World of Warcraft going vanilla with Classic servers

World of Warcraft is getting a new expansion, Blizzard announced today, but also an anti-expansion. For people who want World of Warcraft as it was way back when, before expansions came along with all their bells and whistles, Blizzard will finally launch official ‘Classic’ servers. WoW fans have run bootleg vanilla servers for years, and Blizzard’s lawyers shutting these down without offering an alternative has riled many. This came to a head around the vanilla server Nostalrius in 2016, when upset over its shutdown led to Blizzard meeting with the people behind it. We’ve still a while to wait for official vanilla WoW but it is coming.

“I am pleased and also a little bit nervous to announce the development of a Classic server option for World of Warcraft,” executive producer J. Allen Brack said on stage during BlizzCon’s opening ceremony, after showing this trailer:

“This is a larger endeavour than you might imagine, but we are committed to making an authentic Blizzard-quality Classic experience,” Brack said. “We want to reproduce the game experience that we all enjoyed from the original classic WoW – not the actual launch experience. So please bear with us, it’s going to take some time, but it will happen.”

While a lot of WoW’s additions and changes over the years have been great, it has also made it a pretty different game. Modern WoW is a lot friendlier, a lot more streamlined, and feels less like a wild and dangerous place. It whips players through the original lands at breakneck pace to get them levelled up for the new parts, and some of those original lands are now greatly changed – or just plain gone. A lot of wanting that back is nostalgia, pining for the days that were and who we were then, but that wilder WoW was also more interesting in ways.

It’ll be interesting to see what Blizzard’s Classic experience will be. Even before expansions arrived, WoW changed with new dungeons, events, and plenty of tweaks. Just how classic is Classic WoW?

50 Comments

  1. zulnam says:

    Fucking finally!

    Also, that must’ve been the cheapest trailer cinematic they ever did. Still, worth it!

    • Paradukes says:

      It may have been cheap, but it still hit me square in the nostalgia. I remember getting hyped over that original trailer, so many years ago…

  2. Horg says:

    They could go one of two ways with this, giving people the classic experience as it was (that people have been asking for), or setting it up to fail by including the game balance and convenience features of more recent expansions. Now i’m hoping Blizzard are aware that the market for a classic server is a very real thing they should be cashing in on, but this is the same company that not 6 months ago told us ”you think you want it, but you don’t”. It’s not outside the realms of possibility they attempt some form of malicious compliance that gives an experience no-one really wants, just so they can point to low server population and kill the idea of splitting WoW into two games for good. If this is the real thing though i’ll be in on day 1 :)

    • Bomarty says:

      I had a bunch of fun playing on Elysium (until recent events *cough*). I’m hoping they stay close to the original experience but I would welcome some improved graphics, focus on hunter instead of mana and of course 25 man raids, which I think is just plain better.

    • LexW1 says:

      “It’s not outside the realms of possibility they attempt some form of malicious compliance that gives an experience no-one really wants.”

      That absolutely is outside the realm of possibility, and inside the realm of paranoia/conspiracy theory of the sort that only hardcore fans of stuff can even conceive of. I don’t even mean that as an insult, I almost respect that level of commitment to fear.

      As others have said, Blizzard are not going to spend millions, if not tens of millions of dollars getting these servers working, just to intentionally fuck them up. It’s not in their interest at all. These servers are potentially massively valuable, because it will mean that people can “quit WoW”, but still be playing WoW Classic and paying their sub as usual, then when they get bored of how relatively grindy and time-consuming WoW Classic is, they’ll likely go back to modern WoW. Even if they don’t it’s just extra bonus money so long as it exceeds the development costs (which I expect it will do VERY rapidly). I would bet money they’ll do what’s been long-suggested and make both WoW and WoW Classic be on the same sub (no extra charges), encouraging people to simply switch game if bored.

      Of course let’s be clear, fans will cry whatever they do.

      If they pick patch 1.9 (which seems a good candidate), people will say it should have been patch 1.12, or 1.7 or whatever. If they try and meld elements from various patches for the best possible Vanilla experience (as seems likely), people will endlessly complain about how it’s “not true Vanilla” (even though no retro server is, either). If they don’t put in the newer models and animations, a bunch of people will throw a fit. If they do put in the new models and animations, a bunch of people will throw a fit (this is one of the easier problems to solve at least – they could have a toggle like many older MMOs). Same with UI and addon stuff. If they used the way LUA worked from pre-TBC, the game will be a hilarious hack-fest of near-fully-automated characters, incredibly elaborate addons (yes, far, far more elaborate than WeakAuras or the like now – the implementation back then was vastly more powerful, if rarely fully utilized). If they don’t do that, people will cry their eyes out about the “inaccurate” addons. Classic servers are very definition of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”, but they can still make money.

      Also, Blizzard are smart – as Brack said, they want to give the Classic feel, not necessarily to literally have “warts and all” Vanilla. That means, in the end, they’ll almost certainly do some kind of “fictional Vanilla patch”, which combines the best of all Vanilla stuff (probably with SOME balance stuff but only critical stuff), slow staged opening of the various raids (including, probably, the whole AQ opening deal – I remember soloing those elites on my Pally), optional new/old models and animations, and a custom-designed version of the vanilla UI together with modern LUA limitations.

  3. nattydee says:

    “It’s not outside the realms of possibility they attempt some form of malicious compliance” PC Gamer has an interview where they talk a little bit about the engineering challenges of making a true vanilla server come to life. In short, there’s no way they’re going to invest millions of dollars just to make a fraction of their fans say “you told us so”

    Woops – meant for this to be a reply to Horg’s comment above

  4. Stargazer86 says:

    Vanilla WoW had its share of problems. I’m hoping they tweak and update it juuuust enough so that all the hassles and annoyances of the original game are smooth out and people can enjoy the classic experience a little more.

    • TormDK says:

      Yeah, there’s been tons of Quality of Life changes since vanilla, hopefully they will be included.

      I’m enjoying my time in EverQuest on the TLP server called Agnarr. So might have to give this a whirl at some point as well once it becomes a thing.

    • Someoldguy says:

      This is possible. Look at old school Runescape that was launched a few years back when there was a lot of push back against the modernisation of RS. It started as a vanilla copy of the game but has since added several quality of life additions and even new content. All of these are put to the playerbase and require a significant majority to vote in favour in order to be implemented, so nothing gets added that too many people are uncomfortable with.

    • zulnam says:

      Then it wouldn’t be vanilla, would it?

    • ludde says:

      Problem with that is many of the quality of life features effectively counter the appeal of vanilla. Take something like the Looking for Group tool, while convenient, it removes a lot of social interaction.

      • Horg says:

        That’s the contentious issue, some features from more recent expansions could be included without harming the classic experience, others would destroy it and give us that hybrid monster no-one wanted. LFG is a prime example of the latter, as would be flying mounts, Horde paladins / Alliance shamans, reworking / removal of quest chains, heirloom weapons or other ways to trivialise the open world content, post 3.0 (end of TBC) game re-balancing, etc. On the other hand, I have no problem with Warlocks being able to dispense healthstones to a raid automatically, or non-viable talent trees being given some attention. We just have to hope Blizzard know where to draw the line.

    • SaintAn says:

      Or you can just play normal WoW if you don’t want the Vanilla experience. lol

    • Asurmen says:

      I think people responding here are going for a false dichotomy.

      QoL features I can think of for my old class the Hunter without losing the Vanilla feel is either getting completely rid of ammo like it is now, or if you must include ammo include the box ofammo crafting that Outlands expansion introduced. Also, better pet management.

      Some things like certain talent trees being utterly utterly irrelevant, BM and Surv for Hunters for example.

      • LexW1 says:

        They are, it is largely a false dichotomy. I have no doubt they’ll have some QoL stuff worked in there. With ammo and pet management it probably will indeed be more “early TBC” than actual Vanilla.

  5. nattydee says:

    It’s funny to read how adamant people are that demand for a ‘vanilla’ WoW experience is just misguided nostalgia, when I think the unforgiving nature of the MMO pre-expansions is exactly what people want. I see Vanilla WoW being a lifestyle game for the millions of people who played it more than a decade ago – a game people are in no hurry to rush through or finish.

    Obviously I’m projecting some of my own opinions here, but the appeal to me is the sense of space and time playing the original game created, where traveling from one end of the world to the other might take more than an hour, where gathering a group to run a dungeon might take more than an hour, where things are finnicky and occasionally counter-intuitive and time-consuming, but that’s the point. I’m certainly not in the same phase of my life as when I first played vanilla WoW, but I have no desire to play the game in the same way. I see myself luxuriating in its familiar nooks and crannies more than I find satisfaction in the seamlessness of the modern experience.

    • Xerophyte says:

      I’m one of those people who at least was pretty sure it is mainly misguided nostalgia. I leveled characters to 60 on both factions in Vanilla and I did all the raids when they were current (admittedly my raid group was not good enough to finish Naxx, but we at least got to Maexxna before exploding). I struggle to think of any reason that I’d go back to that for anything other than nostalgia if the same subscription gets me actual modern World of Warcraft, which I consider to be a much better game in pretty much every way. Vanilla was a poorly balanced and janky mess that I enjoyed because it was still a lot less janky than Everquest and Final Fantasy 11.

      That said, I assume Blizzard has done more market research than me and if a vanilla server is a sustainable business then there’s no reason we can’t have both. It’s no skin off my back if other people are having fun, and popping in for a brief nostalgia trip wouldn’t hurt me either.

      • ludde says:

        It’s funny to see vanilla described as a “janky mess”. If anything, Blizzard has always been known for polish and WoW was no different back when it came out, launch issues aside.

        While I haven’t played the newer expansions I did play TBC, and to me WoW was at its best very early on. Before world activity dies and everything is so very instanced.

        • Xerophyte says:

          I’m not denying it was the most polished MMO around. It was also a janky mess. Specific janky elements include:
          – Wand damage outstripped spell damage at specific points of levels, if you knew which wands to buy. Unless, of course, you scoured the AH for of Something Wrath gear.
          – Several talent choices, and occasionally entire specs were essentially big traps that you should never pick under any circumstances.
          – Near enough any ability interactions with weapon speed were incredibly backwards, in different ways depending on what you were doing wanted fast or slow weapons.
          – Felwood consumables, and every single thing related to Felwood consumables.
          – The debuff limit, and everything related to the debuff limit.

          and more! There’s a ton of design choices in the game that are in hindsight incredibly boneheaded and dumb, they were just less boneheaded than the contemporary competition. Nowadays, that’s not so much the case.

          • LexW1 says:

            I’m glad to see some people actually remember actual Vanilla, rather than a fantasy of vanilla. It was a janky mess. Not only that, but it was obviously a janky mess by the end of 2006, compared to other MMOs of the era. TBC did not land a month too early! Indeed in the EU the only time server pops dropped significantly before Cataclysm was in the horrible grind-era of the end of Vanilla, where we supposed to be doing Naxx, but good luck farming the cash and consumables you needed to do that (let alone finding 8 geared tanks for Horsemen!).

          • HidingCat says:

            Unless, of course, you scoured the AH for of Something Wrath gear.

            What were you doing with gear that didn’t have +Spellpower? :P

          • Xerophyte says:

            Since you ask I’m guessing you didn’t play a caster in vanilla warcraft. Spellpower gear barely existed at launch. There were a few 5-man pieces, some crafted rares and some Molten Core drops but even things like the caster T1 epic sets had 0 spellpower initially. Some specific items boosted specific schools, so for instance Arcanist Mantle had +arcane damage. The only common stat for caster gear was intellect, which increased max mana and I believe gave a negligible amount of spell critical strike.

            Blizzard realized that having casters not scale with gear was a bad thing and this was improved on with patches: 5-man Dire Maul had significantly better gear than Molten Core, which people then complained about so the MC gear was revamped to be somewhat more useful in 1.5 or something like that.

            Anyhow, while leveling there was never really such a thing as gear with spell power. If you wanted your current rank of Shadow Bolt to hit harder at level 35 then the only way to do that was green Bind on Equip gear with the of Shadow Wrath suffix, which was not very common.

        • LexW1 says:

          You haven’t played any expansions past TBC, and you think WoW was at it’s best “early on”?

          I mean, obviously? It’s like if I hadn’t watched TV since 1985, but was pretty sure TV peaked around then anyway. I mean, if you avoid anything that could change your opinion, you’re obviously going to think that, because you have literally no basis of comparison.

          WoW had “launch issues” for a year, too – so 2004-2005 was solid “launch issues” (they finally resolved the last big ones in very late 2005). By the very end of 2006, too, WoW was increasingly looking a bit unpolished, a little old-fashioned, too. Luckily TBC came in to save the day and punt WoW down the road so it remained (as it has more or less ever since), a bit ahead of the competition.

    • malkav11 says:

      I think most people are forgetting about all the bullshit (the heaping, heaping mounds of bullshit), but yes, there are certainly masochists out there. After all, people still play Everquest.

    • Simbosan says:

      Unforgiving nature of WoW? Really? It was always easy mode from day 1.

      • LexW1 says:

        Indeed, that was a favourite topic of people who disliked WoW – “It’s an ezmode game for casual babies!” was the usual line of nonsense. I remember EQ players raging about how death didn’t really set you back in WoW, how eating/drink replenished your health/mana too fast and turned it into an action game (LOL but hey…), how the fact that more or less anyone could solo-level because of quests was a huge problem, and so on.

    • SaintAn says:

      I know I want it just for the WPVP. The world was a massive battleground in Vanilla. They ruined WPVP in Cata and the game hasn’t been the same for me since. I’m really looking forward to spending all my time fighting again. And I really hope they make Alterac Valley continuous like it was back then where matches lasted weeks between people on the same server.

      • LexW1 says:

        Um, I hate to tell you this but AV wasn’t actually continuous. It was just that people were terrible at winning AV and tended to just do stuff like farm the mobs rather than try to win. This is what lead to matches lasting dozens of hours or more (and they were rare). Even if they put in the original, hard-to-win AV, which actually got changed in Vanilla, in patch 1.11, people are going to be massively better at it, as strategies were perfected over the years, and WILL actually win, so you won’t see those kind of matches. You might see ones lasting multiple hours, though.

      • skalpadda says:

        I quit after WotLK and have only been back for quick stabs at the game since then, but I remember world PvP being pretty ruined with the introduction of flying mounts in Burning Crusade.

  6. Anacho says:

    So does that mean it’s back to Chuck Norris jokes and questions about where Mankrik’s wife is? If so, I’ll stick with the new.

  7. bhauck says:

    I can see a way for Classic WoW could work for my wife and I who quit the game after we graduated our last rounds of school in 2011. We’re grownups now, though still intentionally childless, so time is scarcer but not missing entirely. Not having an expansion coming or a new raid to worry about, there’d be absolutely no reason to rush towards anything. Pick a couple classes, play only together, explore, take our time. Maybe we don’t play for a couple weeks–oh well, didn’t lose pace with anything. Maybe we get bored with our characters at level 35–start over, who cares? And I can leave my raid-geared Level 80 Druid sitting in Dalaran, never to become a green-geared 85 or 90 or 120 or whatever (serious raiding is not happening again), never to see the Cataclysmed world he didn’t get the Explorer and Loremaster titles running around.

  8. Faldrath says:

    I remember being the only warlock in a 40-man raid. Having to log on 30 minutes before the raid to fill my bags with soul shards in Western Plaguelands so I could make healthstones for all 39 players (and different types of healthstones for the tanks). I stopped playing WoW during Pandaria and I don’t feel like coming back, but I’d never go back to a real vanilla server without the quality-of-life stuff.

    • Daymare says:

      I could write this under many posts here but yes, as someone who had a very active raid in vanilla and BC … never, ever again.

      The list of things improved over the years would fill books. And I think I mean that literally.

    • satan says:

      I remember locks farming stones to summon the lazy, but didnt then (retail vanilla) nor now (on Light’s Hope/Elysium) have to hand out healthstones to every single player. In my guild at the moment, MC/BWL nobody outside of the tanks is required to flask or use any specific consumables (beyond health/mana potions), with so much knowledge out there and a wealth of addons the game isn’t nearly as punishing as it was… Naxx/AQ40 are another story of course, but just like it was back then, not many of the people planning on playing will get to see C’thun or Kel’thuzad.

  9. Carra says:

    Ah, good old vanilla WoW. The question is: will they get the Burning Crusade in two years?

    • Horg says:

      If classic WoW is popular I don’t see why they couldn’t maintain a server for all the expansions. TBC (pre 3.0 blanket nerf)was my high point for the game, Karazan and Zul’Aman being the best raid experience for the small group I was in at the time. I would even consider spending time on a WotLK server, Ulduar being the peak raid design they ever produced. They could even release the content out at the same pace it was patched in, and rolling reset the servers every 18 months to keep the communities alive.

      • Carra says:

        My favorite period was doing the C’thun raid back in Vanilla WoW. However, that was not open when the game came out. Same as Icecrown Citadel: it only opened months after the release.

        I’m curious how they will handle this.

        • Asurmen says:

          I see either two ways:

          Have raid release every x number of months trying to match the old patch timings, so start with MC, then BWL a few months later etc,

          or

          Set the raids available as if it were 1.9, but require the server to do the AQ opening line for example.

  10. skyst says:

    I returned to vanilla WoW on a private server (Kronos) early 2016, played for nearly a year and did all of the end game raid content available at the time. After playing most major MMOs and updated versions of WoW over the years, the vanilla WoW experience was just as much fun as it was originally. It was the most fun I have had gaming in quite a long time and it felt absolutely fantastic to step foot in some of the old dungeons with a group of friends. Can’t recommend enough giving the vanilla WoW experience a go!

  11. The K says:

    Ive spent a lot, and i mean that, A LOT of time during my formative years in Vanilla Wow. And back then, i thought it was the hottest stuff in the world.

    Looking back now, wow..it was more polished and less clanky than the competitors, but that was all.

    Every Hybrid-Class in PVE was stuck being a healer, with Paladins often wearing cloth armor…Warriors as the only viable endgame tank…a PVP Rank System straight up from Asia-Grinder Hell…And dont mention shard/flask/pot/consumable-farming…or how even the Damage classes had only one viable Spec at all..such “variety”.

    Holy fuck, you couldnt pay me to play this. But at least the nostalgia fuelled, rose-tinted-glass wearers will finally get off Blizzards Back.

  12. Amake says:

    As someone who’s spent maybe twice as much time in Dark Souls as in WoW, and promised some six years ago to never give Blizzard more of my money, I’d be happy to give this a try. I liked it when you had to walk (yes, walk, at level 35, since your hearthstone was always on cooldown) back to town and hope you had enough money to buy your new skills every two levels; I liked having to actually engage the tiniest your brain and actively look around to see where you were going and what you were looking for in order to do quests; and I especially liked going way out of the way and running from the “level fuck” monsters and being able to believe bunny hopping against the map walls high enough could get you to some secret some useless faraway cranny of rock where no one has ever been before, you know, the kind of places they went out of their way to close down to the public in I think it was Wrath of the Lich King.

    • Rorschach617 says:

      Personally, I loved the way Hunters had to juggle their pets around. Go around with your favourite good-looking pet, then risk leaving it in the stable so that you could go out, tame another and learn new attacks and skills that you could teach your favourite.

      I missed the whole “capture the rare animal and get strange attack” business (Was it Brokentooth that was a cat that did Frost damage, that Hunters queued up around the Badlands for?) and I would welcome a return to that level of management and detail…

      But vanilla WoW was grindy hell. Huge tracts of lore were locked away in Raids that I never got to see and questlines ended leaving me with a “WiP” feel to the whole thing. Cataclysm’s rewrite of the original continents was a blessing.

      Btw, did you ever find the secret plateau near Thunder Bluff were the warring critters were? You needed a flying mount, so it have been implemented in Cataclysm.

      • LexW1 says:

        “I missed the whole “capture the rare animal and get strange attack” business”

        The trouble with this is, back then that was limited by lack of knowledge. Few people knew about that kind of thing. Fewer still sought out that kind of knowledge. Mostly you heard about it from another hunter, or discovered it by accident.

        Now? In 2017? Day 1 there will be tons of ultra-detailed guides showing Hunters were to get the most broken, most OP, most outrageous pets possible. Likewise with pet skills – it’ll be all “Tame X so you can teach Y. You can find X in this location, remember to bring this food, which you can farm here” and so on. Sure, you can ignore that, but I think you’ll find it harder than you expect. And others will not ignore it. Instead of messed-up OP pets being rare things, they’ll be the default pet for every hunter. Queues will form to tame them.

        • Rorschach617 says:

          “Now? In 2017? Day 1 there will be tons of ultra-detailed guides showing Hunters were to get the most broken, most OP, most outrageous pets possible.”

          It was 2006 and we had the Internet back then too. I did say that Hunters were queuing up for that cat :)

          I only tried playing a Hunter much later and, yes, if I had gone for OP pets from the wiki, I would have got that one. But Hunters knew about those things. Apart from the wikis, you asked other Hunters about where they got their cool animals and so on. I had a ghostly Nightsabre which was really hard to spot when it sneaked :)

          But all that faff, the hunting for OP pets, the discovery of new skills and so on, was emergent gameplay. Nowadays, you can pretty much keep the first pet you find (and maybe a tank for dungeons) because the Pet Trainers will just teach you the skills for ingame money. In the old days, you actually had to go out and find animals with the skills you wanted, and, along the way, maybe discovered that a Raptor was a pretty cool pet to have. That was emergent gameplay that WoW lost when they dumbed it down.

          A friend of mine swore by keeping a Spider as a pet for PvP (not for OP-ness, because some people have an irrational fear of spiders). :)

      • durrbluh says:

        My favourite OP pet was a Bloodseeker Bat from Zul’Gurub. Those things were hilariously broken with a 1.0 attack speed and a ridiculously fast travel speed, it teleported around Arathi Basin while gnawing on people like a hairy machine gun.

        • Asurmen says:

          “Hunters are OP in PVP cos they keep resetting cast timers with their dumb pets” said every caster ever. It was a beautiful time to be alive.

  13. Rince says:

    No, Chromie! You went too far! Everyone knows that WoW reached perfection with WotLK!!

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