Lonely in a Crowd

Burning Crusade is mostly remembered for its intricate raid attunements and the raids themselves feeling pretty hard at the time, but the classic version has been a reminder for me that it actually also did loads to expand the endgame for non-raiders. I've said before that I defy the notion that the vanilla endgame was all about raiding, but I'll fully admit that most activities outside of raiding didn't reward great gear and were mostly pretty undirected. This changed massively in Burning Crusade.

Regular quests were increased in number and gave more and better rewards, so that you had lots left to do after levelling up and could fully kit out your character in a decent set of gear purely from quest rewards. Once you were done with that, the game introduced what would soon become a staple of the whole genre: the daily quest, a straightforward, repeatable source of money if you had no other quests left to do and didn't really know how or care to make money by farming materials for other people.

Reputations went from a somewhat random feature that didn't really do much or anything at all in most cases (What was meant to be the point of Steamwheedle Cartel reputation anyway?) to a massive gameplay focus, with lots of new reputations that had vendors in obvious locations and offered amazing rewards at higher reputation levels.

Crafting became insanely powerful - I heard someone say the other day that they thought crafting in Burning Crusade was the best that WoW's crafting has ever been and I'm not sure many people would agree with that, but it did allow you to create gear that was as good if not better than a lot of raid gear if you were willing to invest the time into grinding out those skill levels.

Dungeons became more accessible, straightforward and farmable, and heroic dungeons were meant to offer a proper alternative to raiding.

Sadly I've come to realise over the past month that I don't care all that much about any of that in isolation. I mean, it's fine, these things are good ways to pass the time if you have nothing else to do... but frankly, I do have other things to do. I'm finding myself oddly close to my position back at the start of 2020, when I felt like I was "done" with levelling my night elf hunter and could only get myself to log in sporadically to work on some random goal or other.

But Shintar, you might say, I thought you were hyped for doing BC dungeons with your guildies? Whatever happened to that? Aren't you all caught up now and able to run with the other 70s? The answer is... that it's not what I expected.

Simply put, people aren't running dungeons the way they used to. I remember BC dungeons as these adventures with my friends that we did just because it was fun and to maybe help a particular person get a piece of gear or complete a quest. I don't remember them as these hyper-efficient affairs that are focused on checking as many boxes in as little time as possible, so I'm not nearly as charmed by hastily assembled pugs that are in and out within less than an hour and then never speak to you again. Or even runs with guildies that just want to repeat the same dungeon five times in a row to reach some goal of theirs as soon as possible and then want to move on and never come back. Yes, it gets things done, but it lacks soul.

I knew that WoW evolved towards appealing mainly to achiever types over the years, but I guess I'd never realised how much of that already started in BC, probably because player attitudes took a while to change. As someone who identifies primarily as a socialiser/explorer, it's just an incredibly sad affair. The best time I've had playing Classic BC in the last couple of weeks has been when I did the Blade's Edge quests with a friend. It was not efficient and way down on the totem pole in terms of upgrading my character's gear (earning some gold is always useful I guess, but not exactly a priority when you're not saving up for a specific upgrade), but it was fun. We read the quests, were surprised by things we didn't remember (very well) and joked about how much sense the tasks we were being given made or didn't make in context. I'm just not sure that sort of quest session every once in a while is going to be enough for me.

I've really been struggling to articulate this as well... I've had this cloud hanging over my head almost since BC started, but I thought that maybe it was just the changes happening to the guild and feelings of FOMO. But honestly, I wasn't nearly as fazed by player churn back in Classic, and in regards to the FOMO I sadly had to realise that catching up didn't help. I thought I wasn't getting to experience the things I wanted to experience because I was falling behind, but the truth is they weren't going to happen anyway.

Nobody was dying for me to join them at 70. Everyone's busy working on their checklists, and when it comes to dungeons, it's a dog-eat-dog world for damage dealers, where if you want to get into any runs, you have to be online 24/7 in order to be able to shout "me" within seconds as soon as a tank comes online and a dps spot opens up somewhere. From a utilitarian standpoint, I'm but one in a now endless sea of FOTM hunters. It's a bit of a running gag in the guild that people can't even remember my name and will call me by some other hunter's name, and I know that it's not malicious, but right now, on top of everything else... it does kind of sting.

I guess it turns out that my friendships with most of the guild apparently aren't as good as I maybe thought they were. This isn't to diss anyone or make them feel like a bad friend, because it's normal for bonds to strengthen or weaken as people's paths cross and diverge. It's just that... original Classic had us on the same wavelength a lot more often I guess. With all the "good stuff" requiring lots of people, there was nearly always room for more. Now whenever I log in, everyone's always already busy chasing some of their many personal goals, and while I'm sure many people would absolutely be willing to group up with me if I asked emphatically enough, I don't want to drag anyone away from what they really want to do, because getting my own objectives done over theirs isn't the point.

I am oddly reminded of the early days of Cataclysm, when I found myself somewhat frustrated by the fact that while the new dungeons were great fun in a guild group and often less so in pugs, everybody just pressed the dungeon finder queue button the moment they logged in because waiting for other guildies to come online was inconvenient. It was particularly tragic when we had what would have been a full guild group online within ten minutes, but of course the queues for tanks and healers were shorter than that so the people playing those roles had already been whisked away to some random pug. There may not be a dungeon finder in Classic BC, but with how focused and efficient modern players are, the LFG channel hardly takes much longer a lot of the time.

We'll see how 25-man raiding goes, which is supposed to officially kick off this week (somehow I managed to make it into the core team by the skin of my teeth). I also retain some hope that maybe things will settle down a bit over time as people run out of things to do (as weird as that may sound). As I mentioned before, things seemed pretty crazy at Classic launch as well; I just wasn't that close to the endgame part of that so I don't really know what it was like. Maybe everyone was also always busy spamming Stratholme for their pre-BiS gear? I don't know. It does seem like BC will continue the trend of giving people lots of solo goals to chase though, what with the introduction of more dailies/reputations with every patch as well as new tiers of badge gear. Plus anyone who seemed to be getting close to being "done" with things on their main so far has then immediately started all over again on an alt.

I'm just kind of sad that this is where I find myself one month into the Classic expansion I was looking forward to the most. I don't want to blame my guildies for enjoying the game in a different way than me. And blaming Blizzard for making the content more solo and small-group focused (more than a decade after the fact no less) seems silly. The obvious solution would be for me to be online more, put myself out there and work on earning more of my guildies' time to be more than just another nameless hunter, but... I just don't have that kind of time and energy anymore. I thought that after nearly a year in the guild I had earned some recognition, but it seems Outland means starting over from scratch on that front as well and I just... can't.


  1. I hope things settle down and get better for you once 25-man raiding gets into full swing. The mentality of maximum efficiency seems to switch to focus mostly on the raiding bits and people start to relax on the other stuff.

    That said, I think since all of BC is basically long known and mapped out to the nth degree, people went crazy knocking out all the bits of the attunement charts, reputations, etc. They wanted to get to the 'good parts', not accepting that they were blowing through a chunk of the 'good parts'. Ironic (or sad) isn't it, that the go-go-go retail mindset has conquered the classic era servers?

    Of course, I could be totally wrong. My crystal ball when it comes to guilds isn't very good. I do hope in a couple of years when the Wrath Classic servers are coming out, these BC years are as fun for you as the Classic ones were. :)

    1. That was very much how I felt until I put on the brakes. When I joined the raiding team in Classic I had a lot of catching up to do: better gear to get, my Tranq Shot book, farming NR gear for AQ40 - but then I was there, at the "good part", in the raid.

      But at this point in BC, there isn't even that much raiding going on! I kept feeling like I needed to catch up, do all the things everyone else had already done, but once I complete all the quests and farm all the reputations, what do I do? Raid-log to kill three 25-man bosses a week, because that's all there is? Start the whole thing over on an alt?

      It just seemed so pointless. :( I know there were people who already played Classic like that, but I didn't expect so many people in my guild to share this sort of mindset.

  2. I feel you, Shintar. Seriously.

    And no, this isn't an "I told you so" moment.

    I had a guildie who ran Old Hillsbrad 20+ times to get the legs on her list to drop. I bring up to acquaintances that "hey, I've not seen the inside of either Shattered Halls or Auchenai Crypts" and the response is almost always "I'll run Shattered Halls with you", never AC. I also have seen a guildie mention they were "sick of dungeon XXX" because they ran it too many times the first couple of weeks.

    And everybody and their grandmother is trying to buy out people's Spellcloth CDs so that they can get all their BiS gear crafted ASAP. (I must confess that part of the reason why Card hasn't ventured forth much has been so I don't have to deal with guildies hassling me for my Spellcloth CD. Kind of hard to pester me if Tailoring is stuck at 300.)

    But what I see is that people have decided that the way to "win" at BC Classic is to follow a checklist designed by a theorycrafter so they can joylessly toil their way to.... something?

    In a weird way, the Wretched are the perfect embodiment of BC Classic's obsession with getting all the boxes checked. The Wretched surrendered to their magical addiction and can't see the cost, and likewise a significant portion of the player base has surrendered to the spreadsheet and are attempting to min-max their way to some unknown future.

    1. The buyout thing is indeed awkward as well. I've noticed that a lot of people have gone with two crafting professions for min-maxing purposes, but then go on to complain that there are no crafting materials on the AH or that they are too expensive and ask in guild whether someone else can get them the mats for cheap. I was initially very open to farming leather for other people, but I'm more guarded now because I'm becoming wary of some players just exploiting people's kindness.

    2. > Auchenai Crypts

      It was already hard to get people to run that dungeon during the real TBC.

      But wasn't it the same in Vanilla Classic? How many times were you able to run DM West? I wasn't able to fill a group even as tank. Strat Living wasn't easy to run (unless you were a tank but why would you run that? :-)

      And, as Alliance, every leveling dungeon that wasn't DM, Stockades, or Zul Farrak was nearly impossible to run...

    3. DM:W was always in demand on Myz-US because of the mount quests that went through there, but it wasn't nearly as popular as the other two Dire Maul instances. Strat Live was popular for the Orb runs because the Crusader enchant was always in demand. The real problem on our server was getting Alliance to run BFD, or a non-boosting Maraudon run, because people would get lost trying to find the instance entrances.

      Since I never played original TBC --I started in Wrath-- I never knew about how difficult it was to get runs for AC. Of course, by the time I could go to the latter half of the BC runs the Dungeon Finder had dropped, taking the messy interpersonal relations out of the pugging process.

      I'd totally agree with your comment below that Vanilla was a world first and a game second, while by Wrath WoW had evolved into a game first and a world second. However, there's also a lot of fault to be laid at the feet of the players themselves for this evolution. Blizz gave the people what they wanted, and it evolved over time to be the gamified version of WoW that we see in Retail today.

      And a lot of the current problems I see in TBC Classic can also be laid at the feet of the players, because they are taking their retail approach to things and are applying it to TBC Classic, which creates a disconnect between two halves of the player base where some people want to experience the game and others want to rush to the end and push the I-Win button.

    4. Hehe, to quote myself from this post: "I mean, who ever does Auchenai Crypts for example?"

      Dire Maul wasn't very popular, but I agree with Red above that Strat Live was a popular evergreen for the righteous orbs. I also did all the levelling dungeons on most if not all my Alliance characters without too much trouble - these things vary a lot by server.

    5. > The real problem on our server was getting Alliance to run BFD, or a non-boosting Maraudon run,

      Also, Maraudon takes forever and is an ugly dungeon. And after you've completed it once you don't want to run the quests again with the next group.

      > Since I never played original TBC --I started in Wrath-- I never knew about how difficult it was to get runs for AC.

      AC is quite hard and by the time you're able to complete it you can also run the level 60 dungeons. And the only good item is the trinket (if I remember correctly) but nobody runs dungeons for healers.

      > However, there's also a lot of fault to be laid at the feet of the players themselves for this evolution.

      In one of the interviews John Staats mentions that they weren't able to hire enough level designers and a big part of the team didn't consist of gamer but artists. They were able to envision a world but not a perfectly balanced level. I think that's why the world turned out so great, because of it's imperfection - which feels natural.

      I can only guess that by the time they started working on TBC they had enough level designer to be able ensure that everything full fills it's purpose.

      > And a lot of the current problems I see in TBC Classic can also be laid at the feet of the players, because they are taking their retail approach to things and are applying it to TBC Classic, which creates a disconnect between two halves of the player base where some people want to experience the game and others want to rush to the end and push the I-Win button.

      The Internet was still young by the time Vanilla was released. We did use ICQ to chat back then. Facebook was founded in the same year, Twitter and YouTube didn't even exist back then.

      Back then we didn't have a second screen and our PCs weren't powerful enough to tab out during a flight path. Nor did we have mobile phones back then. Taking a 15 min flight to Silithus meant you're either chatting or going to the bath room.

      A huge part of WoWs population was made up from socializers which enjoyed "the new, fancy chat client". Socializers completely dwarfed achievers and only a fraction of the player base raided. (The main function of raids wasn't content for the masses but to make the game look bigger by having unfinished content for all eternity.)

      The socializers left. Today you'll find them on Instagram or Facebook or something. And if they do play a game it isn't going to be a 16 year old MMO. It was obvious that Classic would mainly attract achievers and while Vanilla Classic was able to survive that for some time, because of it's imperfection, every add-on after that will be majorly transformed by the achiever heavy player base.

      I'm looking forward to WotLK because that add-on finished the transformation from a world to a game and it actually was quite a fun game. I'm looking forward to tank random dungeons on my DW frost tank DK. Especially the best dungeon ever made - Halls of Reflection (from a game point of view).

      WotLK had a lot more transient content. 15 min random heroics. Small raids you could easily pug. Classic has leveling an alt as transient content. TBCC is in a tough spot as it doesn't have meaningful transient content. Everything meaningful requires preparation and ideally a premade group.

    6. > Back then we didn't have a second screen and our PCs weren't powerful enough to tab out during a flight path. Nor did we have mobile phones back then. Taking a 15 min flight to Silithus meant you're either chatting or going to the bath room.

      Not buying that. I've been running two screens since years before I played Vanilla and I didn't join a guild until I was close to 60. It's a bit beside the point, but I don't see that I am playing MMOs in a very different way in 2003 or in 2021. I've always had IRC or other chats open and been active there at the same time.

      In BC though, I remember both ways that were mentioned. People spamming the same dungeon all over for a drop (Sun Eater...) and also a healthy mix of going with guildies and pugs.

      Not sure on which end of the spectrum I was, I tend to like helping people, but not to the degree of committing to an hour long run in a dungeon I hate...

  3. There was a huge change with TBC. Classic was a world first and a game second. A really excellent world that felt, and still feels, huge. No artificial mountains everywhere like GW2, no dumb slaughter fish like ESO and no loading screens. And look at dungeons like BRD or BRS. There weren't created to be awesome to play, they were created to be awesome on their own - and you were allowed to play through them. The game wasn't that great but more than good enough to make you enjoy the world (contrary to e.g. the ESO combat system that actually prevents you from enjoying that game...).

    With TBC that changed. TBC was a game first and a world second. The world was small and looked artificial, sterile, unreal, and... boring. There isn't a single mob in TBC that doesn't have a quest associated with it. There's no "surprise" and nothing to "explore". On the other hand TBC had more interesting classes, better balancing and the heroic dungeons were absolutely awesome.

    For me the problem is that I was interested in experiencing the classic world again because traveling an awesome world never gets old. But I never had the same interest in playing TBC again - a game I've already played and am done with it. I would assume that plays a part in why people want to just finish a heroic as fast as possible. It's content they've already beaten. And as we've seen with Classic - when nearly everybody raids and gets raid loot nothing else matters.

    1. Surprised to see you stop by, Kring! ^^ Weren't you fed up with Classic?

      We've debated TBC's worldliness before so I won't rehash all that... while it's less so than original Azeroth, I think it's not as bad as you make it out to be (e.g. your example of all mobs existing only for some quest or other is simply not true).

      I think your last point doesn't really explain people's current behaviour in BC Classic either. If (generic) you don't care about the content because you've done it all before, I would think that you wouldn't play BCC at all.

    2. > Surprised to see you stop by, Kring! ^^ Weren't you fed up with Classic?

      I'm not fed up with it. There just isn't much left to do when you don't like raiding. :-)

      And yes, the announcement of TBC lowered my excitement because it just starts the cycle anew. Been there, done that and I know how it'll end. :-) I prefer an MMO where you stay current like GW2 or ESO. An add-on should extend the world, not obsolete the old one.

      > I think your last point doesn't really explain people's current behavior in BC Classic either. If (generic) you don't care about the content because you've done it all before, I would think that you wouldn't play BCC at all.

      In TBC you need gear from heroics to raid (you probably don't need it but it's powerful for raiders in the beginning).
      To be able to run a dungeon on heroic you need the key.
      To buy the key you need reputation with it's faction.
      To get the reputation you need to run the dungeon a few times on normal.

      This was a very cool concept back then and these attunements and layered content is a corner stone of TBC.

      But if you want to return to TBC to clear Black Temple or do something you weren't able to do the first time TBC came around you're probably less excited with all the dungeon runs you have to do and prefer to finish them as efficient as possible.

      It's a different experience if you run the dungeon for the dungeons sake or only for loot.

      I still remember how fast a paladin tank can rush though heroics. It's awesome if you, after all the farming, become as powerful as a god. But I also remember how much work it is to gear up to become unhitable and I wouldn't enjoy that grind again. Especially knowing that, after you are unhitable, the game is basically over because it's to easy and there's no reason to play a dungeon if there's no challenge. :-)

  4. In the next expansion, we got Dungeon Finder (aka LFD) and that changed everything. I wonder if the memory of this that people have might be coloring how they approach BC dungeons as well? The attitude you write about really feels like an LFD group in theory if not in reality.

    1. You can have a game without a dungeon finder, but can you take the dungeon finder mentality out of the people? I do sometimes wonder whether we've all just been changed forever...

    2. The ancient "You can never step into the same river twice," and all that. Part (most?) of the problem is that people don't realize how much they've changed over the years. They think the game systems force a certain mindset towards gameplay when it could have been there all along. Until they take a step back and slow down to enjoy the journey they are going to perpetuate that Retail mindset they say they don't like. Ah, well. :/

    3. I actually brought this up in a raid lead meeting last night, about making sure that people enjoy the ride. We're going to be doing the same stuff for the next 2 years, so it's better that we just chill a bit and not get burnout.

      Unfortunately, however, I don't think that message will be disseminated like it should.

  5. I'm sorry to hear that, sounds like a bit of a shitty situation. I kinda remember people feeling left out (and honestly, they probably were) in most guilds at times, but on the other hand I remember one certain guild where we went out of our way to include a lot of people in order to not let them fall behind and in the end they backstabbed us anyway when the guild went pants up and accused us of all kinds of things.. (Not that it's related to this topic, but it certainly soured me on being full-on helper mode ever since).

    Another question is if there have been so many cliques formed already that you're not even asked on the "open" market in /g because the same 4-5 people run together all the time anyway... I guess the downsizing from 40 to 25 didn't really help.

    But I think the situation will improve, before T5 content people only have the instances to chain run to improve their gear, not completely sure how it worked in Vanilla, but apart from NR or FR you could totally raid log because you didn't need anything from the instances anyway?

    1. It's not so much about wanting to be helped, since that sounds like charity, it's more about the social aspect of caring how other people are doing.

      Cliques are definitely a thing, though I actually don't like that term very much since it's only a clique from the outside - from the inside it's simply people hanging out with their friends, and I totally get that. What makes it crappy for me is that I thought there were a few more people whom I would have expected to include me sometimes, to maybe ask me about dungeon runs every so often. Thus the "clearly some of my friendships weren't as good as I thought" angle. It's just such a huge contrast to my early days in the guild and I'm kind of like... where did things go wrong? Though yes, the downsizing didn't help either, because splitting a typical 40-man raid setup into 5-man groups basically guarantees a shortage of tanks and way too many damage dealers.

      When I joined the guild in Classic, many people were indeed raid-logging or just farming or questing on alts between raids. But from a social standpoint that was actually OK, because it's easy to chat while doing these things, or to take a break to help someone out, and it meant that the people going to things like dungeons went there because they actually enjoyed the experience beyond the potential rewards. So yeah, from that point of view things might indeed improve here as well once the achievers are "done" and only the social people are left to care. But considering that Blizzard kept adding badge gear throughout the expansion, my hopes aren't too high.

    2. Yeah I think I didn't explain my phrasing quite well, sorry. I meant it from the standpoint of a tank or healer who has zero problems to get a group. Just say "hi" and "dungeon" and the group is full. So "help" was meant more to actually look around if some people might need the instance urgently and not just for the 7th time to maybe get their pre-raid BiS item..

      We just did Blood Furnace and dinged 63 today, so this all sounds so far removed from our playstyle atm :P On the other hand we have a real problem if the one scheduled night per week doesn't work out...

  6. Hi Shintar, thanks for your blogposts, both yourself and Redbeard are able to articulate what I feel many, many times.
    The return to Vanilla and TBC has been a 70/30 split for me. 70 to the good, 30 to the bad. I'm happily playing my favourite parts of the WoW experience. Levelling my alts, enjoying the world as it was, having a blast using talent points once again. The old rotations flow freely from my fingers, knowing most of the quests like the back of my hand. I'm lucky, it doesn't get old for me. Never has, never will.
    Unfortunately, the 30% bad I mainly point to the change that's been brought about by the retail mindset. I know it's a personal thing, truly I do. Get in, go fast, get out. The journey isn't important at all, it's the end result - gear, rep, whatever - that becomes the driving force.
    I've been through a few guilds where they main focus was set out to be the journey being important. Unfortunately, each time raiding enters the picture, it becomes a losing battle to those who just want the end result.
    All in all though, still happily levelling my stable of toons and letting those that need to race to the end...race away.