get no choice other than to play on EU servers. Even if I'd remembered that before I resubbed I wouldn't have gone as far as to buy a new copy of WoW just to play on BB.

Things you won't see in Classic #1 : Gnome Hunters
The EU RP-PvE server is Hydraxian Warlords so that's where we're going. I think it's a pretty spiffy name but I've heard complaints. The server names are generally pretty dreadful, I think - Shazzrah, Golemagg, Skeram, Arugal... Sounds like an ogre choking on a gnome. Hydraxian Warlords will do me fine.

I already knew I was going to play a Dwarf Hunter so the character creation process didn't take long. WoW still doesn't give you a lot of choice in what you look like. I picked a name I often use for male dwarves and it was available so that was that.

The only other thing to do was update my graphic card drivers. I play a lot of MMORPGs and absolutely none of them give a toss what drivers I'm using. Blizzard, on the other hand, seem determined to play Nanny.

Every time I play the Free Trial I get a warning that my drivers are unsupported but it's only the once. Classic seemed a lot more determined to get me to mend my slacker ways. I got the warning twice and a yellow exclamation mark appeared next to the "Enter World" button. I decided to take the hint.

I'm generally loathe to update graphics drivers if I'm not having problems. I've had so many experiences where new drivers have made games glitch or even not work at all that I prefer to stick with the devil I know. This time, fingers crossed, everything seems to be working. Let's hope it stays that way.

There's really nothing more to do now other than wait for the twenty-seventh. I might dabble on Live but I can't say I'm feeling it.

#2: Ninja Pandas

As for what Classic is going to be like when we get there, Kaylriene has an excellent post up on that very subject. He makes the essential and entirely correct point that 
"back then, it was harder to do many things in game, but a lot of that difficulty was more down to the mechanics of the game being obscured to us, and that first time leveling requiring us to find our bearings."
This absolutely nails the main reason why Classic won’t be anything like as “hard” as people who were there at the start remember it being: knowledge. All new MMORPGs are harder in the early days than they become later on, even modern ones, because everything is new and people have to learn how it works.

Over time that effect has faded because huge amounts of information are available pre-launch from alpha and beta players and because a lot of MMOs use the same, established systems. In 2004 that wasn’t the case. A lot of people who played Vanilla WoW hadn’t played anything like it before and the resources available to them were far smaller and less detailed than they are today.

Everyone had to muddle along, work things out as they played, and that made everything seem both slower and harder. And yet, even so, in 2004-5, when I was playing EQII and EQ, forming a picture in my mind of WoW from things people who had tried it were saying, I took WoW to be an easy-mode MMORPG for casual players. In my MMO crrcles of the time, that was pretty much how everyone thought of it.

#3: Flying goblins

One of the more casual and laid-back players I knew from EQ went to WoW for a few months just after launch. When he came back I asked him why he’d returned. He said “WoW’s fun but it’s too easy – I got bored”.  It was one of the reasons it took me five years to get around to trying the game for myself: no-one I knew took it seriously.

It’s all relative. In 2004 MMORPGs were generally much more difficult than they are now.  One of the reasons for WoW's breakout success was mitigating that difficulty to bring gameplay into a range that had mass-market appeal. It would probably have suited me down to the ground had I tried it but I had weightier matters to occupy me. Or so I thought.

This time around the comparisons aren't going to be with MMORPGs like EverQuest or Asheron's Call or Dark Age of Camelot. They're going to be with an exaggerated memory of a difficulty that probably never existed other than in the minds of most people playing, who didn't really know what they were doing. Lots of people are going to be surprised and some are going to be disappointed.

On the other hand, gameplay in general will be sufficiently different that some people will just find it more to their taste. I’m hoping I'm one of them.


  1. I saw Shintar mention the region lock yesterday and was wondering if you had a US or EU copy of the game. Guess out paths won't cross.

    We had a lot of people in our EQII guild going on about how WoW was a kiddie casual MMO back in 2004 and early 2005. Oddly enough, even the most vehement on that opinion ended up in WoW by late 2005. I think all the technical problems SOE was having with Qeynos Harbor and the Kingdom of Sky expansion (lag and disconnects) drove them into Blizzards arms. I am one of the few that goes back every so often.

    Having done so many EQ special server launches, I expect we will see a lot of the same thing. Many of us will remember, maybe a bit hazily, where to go and what to do. Anybody new, however, will likely stumble about wondering where to go and where that quest giver was and all that.

    Hunters. I have a dwarf hunter set to go as well. It is an often mocked class, not being useful for tanking or healing and being tricky to use effectively as DPS, but it has depth in all the pet management. Gotta keep your pet happy, fed, and trained. Oh, and make sure you fill up on ammo before you head out in the world.

    1. It's the pet management that I'm looking forward to. They'd not long taken it out of the game when I played and I really felt I'd missed out. If I hang around long enough to get into grouping I'll probably have to make another class that people actually want, but it's not like I have an issue with making alts.

      The region locking is a bit of a pain. I was sort of hoping to run into a few of the bloggers who've said they'll be playing on BB. Mostly, though, they'll be on while I'm asleep and vice versa so it probably wouldn't have happened al that often.


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