My experience of playing Classic so far

There’s a lot of discussion around the appeal of World of Warcraft Classic at the moment, take a recent Aggrochat podcast for a wide range of chat about what sorts of players they see playing in their guild.

My own experience so far has been a bit unusual I imagine: I’m only finding time for the one character and he only plays in a static. As a holy Paladin that’s a very good thing as I remember from 2007, and can confirm in Classic in 2019 that holy Paladin hits like a wet lettuce in combat and would be *so* bad as a solo class/spec. Turning back the clock means accepting that changes or design lessons will be reversed. The group questing experience is better in some respects than in Retail for sure: for instance it feels like healer/support is actually useful to play (Buffadin!). Other aspects of the group questing experience are not that ideal.

A similar group ahead

Belghast’s blog post expands on the discussion in the podcast to outline types of players they are seeing in guild. I would fit into the ‘honeymooner’ category he outlines I imagine as I tend to bounce between games as content is released. WoW Classic is an unusual prospect for me as there’s no clarity if any content will ever be released (i.e. progression server style unlocks of Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King etc). It would be highly unlikely that I’ll stick to the game again for years without taking breaks.

That’s a concern for me because of how we play and how group-unfriendly Classic is compared to many more modern MMOs. Keeping characters in sync level-wise is important as XP penalties and trivialisation of content would largely spoil the group leveling experience for us (we all hate powerleveling). That means playing alts outside of when we can play, not that I have the time but others do have several on Classic already.

The lack of gathering XP is one less issue to worry about

The old school class/spec system has appeal and more distinctiveness for sure, but it makes for a rather rigid experience also. In Retail we often have swapped classes or specs to fit the group dynamic for dungeon runs. In Classic we have to alt if we want to change our pre-made group’s make-up within the holy trinity scheme. Were our tank to tire of playing prot warrior (or warrior more broadly) then someone else needs to level a new tank character. Catching up while our characters are in the teens isn’t so hard, but what about when the group levels to the 20s, 40s or 50s? It’s quite the dilemma on where you draw the balance between making leveling feel like more of a journey than a sprint, versus allowing people to play what they want in a group without massive hurdles to overcome.

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2 Responses to My experience of playing Classic so far

  1. bhagpuss says:

    It’s interesting to hear you say that Classic is “group-unfriendly”, since it’s pretty much the exact opposite of the prevailing view. I think it’s because the particular kind of group you’re trying to maintain was probably extremely rare back in the Vanilla and earlier era of MMORPGs.

    Back then I’m not sure how commonplace even what we now call “static” groups were. They certainly existed, especially in PvP, where they were called “pre-mades” and reviled by everyone who wasn’t in one, but the huge majority of groups would have been PUGs or Guild Groups. Guild groups are sort of a half-way house between pugs and statics in that they pull from a fixed pool but don’t rely on the same individuals every time.

    What I don’t think happened very often was a set number of players who tried to play together most of the time but who varied widely in how many hours or sessions they played. In most games of the period it simply wouldn’t have worked, as you can see it doesn’t work now in Classic. (Wilhelm seems to be having the same issues getting his Instance Group up and running).

    I don’t think this is a design flaw so much as it’s yet another way that MMORPGs of that time were different. The mentoring and level-syncing systems that have been added to most MMOs in the last decade are a symptom of the way game design in the genre has moved to focus on the player rather than the world. I suspect one of the things we will learn from Classic is that these are mutually exclusive goals.

    What many players used to do, when I played EQ before WoW released, was keep a stable of alts at various levels. For a couple of years I had characters in most deciles of the game and so did half our guild. If someone wanted to play their Level 35, several of us would hop on our characters that were in range and off we’d go. We even used to have designated “Babies’ Day Out” events, when everyone would play their lower-level alts together.

    Part and parcel of how that worked, of course, was that most of us played EQ for 25-40 hours every week and we played EQ for years at a stretch. Even with the game’s exceptionally slow leveling – way, way slower than Classic – it stil allowed time for those stables of alts to develop. I can’t see any way to replicate that with a group of people who both play far less hours and also play several other MMORPGs. Not without introducing mechanics into the game that will unravel the weave that makes it the very thing it is.

    • Telwyn says:

      The view was echoed in the Aggrochat podcast, I forget which but one of the participants commented on how unfriendly WoW Classic is for “playing with friends”. I can also point at DDO, back in 2008 I was running in an “All Ranger” static group in that game – it may have been weird / fringe behaviour in the game but it certainly isn’t a new concept for me. We always played WoW this way, it’s just gotten easier over the years to do so.

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