Old-school Experiences in Elwynn

When I first logged into the Kronos server with my newly (re-)created human paladin, I was pleased to immediately see other people around me in the starting zone. It wasn't exactly heaving the way it was when I first started playing World of Warcraft back in 2006, but it was reasonably busy. The lowbie world certainly felt more alive than it did on the live servers during my brief visit during Mists of Pandaria. A system announcement sent out a global message every time a battleground popped, and the level 60 PvP seemed to be reasonably active. Later I also started using the /who command to gauge the population, and while it only displays up to 50 individual characters, it did also show the total number of characters online, which seemed to hover between 300 and 500 most times. I'm not sure that's enough to support all forms of group content, but it was obviously enough to make the world feel alive (during the early levels at least).

For all my appreciation of Vanilla WoW, I realised instantly that I, too, had been spoiled by the incessant streamlining that WoW and other MMOs have performed over the years. I immediately looked at my mini-map to look for quest icons, but of course this being Vanilla WoW, there weren't any. I actually had to walk around Northshire Abbey and look all the NPCs in the face to see if they had an exclamation mark over their head or not. Once I had picked up my first couple of quests, I habitually opened up my map to look for the quest markers telling me where to go. Nope! Vanilla WoW expects you to read the quest text and to actually look at the world around you. I'm somewhat embarrassed to say that I also got confused briefly because some items that I was supposed to pick up from the ground weren't indicated by giant sparkles... Fortunately it didn't take long for me to adjust and to pull my eyes back towards what was going on in the world around me instead of being entirely focused on UI overlays.

Cue heroic music...
From a gameplay perspective, my first couple of levels were hilariously bad, though this was at least in part due to the fact that I chose to roll a paladin; on a different class it wouldn't have been quite so pronounced. For those who don't know/remember: in Vanilla, paladins started out with a buff and a heal... so when it comes to fighting, you can literally do nothing but auto-attack for the first few levels. My pet tank looked over my shoulder with a frown (as he only started playing during Wrath of the Lich King himself) and I broke out into hysterical giggles as I assured him that Vanilla WoW and just auto-attacking everything was totally awesome.

8 damage! This is going to take a while...
In all honesty though: no, I don't think that particular design decision was very well thought-out, however I do think that it made sense back then to start things off slowly for the benefit of complete newbies to the genre. I distinctly remember being confused by simple things such as orientating myself or figuring out what my two buttons actually did when I was true WoW noob myself.

Fortunately it didn't take long until I got an attack move (judgement, on a ten second cooldown), even if that would remain my only offensive ability for quite a while. However, already at level four things got interesting in a different way. I was sent across the river to the vineyard full of Defias, and those guys were deadly. Their aggro range was considerable, they hurt, there were multiple patrols and several locations where mobs were grouped up in packs of two or three, not to mention that they were all pretty densely packed to begin with. My ability bar may have been nothing to write home about, but I was extremely focused on my surroundings, trying hard to dodge patrols and making sure to run away or at least back off far enough to cause any adds to evade if I overpulled by accident. Instead of being all about the second-to-second gameplay of hitting your buttons, the Vanilla WoW levelling experience is all about tactical movement. I really enjoyed going back to this style of play and feel confident in saying that this was not an inherently worse levelling experience than WoW has today, but simply one with a very different focus.

Once I had made it to Goldshire, I wanted to learn how to mine. Nope! Why would miners hang out in the middle of a forest? Go to Stormwind and talk to the dwarves there, they are all about mining. In other words, this was my reminder that Vanilla WoW still put "a world that made sense" ahead of gameplay convenience in many respects. Another reminder came when I failed at mining my first copper node and had to try again. Why of course, you don't always succeed when you try something new for the first time, makes perfect sense! Ore was hard to come by in general because I had forgotten just how sparse mining nodes used to be in the old world before the Cataclysm revamp. I'm not going to pretend that all those little things didn't also result in minor annoyances, but minor was all they were - and at the same time they created all kinds of challenges and goals you could work on aside from questing. When was the last time that taking a break from questing to leg it all the way to your trainer was a genuine thing that you planned around? There was gameplay in overcoming these minor obstacles that is missing from today's World of Warcraft.

Fail. :(
Finally, the social side: I think I had more chats with random strangers during my hours in Elwynn than I had in my last three months of playing WoW on live servers. I grouped up to kill Goldtooth and Hogger. A friendly gnome mage offered me some bags, an offer which I gratefully declined since I had been extremely lucky and had found four six-slot bags (!!!) relatively early on during my questing. A random person from general chat exchanged some whispers with me on the subject of experience gains in a party. And I got invited to a levelling guild, though I respectfully declined that as well as it wouldn't feel right to me to join a guild when I'm not sure how invested I'm going to be in this project. But it was nice to receive a personal, genuine guild invite from someone, compared to the constant, addon-based auto-invite spam that was running rampant on the live servers last time I played.

Just meeting other players out in the world was generally a positive experience, even when we didn't talk or group up. Occasionally there was competition for mobs, but since they were so densely packed in most areas, there was no real shortage of things to kill and it was just a relief to have someone else cut a path through the area and reduce the number of threats. Meeting people on the road also meant "drive-by buffs" - I was quite happy every time I met a priest or a mage in particular. With how tough I found the mobs to fight, every little stat increase was appreciated. My own five-minute paladin blessings didn't feel like a great gift to return, what with their short duration.

When you're knee-deep in kobolds and all you have is a shovel, any company is welcome.
So how has this whole "emulating Vanilla WoW" experience been holding up from a technical point, considering Dodgy Kebab's video review in which he repeatedly called Kronos "flawless"? Well, it wasn't completely flawless: I ran into a couple of kobolds that were stuck in a wall and a few copper nodes in a cave that came up as "invalid target" every time I tried to mine them. I can't say that I perceived this as a huge negative though, considering that those things are the kind of bug that occasionally showed up on the original Vanilla WoW servers as well. So far, it's certainly been a good recreation of the Vanilla experience - including the fun.

 Oh, and this.


  1. I know you turned down the guild invite, but investing in a guild might actually be a good thing. One of the real draws of Vanilla, which you experienced yourself it sounds like, is the social aspect. By getting into a guild, especially a leveling one, it might enhance the time you are having and it's always nice to have some friends at your back when you run into those group quests.

    Not to mention when you get to level 20ish and start heading towards the Deadmines and the escort quest prior to it. I recall that escort being especially tough for my holy priest self at the time. Though Dodgy Kebob mentioned some kind of queue system for getting into dungeons he did not get into specific details. With elite mobs prior to the dungeon and quests also in that area having a pool of people to help out may also prove to be an additional bonus.

    1. I guess I can give a spoiler for the next post and say that I've accepted a guild invite since I wrote this. We'll see what comes of that.

      I actually didn't have a problem with escorting the Defias traitor, even though he was a bit bugged (as mentioned in the video) and chased after every mob in a radius of about half a mile... but fortunately several other players were busy in Moonbrook at the time, so the area was pretty clear. It's a bit random really.

      I do remember the meeting stone queuing system from Vanilla, but it wasn't very effective even then because nobody seemed to know how it worked. So I wouldn't expect it to work very well on an even smaller scale either. I see a lot of old-fashioned LFMs in chat.

  2. This is going to get me interested if you keep this up.

    I guess my brain is trying to figure out all the details behind the creation of this "underground" server; how it got put together, how'd they get it accurate, etc.

    1. It's certainly fascinating and seems to require a lot more manual work than I ever would have thought. I was looking at their server forums and there was a thread from beta where the attention given to quests was discussed and it was brought up how a scripted quest in Searing Gorge was tricky to recreate because nobody could remember how it was supposed to work...

      Plus I've seen people talk about how impressed they are when mobs react correctly to their environment, such as running around fences instead of through them, or casters backing away from melee if possible. Apparently none of that can be taken for granted. I also watched some of Dodgy Kebab's reviews of other (sometimes bad) private servers, and there are clearly a lot of things that can go wrong.

  3. I and a most of my wow-friends are currently having the exact same experience that you describe. After having played for closing on two weeks now it is VERY obvious that the focus of the game is, as you say, on a very different kind of play. Ive tried a couple different classes ( i had forgotten just HOW different experiences they used to be), and where some, like my paladin have almost no moment to moment interactions while soloing, the group play, of which there is a lot more, is extremely engaging with focus on tactical movement as a group and teamwork. The elite quests in redridge are harder at lvl than most any heroic dungeon in wod, but the difficulty doesnt come from rotations, but from spatial awareness of the surroundings and mobs.

    Another "fun" part is how some classes (warlocks for instance) can solo as many as 4-5 mob pulls if its the right mobs, whereas warriors have difficulties handling even 2 at a time. While both classes still being very viable in group content.

    I could probably go on for a while with all these weird little things, but i guess I'd better not. One last important thing to mention though is how there is (as good as) no "log in now, do this activity at least once a day, remeber to claim your price, nopes now you have done it for today come back tomorrow"- sort of incentives. There is no real difference between playing 20 hours in 1 day and then taking a 9 day break, or playing 20 hours spread out over 10 days (other than the obvious healthissues). This means that I get to structure how i spend my time in game and what I want to do today, rather than having an optimal playsession premapped for me that i "ought" to do if i dont want to loose out on my potential for daily bonuses.

    Its less skinnerboxy (on that front)!

    Thanks for sharing your experience btw, its a nice read :-)

    Shandren out.

    1. Funny you should mention the elite quests in Redridge, I spent my last play session dying there a lot...