World of Warcraft (WoW)

It’s not them, it’s us

I want to be honest. I love this game to death. Vanilla WoW had a big impact on me during very formative years, and it’s always held a special place in my heart. The large changes in the game over the years always left a bit of a void while I tried to recreate some of the most special moments in gaming both with later expansions, and with different games altogether. But of course none of that held up, because the industry just doesn’t make games the way they used to.

And that’s not a value judgment. That’s not a “hey ‘member how good stuff used to be?” That’s a statement of fact. Games produced today prioritize different things, engage with a different player base, and have been informed by over a decade of iteration in game design post-WoW. Game developers employ different systems than they used to. And games today are being produced by a different generation of developers with a different set of experiences, who learned game design at a different time.

I won’t say today’s games are worse than games back then, but they certainly are different. We’ll likely never have another vanilla WoW, because the industry just does not have people working today with the training, experience and mindset to create a game in the same vein. The special sauce that produced vanilla WoW at the time it did was a perspective among game designers of that era that came from their unique experiences — which will never exist again.

That’s why Classic was so huge for me. We won’t get this anywhere else.

Complain about the minor deviations all you want, but the game feels faithful to me. The mechanics are there. The quests are there. The world is there. And all the little things that private servers got almost but not quite right — enemy patrolling, quest drop rates, spawn locations, monster AI — well they’re there too, and Blizzard got almost all of them right.

While these days I barely have time to play anymore, when I do get a bit of extra time, nothing pleases me more than hopping on and getting a few levels. I’m not pushing progression, I have no time for that. I’m playing the way my 15 year old self played back in the day — leveling alts, doing the occasional dungeon, sometimes pushing the early and easy raid content, but overall enjoying the goofy charm of the game and its world.

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And it doesn’t feel quite the same as it used to. The mechanics are there. The game feels correct. But there’s something critical that’s totally off. It’s you guys.

We’re all complaining daily for Blizzard to uphold the values of the original game, and try their best to continue to reproduce it faithfully. But the least faithful parts of the experience today are not at all in the hands of Blizzard. It’s the community.

It’s the players that have industrialized the boosting mentality. Over half of the LFG chat is mages advertising mega-pull boosting at a level never imagined in WoW’s early days. And so many players are bringing up new alts this way instead of getting out in the world and engaging with the leveling content. It’s no wonder the only players we can find in the wild are bots — everyone else is paying their way past it. And it’s not surprising Blizzard’s adding a boost to TBC. The community overwhelmingly wants it. We’re boosting right now. The only difference is, we’re paying money to gold sellers for it in Classic.

Yeah, back in the day, we had “power leveling”. Maybe you’d convince your guild mate to run you through a few dungeons. Or maybe you were one of the 0.5% of players in those mysterious and elite guilds that pushed progression and the guild would rotate helping you level faster. To say those instances were the exception would be an understatement. They happened so rarely that players would gossip about the friend of a friend of a friend who heard one dude actually paid real money to get through 10 or so levels one time.

And the world buff meta? 100% the players. These world buffs were in vanilla. Practically nobody used them. Players from top guilds like DnT have acknowledged that back in the day, world buffs were either completely not on their radar, or just not something they bothered with. Prolific figures in the community even fought back against Blizzard and successfully had content that was probably tuned with those world buffs in mind, nerfed to be clearable without them — remember the famous C’thun-is-unkillable debacle? This shows how disinterested players back then were in engaging in the ridiculous behavior that has become the norm in Classic.

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And Botting? It existed back then. It’s always existed. Today, it’s on a scale that absolutely dwarfs what was happening back then. And I 100% agree that it’s on Blizzard to find better mechanisms to identify bots programmatically. I know it’s a hard problem. I also know there’s talented people out there that specialize in exactly this sort of problem — identifying a pattern of bad behavior among a massive dataset and blocking it automatically with low false positive rates. Google manages to keep illegal and content off its search most of the time — because they’re willing to pay the engineers that understand how to solve that problem.

But what’s not on Blizzard is how many players are buying huge sums of gold and pissing it away on stuff like GDKPs. Once again, maybe this kind of behavior happened in between the cracks back in the day, but it was the overwhelming exception. The community at large didn’t run GDKPs. They didn’t even run PUGs of any kind, because they knew it would be a nightmare. They worked hard with their guildies to clear content earnestly, and that was the fun part. Even gold buying was not a hugely prolific thing back then — when rumors would spread about a guild cheating and buying gold, it would be a huge controversy among the community, not just a shrug and “yeah they all do it”.

Like it or not, the bots are ultimately there because the player base is creating the incentive for them. The demand is massive. And we can harp on Blizzard all we want for not addressing the issue, but think about their perspective on the issue. When the data they have on the player base shows half or more of legitimate accounts are buying huge sums of gold, the anti-bot cries coming from the community feel disingenuous — our collective behavior is clearly showing them that the player base wants to buy gold. What can they do, ban us all, shut the game down and call it a failure?

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Nobody here is willing to take fault for enabling this sort of behavior. But how many of you have banded together with other members of your server community and decided you would take a stand against the WB and GDKP and gold buying meta? Where in the community are we making that kind of behavior unwelcome? We all whined so hard before launch that we would not tolerate cross realm play because we wanted that sense of realm identity and community. And not a server out there has cultivated a positive community or demonstrated good behavior at scale. That sense of realm community didn’t prop up the game, it only served to distinguish which servers are the biggest cesspools of toxicity.

It didn’t feel like this back then. I promise you.

World buffs aren’t the real problem. Bots aren’t the real problem. And drums won’t be the problem in TBC. The problem will be the players, and the sense of sheer entitlement they’ve fostered for themselves.

The least faithful part of Classic WoW is you guys.

Stop passing the buck.

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