24/03/2019

Can You Play Classic Casually?

We still haven't got a launch date for Classic, though we have had some reassurance that they are still on track for the promised summer release. Seeing how we're already at the end of March, I figure it can't be that long now until we get a date. I'm pretty excited.

In the meantime, let's talk about something that I occasionally see get brought up when people talk about Classic. The comments I'm talking about usually come in the form of something like this: "Man, I used to love Vanilla; I played it 24/7! Too bad I won't be able to play Classic; I have a life now."

Now, far be it from me to judge any particular person's time management skills, but there does seem to be an underlying perception here that the only way to play Vanilla WoW/Classic is/was by "no-lifing" it. I can see where that comes from, because I'm sure that many of us did play the game like that back in the day, at least for a while, but it's far from the only way to enjoy classic World of Warcraft.

There are really only two things you have to keep in mind to be able to enjoy your time in Classic as a casual player: The first is that having more time is a considerable advantage in terms of competitiveness, seeing how there are few of the artificial time gates that are common in the genre today, such as daily quests or weekly caps. Someone who's got time to play all day, every day, will progress faster than you - it's just not something that should put you off, because there'll also be plenty of others who'll progress at a slower pace, and you won't have to worry about the next patch making all your progress obsolete.

The other thing to keep in mind is that everything takes more time. One major example of this are dungeons. What with having to manually put a group together, getting everyone to the instance and the much slower pace of combat, I wouldn't recommend logging into the game with the intent to do a dungeon if you've got less than two hours of free time at your disposal. I'm sure this is going to be a culture shock for many players who are used to twenty to thirty minute runs that you just queue up for via an interface, and for the average player it will mean that they'll do dungeons much more rarely than they would in a more modern MMO. While I was levelling a paladin on Kronos, dungeon runs were something that I managed to commit to maybe every other weekend - but that wasn't really a problem; it just caused every single run to be somewhat of an experience and often made them quite memorable. If you look back through the entries I made under the pugs tag over the last few years, you'll find quite some tales of adventure.

"But I rarely or never get to play for two whole hours at a time these days!" you might say. Even that doesn't have to be a reason not to play though. Classic absolutely does offer things to do in shorter burst of play time as well; they are just somewhat removed from what most modern MMOs offer you to fill those time slots.

One example is simple travel. With fast travel options being very limited and low in number in Classic, just going anywhere takes time. There are a fair few quests that simply ask you to deliver a letter from A to B, and while that may seem trivial it can easily make up a whole short play session on its own. Discovering new flight paths for the first time is always a bit of an adventure even when you know where you have to go - consider an Alliance player picking up the flight points in Ratchet and Gadgetzan for the first time for example.

There are of course also always quests that aren't that far away from the quest giver, and taking those on in fits and bursts is another thing you can do. But it doesn't all have to be about questing either. While playing on private servers, I would sometimes dedicate whole (short) play sessions to things like crafting or selling things on the auction house. You don't really appreciate how time-consuming even that can be until you've been reminded of just how long it takes to run back and forth between the Stormwind auction house and the blacksmithing area in the Dwarven District a couple of times.

I realise that a lot of this doesn't really sound particularly exciting. "It's all just walking around!" you might say, and technically speaking, you wouldn't be wrong. However, context matters and the beautiful thing about Vanilla was that it made all that walking around feel magical because you felt that you really were in that world, wielding magic and giant swords and going on adventures. Sure, given enough time, all of this is bound to become less exciting and more routine. My own experience in the past few years has been that it still holds up remarkably well though, and I very much look forward to re-experiencing that same feeling on official servers, even if I have a lot less time to play these days than I had back in 2005.

8 comments:

  1. As for me, I find vanilla WoW to be more casual, than "retail". The game content will always be there, waiting for a player, and there are going to be enough guilds to start raiding with from the very beginning. There is no need to hurry being afraid that content is slowly becoming obsolete. On the other hand, on "retail" servers a player has to be always running just to keep up with the game changing every 3 months.

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    1. I've heard that argument too, and to me the expectation of persistence of achievement is definitely something I look forward to. For me, being allowed to do things at my own pace is indeed very casual friendly. When I quit raiding during Firelands, I did note that character progression seemed to have turned into a rather Sisyphean task, with the boulder rolling back down the hill more quickly every tier, before I'd even had time to reach the summit.

      Still, there were always players who seemed to welcome the constant gear resets for "keeping things fresh", and since Blizzard is still following the same model eight years later I figure there must be an audience for it.

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  2. Seems to me that "having to play 24/7" is a self-imposed requirement. Maybe "playing WoW" isn't what that person is actually doing; that person might need to tighten up the terminology. Or maybe that person has a frightfully skewed concept of "playing" "WoW".

    At any rate, there's no pressure inherent in the game to "complete" it in a "time limit" and doubly so for Classic.

    It's as "casual" as you want it to be.

    (also, this applies 100% to current expansion, whatever that is)

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    1. Personally I can sympathise because I remember that feeling of wanting to play all the time, and knowing that you'll be unable to commit to the same sort of time investment in 2019 must make it seem like the experience would pale in comparison. I'm happy to say that this hasn't been my personal experience though. :)

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  3. From John Staat's book, The World of Warcraft Diary, the leveling experience was the intended game for casual players. The intent was that group content, especially at level 60, was considered hardcore/dedicated content. That focus has definitely changed over the years, but that's where the initial view was at.

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    1. I really regret not donating to the Kickstarter for that now! Can't wait for the wider release. (At least I hope there'll be one!)

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    2. If I remember the Kickstarter emails correctly, I believe he wants to do a wider release. Right now, though, he's making sure that all of the Kickstarter folks get their books. I hope you can get a copy as I think it would make some lovely blog posts for you. :)

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  4. Hey dude they already said dungeon finder is gonna be there. Yeah the game as a whole will be slower paced but the reason there was no dungeon finder in vanilla was because the tech didn't exist. They will be bringing several quality of life updates to vanilla

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