World of Warcraft has been with us for nearly two decades. Two decades on the market is a long time, and Blizzard's title has taken full advantage of it – no MMORPG representative has undergone as many changes. Now, the king of the genre comes in two versions: classic and modern. As a result, anyone can choose how they will spend their time in the game.
I'll try to convince at least some of you that WoW Classic is the best thing that has happened to WoW in a really long time. And no, I don't think that good games were only made in the past. Quite the contrary! Nonetheless, sometimes it's worth taking two steps back in order to take five forward. I suggest that every fan of modern World of Warcraft should treat themselves with a trip to the classic version, whether it be regular or hardcore. You'll be surprised that this old game still has that "thing" that once attracted millions.
BlizzCon will tell us the truth
This year's BlizzCon is expected to be crucial for the Warcraft universe. Blizzard has confirmed that games from this universe will take the spotlight. There will also be World of Warcraft, which will probably feature an announcement of the next expansion, and the Classic version will probably be visited by Cataclysm next year. These are my predictions at least, but perhaps something else will transpire. After all, there’s a lot of news to be received, so I will indulge in some daydreaming. Especially since Chris Metzen, known as Warcraft's Green Jesus, returned on board!
Cataclysm? SURE, but WHAT NEXT?!
Since I am waiting for the announcement of Cataclysm, I'll go one step further – I believe that Blizzard will prepare classic versions of subsequent expansions. I expect a return to Mists of Pandaria, Warlords of Draenor, or Legion, and maybe even more! And why is that? Because it's a perfect opportunity for new players to get to know the old (from their perspective) World of Warcraft, and for some veterans, it's an excuse for a nostalgic journey. In the end, every extension had its pros. Although it will certainly be interesting to wait for WoW Classic Shadowlands to come out!
Imagine that Wrath of the Lich King isn't followed by the above-mentioned Cataclysm, but World of Warcraft turns in a different, alternative direction. That proposed add-on eventually debuts, but more closely resembles the classic version of this MMORPG. Sound like the babbling of a drunk orc? Perhaps, but the history of the genre shows that it is possible. Just look at RuneScape, which has seen the arrival of Old School RuneScape, an alternative version!
Blizzard may decide to take a similar move, taking into account what changes it has introduced to Wrath of the Lich King (e.g. adding the Heroic+ system). Even the Classic version recently received special Hardcore servers, operating under different rules! And here, I would like to remind you that in the past, developers ridiculed the concept of classic World of Warcraft servers. Today, they're very popular indeed and have even influenced the shape of the newest expansion, Dragonflight.
World of Warcraft ended with Kill 'Em All
My arguments may suggest a love for the classic version of WoW and dislike for the modern one. However, I have a completely different view – I like both of them, but I consider them as separate products. For me, the Classic is more of an MMORPG in the literal sense of the genre. The contemporary version, in my opinion, is more of a single-player title with optional, and occasional co-op and multiplayer. Although Blizzard recently did actually remember that it's an MMO and started to return to its roots in Dragonflight, but it's still not enough.
I also decided to go back to the roots and played Wrath of the Lich King (just before The Icecrown Citadel raid appeared) as well as Classic Hardcore. The differences between the classic and modern versions are visible to the naked eye. In the first case, the endgame is poor and simply boring. In the second one, there's no element of adventure and character development within the context of reaching subsequent levels. Why mention this?
Launching Classic reminded me why I fell in love with this genre and why I still prefer World of Warcraft over, otherwise rightly praised, Final Fantasy XIV. It's about interactions between players, cooperation, as well as competition and simply enjoying every aspect of the gameplay. In my case, grinding the profession, exploration, as well as auction trading were essential components of the game. For I knew that this would work to my advantage in the future – and simply pay off.
I didn't chase levels and often played suboptimally, but I actually used the MMO elements. I even understood the charm of geathering the adventure seekers on my own for dungeons and experiencing the fun together (not a fan of Random Dungeon Finder, sorry!). In fact, I tried not to waste anyone's time and gave it my all, because gathering the team was not easy, just like reaching the right place.
Who has time to play MMOs? Well... I have!
Said time was a crucial factor here. You need to dedicate a lot of time to Classic, because you won't become a hero in just a few moments, playing in spurts. It's a long-term investment and I fully understand that not everyone is comfortable with that. That's why some players prefer the modern version of World of Warcraft, where you can achieve much more within less time, and the game itself is more varied and less monotonous. Of course, when you're doing Mythic level raids and 25 keys, it looks completely different, but this is not a a threshold available to everyone.
And what if... we combined both? Dragonflight clearly veers in this direction, but does nothing for levels 1-60. Sometimes I think Blizzard could remove this stage and let players only level up to 10 to get to know their class, have a peek at the story, and jump straight into the endgame, because that's where the real fun is! At least, that's what I hear from the community. After all, who still enjoys tedious leveling, when in the course of almost 20 years everyone has had their time saturate?
But surprise, surprise – it's still fun for me! It's precisely the stage of getting attached to characters, exploring lands, and having adventures at a low level that I find exciting. This wasn't done perfectly in Classic, but there's actually a certain sense of satisfaction and purpose that I don't see in Dragonflight. After all, leveling can be redesigned in a thoughtful and enjoyable way so that players do not have to treat it as an unpleasant duty.
At this point, however, we have tried the simplest solution, making World of Warcraft suitable for a specific group of players. The rest are invited to Classic and apparently Blizzard is happy with this. In my opinion, this is a road to nowhere. WoW will not die because it has been doing it for many years – quite ineptly, too, as you can see. But it will also not develop, and the competition will peck at it like crows.
How about World of Warcraft 2?
Hence the whole idea for Old School World of Warcraft, which would go its own way, preserving the spirit of the original. I have no illusions that Blizzard will not return to the classic principles in the modern version of the game. A different direction was taken with Cataclysm, and apparently the sales bars are aligned. The group of players (to which I belong) is clearly in the minority. But since they ventured to make the Classic, perhaps this niche is promising enough to take the next step?
There is also another possibility, something that not even the forests of Lordaeron whisper about – World of Warcraft 2. It has been said for years that Blizzard should update their MMORPG and migrate to a new engine. Currently, the game is barely keeping up with the times and deserves something new. And its twentieth anniversary is the best opportunity at least to announce such a project!
What could such a World of Warcraft 2 look like? Would it follow Overwatch and replace the original title, forcing everyone to switch? And maybe it would also offer a free-to-play model (I'll have fries with mayo with that!)? Contrary to appearances, something like that is possible. Maybe not a free version of the game, but a Game Pass, since Blizzard is already part of Microsoft? Since I'm already indulging myself, why not go all in?!
Seriously, World of Warcraft 2 would be a good opportunity to completely remake the game. A combination of successful elements from Classic and the addition of an extensive endgame known from the modern version. I would imaginatively envision it as a new story, taking place an unspecified amount of time after the events of the original. The latter should be left alone and simply not developed anymore, only maintained, as long as there would be people willing to play.
MMORPG with old school flavor and a thin crust, please!
At the same time, I realize that my ideas could be misguided, and such moves would require significant investments. And why kill the hen that lays the golden eggs? Just because some dude on the web is turning his nose up? Besides, who in their right mind would trust Blizzard again, especially after the recent troubles? So perhaps the developers should just continue doing what they're doing and not stick their heads out for now?
I must admit that I'm less and less willing to return to the modern World of Warcraft. I launched the latest add-on, tested it for a month or two, and then I forgot about it for half a year or even longer. And it's not because of lack of time; I've been playing Classic for far too long lately. Therefore, Blizzard, think about such old-timers as myself – I would really like to pay for the opportunity to play a true, yet modernized MMORPG. And I believe that I'm not alone in this. And if you don't do that, I'll probably finally go to the competition. Perhaps it's high time to find a new home? BlizzCon will probably answer this question for me.
Patrick Manelski | Gamepressure.com