What's the point of Classic now?

I'm still logging into Classic regularly, but it's mainly an exercise in going through the motions, such as to use my daily alchemy transmute. Even though the Sunwell patch dropped this week, I've had no desire to go to the Isle of Quel'Danas at this juncture.

I keep clinging to the notion that Blizzard could still change their minds about the continued existence of BC Classic servers, but having followed the relevant forum threads I'm not hopeful, and then I wonder why I even bother if all my characters are effectively going to be deleted in a few months.

I went back to some of my early posts about Classic and it struck me as almost tragic to see how much things have changed since then. My excitement for Classic was based on a simple premise: Blizzard letting us continue to play our favourite expansion forever. Sadly I couldn't find the link (if you know where to look, please share in the comments) but I distinctly remember an interview about Classic not long after its original announcement where someone from Blizzard (I think it was Ion but not 100% sure) said something along the lines of them realising that there was a huge passion for Classic and that they were going to honour that by recreating it and maintaining it effectively as a museum piece, even if only a small number of players were interested in playing it continuously.

Now, to be clear, I know they never claimed that they were going to do the same for later expansions, but I don't think I was unreasonable in taking it as a general expression of sentiment and to think that they were likely to approach classic versions of other expansions in a similar way. Their current attitude towards BC isn't just a slight deviation from what they said back then - going "well, we're not going to maintain it because we don't think enough people are willing to pay for it" is a complete 180 degree turn! They effectively built Burning Crusade Classic just to close it down again after less than two years.

And again, I'm not saying that progressing into Wrath of the Lich King is inherently wrong. I get that this is something that a lot of people want. It's just not what I wanted, and Blizzard certainly didn't make it clear that this was going to be forced on me when I opted to move my characters forward into Burning Crusade less than a year ago. For me, the promise of Classic was that it would allow us to go back and re-experience content and the world as it was, without having a deadline looming over our heads when it would all go away again. And no, of course a "stagnant" MMO like that wouldn't be as busy with people grinding frantically as a constantly evolving game, but that's kind of the point. Classic era is quiet, but it is being played by people who are enjoying themselves and re-running the old raids just for fun. All I wanted was the same opportunity for BC.

If Classic is just turning into a bunch of progression servers, that's - to me - worse than retail. One of the things that put me off back in Cataclysm was how blatant a treadmill the game had become and how fast it expected you to move, to the point that it would basically push you forward forcefully if it considered you too slow. New content was no longer an open invitation to do more, it became a mandate. The way the Classic team has been rushing to push out the last few Burning Crusade patches already replicates that feeling pretty perfectly.

Meanwhile, Shadowlands has had the slowest patch cadence ever, something that a lot of people have been complaining about, but which at the same time makes it extremely casual-friendly because you have loads of time to complete your goals. The irony of that is not lost on me.


  1. I can only assume the reason they poached Holly Longdale from Daybreak was specifically because the plan was to set up a cascading cadence of progression servers in the way that has worked so successfully and commercially for EQ/EQ2. Being Blizzard, however, they are far slower, more cumbersome and more pedantic in how they implement things.

    DBG (and SOE before them) have always had a policy of opening servers like pop-ups, seeing how much interest they attract, servicing the ones that hold an audience and letting the rest die off. People used to complain about it but these days most seem to be accepting of the process.

    It's a lot easier to be sanguine about the short-termism when turnaround is often measured in months not years, of course. I long ago lost track of how many Prog/TLE/Special ruleset servers there are. EQII will soon have had two new ones in the first six months of this year. Or was it three?

    Classic, if it really is going to sit there, unchanged, indefinitely, is going to be an outlier in the retro-server subgenre, I think. Even pseudo-official museum projects like P99 don't stay completely static.

    1. Holly's name has certainly come up in the conversations about the topic that I've seen. My impression from the outside was always that she seemed very passionate and likeable, but if she is indeed to blame for Blizzard's shift in attitude in regards to how to handle Classic, I've got to admit it does not endear her to me.

      I do get the appeal of a fresh start and trying out different rule sets, but at the same time one of the genre's defining features is persistence of your characters and the world they're in, which is why the endless calls for "fresh" have always been a bit baffling to me.

    2. She absolutely is passionate and likeable and she obviously, genuinely loves the genre but Blizzard didn't headhunt her for any of that, I'm sure. They would have wanted the commercial success that's kept the lights on at DBG by leveraging an installed base to keep playing the same content over and over again and paying a subscription for the privelige. You have to have a sub to play on Progression/TLE servers in EQ/EQII and yet they are generally the busiest (well, the current ones are) in a game that's nominally F2P. I'm not sure you'd get those subs if you just left the servers to persist in stasis, although you could certainly have a handful that did just that, to make sure you caught that sliver of the audience too.

      If Blizzard isn't bothering with a static BC option, it can only be one of two things: they don't think they can make money out of it or someone with the clout to enforce their opinion has a personal objection to it. Otherwise they could just pick a couple of servers, offer one-time free transfers, leave them as-is and call it done.

    3. For all the comparisons between Classic and the EQ progression servers, I think it's important to remember that Blizzard actually went ahead and recreated all the gameplay mechanics, class abilities, talent trees etc. for each expansion, while as far as I'm aware EQ progression mostly consists of content unlocks. So even a static WoW Classic server offers an experience that you can't get anywhere else in the game - which is all the more reason I'm surprised they are getting rid of BC Classic, as it's basically like telling people that if they want to play BC, they should just go back to private servers (which was ostensibly one of the things they wanted to combat with Classic).

  2. I know the toons in the Season of Mastery servers are going to be rolled over in to Classic Era servers after SoM is complete, so maybe they'll start up a TBC version of SoM once Wrath Classic drops. I can be optimistic about that, given that the server imbalance is the largest problem in TBC Classic right now.

    At least with Sunwell, the highest performing raid guilds are finally running into a wall. The top guild on our server didn't clear it in one night, unlike every other raid from Classic through TBC, so that's a good thing in my book. That should shut them up for a few, given they have to really work for it this time.

    But when I saw the guild listings posted by our 2x/week raid team and they were happy that they were 6th on the list, I only saw the guilds that were missing because they left the server. There's at least 8 guilds that would have been on that list that aren't here because they left the server (or in the case of two blew up), and that decline in raiding players means there's an overall decline in people who want to group up or run pugs just for things.

    1. I still don't get what you see in SoM to be honest. Since you don't raid there, what are those servers offering you that you couldn't also get on Classic era? A TBC SoM would not be interesting to me either because I'd still lose three years of character progress and be forced to start over.

      Population problems really seem to be the bane of Classic to a degree I did not anticipate. Honestly, I blame paid server transfers. Blizzard must have made millions off those alone. Of course you could argue that if people couldn't transfer they'd just stop playing and maybe that's true, but all that money being poured into a service that just trades one problem for another will always remain a bizarre thing to me.

    2. What I'm hoping for with a TBC-esque SoM server is a chance to replay TBC without the pressure to rush to the end because I was raid leading. I'm actually doing that now, given that I'm leveling Neve and Linna (with Az waiting in the wings). But with most people having already leveled to L70, and the population having taken a huge hit since TBC's release, it would be nice to have people leveling with you, just not in such a blinded rush.

      Okay, I'll freely admit that I'm naive about that history not repeating itself once more with yet another TBC Classic push to max level, but....

      I don't know. The past week I've felt more optimistic about WoW than I have in months, and I can't explain why.

  3. I do remember reading the same comment or style of commitment comment. The closest comment I've found is from this interview just after the Classic launch announcement at PCGamer.

  4. I think the idea of standing BC servers are a victim of how dead the original Classic servers are. With the bulk of the player base moving on to Wrath Classic, Blizzard decided it wasn't worth the resources needed to keep them running. Especially since BC never had the widespread enthusiasm that the Vanilla game created. Wrath may suffer the same fate, but that is far enough out that 'signs are hazy', especially with the Microsoft buyout looming.

    1. I am not buying the 'worth the resources' thing. I bet the people who want this would be open to a free server transfer, so there could be some consolidation.

      I mean, I'm the wrong person to ask, but I'd say drawing conclusions from one expansion transition to the next is pretty flawed, because while I made all of them back then... Vanilla had zero nostalgic feeling for me, everything was strictly better in TBC. And I loved WotLK, but I wouldn't say everything was better. I didn't do any endgame in classic, but if I was (like Shintar), I could totally see me keeping my toons on a forever TBC and slowly progress through. Also I don't see them needing much development work, most people would probably just as ok with not having bugs fixed over losing TBC. And then they could shutter it 2y later anyway... but maybe there's a reason I stayed away from product development roles my whole life ;)