Remember a while ago when I went back to World of Warcraft and did a little article about whether a returning player could still enjoy it? If you need a refresher, I was disappointed with a lot of it, yet cautiously optimistic and I said I would play another 30 days and see if it would stick. The issue is, I never did, all because a remark on my final few days occupied my thoughts so much it killed any desire to actually play the game.
When I was informing my guild that I might quit the game and expressed why, I got a lot of pleas to stay and roleplay with the guild some more, but there was also one guy that just said “You don’t want vanilla back” in a matter-of-factly tone. I get that he was insinuating that I was looking at the game through nostalgia goggles, that the game, as it is now, is a better product and I am failing to see that because I am clinging to the past. I can’t deny having a deep fondness for the World of Warcraft from the past, yet this person was just wrong on so many accounts.
First and foremost, I never really argued I specifically wanted to go back to vanilla World of Warcraft. I’ll be the first to admit that the original game wasn’t some sacred artefact, there was certainly room for improvement, like actually adding enough quests to make it to the end of the game or putting anything to do at all in Silithus. While I did enjoy the difficulty of the game’s dungeon and the coordination required to get through them, I feel it was definitely getting better and more balanced as time went on. I’d even argue I enjoyed my time in Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King more than my somewhat stumpy experience trying to make it to level 60 in vanilla.
On top of that, I don’t think you can really argue nostalgia is in the way when I had a private server at the ready where I could just play the old game, and which made it even easier to figure out what the actual, current World of Warcraft was lacking. One of my pet peeves when it comes to video games is feeling like a game is handing me everything on a silver platter. Current World of Warcraft didn’t make me feel like an adventurer, but like a kid at some larp event. I never felt challenged or at risk, with enemies from quests doing absolutely pitiful damage compared to what I was outputting. The game also pretty much made my character for me, deciding what spells I get and what happens when I level, so what the heck am I even here for. Might as well make it an idling game at that point where I log in from time to time to cash in experience points and gold.
Pre-Cataclysm versions of the game were anything but and even when I used bots to give me a party-member, the questing experience was really tough. There was a much better balance between the stats of the player and those of the enemy, plus you actually needed to take breaks to recover mana and health. It didn’t feel like content was just there for you to steamroll over, and while you could argue a lot of the character building ultimately had people using a guide to be viable in the end-game, flat out removing it is like cutting out 90% of the Pokémon because tournament players just use a few really powerful ones anyway. Most any game involving numbers will have people working tirelessly to maximize their output, you can’t avoid that, and cutting out all meaningful decision-making because of that is just petty.
And finally, I just had no faith in Blizzard’s ability to maintain the game at all, so I couldn’t move myself to support it any further. The amount of times players advised me to ignore once-useful mechanics because they didn’t work as intended was staggering. I was told not to do dungeons because doing so ruined the leveling experience, whereas before dungeons were tied directly into questing. I had people asking me why I tried doing professions, now that nobody needed the items you could make due to stat inflation.
World of Warcraft isn’t the only dominating force in the MMO market anymore and if Blizzard can only be bothered to keep the game playable for the end-game userbase, then I’ll just take my business elsewhere or to the confines of my own, private server.