Vanilla did have heroics

| Thursday, June 16, 2011
In the beginning... there was vanilla WoW, which had no badge system, or heroics for that matter. After you hit the level cap, you could do some gearing up from drops in normal five-man dungeons, but that was pretty much it.
Did you catch it? Right there, at the end: "pretty much it." That pretty much it covers quite a lot!

Technically speaking, vanilla did not have heroics. But let's go pick apart some details, see what we can find between the hairs I'm splitting.

What were the vanilla heroics? Well let's see what a BC+ heroic is. Same instance, with trash and bosses that hit harder (irrelevant given relative loot levels), some slightly higher loot, and maybe another boss.

We called it tier .5

Officially it was Dungeon 2, but that was too easy to say compared to tier .5, and back then we believed in challenging ourselves. I once saw someone get hacked and deleted because he said "deeps". We had standards. "This type of item set is sometimes incorrectly referred to as "Tier 0.5" by players." See, I'm right.

In a nutshell, this was a long and expensive quest chain which required players to gather the full dungeon 1 set (sometimes we called it tier 0, for no good reason), and then through the quests, resulting in a half-epic set of overall higher quality, though still inferior to the tier 1 that came from Molten Core. What made this heroic?

"Same instance, with trash and bosses that hit harder (sometimes irrelevant given relative loot levels), some slightly higher loot, and maybe another boss."

The quests were all either outside (not phased) or in the usual instances. Trash was unchanged, except in one case which I'll get to. The quests upgraded the sets and required summoning new, otherwise inaccessible bosses, which dropped some special loot of their own, including pieces of a strange early attempt at a PvP set.

The new fights were not especially hard, but could at times challenge a group, somewhat like heroics not during LK. There is a notable exception, a quest which required the undead side of Stratholme (minus some trash) to be run in 45 minutes. This was not a trivial task. The place was filled with patrols that needed to be handled carefully, due to their tendency to pull adds and fear players. There was not enough time to kill all the trash, so players had to carefully pick pulls, skipping what they could, but knowing that screwing up would be more than a minor inconvenience. If you remember the special bonus at the end of Shattered Halls in BC, it was a bit like that, but harder due to not having an efficient AoE tanking class.

That's pretty much it

Vanilla had more horizontal progression. Or at least angled. Crafters could gain some impressive profits from particular reputations. Mounts weren't in a cash shop, but also in grinds, or luck. World drops mattered forever in a time when we didn't outgear them a month after release. There were ways to progress that did not involve a raid or a random heroic. I liked that. Somehow, some people didn't. I do not understand those people.


Nils said...

To be fair, this set was added quite late in classic.

Shintar said...

I did think of this actually, but I figured it was still covered under "doing normal five-mans". :P I guess you could call this stuff a proto-heroic, similar to how the ZA bear run in BC was a proto-hard mode...

Fun fact: I remember seeing the quest giver that started the dungeon set 2 quest as a newbie and all I could think of was: "You want me to give up my shiny blue bracers? Hell to the no!" I never did end up doing it. :P

Aro said...

The boss fights for 0.5 were only trivial if you were already wearing raid gear. If you were in your tier 0, on the other hand, they were a kind of challenging more in line with early BC heroics, and the devs liked them so much they replicated the fights elsewhere (some of Valthalak's mechanics copied to Leotheras, the arena boss in BRD became the arena boss in MgT, etc).

Klepsacovic said...

@Nils: True. Depending on when we define vanilla, things can change quite a bit. Like having no DM. Or raids.

@Shintar: Poor guy had an earnest proposition, all he needed was gold and crap from Silithus.

@Aro: I loved the arena boss. Healer running around screaming "gerrof me, gerrof me!"

*vlad* said...

If you weren't raiding, and only had some odd drops from Strat or Scholo, those quests were damned hard.

The main differences between vanilla and Cataclysm are quite marked. It took ages to get to level 60 back then; now it takes a couple of days play time.
In vanilla it's true there was very little to do if you weren't into raids or dungeons once you hit 60, whereas now there are all the dailies and rep grinds, but there has to be, seeing as it takes so little time to get to level cap these days.
Sure you could grind rep back then too, but most mobs stopped giving rep around Revered. Anyone for Cauldron runs or Timbermaw rep?

stubborn said...

I just read somwhere in Blogland that MMOs should be "wide" instead of "deep." I really liked that phrasing, and I feel it's similar to what you're talking about here. We need more fun, inventive, engaging stuff to do, not just harder dungeons and raids (although that is part of the width, too). Great post.

Ngita said...

I vaguely remember 3 manning the dire maul boss.

So strat, same individual boss difficulty, but needed to be done in 45 mins, which was moderately hard and UBRS which was pretty easy boss in a guild run but moderately hard to pug. You had to move omg...

Actually when I read the title I figured you would be talking about the first few months when you could raid or do it as 5 man and the 5 mans where hard!. I remember a comment from Blackrock realm forums at the time. We dont zerg UBRS we only take 20 people.

Klepsacovic said...

@vlad: I don't see how the current outdoor dailies are much better than the old rep grinds (beside the stupid revered cutoff problem). Is the trivial smattering of endlessly repeated semi-story a game-changer? Either way you're out killing the same mobs, the same easy mobs, over and over.

Cauldron runs were for people who didn't know to save their scourgestones. :)

@stubborn: I like the width-depth concept. It's seems to me that deep content really only works for an increasingly limited group as the skill/time issues become greater with each tier (such as in vanilla). Progressive nerfing can help with that, of course. But the LK system didn't work at all for me, turning deep into perpetually shallow. The ironic thing is that width can buy time for adding depth. Give us something to do, even if it is a bit repetitive, and that will give time to create new raids.

@Ngita: I don't think I did the DM boss. I took the other path. As for UBRs being 'moderately hard to PUG', have you forgotten that it depended on a hunter being able to kite a boss for more than 5 seconds? Of course I suspect even our hunters were better back then, thanks to their class quests.

I completely forgot about the raid to group switch. Did you also hear about it and think "we can barely do Scholo with ten people, how could five ever do it!?"

Ngita said...

"Depended" No. Nobody knew the hunter strat. Druids slept, Shaman tanked. Whatever could be done. Having said that I remember taking my fresh new 60 hunter in and with trepidation pulling the adds having seen so many fail. I kited and kited and eventually someone yelled are you coming back we are waiting.

It was more UBRS, omg its so hard with 15 you will need a guild run to even finish.

The first guild 5 man scholo run was proudly put up our guild news page. Including the fact it took 6 hours.

Klepsacovic said...

No one knew the hunter strat? That's pretty much the only one I ever saw. I could have sworn druids couldn't even sleep the boss adds because of the level difference. Or maybe that was just a couple of the trash packs.

I stand by my hunter claim.

But also "Whatever could be done" is very true.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious about the assumption that heroics are a good thing.

As a player, once I'm to the point of an instance being farmable, I'm not interested in the same setting and the same boss -- only harder. I'd rather move on to a fresh challenge. Heroics are like reheating content in the microwave.

Seems to me that "same instance, with trash and bosses that hit harder, some slightly higher loot, and maybe another boss" is the solution which a company limited by development resources would take to the demand for more content. They're quick and cheap to produce but also less satisfying than the first attempts at a new raid.

Klepsacovic said...

I love the heroic idea, of seeing content again, sometimes in a new way (without removing the old, cough cough Ony and ZG). The challenge can be a lot of fun and make it fresh again. The problem is the repetitive nature, the farming and grind. I wonder if we'd be better off with some sort of daily limit on heroics, and remove same-day repetition, but that might cause a sanity deadzone problem.

Anonymous said...


I have a hard time agreeing with your quote that "in vanilla it's true there was very little to do if you weren't into raids or dungeons once you hit 60"...

Did you ever try the Paladin or Warlock epic mount quests?

It took my wifes Paladin and my Warlock over a month to work our way through the various quests (farming for the mats required to complete said quests was a lot more difficult and obtaining arcanite bars when there was a cooldown was a lot tougher) and those bosses required a lot more teamwork and skill first time round than most current normal mode raid bosses. Obtaining those mounts back then was a real achievement...

Gearing a toon with non-dungeon gear was also a fair effort - most high end cloth gear required mooncloth, and the demons in Felwood had a much lower drop rate on felcloth than they do now - most plate gear required arcanite bars (see above regarding cooldown).

As a tailor/enchanter, and a completionist, the rep grinds were almost mandatory. Being able to craft all the resistance gear for raids was a huge bonus to my coffers :)

More generally:

~ Vanilla attunements were truly Epic, requiring all players to actually play their characters well to get attuned to most raids.

Yes - finding a good hunter who could kite Drakk to the Beasts room while the rest of the group killed his guards was tough, but in the end you couldn't really do BWL without players who knew what they were doing...

BC attunements were just ridiculous - the Kara one was fine with an enjoyable quest chain and some dungeons which again were tough to do if you coudn't play your class properly (yay for seduction and fear tanking as CC for warlocks) but SSC and TK were just a pain more than anythiing else.

~ Gearing for dungeons also took a lot of effort.

My wife and I spent the better part of two or three weeks farming fire resist gear for MC and we were a lot better players for it. Obtaining all the BS and tailoring plans for resist gear and enchants was also an effort.

~ Finding ways to make money was also more enjoyable. Dailies have in large removed this requirement from the game.

I remember taking my warlock out and soloing Incendius for the Darkmoon card (sorry can't remember which Ace it was and at work so can't wowhead it) and the Large Brilliant Shards from DE'ing the Fire Resistance bracers...

Learning the pats in BRD and when to sac your voidwalker to get safely to the window was fun - the first time you were able to get past the 6 flame elementals was a relief - the first solo Incendius kill (damn running round that ledge, using the hunter jumpshot tactic to cast insta-corruption and shadowbolting when you had enough of a gap built up was a pain in the back-side) was a huge achievement.

~ Finally, levelling an alt was more enjoyable - no heirlooms and bonus guild XP meant that the journey took more time but allowed you to see more of the content.

While I only had the level 60 warlock when BC came out (my warrior was 56 and my hunter and pally were in their 40's), I managed to fill almost 2 years of time withou getting bored of the game...

Over all, I have to say that I did enjoy Vanilla more than any of the expansions if only due to the fact you had to work for anything you wanted.

I now have 7 max level toons and one at 79 and am fiding it very hard to keep myself entertained - and this is only 6 months into the expansion...

snuzzle said...

I remember Dungeon 2. It was the first time we were given premades on the PTR, specifically so that we would all have the Dungeon 1 set necessary to upgrade to Dungeon 2, since that was what we were testing.

People hollered and complained that the Baron run (45 minute Strath UD) which was required couldn't be completed in blues even after the trash was pared down multiple times.

It's funny, everyone says there was so much less to do in vanilla, yet in vanilla most folks had one main with maybe a couple of lowbie alts (like, sub 30 or sub 40). If your had a buddy who had multiple max level toons, that was an accomplishment worthy of mention.

Nowadays alts are common. I've got 12 or 11 level 85s, I don't even know for sure the exact number. Yet there's so much more to do at level cap? Apparently.

I think the main issue is that while there was deceptively less to do at 60 than there is at 85, what you had to do was more complex, more replayable, and more of a time sink. I really wanted my Barbarous Blade, even though it was a blue with what would now be laughable stats, so I farmed DM Trib over and over. And farming DM Trib meant scraping together Trib mats, forming a team in Ironforge willing to do Trib (which, being that I was a hunter, usually took the better part of my night just to form the team) and then getting out there (another 20 to 30 minutes) and actually doing the dungeon.

Nowadays we simply queue for the desired dungeon to farm, and we're there in less than half an hour.

The game has become a lot more simplified and streamlined and I think that's why so many people have altitis now. Whereas before there may have been less to do but it required more time and it was more engaging. Now there's more to do, but it requires far less time, comparitively speaking.

Just my two cents on it, anyway.

Anonymous said...

Snuzzle, that is brillantly right on so many levels. There is far less depth to gameplay nowadays - less complexity, less time consumption, less variety.

Instead of working hard on your blues doing a huge variety of dungeons, using crafting mats and cooldowns, reputations, or raiding truly difficult, time-consuming content.. you run heroics. Ad naseum, you run heroics. Even when a new tier comes out, if you ain't raiding, you're running the same old heroics ad naseum.

Swede said...

Great post.

That questline was hella involving too, and I've wiped on that final boss in UBRS with a full group of 70s. Guy was no joke.

Klepsacovic said...

Ace of elementals. Did your enchanter get really rich when the AQ gates event flooded the server with greens?

@snuzzle: I think there is more to do, but it's faster, so time-wise it's a lot less. Some people like the convenience, but given that it's all relative, I see little difference between advancing half as fast if everyone is at the same slow speed.

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