Home sweet gnome?
Blizzard has released World of Warcraft Classic onto the adoring public, giving both new and old players an opportunity to return to the good old days when the company could do no wrong. When WoW was the biggest thing on the planet that even made its way to pop culture like in an entire South Park episode or a How I Met Your Mother gag.
For some, it’ll be a new experience to experience a base title before all of this Dungeon Finder and quest instructions nonsense. For veterans, it’ll be a lovely blast to the past, warts and all. And with that, here’s a list of what WoW players miss. Or don’t miss. It’s all subjective, but still nostalgic. Rose-tinted glasses and all, right?
Think of this as a guide to gauge whether you want to plunge into a game made in late 2004.
An obvious place to start. At its peak, you’d load World of Warcraft, pop in your details, then eat dinner, paint a bridge, or grow a full-length beard while waiting to enter the game. It could take hours. The only consolation is that you could listen to the excellent menu theme over and over and over—and it never got better than the one in vanilla WoW—and imagine all the cool things you’d be doing it you were actually playing.
And the authentic-but-irritating news is that WoW Classic has recreated this with stunning accuracy because there aren’t enough servers to accommodate demand. Great work!
This sounds like a weird one, because yes, you can technically still run everywhere in modern World of Warcraft. You just don’t need to. Current WoW players get their mounts at level minus-20, three months before they’ve made the decision to start playing the game, and they’re basically free. But in Vanilla WoW, you’d spend levels 1-40 running everywhere like a peasant, driven by the tenebrous hope that one day you too would be able to afford a basic white goat like the other, better dwarves.
If you were lucky, a class skill like Ghost Wolf would help you traverse vanilla’s vast expanses slightly quicker. Still, it was excruciatingly slow.
The Fact That You Have To Be Thrifty…
..or poor, if you want to put it in a less PC way.
Just like real life, there were players who were absurdly rich and had all the best gear, and there were others who’d scrape a living selling vendor trash just so they could scrape up a bit of digital copper.
For many players, making money was a grind. Everything was costly. Even training your skills came at a price, diverting funds away from that precious mount you were saving for.
Making money involved repeated trips back to traders to sell your grey junk, and many vanilla players saved time by inventing their own get-rich-quick schemes. Others would spend days angling for Deviate Fish in Lushwater Oasis, or murdering turtles in Hillsbrad in the hope they’d drop pearls.
Everyone had a business plan, and most of them were awful. Being poor in WoW sucked. But hey, it did open up a new and lucrative job market in China.
Alt-Tabbing Your Screen To Check Out The Wikis
Learning to play WoW now is a streamlined experience. Yes, you’ll still need to supplement your knowledge with websites, but you can learn most of what you need in-game.
In the early days of vanilla WoW, however, your entire existence was split between actually playing the game and tabbing in and out of your browser in an attempt to work out what the hell you were supposed to be doing. The in-game tutorials were essentially non-existent, and that meant relying on sites like WoWhead and WoWwiki.
To have a hope of knowing what you were doing you had to actually read the quest logs, and even that wasn’t foolproof. Your first ten levels in WoW were like trying to assemble IKEA furniture while buried alive.
It was often so confusing that players would resort to adding third-party add-ons such as Quest Helper just to get some sense of purpose of direction. That, or just flip through the official magazine for some offline guidance. Remember those?
If you currently play WoW, you think you know grinding. You’ve spent an evening or two killing the repetitive mobs in a dull area. You’ve paid your dues. But mention the ‘g’ word to a WoW veteran and you’ll see the thousand-yard stare of a special forces veteran.
Can you really call it grinding unless you spent three literal weeks -we kid you not- killing plainstriders and zhevra charger in The Barrens?
The problem was acute in the famously sprawling Kalimdor zone, but the grind was present everywhere. It was compounded by the lack of quests and the limited ways to gain XP. You didn’t get XP from PvP or professions, and without Dungeon Finder, running an instance wasn’t always worth the time it took to assemble a group.
However hard you tried to avoid it, you’d have to spend a few evenings killing mobs. Actually, make that weeks.
The Skill-Training Experience
As well as being permanently lost and confused, training new skills was a challenge for vanilla WoW players. Nowhere is this more obvious than with Pet Skills.
Your pet’s offensive abilities all had ranks, which you had to learn using a different pet before you could apply them to your main.
So if you wanted a skill outside the ones your main pet came with, you’d have to stop using them. Of course, the game never told you this, so many Hunters were running around with the basic skills their pet came with. And then there were weapon skills, which were removed in Cataclysm.
You’d pick up a sweet new weapon, go to attack a mob, and spend the next hour swinging, missing, and causing Glancing Blows as you level up your skill in it. Sure, it made sense, but it wasn’t fun at all.
The PvP Titles
Vanilla WoW had an old-school honour system that was removed in Patch 2.0.1 when Burning Crusade arrived. This lets you unlock military titles and gear, and made world PvP somehow more exhilarating.
You can lose honour by accidentally killing civilians from opposite factions. You can pretend to be a highwayman, ganking rivals when you feel like it. You can even participate in Battlegrounds via the 1.5 patch if you just want to rank up your PvP faster.
Bottom line: players who felt like they were part of the Alliance vs Horde struggle really experienced the brunt of it in its PvP. Many veterans satiated their bloodlust with this and had their achievements to show for it in vanilla WoW.
Installing From Discs
This is an entry that’s true of every old game, but there was something prestige about the boxed copies of WoW, even if the thought of installing an online game from discs now feels like an exercise in madness.
From the vague boxed instructions that could only hint at the levels of depth within the game, to the gorgeous artwork and satisfying velcro tab that kept the box closed, everything about the vanilla WoW box feels delightfully antiquated.
There’s also something special about knowing that the version that comes on the disc is a venerable, unpatched mess, exactly as Blizzard itself intended. A true relic of the age, in physical and displayable form.
Also, cloth maps. Gotta love those.
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