07/12/2017

Love for Burning Crusade

This week, Syp made a post getting nostalgic about the Burning Crusade expansion, and I was surprised by how little of a response it got (my own comment being one of only three).

With all the talk about Vanilla WoW I suppose it deserves saying that if I could choose to "live" in any WoW expansion, it would actually be The Burning Crusade. However, Vanilla is close enough (especially when you compare it to current WoW) that I'll take it. And as much as I'd love for Blizzard to also host BC servers (one day... in the far future... even though they've only just started on WoW Classic...) I fear that there isn't as much demand for that simply because all the Burning Crusade content still exists in the live game - strictly speaking anyway, unlike the Vanilla content, which has literally been wiped off the face of Azeroth: geography, NPCs, quests and all.

In one of those discussion threads about what WoW Classic should be like I saw someone make a comment which I thought was very pertinent. They said that if you're longing for Vanilla WoW with better class balance and the biggest annoyances removed, you don't really want Vanilla: you want Burning Crusade. "Like Vanilla, but improved" is definitely a good way to describe Burning Crusade.

Class balance in particular had its golden age during that time in my opinion. In Vanilla you didn't really want to bring a lot of classes/specs to raids. And from Wrath of the Lich King onwards, you wanted to "bring the player, not the class" aka it didn't matter at all what you brought. Only in Burning Crusade did we have a situation that actively encouraged diversity, making it beneficial to bring a mix of classes because they all brought different benefits to the raid. It was a great time if you wanted to be more than just "a damage dealer". I'm not saying that this system didn't have its issues too, such as that feeling of "needing" a certain class or spec that you might not actually have available on a given night. I still preferred having to put up with that to simply having my favoured play style (that of the buffing shadow priest) completely erased though.

Aside from class balance, BC also fixed a whole bunch of other little niggles. Like I mentioned in my reply to Syp's post, quest rewards actually became useful to most classes. Gear for specs like protection paladin actually started existing. The introduction of daily quests made it a bit more palatable for the casual player to grind for gold. Gear token drops and badges of justice mitigated bad RNG without sacrificing the joy of getting a good drop.

It was also my personal golden age for dungeon running. I can appreciate people's love for places like Stratholme and Blackrock Depths on a cerebral level, but personally I always found them confusing and tedious. BC's more straightforward challenges, such as the not-at-all-mazelike Shadow Labyrinth, were much more up my alley and I never grew tired of volunteering to run the heroic version and feeling accomplished by being able to down Murmur.

If I had to point out BC's biggest weakness, I might actually choose the setting. I seem to remember that back in the day, quite a lot of people found Outland to be pretty alienating. When Wrath of the Lich King came out, I heard more than one comment about being glad to be back on Azeroth. However, for me it was never an issue because I only came to Vanilla WoW relatively late, and the alien landscapes beyond the Dark Portal felt like just another natural extension of the world to me.

9 comments:

  1. It makes me angry (Well, sorta. No, not really. Bah!) that you dare describing TBC by the "like Vanilla, but improved" paradigm. To me it's meaningless to even attempt an apples-to-apples comparison because there were a lot of underlying patterns shifting from one era to the other. TBC had (seemingly ubiquitous) quest hubs and dailies, Classic had the great exploration chains. TBC had short and usually completely linear dungeons (albeit with much greater replayability, due to the silly badges), Classic had proper dungeon crawls with free-form design. TBC had the great normalization (cleverly disguised in buzz-phrases such as "everything is viable", AS IF the very same iteration wouldn't have also implemented the "stack shamans!" or "stack leatherworkers!" memes), Classic had an admittedly unashamed RPG resemblance (hello, faction-specific classes!). So on and so forth, to the point of making it appear ridiculous to claim that either of the two was better. They're different, so different that there's no "fair" metric to describe them qualitatively.

    Since you've mentioned it yourself, think of all the ways people used to (and still do nowadays, on private servers) run BRD. Were there people who've approached it with a "there's one humongous dungeon crawl, let's clear it in six hours" mentality? Sure. There were and there still are. But most people understood that their free-form design is best approached with a free-form strategy. And thus we had and we still have: arena farms (with/without Roccor), The Challenge runs (strictly limited to it), Jailbreak runs, MC attunement runs, the black anvil/forge runs, quest runs (getting the key, Bael'Gar, Incendius, Angerforge/Argelmach, tavern), the black vault runs, pyromancer farm for druids/rogues, lava runs. It should be rather obvious why some people prefer Classic over TBC, myself included. We're not madmen and neither hipsters, it's a different world altogether.

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    1. I'm sorry you feel offended by me liking BC better than Vanilla. :P I make no claims to objectivity!

      I do remember stuff like shaman and leatherworker stacking, but that didn't really come into play until the very end of the expansion and only affected the most hardcore. That's like saying every Vanilla raid group "had" to get every possible buff before each raid just because you could stack so many.

      Playing on private Vanilla servers has made me re-think class balance as a goal a lot, and there is definitely something to be said for embracing differences. That said, I liked BC about being more than just warriors, rogues and mages. Also, many abilities that I personally actually consider quite iconic for the classes weren't even introduced until then (Bloodlust/Heroism, Spellsteal, Spell Reflect, Tree Form etc.)

      And nothing you said about BRD changes my opinion of finding it confusing and tedious. :P I always had trouble finding my way around it and the lack of in-game maps inside instances didn't help.

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    2. Think of the hunters. They've never been "top tier" material throughout the various iterations of Classic and yet they still had their place within the PvE environment. What they lack in output, they compensate through utility: Tranq first and foremost, AOE snares where applicable, kiting, pull assists, "wipe protection" through FD/cables or aspect on the run back. How is that not a rather obvious case of embracing diversity, hm? That much said, private servers nowadays are indeed saturated with warriors/rogues (and mages, to an extent). Not because it's optimal (as it really sucks to end up disenchanting stuff within the context of 40m raids), but because people REFUSE to play ranged dps. I'm not joking and it's not an exaggeration. Over the years, it's a rather steady pattern. The hunters are somewhat underplayed (while there are tons of leveling hunters, it's a readily apparent shortage whenever we're speaking about "endgame"), the warlocks are severely underplayed. Speaking of which, warlocks will still be the least played class on the retail version of Classic, by a mile. They're absolutely viable and yet people will still flock over the option of playing melee instead.

      As for your last point, the solution is hiding in plain sight. Follow the tonk, silly. :)

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    3. How is that not a rather obvious case of embracing diversity, hm?

      It is, that's what I was saying... that playing Vanilla WoW reminded me that differences can be a good thing. By the way, hunters were just as good at utility in BC. Tranq shot wasn't much of a thing anymore, but instead we got Misdirection, another very iconic ability.

      And you assume that the tank is somehow immune to finding the dungeon tedious and confusing. Let me tell you: they are not. :P

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  2. Well, the Thrall Goes to Outland quest chain doesn't end properly, because Garrosh, but yeah, most of BC is still there.

    I'd argue that BC and Wrath servers would be fine with me in addition to Vanilla. Pretty much everything from Cataclysm onward is where things went wrong with WoW.

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  3. I, too, would enjoy a Burning Crusade server. I have many fond memories of expansion and Karazhan is still one of my favorite raids. (I actually saw the enrage on Shade of Aran once. Very pretty. :))

    I do think people forget how hard early BC was. Having to hit revered with a reputation to be able to enter a heroic dungeon. Having to kill the Fel Reaver to get the Shattered Halls key. Grinding out Netherwing or Skyguard rep for the mount. Heck, just having the gold for an epic flying mount.

    Yes, BC was different from Vanilla, but that's been a strength of WoW. Each expansion has tried to be a new thing instead of being the same old thing with a new coat of paint.

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    1. I also think that BC was the only truly "additive" expansion for WoW. Sure, the old endgame became obsolete, but it was still there and not completely trivial, so you could organise nostalgia runs and such. Overall though, very little changed about the old world, until they sped up levelling and got rid of the outdoor elites anyway. In Wrath it seemed like Blizzard started to get a bit annoyed with people still spending too much time in old content and began removing certain things, and well, from Cata onwards it was constant revamps of everything, and removing old content as they added new stuff became normal.

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  4. I copy my comment from Reddit:

    TBC was the way better game. I think that's when the game was at its best (neglecting the broken paladin tanks trivializing heroics). Classes were still different and their power was limited.

    But Vanilla was the way better world.

    * Vanilla had a lot of mobs that served no purpose. TBC started the trend of "if it moves, kill it". Whatever it is you've already obtained a quest to kill it. And the rare few exceptions were carefully placed to allow you to farm some scare resources.
    * Vanilla dungeons didn't have lockouts. You could play a dungeon 100 times a day.
    * There were no daily quests.

    Because there was no limit in how much you can play, there was no daily todo list you had to finish every day. You could play Vanilla for 15 minutes or 20 hours, it didn't matter.

    The world felt like it existed since forever and you were just a small adventurer living in that world. Nothing cared about you, but you cared about the world.

    TBC and later felt like a carefully crafted theme park to maximize your experience. Everything cared about you but you stopped caring about the world.

    Vanilla is like visiting Great Pyramid of Giza, you can't but wonder what secrets it contains. TBC is like visiting Disneyland. A much more carefully crafted experience, but you just don't care about it.

    In my opinion, TBC was nearer to retail then to Vanilla, at least for the WORLD of Warcraft part.

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    1. Dang, I meant to reply to this but completely forgot!

      I can't really disagree with anything you say, but I still view it differently. Outland still felt like a world to me, just one where the quest designers decided to make more efficient use of what they had. There wasn't a single neat questing path and you still ended up running back and forth a lot; it's just that there were a lot more quests in a small area. For me it wasn't until Cata that things started to feel (to me) like they drew up a "quest path" first and then asked the artists to create an environment for it. But as far as I know we don't really know how exactly Blizzard did those things and when.

      I never had the desire to run any dungeon 100 times a day. ;) And at their inception, dailies didn't feel like a "to do" list to me, just another optional thing to do if you wanted to grind for money.

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