You know what bugs me? Pundits. They are so full of shit. They get on their horses of above-average height and tell us not just what to think, but also try to redefine reality to fit their preconceived absurd notions of what the world is.
They're not even limited to real life media. They've infected the gaming media, including the blogosphere, with absurd distortions of what the world is. And for once I'm not referring to Gevlon. No, I instead mean the elitist vanilla-lovers who think that Outland starting at 58 destroyed the 'great late vanilla instances' and that the game is ruined forever now. They sit up there preaching about how no one ever runs stratholme or scholomance except a very rare random instance person or level 80s looking for achievements.
Idiots. Total fucking idiots. Have they ever actually tried queuing for those places? I bet they haven't. Idiots. Ignorant god damn idiots. Fuck. I mean get a fucking clue before you run your damn mouths. Especially you, person with the fake Russian name who whines constantly that vanilla was killed by the Outland gear reset. Yea, you. Try playing around level 60 before you form an opinion.
My mage is now level 63* and has never been to Outland. Since the mid 50s he's been playing in the Plaguelands and queuing for Stratholme and Scholomance. These are no longer available as randoms at 58, meaning that if players simply follow the path of quick rewards, they will either never pop or only be populated by players under level 58. Quite the opposite.
He's found a handful of groups, most of which were populated by players above level 58. That means that players who could be running Outland for bags of useful items, higher xp, and short queues, are instead specifically queuing for older instances. There are players specifically choosing older content with fewer tangible rewards (in a virtual sense). Why? Perhaps for achievements, but not all have been lacking the achievement. Maybe they are stupid. But stupid doesn't really answer much.
Players are specifically choosing to run these instances and are exhibiting unusually high levels of patience for pulling speed and tolerance for wiping. Also unimaginably low risk aversion. The other day my mage cleared live side Stratholme with a resto shaman and hunter. It took a very long time, certainly over an hour and a half. We had deaths and wipes and a whole lot of drinking and slow pulling. The hunter wasn't great, but damn was he persistent. Same for the shaman. This wasn't an isolated incident. There seem to be a lot of people dropping either at group formation or shortly after, leaving behind a small group that would not be expected to complete the instance. Yesterday I did Scholomance with a warlock, hunter, and my mage. It was slow and we all made mistakes that killed us, but we stuck in to the end. This sort of play has been a lot more fun than what I encounter outside of this 'dead zone'. The couple times I have run with a full group have been a bit boring, since higher levels and improved talents mean that the instances aren't hard at all without some extra challenges.
Players really want to do this content. They want it so much that they will endure queues which can go past an hour, runs that go even longer, and risky pulls often without a full group.
I'm sure many are like me: they liked the old vanilla content and they don't like hellfire peninsula. Leveling speed for leveling fun is a trade they are willing to make. Maybe with more enjoyable leveling they aren't so inclined to get it over with. And maybe they enjoy the inevitable challenge of content that they might otherwise not see.
Based on the very long queues, those who choose to do this content are unusually unusual. This doesn't surprise me. What does surprise me is that they exist at all. But why should it? I chose to and hoped to be able to do the content. Why wouldn't others?
I have to give some credit to the cross-server group-making tool. Without it I'm not sure there would be the population needed to form groups at all. And while an hour queue is long by current standards, it's not radically longer than it might take to form a group and travel to the instance in the vanilla days. I even enjoy the longer queue somewhat as it allows me time to quest, to relax, to play at my own pace and experience parts of the world which so often seem forgotten. As for the longer instances, it's remarkable how much more fun it can be to stop and smell the bosses.
Though I still want to point out that UBRS is considered a raid, since it technically is, meaning that people in the normal lfg tool cannot queue for it, instead needing to use the raid tool. I don't imagine that helps much with forming groups, but as of writing this I've not yet had a chance to try it, still working on Stratholme and Scholomance.
I'm almost dreading the time when my mage is too high to queue anymore or when he stops getting any experience. While I'm willing to trade leveling speed for more fun, if I stopped leveling entirely, I'm not sure I'd enjoy it much then. It is worth noting that I still have my UI which for whatever reason has no XP bar, meaning that I have little awareness of leveling speed beyond knowing that green mobs and green quests and no bonus random instance xp are slower than yellow mobs, yellow quests, and a bonus at the end of every random.
I know there are a lot of other players who are nostalgic for vanilla, who miss some of the aspects of it that we preferred, or who are just sick of hellfire peninsula. I encourage you to slow down and go where you want. You don't have to chase the xp. You can chase the experience instead. Run the instance you want. The more who do it, the shorter the queues will become. Vanilla will never come back, not with this, not with a old world raiding guild. If anything, come Cataclysm it's going to be gone completely. Naxxramas is happening again.
If you weren't there for vanilla, this is your last chance. Slow down and see what's around you. What you missed before. It isn't going to be what it was. But whether you run the 5-mans at 63 or go back for an achievement raid at 80, it's at least something. You will have some idea of how things were. And that's a good thing. It gives you ideas to pick from. You can see what was better and you can see what was worse. At the very least seeing what was worse can give greater appreciation for what WoW is today. Can you imagine a time when it was most efficient to not to any quests until honored, or even revered? That's just one of many absurd mechanics which pitted logical gameplay against the reward structure.
Vanilla is dead, short-live vanilla.