Finally playing World of Warcraft after 20 years as an MMO fan
I have a confession to make. I’ve been playing MMORPGs for 20 years now, but just started playing World of Warcraft. And not live World of Warcraft. No, no, no – I’m playing Classic WoW. That’s right, that’s what a newcomer would have felt in 2004, except through the eyes of a jaded MMO player.
First of all, a little background. While it’s curious how an MMORPG fan could spend 20 years ignoring the MMO, there are reasons. My parents were deeply suspicious of video games when I was young, so I never got to play GTA, Resident Evil, or indeed WoW until I was old enough to make big boy decisions. During this time, I watched in horror as a number of childhood friends all but disappeared in WoW, so it’s not hard to see why I formed a bit of a grudge against Blizzard’s multiplayer monster.
But still, I was drawn to the idea of living my dreams of a medieval knight in a persistent online world filled with thousands of real people. In the early 2000s, it was a dazzling concept. I cut my teeth in Runescape, of course, before moving on to much worse free fares like Knight Online, Fly for Fun, and Silkroad Online. There are really a hundred more free MMOs that I played before playing WoW.
But really, my first real love in the genre was the classic Guild Wars. It has positioned itself as the anti-WoW: casual friendly, skill-based rather than gear-based, and with proper PvP. I maintain this is a truly special and unique experience in the MMO genre that managed to combine beautiful instantiated areas with lingering outposts where players could talk shit for hours on end. These were the days.
I switched to Guild Wars 2, which didn’t quite interest me like the original, and the likes of FFXIV, ESO and still other free-to-play MMOs you’ve never heard of. Any true MMORPG fan can see that the genre is going through an identity crisis right now. I’m not sure young gamers have the same complaints, but modern MMOs play more like online role-playing games and tend to ignore the massive, multiplayer aspects.
WoW Classic reminded me of exactly why I fell in love with the genre
When the global pandemic relegated in-person social interaction to the annals of history, I needed a decent MMORPG to get past the lockdown. WoW Classic was ready and waiting for me – so I finally gave in.
And boy, I’m glad I did. I want to be clear: WoW Classic reminded me exactly why I fell in love with the genre in the first place. It’s tough, so you really have to be careful if you’re going out on your own, and the result is that players really want to band together – imagine such a thing! I had some lovely encounters with random players in my early days, and for the most part everyone I spoke to was friendly and helpful.
Classic WoW also refrains from putting everything back on a silver platter. The quest objectives are relatively straightforward, but finding the monster, item, or NPC you need isn’t. You must in fact Lily the quest text, then try to find the objective using your the eyes – stop me if I start to sound like a damn.
I needed a decent MMORPG to get past the lockdown, and WoW Classic was ready and waiting
There are no arrows, sparkling trails, or highlighted markers on your map (unless you are using a WoW Classic addon like Questie). It’s a lot of work, but that’s what I want. I want to be challenged and immersed, and to feel like I’m in a living and breathing world.
There is also no fast travel. If you want to get from A to B you have to run, ride a mount, pay a griffin and wait for it to fly to its destination, use the Deeprun tram, or take a boat. Again, you must in fact expect for these to arrive, get on board, then get off at your destination. Rather than feeling awkward, it adds to the immersion. Glorified loading screen for some crucial world building for me.
Most importantly, the community is awesome. I’m sure it has its toxic elements, but overall everyone I meet is friendly and players regularly go out of their way to help. I joined a guild early on and had no trouble finding allies for quests and dungeons. I rarely had to ask as players regularly ask for help in the chat.
WoW Classic isn’t the easiest MMO to access, but you’re not the only player climbing to the top, and the community is on hand to help you whenever you need it. While it’s crucial to make sure the genre isn’t so intimidating that it deters new players, surely we can find a compromise that takes into account the value of challenge and patience.