15 Years Later, Azeroth Is Still Amazing (Again)

A week ago, I was searching for an old tweet of mine I wanted to resurrect (it was about my view that Joyce Byers is the real hero in Stranger Things). During my search, I found a lot of stuff I’d forgotten I’d shared. Like a lot of my old writing, it felt like reading someone else’s stuff. An interesting exercise.

During my search, I stumbled on a tweet from 2017. I was lauding Blizzard’s announcement about the plan to launch a World of Warcraft Classic version.

“WHY HELLO, BEAUTIFUL! AND WHO’S YOUR NIGHT ELF FRIEND?”  Copyright Blizzard Entertainment

“WHY HELLO, BEAUTIFUL! AND WHO’S YOUR NIGHT ELF FRIEND?”

Copyright Blizzard Entertainment

“Huh,” I thought, “I haven’t seen anything about this recently. Wonder if they launched it already?”

Not 24 hours later, I came across a post in my Feedly stream announcing WoW Classic was literally launching that day (this past Monday). I was instantly and embarrassingly giddy. Not as excited as learning Fisher, Hamill, and Ford had agreed to return to the Star Wars world for Ep VII but close.

I downloaded the Classic version and found myself transported back to the days of WoW’s beta testing in late 2004. Oh, have things have changed since then (loading screen art, the number of races/classes to choose from, the customization of characters, etc.).

I spent a few minutes trying to decide whether to reroll a previous character or just try a fresh race/class combo. I wound up going with a new one for me: a female human warlock.

KICKING MYSELF FOR NOT NAMING HER “YENNEFER”  Copyright Blizzard Entertainment

KICKING MYSELF FOR NOT NAMING HER “YENNEFER”

Copyright Blizzard Entertainment

Then it was time to enter Azeroth.

<cue sad trombone>

The first clue that I really had time-tripped was a queue screen announcing my realm was full. I was #3961 in line, with an estimated wait time of 34 min.

WELP, AT LEAST I’LL GET SOME WRITING DONE WHILE I WAIT…  Copyright Blizzard Entertainment

WELP, AT LEAST I’LL GET SOME WRITING DONE WHILE I WAIT…

Copyright Blizzard Entertainment

I nearly cried with happiness. That queue screen stirred up all the nostalgias and confirmed I was going to enjoy this trip down MMO lane.

This was old school Warcraft, baby. No training wheels. No quest markers. Before the Burning Crusade. Before flying mounts. Before all the changes that made the game faster and easier to play.

Thirty minutes of play time later, I realized it’s a mixed bag to be sure. Some things never change.

  • Queue screens. Boo!

  • Players literally happy to be playing WoW. Yay!

  • Ninja looting of chests. Boo!

  • Random invites from strangers to help you take down a boss mob. Yay!

  • Tagging of mobs after you landed the first hit. Boo!

  • Free, random buffs from strangers. Yay!

  • Trash talking on the general chat. Boo!

  • Full, active servers. Yay!

  • Invites to guilds that aren't all 12-year-olds. Yay!

  • Grinding, grinding, and more grinding. Actually, yay!

A couple of quests and a lot of wolves, kobolds, and Defias Brotherhood mobs later, I logged off happier than I’ve ever been with WoW in a long, long time.

The biggest surprise, as it turned out, wasn’t re-learning all the annoying quirks about v1.12 (looking at you, quest text that insists on revealing itself line by line with no way to simply click the “Accept” button until the last damn line had been unveiled) but something I’d almost never used at all over the past fifteen years: the “1. General Chat Channel.”

Up to now, I had steadfastly muted that channel every single time I rolled a new character. Too much trash talking, too much stuff unrelated to my personal goals, etc.

But this time around, instead of muting it, I started reading it while I jockeyed for mobs in the starting zone (yes, I even got a kick out of that sometimes less than civil exercise). People were saying things like, “I’ve never played this version before!” and “Oh, this is just as awesome as I remember!”

Most of all, the starting zone was packed. I mean busy. There were tons of players running around.

Azeroth felt, once again, alive.

I capped off my return to WoW by watching a few minutes of Felicia Day’s Twitch stream of her own return to the game of yore. I have generally avoided watching other people play a video game (why watch, when you can play yourself?), but listening to her banter and watching the scrolling chat channel, I realized a big part of WoW’s success was the multiplayer “M” in MMORPG.

Perhaps this time around, I’ll keep that General Channel open, maybe find myself running instances with my new guildies.

If you decide to try Classic, look me up. I’ll be on Westfall server. First round at the Lion’s Pride is on me.