WoW Classic Post-Mortem: An Outsider's perspective
I was not the target audience for World of Warcraft Classic. It was made for people who had an emotional attachment to that era of the game. As for me, Blizzard wasn’t even on my radar back in 2006. I’d heard of World of Warcraft of course (everybody had), but I wasn’t really in a position to pay $15 a month for a subscription back when I was in middle school.
I was also around that time coming to realize I didn’t like MMOs very much anyway; I’d tried pretty much everything out at the time that was free. I actually got my start with Ultima Online because my step dad paid for a subscription for years, and I quite enjoyed that game (Ultima Online probably deserves its own retrospective at some point, that game was utterly unique). My opinion on the MMO genre hasn’t changed much since then. I inevitably drop them all before endgame just because it takes too long to get there.
WoW Classic Post-Mortem
WoW Classic is no exception. I’ve pumped hours into the game over the last couple of weeks and enjoyed a fair bit of it, though it’s hard to articulate why. The gameplay is simplistic, the quests are abysmally designed fetch quests, and hunt quests made to keep you grinding for as long as possible, and travel is slow and cumbersome.
And yet…there is something charming about the game, even to an outsider like myself. It’s got a relaxing pace and a relatively friendly community. The game itself kind of sucks to be honest, but that only fosters this attitude among the community of “we’re all in this together, and we have to work together to push through it” that is quite refreshing coming off of other MMOs.
That’s not always the case, and seems more an Alliance feature (Horde questing zones from my experience before swapping factions seem to encourage you to screw over your fellow players actively). Even when I had a quest target sniped or something similar, there was always an apologetic sense about it, and people did party up beforehand so at least you weren’t just sniping a quest for yourself alone.
I can see why people liked it so much back in the day, and why people yearned so much for it to come back. My experience also helped me better understand the severe backlash Blizzard has been getting in recent years about acting like they know what the community wants better than it does itself.
I probably will never revisit WoW Classic (though I may attempt another foray into the retail version; I never got past level 5 the last few times I tried it), but I’m glad I gave it a shot. The game is an interesting time capsule into the wild west of MMO development, with quite a few unique mechanics I don’t know that I’ve ever seen in another game (for a simple one, I’ve never had mobs frequently flee from combat when losing before in another MMO).
I think a lot can be learned from looking back at the game as it stood over a decade ago. There are still some gems of ideas that have not been capitalized on well enough by other competitors, strangled as most are by the monolith that is World of Warcraft.
It seems an immutable rule that only two MMOs can coexist in the market at the same time with a high degree of popularity. It would be interesting to see a company try to muscle in on WoW’s still extant pseudo-monopoly of the genre by targeting the audience of the WoW of the past rather than the WoW of the present.
There is a market for it if some enterprising company wants to take the mistakes that turned WoW’s older community against it and try to craft something new out of those unpolished gems.
Who knows, I might even get sucked into it myself.