Greedy Goblin

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Vanilla WoW essence

Many people misunderstand what was the essence of Vanilla WoW. Many things in Vanilla were simply wrong or outdated and rightfully patched. But they also patched this essence, ending the growth of WoW and pushing it to decline. Players of old still wish for this to come back, as evidenced in the Vanilla server movement. Of course many of these players are also wrong, the "new Vanilla" server don't have to be 1.12 and probably shouldn't be at all. Many later developments can be kept in the game and make it a better game.

I believe the following improvements aren't part of the Vanilla essence and were welcome or at worst dumb but harmless additions to WoW:
  • Lore, storyline, graphics, cutscenes...
  • Talents, weapon traits
  • Group finder and instant teleport to dungeon
  • Cross server grouping
  • Flexible raid sizes
  • Shorter leveling, instances, one boss per session options for raids
  • Dance mechanics
  • Removal of boss specific resistance and items
I repeat that I don't agree with many of them. I however say that these didn't make WoW "lose its essence" and didn't contribute to cutting the playerbase to half.

We can mention "difficulty" but that's in itself is a very controversial topic. What is difficult to one is bad complexity to other. We can argue all day if CC was great or simply a high skill floor but low ceiling (everyone could CC but morons and newbies). We can argue all day that rotation check bosses or WASD check bosses (Brutallus vs Alystrazor HM) were "more difficult". This isn't a yes-or-no thing that can be pointed at.

I believe the Vanilla WoW essence comes down to two yes-or-no rules that were present in Vanilla, questioned in TBC and destroyed in WotLK.:
  • Rewards are not devalued, the other guy must perform the same action you did to get to the same rewards
  • You must complete Tier N to have a shot to Tier N+1 (unless boosted by players who did)
These meant that if you completed something, you get ahead among the playerbase, checked an item in the list to victory that can only be surpassed by someone doing the same. If you leave the game for a year, you still have everything when you return and only got behind players who used this time to do what you did and more. Now every reward is reseted in every patch. While formally they are there (you still have AQ epics), they are worse than what vendors and trival quests give. If you played 10 years straight at the very top and leave for 6 months, when you return, you are behind the guy who started playing 1 month before your return.

If I'd want to headline this, I'd say "persistence". You keep and be able to use what you gained. This is lost. The game is constantly deleted and remade with a clean slate every 3 months. Previous performance is irrelevant. Why is it critical? Because no game is capable to provide years of constant joy. There are lulls and there are simply bad days of your life when you aren't in the mood of playing. If you get something persistent, you keep playing and will find a joyful moment later. If you get nothing, you have no reason to stay when you don't get instant joy.

The other one-word headline is "content": for a new player (who is trying an MMO first time) such system would provide about 5000 hours of content going trough leveling to 60, Vanilla dungeons, Vanilla raids, leveling to 70, TBC dungeons, TBC raids, leveling to 80 WotLK dungeons, WotLK raids, leveling to 85, Cataclysm dungeons, Cataclysm raids, leveling to 90, Pandaria dungeons, Pandaria raids, leveling to 100, Draenor dungeons, Draenor raids, leveling to 110, Legion dungeons, Legion raids. The current system is insta-ding 100, leveling to 110, Legion dungeons before raiding last tier Legion raid. Combine it with there is no point trying on a boss when things get hard as next patch first demon gives better reward, "last tier Legion raid" actually means "LFR and the easy bosses of normal" for most. About 200 hours before "there is nothing to do here".

What I wish for is not a Vanilla server, but a current code Legion server where TBC and beyond content and gear is unavailable, you can level, do Vanilla dungeons and do MC+Onyxia tuned to Normal difficulty for current mechanics L60 players with Vanilla dungeon gear, having flex raid size. Then do AQ 20 tuned to Normal difficulty for MC geared L60s, then AQ40 tuned Normal difficulty for AQ20 geared players, again with flex raids, using group finder to find people on the server.

After you cleared all, you become eligible for transfer to a TBC server, which is once again a current code Legion server where WotLK and beyond content is unavailable. You can level to 70, do TBC dungeons (only on normal) and do Kharazan, Gruul, Maghteridon, who are tuned Normal for TBC dungeon geared player. Then go to SSC and TK tuned Normal with Kara gear, then BT with TK/SSC gear. Then you go to the WotLK server, Pandaria server, Draenor server, Legion server.

PS: the funny meme for today:


Anonymous said...

"Group finder and instant teleport to dungeon"

killed the 'world' of warcraft.

some of the best world pvp was at the Blackrock Mountain summoning stone and at the gates of AQ. i even remember having fun fighting opposite faction outside dire maul and scarlet halls.

Jackthemaniac said...

FFXIV does essentially that through the storyline, though the content is much less difficult than regular WoW endgame. And SE built FFXIV around the story, for single player JRPG style play, solid story good gameplay, but not hard. You can do the hard modes at the end.

And you still need to clear every story quest, raid (8-man) in normal mode. Usually that is done synced via Duty Finder, with lvl 60s queuing in roulette and filling the rest of the group, their gear, stats, & level being synced to level 50.

I'm not certain that story should be told via hard raids. WoW raids were hard back then. Normal modes demanded a good investment of time still.

What made WoW special back then for me is that you were part of the world, the world didn't negociate for you, you had to play by its rule. You were a citizen of the world, not a hero, just another guy, trying to make a name for himself by helping out different areas.

You had to deal with people, make your own group, explore the world on its terms, not on yours. Long gone are the days where you walk in Zulfarrak and have to find how to clear it. Now, everything can be pulled and AoE without fear.

Like you would do in real life, you had to do in game. Explore, play it safe, deal with people.

For people like me, those times are kinda over. It was meant as an escape from shitty years, but growing up my situation has changed. Your changes wouldn't bring me back to WoW.

maxim said...

My opinion is that everything you mentioned are additions to the lore, not the other way around.

There is an example of the game that tried what you are proposing and failed - Wild Star. The reason it failed was not because ofmbad mechanics or anything, but rather because it couldn't draw on the good will of an almost entire previous generation of players that grew up playing Warcraft one through three, loved it every step of the way and got invested in the lore.

Nowadays, when people say "lore", they mostly thing vaguely epic cg thrills. However, you need to ask yourself one simple question: why would anyone (much less hundreds of thousands required for a proper MMO) play the kind of masochistic game you are suggesting?

For WoW the answer for the core audience was - "i really wanted to be a part of THAT story". And then the answer for the second wave audience was - "hey, so many people want to be a part of this, maybe i should too".

Once there were enough people feeling that way, suddenly they were playing and, through their own efforts, creating a meaningful persistent world. I'd even go as far as saying that if there is one thing that a social will always do better than a goblin is creating meaningful persistence.
Once that was done, suddenly competing for ever-increasing pixel numbers felt like something important for the kind of crowds most western MMOs can only dream of to this day.

There is a reason why there is no, say, Witcher MMO out yet. The kind of adoration Warcraft commanded at the tail end of Frozen Throne is really hard to earn.

The only thing i'd agree with you here is that giving everyone easy access to purple pixels needs to go. Not because of "mechanics", but because mass-produced consumer goods are the antithesis of meaningful persistence.

Gevlon said...

@Maxim: I think Wildstar went down on being nearly unplayable to bugs and flat out retarded graphics.

I'm 100% certain that such optimizing company as Blizzard surely poll-tested Lore engagement and if they found it important, they'd employ lore writers. About "The kind of adoration Warcraft commanded at the tail end of Frozen Throne": the only adoration of that time I can remember was for Gearscore addon. Never once I remembered anyone mentioning Lore in chats, people were talking about drops and pwning and "mobs" instead of "epic villains".

Jackthemaniac said...

By tail end of frozen throne he meant Warcraft 3 Expac, not Wrath. So pre Vanilla.

A persisten world would be nice. One where you are but a small part, not the hero. Where you can fail. Yeah, I think the issue is that beyond the endgame raids hard mode, you can't fail in MMOs nowadays.

Tithian said...

What you describe is called progression servers, and quite a lot of people are fond of those too. This is essentially what EQ does even now, by putting the unlocking of expansions under player vote (in the progression servers only, obviously).

Unknown said...

I was about to have the same gut reaction to group finder but then I did a double take and noticed you wrote "group finder" and not "random people queue". LFR/LFD should die a painful death and group finder should stay. Also for group finder to be a viable tool gear needs to be fixed. Some kind of progression needs to be enforced if blizzard wants random people to be an even remotely useful concept, otherwise it's back to WotLK era gearscore madness (this time represented by ilvl in game client itself).

Gevlon said...

@Tithian: I'm not supporting the "player vote" method. Each player should make his server progression himself by finishing the previous one.

Anonymous said...

Force people to go through all the raids and levels in slow motion and soon noone will play. PVE groups can only form if there are LOTS of people playing in the same content level. If you disperse the players between all the content ever existed, it will all fall apart.

Anonymous said...

as "simple" as the layered idea sounds. this will get really messy on the dev part. If you didn't build the software with this in mind, you will not get it right no matter what. I like the idea but can't think of an inexpensive way for the devs to pull this off nor a good idea about a benchmark to let players switch into the next layer. You know it where just a mere % that even where in the end raids.

also vanilla means different things for people. some think wow was great when tigole pulled the strings, "raids where hard but fair". others find the attention to details better in vanilla. etc etc

I came to wow in cata. A friend who played wow beta via proxy, didn't like my badmouthing a game I didn't even play. As if playing the nemesis will change my mind. It didn't, the anecdotes of old and seeing first hand the shit blizzard charges you monthly is mindblowing.
He was and will be the minority. He had a raidlead on destromath eu that didn't question his tinkering and had faith in him that he will perform good or top dps no matter what. his warlock had many different builds and still he was near top or top dps. they where nearly all non standard warlock builds, he had no gold because of respecs and investment in gear. What could be done in the vanilla ruleset was phenomenal and random stat blue gear was strong enough + all the tools to make non-std builds dps rank #5+ out of a 40 man raid.
So for him vanilla meant diversity and no real best build choice. sure you could argue min-max rotations but all builds could perform top DPS. Same story from a vanilla-vet hunter in blues that outperformed hunters in way better gear on a guild switch.
A thing of the past not only vanilla but people that "perform" instead of "whine".

maxim said...

Firstly, the gear score thing was just your little echo chamber. Or maybe something you personally cared too much about (and therefore projected onto everyone else). My echo chamber was different - nobody gave a single thought about gear score.

The salient point you are missing here is that if there were no groups like mine - those in game for the game itself - then there would never have been groups like yours. The only point of having gear score is to show your "superiority" to "these lore-obsessed nabs". Can't do it if there are no "nabs".

If you think all you need to get people playing an MMO is a simple reward-stimulus structure then there wouldn't be failed MMOs.

Your assumption that Blizzard's playtesting is somehow divine and infallible is exactly the kind of assumption a social blinded by his own ideas on how sociality works would make. There are things you can't playtest for and there are things you don't think to playtest for. We actually have a current IRL example of highly professional political pundits failing to predict Trump's victory, because they simply couldn't imagine the factors that ended up causing it.

I would agree that bugs contributed to Wild Star's failure. I would disagree that they were the sole reason for it (weren't too many bugs to begin with).

Anonymous said...

"The other one-word headline is "content": for a new player (who is trying an MMO first time) such system would provide about 5000 hours of content going trough leveling to 60, Vanilla dungeons, Vanilla raids, leveling to 70, TBC dungeons, TBC raids, leveling to 80 WotLK dungeons, WotLK raids, leveling to 85, Cataclysm dungeons, Cataclysm raids, leveling to 90, Pandaria dungeons, Pandaria raids, leveling to 100, Draenor dungeons, Draenor raids, leveling to 110, Legion dungeons, Legion raids."

But what happens when they hit the 'Vanilla raids' level? Either they can get boosted by someone that's way higher than chain (and the 'progress' becomes as meaningless as it is today, just with an added level of annoyance), or they need a team of 39 other lvl 60s with the exact same goal when the game's population is diluted along 12 YEARS of content. Good luck getting a regular 25-man team for a Cataclysm raid when all you have available are people who have already gone through half of your list, but have not yet progressed to the other half. I played wow for a year and now a friend wants to join the game? Well, if they keep adding content and we both progress at the same speed, we'll never be able to play through relevant content together.

This system could kind-of work when you have 2-3 years worth of content, not 12. You have to reset it every now and then to funnel your players into doing the same kind of content. Which is exactly what they're doing.

Anonymous said...

I'd really like to know, how many people here defending the no group finder policy actually played any Vanilla WoW server recently. Nostalgia aside, it becomes pretty annoying to travel up to 30m just to enter a dungeon.
And there's more but today's blogpost is not about that. I think the allure of WoW Vanilla is/was the lore & the social aspect. Sadly, these two are now long gone and what you have now is a short-lasting husk of a previous, once great game. Unless they come up with new features, but even then, the hardcore traditional core would reject any of those.

Gevlon said...

About "you need people who are on the same content to raid together": if we assume 1M players, distributed to 25 tiers, we have 40K people on each tiers. I'm not worried. The problem was that people were distributed on separate servers they picked randomly. So you could easily have trouble finding 10 people for a certain tier. My suggestion is to have servers per tier and people automatically server-transfer when finish their tier.

nightgerbil said...

@ Anon 09 November, 2016 12:20 " Nostalgia aside, it becomes pretty annoying to travel up to 30m just to enter a dungeon."

Thats what guilds are for. This whole standing around in cities spamming lftank be geared came later in TBC I think. When I played fenix's emerald dream server we didnt hit dungeons by spamming trade then riding out there, it was a bunch of guildies who either decided hey tonight lets go do X or while you were in barrens crossroads you got asked if you wanted to come do wailing caverns. My dungeon experiences came either from such "leveling encounters" when I was already right there near to the instance and the forming group or when on guild chat a group of us decided that tonight was a night to hit ragefire chasm and then try a warsong gulch.

Group content is supposed to build community spirit, not become a toxic chore that you do for a dailey while praying to rngesus that you get put into a group that can actually do it so you don't have to go back to sitting in a 45 min queue.

Something I want to see removed is cross server. Honestly that kills communties. I never knew how badly until I played in swtor. We have group finder, its really cool and because you are one community reputation matters as well. So do guilds. The hardest part of swtor is finding a guild that can actually do content sadly as most guilds now seem to either be dead or are cata style "farm guilds" where the guild members are farmed by the officers for the rewards the guild gets from its members doing stuff. (was free guild gold in wow skimmed off the top and going to "raiders" "not socials", in swtor is conquest point guilds.)

Btw farm guilds show how you can't just make it profitable in game to own a guild as a developer and expect a community to grow from it. It just leads to players exploiting each other. you have to create the circumstances where playing with that "cool guy" again is desirable and useful.

nightgerbil said...

@ gevlon My suggestion is to have servers per tier and people automatically server-transfer when finish their tier.

I would say that when they finish the tier the option to server transfer should then open for that player when hes ready. That would allow people to a) play together b) stay together. That way you would see groups of gamers going through the content as a guild, with guilds/raid teams promoting together to the next server.

You also haven't said how you would prevent feeder guilds, which was a massive source of tears it seems from lower end raiders in TBC. The process of "oh great the mage got the staff and his 4th tier token. oh great now hes left us for a more advanced guild. oh great now we can't raid anyone know a mage? oh great you do? he isn't geared? NP we can gear him..." would be writ large throughout your system, apparantly by your design. Everyone would LITERALLY be in it for themselves.

Samus said...

I absolutely agree with your overall point, but I have to ask a serious question: did you actually play Vanilla WoW end-game content? I am not trying to insult you, it's just that your comments about it do not at all reflect the reality. You could literally AFK auto-attack your way through the very last boss in any patch in Vanilla WoW. I think most players which actually played at that time would agree that raid DPS in Vanilla required NO skill of ANY kind, not dancing, not CC, not rotation, not anything. Healers had to do a bit of mana management. Tanks had things they were supposed to do, but as mentioned above could mostly be ignored by an unskilled tank and it would be fine.

You may be right about progression in Vanilla WoW being the source of popularity, but I think you would HATE Vanilla WoW. It was all grind and low droprates with no way around it for a clever goblin, nothing that would let a smarter or more skilled player progress any faster than the guild leader's girlfriend. I really think what you want is Burning Crusade. It had all the same progression you're talking about, while actually demanding skill and competence from players.

maxim said...

Agree that modern server tech would probably make it possible to create old school realms with high population.
The problem would be maintaining that population. There are very good chances that people would be completing vanilla raids and moving on faster than new people would be coming to vanilla raids.

jim said...

I completely disagree with your post.

Even though many people will disagree with me for the sake of disagreeing i have come to the conclusion that WoW before wrath had a SLOW PACE in just about everything in the game (INCLUDING ROTATIONS), i cannot for the love of god play this thing called legion just because it is hectic in just about everything and has therefore introduced artificial barriers (dailies/weeklies/ garrison/order hall research) to keep me down. I cannot play like a 15 yr old anymore so managing a 9+ abilities rotation limits my ability to enjoy the game/world around me.

I could agree with some of your notes but quests sending me here and there so i could relax abit, having talents/abilities to wait for at every level or so, having to mb/rec/eat after 2-3 mobs for 30 secs so i could take my time to think of what to do next or something is of UTMOST IMPORTANCE.

Of course people will start yelling that 3 ability rotation with a bunch of circumstantial abilities is for players of lesser skill. Sorry but that was it and people loved it for what it was. I prefer to have to watch my surroundings and dance my char than spamming 12 keys over and over. I cannot even compensate with the re-introduction of the /castrandom as it once was. No i prefer it they way it was. Plain and simple.

I strongly believe that even blizzard themselves have absolutely no clue what was the magic of the game and many people share so many opinions on that topic. The truth is that different people want different things.

As dodgykebaab said in some video he himself is a leveller (and so am i by coincidence), taking his time and accomplishing small goals in each play session. There simply are so many categories and i believe that plain and simple but somehow designing the game in a way for raiders to use those circumstancial abilities more and pvpers to have access to more complex builds/rotations specific for that was golden.

Gevlon said...

@Nightgerbil: feeder guilds will be a post one day of its own (I keep the draft for a year and haven't finished). Transfering when ready/as a guild is of course possible.

@Samus: I healed, but not "cutting edge"

@maxim: with flex raid tech, all you need is 10 people per week in the whole CONTINENT to keep the raids running.

@jim: interesting point, but doesn't explain why TBC was still a success, despite skill creep already started.

maxim said...

What's the point of having a vanilla server if your group is the only one playing on it?
MMOs are social. No social - no MMO.

@Gevlon and jim
re: buttons, twitch and TBC

There were plenty of skills, but not many of them that you are required to actually use in combat on a rotational basis. And when i say "not many", i mean regular fire mages really cared about like 3 buttons (fireball, blink and cd macro). Pro fire mages cared about 3 more (Scorch if you're the team's debuffer, fireblast and potion).

Pro firemage play was about being able to judge when you don't have time to get a fireball in and being able to get back to fireball spam within 2 gcds (one of which could be blink). So long periods of fireball spam and anticipation, punctuated by short bursts of activity. It was simple, but it played surprisingly differently in various combat scenarios, depending on amount and mobility of targets and their ability to force you to move.

Anonymous said...

@nightgerbil: But I'd say you were doing dungeons because of the journey (social bonding, exploring, experiencing something new...), not because you needed that damn Helmet of Uberness. This experience is IMO gone and you are left with long travel times, tedious grinding and bland content. Vanilla dungeons were so inefficient when you take time to complete them (few hours) and the possible gain.

@Samus: Totally agree with your post, people still have their pink shades on, but the reality is far more dull and boring. Of course, you will still have people who will prefer Vanilla content instead of newer one for whatever reasons, but I'd be really surprised if it was because of engaging and deep raiding/dungeoning experience.