Classic Players on Retail

I'm still logging into retail occasionally but somewhat irregularly. There might be a couple more posts worth of content in that at some point, plus the husband is also threatening to gift me Shadowlands for Christmas, which he's been playing and enjoying.

The subject of the expansion has been an interesting one to observe in my Classic guild. A few weeks before its release, someone asked in the general chat channel on Discord whether people were planning to play it and the responses were more or less a mix of lukewarm "I might go and check it out just for the story" reactions and staunch Classic fans declaring that they were done with retail and weren't planning to ever go back. Except for that one officer who was hyped to get fairy wings and pre-ordered the Shadowlands collector's edition and was promptly made fun of.

However, once the launch day came around, it turned out that somewhat more people were interested than had originally spoken up, at least based on Discord's little status messages about what people were playing and general commentary. My impression is that people prefer to keep it on the down-low if they play retail as well, due to the generally more negative skew of publicly expressed opinions about the modern game in guild.

That said, even if they do play and enjoy the story, retail doesn't seem particularly sticky for them and is more treated like a single-player game that they dip into every now and then. Anecdotally, one person told me that he ultimately wasn't that impressed with the story ("here I am, the great hero, on cleaning duty") and another seemed to drop the whole thing like a hot potato while stating that everything was too fast and confusing for him.

The latter point was really driven home one night in November when I logged onto Discord in time to listen to several members of the leadership team logging into retail together to scope out the retail version of Naxxramas for some classic Naxx planning. However, as it turned out, one of them didn't have a character of a high enough level to enter the instance (I forget what it is after the squish, 30 or 35 I think). Everyone else assured him that it wasn't a big deal as he was only a couple of levels off and levelling is so fast these days, they were going to get him there in no time!

They started doing some quests in Borean Tundra together, and what followed was a comedy of errors unlike anything I'd ever seen or heard before. I didn't exactly keep a log, but issues that occurred included:

  • Repeated trips to Stormwind to turn Chromie Time on or off to get everyone into the same phase
  • Attempts to level-sync the party resulting in quests suddenly disappearing and becoming unavailable
  • When they finally got the party sync to work correctly, the result was that the one quest they had just managed to complete in the chaos became available to do again
  • When someone meant to temporarily leave the group they instantly vanished into thin air as the game decided to put them into a different cross-realm zone or whatever they're called now

The poor guy trying to level - who is one of the kindest and gentlest souls I know - became increasingly frustrated and even started considering buying a level boost purely to get out of this predicament, while simultaneously complaining that maybe this was Blizzard's business strategy now: to make levelling so confusing and annoying that people just boost to get away from it. (I think he was at least partially joking about that, but he was genuinely pissed off to a degree I'd never seen before.)

I asked why they weren't just running him through a couple of dungeons since there were five of them and that seemed to be a bit of a lightbulb moment. After some additional UI wrangling with the dungeon finder they ended up doing Azjol-Nerub together, which gave the lowbie enough XP to tick him over the threshold from what I remember.

It just made me glad to know that I'm not the only one who finds retail WoW confusing and that in fact I haven't got it quite so bad. Overall it just doesn't feel like retail is very welcoming to returning players that haven't played in a few expansions, even if they want to give it a chance.


  1. For every person who has gone down the Retail rabbit hole and only surfaces for Naxx, there's a person I know on server who popped in, went "WTF?" and scurried back to Classic. The people who do both in equal terms seems to be a rarity on my server.

  2. I've always thought of retail WoW as a super approachable game, but in the past week I've seen multiple independent people I know state how unwelcoming it is.

    I haven't played in a year but I feel like the game accommodated people coming from long layoffs pretty well. I guess for some that's not really true.

    1. I've been trying to figure out what it is that makes retail so confusing sometimes, and something that Bhagpuss said got me thinking. I now believe that a big part of it is that it's a very odd mix of world vs. technical features nowadays. Which is to say that there are things that are given a thin in-world explanation but then include a lot of changes that aren't obvious within that framework and don't have a proper UI to explain what's going on either.

      The new Chromie Time is a good example and it's not even the worst thing: Superficially a bronze dragon lets you travel back in the time to help out in older expansions. But then it also puts you into a whole different "layer" of the world and limits your access to dungeons in the group finder. So you keep running into strange issues with phasing and level sync that don't make sense in the world and about which you're not really given sufficient information through the UI either. It's easy to get lost battling with that sort of thing.

    2. I've been thinking about this quite a bit recently. I might do a post about it. I've been re-subbed to WoW for a couple of months now and I play at least a little pretty much every day but in the whole of that time I haven't logged into Classic even once. Last year, when I was subbed and playing Classic, I never logged into Retail a single time. I realized the other day that I don't even think of them as the same mmorpg. Playing one makes me no more likely to play the other than playing EQII makes me likely to play EverQuest or playing GW2 to play GW.

      That's just one aspect, though. There's a lot more to unpick about the way the systems and mechanics work and how easy the two WoWs are to return to after time away. Not sure I have time to dig into it at length right now but it's definitely on the topic list.