The Death of Vanilla has been very extremely overexaggerated to a high degree

| Monday, September 27, 2010
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.


Syl said...

Seems we wrote to somewhat similar posts today. I agree with what you say about vanilla, but I also know what I mean when I say some things were better back then. Some nostalgia is simply a blurred vision on games that were harder in a broken way, some nostalgia is valid - maybe we need different terminology in that way.

Stabs said...

I'm rather out of the loop on WoW but it occurs to me you may be swimming against the tide here.

Are not 95% of WoW players not interested in this, the type to bail after one death and so on? It seems to me it's only because cross server pugging hits such an enormous pool of players that you are able to find groups out of the 5% of like-minded people.

Anonymous said...

I levelled a paladin (dual tank/heal) almost solely through LFD. Having missed Vanilla, I really looked forward to doing Strat/Scholo on a level appropriate character.

I queued 3 times for ~ an hour each time. Not only did I fail to find a group, but I only once saw a single person in the party with me in the queue. Before long I was nicely into the 60s, and the opportunity of doing it "level appropriate" was lost.

While I do think there are people around who want to do this stuff, getting them in the same place at the same time is problematic.

Same thing happens in Outland. Magister's Terrace is a pretty cool instance that is foregone in order to run UK 20-30 times.

Nils said...

Woa.. that is a strange post. First you rant about people, who would like to play the way the developers intend them, for not playing the way they enjoy.

Later you admit that you would not like to switch off exp gain.

In general, I have a problem with the kind of advise you give: Settlers of Catan is no fun for you? No problem! Just change the rules. Just play it in a way the developer did not intent you to play it. Make it fun yourself!!

Look: I payed for the game. I payed for the rules. If I need to rethink the rules before the game is fun for me, I wanted some of that money back! Good rules are not my responsibility, but the developers'!

I, too, created special rules for leveling in WotLK to still have fun. It was necessary. But that cannot be expected from me. If the developers add a exp bar, they'd better make sure that trying to gain exp as fast as possible is fun!
Alternatively, they should tell me that gaining exp is not everything.

Blizzard does neither. They even add heirlooms and make leveling even quicker. That is a strong signal about what they think about leveling.

If I needed to ignore my queen to make chess fun, chess were a bad game.

Klepsacovic said...

@Stabs: I am swimming against the tide, but I think the population would be interested is more than I'm seeing. After all, there's only a very narrow window in which these instances are available for randoms, which are the simplest way to queue. If vanilla random lasted until 60 I think we'd see many more players in those instances. Though as I said in an earlier post, the self-filtering tends to bring in a different population which wants to see a specific place.

@Anonymous: I'd not give up too soon. I know that being higher level changes the experience, but it's not entirely ruined. Within a few levels the changes are subtle. The bigger issue from my perspective is how talents have changed, meaking us more powerful for a given level.

@Nils: I see what you're getting at. The big issue with WoW is that it is both game and world and there are tradeoffs between the two. I'm sacrificing some game for some world, but I'd be unwilling to entirely give up the game to experience the world. What I was hoping to say (but perhaps failed), was that players should try to be more aware of the world-game split and to make the choices that work for them. So maybe WoW is a bad game, since that game is subverting the world.

Klepsacovic said...

@Nils: "Woa.. that is a strange post. First you rant about people, who would like to play the way the developers intend them, for not playing the way they enjoy."
Rereading your comment, I can't find what you're refering to with this part.

Nils said...


I refer to your first three paragraphs. .. Or is that irony that I did not understand ?

About the game vs. world problem:
With a few exceptions, the pure gameplay, if you reduce it to an abstract level, is always boring. In my opinion, the world and the social parts are what make MMORPGs great.

How many games like chess are there? Most games are fun for everything, but not for their basic, abstract gameplay.

That does not mean that you should ignore the gameplay. A good gameplay that is easy to learn and hard to master is very valuable. But it is not the reason people start to play MMOs. At best it adds to the experience once you have become an expert at the game.

Concluding: To remove downtimes (just an example) does not add gameplay at the cost of world. It just changes the world aspect. A gameplay change by developers would be to change the max-dps if-then rules for your raiding char.
..Would be interesting to read your opinion on that :).

Tesh said...

Two thoughts:

One, it seems there's a contingent of gamers that needs to be told what to do, and another that just does what they want to do. Those aren't necessarily the same people, and game design can't cater to both all the time. It's foolish to try.

In that vein, I don't consider "house rules" as a reason to ask for my money back, I consider them added value to a game. If a game is flexible enough to allow for house rules and still be fun, that's a Good Thing for me.

Two, imagine a WoW where you could go to any dungeon and be met at the door with the option to play it with your level set to a level-specific band (up or down), talent count and all. Which dungeons would stand on their own merits as great places to actually *play* rather than farm?

Might that give the devs better feedback on what dungeons worked and which didn't?

Klepsacovic said...

@Nils: The first three paragraphs were self-mocking about how I used to complain that vanilla WoW was completely and utterly dead. Also seriously pointing out that pundits are full of shit.

To fully respond to all of what you said would take a while, so I'll go with a generic "those were excellent points that deserve further thought" and cherry pick the rest.

While I know it's just an example, I do want to jump of the downtime thing. What is downtime? Is a flight path down time? I think most people would say yes, and I'd agree. But it's also a time when we are directly shown the scale of the world. While that doesn't actually change the world, it does change perception, which if the developers are trying to craft and experience, is just as important.

@Tesh: While those are different and mutually exclusive categories, I think that's often a temporary division. By that I mean, some days I want to explore while other days I want to be told what to do. Some days I desperately want virtual rewards and other days I couldn't possibly care less.

What would we do if there were no external rewards for any activity? Well, obviously every instance once. Then quite a few never again, such as MC or SM armory.

Duht said...

Cenarion Rep for earthwarden in outlands crushed my soul. As a result, with every alt I've played, I still have to will myself to accept the quests. I then have to yell at the voice in the back of my head telling me not to do them until I've farmed enough unidentified plant parts.

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