BlizzCon News - Official Vanilla Servers Inc.!

I'll admit that even though I haven't (officially) played a Blizzard game in years, I still like hearing the news coming out of BlizzCon. Blizzard knows how to put on a good show, and the trailers are often neat to watch even if I don't play the game they are for. However, this year, something was actually of interest to me.

First off, as expected, they announced the next WoW expansion. That wasn't what interested me, but I wanted to say something about it anyway.

"Battle for Azeroth" is probably the most uninspired theme for an expansion they've come up with to date. Pretty much anything people were speculating about before the announcement would have been more interesting.

It also made me think about just why I find it so uninteresting. I often see people complain that factions are an outdated concept and should just be done away with, and I always disagree. I love factions as a narrative device. When I rolled my first Horde character back in the day, it was literally like a whole new world. The other faction presented a totally different culture that was so at odds with the Alliance way of doing things that they pretty much couldn't help being hostile to each other.

Yet at the same time, they weren't openly at war. There were areas where open fighting was happening, such as Ashenvale, but at the same time there were also groups/personalities that were striving towards peace, such as Thrall and Jaina. It struck me as realistic that attitudes towards the other side weren't unified, and it made for an interesting environment that was always on the edge of war, yet not quite. It's like "will they or won't they" in romance. The tension is what's interesting, and never quite knowing which way any given situation might swing. Open war, with people just bashing each other's heads in while shouting "For the Horde!" or "For the Alliance!" is not.

That said, going by the YouTube comments on the trailer, there seem to be a lot of people for whom this is exactly their idea of a good time. Good for them, I say.

No, what really interested me was this:

Yes, Blizzard has actually committed to creating their own Vanilla servers! I once said that I couldn't ever see them doing this, but I'm absolutely thrilled to be wrong, even more so after my recent disenchantment with the private server community. I will definitely be playing this when it opens. I don't mind playing a sub and will be happy that Blizzard is finally offering something again that I'm interested in paying for.

As for how long it will last? We'll see. If I end up playing it the same way I have been playing on private servers in the past few years, on and off for a couple of months throughout the year, it will feel like a good deal. I'm not looking to go back to "no-lifing" it.

That said, it's advisable not to get too hyped just yet. We don't have a release date yet and they said that they want to take their time to get it right. While they won't have to come up with content and art assets, which should save a lot of time compared to an actual new expansion, getting the coding just right will certainly be a challenge. I won't be at all surprised if we won't see this for another year or even longer. Not that I mind - gives me more time to "forget" my recent experiences and dive in fresh when the time comes.

The other big caveat is of course: "What is Vanilla WoW?" In the private server community, the most common model seems to run on patch 1.12 mechanically while introducing content such as dungeons and raids slowly over time, but there's nothing to guarantee that Blizzard will emulate that. Not to mention that there will probably be a certain temptation on their part to meddle with "quality of life features", for example by using the new character models or bringing in achievements, which could be disappointing for those of us who don't like these things. We'll just have to wait and see. It's still hugely positive news.


  1. I'm one of the folks that has been disenchanted with the way Blizzard did the faction conflict. With the MMO needing to have some sort of story equality for game purposes the faction conflict always felt like a joke. That said, if they actually manage to have a dynamic world at endgame with winners and losers then they will have added the conflict back in. If it ends up with both sides having an equal amount of wins and losses, then it will feel dull and silly.

    I'm excited about having official vanilla servers. Being able to go back and do the stuff I want on my retail account is so much more appealing. Not that the private servers are evil, but having dev drama kill a server doesn't lend itself to me playing on them. I'd rather not lose my time and efforts, whereas with Blizzard I know the servers will be there until the game shuts down.

    I don't mind waiting a few years for the dedicated Blizzard team to launch things. I'd rather it be right than fast. :)

  2. How I missed this yesterday is beyond me. Oh wait. Work. Yeah, forgot about that....

  3. I don't do the PvP but I'm okay with the theme for the new expansion, though not enthusiastic about it. I agree that it's about as bland as buttermilk. I'm starting to think that we're on a cycle of one bland expac leading to one lore-heavy one, and then start over again (e.g. Warlords leading into Legion).

    I have zero interest in legacy servers but I must admit I thought about you when I saw the news. I'm also wondering where they draw the "vanilla" line at. I hope they go full on hard core and require people to carry torches to see at night. Darkshire in the dark was AMAZING. THAT might be worth visiting again.

    The old pre-cata zones had so much character. I miss them.

    1. Torches never made it past the original beta as far as I'm aware - unless you only meant that figuratively. :)

    2. Never played beta. But I still have a couple in my bank (alongside Hammer of Zul and a few grayed out thief poisons). I played pure vanilla in 2005, then took a break until 2007. Something changed in the interval.

    3. Hm, wonder what those are then. I certainly don't remember any torches other than certain quest items and off-hands, and the only references I could find were about how torches were supposed to be part of the survival profession which never made it out of beta.

    4. Hard to say. I don't have any relics from that time period to provide better context. Not even the tool tip provides useful context now, and I can't even FIND it on WoWHead, not even by item number (404'd). Maybe this item is from a quest and I'm mis-remembering my EQ days as early WoW days. BEEN A WHILE :)

  4. We're not getting Vanilla, we're getting Classic.

    This is from MMO Champions World of Warcraft: Live Q & A Recap:

    Q: Will exploits and bugs from Classic be fixed for the Classic servers?
    A: Turning to the community for answers. Team wants to recreate the experience as you remember it. They do not want bugs that cause crashes or severe issues, however. Should UBRS be 10 or 5 man?

    And I think we can be sure that there will be more changes.

    These points are my prediction
    - They will integrate it with Battle.Net
    - They will use the same add-on API as current WoW, no decursive and stuff
    - They might tune bosses to work "without decursive"
    - There will be some use for the Blizzard Token (third party gold sellers are a huge business and you can bet that Blizzard doesn't want to spend money to battle them but not get their share of the gold selling market)
    - They will update graphics. It doesn't make sense to support two clients, which means WoW Classic will run on the same engine as current WoW
    - I don't know if their NPC scripts still work with the current server code, if not they might have to change some scripts in a non-transparent way. Following your posts about vanilla servers these scripts seem to be an important part.

    I'm basically ok with these points.

    But I fear they will also not be able to resist the urge to fuck up talents, classes, quests and other stuff. And they will probably remove dark nights...

    Vanilla is old and dated. I truly love vanilla but it comes from a different age. I think what they want to do with Classic is not to re-release vanilla as it was but to release vanilla as it is in our memory. Could end up as huge success or they could fuck it up as they fucked up everything since TBC.

    1. Nice to see you're still around, Kring.

      I figured that integration with Battle.net will be a given.

      WoW token? Eh... I can see why they would want to include it, but people legitimately buying gold with real money would be hugely immersion-breaking and different from the original experience. Where's the magic of grinding for your first mount if you can just whip out your credit card?

      I'm also not sure about updated graphics. I am sure there are people at Blizzard itching to do that, but it would be a huge amount of effort and again, would greatly change the feel of the experience. Still not over what they did to female tauren when they updated the character models! I wouldn't consider this one a deal-breaker however.

      I'm less worried about them changing things like talents and classes, because what would you even use as frame of reference? With how often they've changed these things, it's not like there's a "definitive version" of each class that would definitely be better, so we might as well stick with what we know.

  5. > Where's the magic of grinding for your first mount if you can just whip out your credit card?

    I would prefer if they didn't but even during vanilla it was possible to just buy your mount with your credit card. There was enough advertisement in game - it was more visible then the Battle.net token.

    Back then I naively assumed that it's a business without a market and that it'll eventually go away. These days we know that especially the mounts were a huge reason that drove people to these gold sellers. (There was even the girl who prostituted herself for an epic flying mount in TBC.) And not only is every gold bought a transaction where Blizzard doesn't profit from, it also causes additional work for Blizzard to clean up all the hacked accounts where the gold was stolen from.

    Plus, the Battle.Net currency is in every other Blizzard game, you can even use it to buy Destiny 2. The only way I can see Blizzard not going to integrate Battle.net currency into Classic is if they expect it to fail or only be a preservation project. Which would be naive seeing that probably even Vanilla had more players then what Legion will have at the end of its second year.

    I'm against real money trading in games but there is no way to prevent it unless you completely remove trading. It'll happen, either supported by the game or by violating the EULA. I don't like it but it will be possible to buy your mount with your Credit Card one way or another.

    > I'm also not sure about updated graphics.

    I might not remember correctly but I think starting with Legion the option to use the old graphics disappeared because they reworked some animations that don't exist in the old version or something like that.

    Even Heroes didn't get a real MOBA engine but was put on the StarCraft RTS engine. They won't run anything special for Classic. We will get what's possible with the current WoW server and client technology.

    > Still not over what they did to female tauren when they updated the character models!

    They did a terrible job with the new models, I agree.

    > I'm less worried about them changing things like talents and classes, because what would you even use as frame of reference? With how often they've changed these things, it's not like there's a "definitive version" of each class that would definitely be better, so we might as well stick with what we know.

    That's a good point. I would love to keep the talent system with it's unsexy talents of 1% this, 1% that. The system was cool in a strange way but it didn't really add anything game play relevant and was mostly a noob-trap.

    But where I won't accept any changes is in stuff like the spell rotation. I played a SM/ruin warlock. That was basically a shadow mage and the rotation was apply curse, spam shadowbolts.

    Now take a look at the destro lock priority list on Icy Veins. It's a 15 spell list filled with all fire spells, AE effects thrown in as their cooldown permits and other bullshit. Destro locks don't even have Shadowbolt anymore. (Interestingly enough we had about 15 situational control spells that they all removed which reduced the class to just a damage dealer.)

    So, yeah, no, I don't want them to "make the spell rotation" more interesting. That would be a deal breaker for me and is what drove me away from retail. If I want to play Whac-A-Mole I play a healer, no need to make all classes play the interface instead of playing the game.

    1. I actually thought most of the new character models looked OK; I was mostly disappointed by the female tauren and dwarves. I remember writing a post about it somewhere... yes, here it is.

      The thing is, the arguments you cite for sanctioned real-money trading are pretty much the same ones they originally made to justify the Diablo 3 auction house, and look how that turned out. I think that gold being somewhat scarce was an important enough part of Vanilla WoW that classic servers would suffer similarly if WoW Tokens were introduced into their economy.

  6. They might look ok but they all look completely different from their old counterpart. Female night elves, for example, all have very different noses. They should have made the new ones look exactly like the old ones, not completely different just because an artist thought that would be a fun task.

    The Diablo 3 argument is interesting because, as I said, you cannot have a game without gold sellers unless your game has no trading at all! Modern games often go the no trading route exactly because of that. Hearthstone and Heroes both have no trading at all whatsoever. You can only disenchant cards in Hearthstone.

    Why does a freaking Trading Card Game not have trading but disenchanting? Because of gold sellers.

    And Blizzard took the easy way out when they salvaged Diablo 3. They did not only remove the real money auction house, they removed every trading from the game!

    Now, I don't see them removing trading from WoW: Classic which means they have to deal with gold sellers.