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An Argument Against World of Warcraft Legacy Servers (Part 1)

Warcraft Legacy Servers

A common request for World of Warcraft is the addition of legacy realms. In a nutshell, a legacy realm—or legacy servers, if your prefer—would be like playing World of Warcraft before Cataclysm. The discussion is far more nuanced than this, but I’ll get into details after the jump.

What makes this a common request? There have been nearly 10,000 threads started on the Battle.net forums (in both US and EU regions) since they went live in late 2009. Additionally, at least 30,000 posts have been made in those threads. It’s unknown how many threads have been started on Blizzard’s old WoW forums.

After the jump, read Blizzard’s official stance on the subject. After all, with such demand, how can they possibly say no?

Blizzard’s Stance

We occasionally see requests for us to open pre-TBC realms, or classic realms if you prefer. Lately there have also been requests for pre-WotLK realms, and I am sure that once the next expansion pack is released there will be requests for pre-Cataclysm realms as well. We have answered these requests quite a few times now saying that we have no plans to open such realms, and this is still the case today.

We have no plans to open classic realms or limited expansion content realms, and you should not expect to see the opening of such realms with the launch of Cataclysm either.

We realize that some of you feel that the classic game was more fun than the current game, and as a result would like to revel in nostalgia; the developers however prefer to keep the game moving forward as they want the game to continuously evolve and progress.

“We don’t have plans at this time” is just a polite way of saying ‘no.’ This has actually caused a bit of a stir, as it has been said in the past with regards to many of WoW’s current features, notably cross-faction transfers. However, when read in context with the rest of the post, it’s very clear that Blizzard is not going to give World of Warcraft Legacy servers at any point.

With that in mind, how much real demand is there for Legacy realms? The 30,000+ post figure could be cited, except that most of those threads turn into back-and-forth discussion between the same few dozen people. The 10,000 thread figure could be cited, except that the same dozen people seem to be posting the majority of them. How can anyone really know what players want?

I conducted a survey. My process for collecting responses was to queue up for an instance via Looking For Dungeon. I would then ask the other 4 people in the group, “Would you be interested in playing on a legacy server if Blizzard added them?” If people dropped group and someone replaced them, I would ask the question again. I made note of character names and realm so that duplicate answers wouldn’t be recorded. I did this for both factions, asking over 200 players across 3 battlegroups—I wanted to make sure I had at least 100 responses from each faction and through as broad a level range as possible. I used this process because it allowed players to respond yes or no, engage in discussion of the topic, or simply not say anything. Here are my results:

24% of players said no.
23% of players said yes.
2% of players were confused by the question but answered no.
51% of players did not respond.

The discussions that arose were interesting. In addition to clarifying what the players wanted from a Legacy Realm, they also gave me ideas as to what Blizzard can actually do to appease their fans. That’s a topic for another time, so let’s talk about Legacy Realms and why players want them (or not).

Quest Content Was Better!

When players look back fondly at old quest content, they’re usually thinking of the epic quest chains that span the whole of Azeroth like Fallen Hero of the Horde or The Missing Diplomat. Aside from a dozen or so quests like these, most of the quests in World of Warcraft were very mundane: kill 10 boars, collect 20 wolf pelts, or pick 8 flowers. The claim that quest content was better is false. Furthermore, there were only about 600 quests in all of World of Warcraft before the Burning Crusade expansion. Today, there are more than 9000 quests available. I find it hard to believe Blizzard has been unable to recapture that sense of epic adventure.

It is very likely that the core complaint is that the epic quest chains were a rarity—and often only available for the hardcore max level raiders. This brings to mind the idea that completion of those quests was seen as status symbols that just don’t matter anymore. Nobody wants to be just another faceless player; they want to be among the elite few who rescued the king of Stormwind! It’s a childish sense of “things are special when only I have them.”

Quests Today Are Too Easy

When WoW launched, there were several indicators for quest difficulty. Quests would be colored grey, green, yellow, orange, or red depending on difficulty; a grey quest would be trivial and not award experience, while a red quest would be impossible to complete. Quests could also be tagged as Group, Elite, Dungeon, or Raid. Group quests obviously required forming a group to complete, dungeon quests took place in a dungeon, and raid quests could only be completed in a raid instance. Elite quests would take place in world micro-dungeons such as the Ruins of Alterac or Darkwhisper Gorge and players would be facing elite-level monsters. Quest difficulty varied wildly and the indicators were sometimes misleading.

I think that what people are most upset about currently is that questing is convenient. They liked grouping up and tackling difficult content. That’s fine, but there is nothing stopping them from grouping up for quests today. What they don’t understand is that the circumstances of grouping up were not fun. If you were playing during off-peak hours, you were not likely to find someone at-level to group with; you would probably have to ask someone a higher level than you to come by and help, completely trivialize the quest mobs, and leave you with no experience gained. If you can’t find someone, then you’d effectively hit a brick wall and be unable to continue questing. That’s not fun!

Grinding on Warcraft Legacy Servers

Imagine doing this for three hours. Even archaeology is more fun!

This complaint has more to do with convenience than anything. Leveling was all about grinding. Quests, when you could do them, were about grinding. This meant you spent more time in a zone and got to learn the ins and outs, but that’s not really a good thing. It all sounds better for immersion, but what’s really happening is you’d be lying to yourself. Crafting your own stories to justify a grind isn’t immersion but rather a coping mechanism for the dullness.

Quests Today Award Too Much Experience

I was confused by this complaint at first. It turns out that people don’t like having green and grey quests before they finish a zone. Silverpine Forest is focused around a continual push south, so having green quests before you’ve even made it halfway through somehow makes questing less fun. There’s nothing preventing people from completing the quests aside from “I want to be max level now, so I’m just going to do the next zone.”

This is one of the few times when I engaged in conversation with the players I was surveying. I explained to them that it used to be that quests awarded very little experience. The best way to level was killing mobs for hours—grinding—and you would only do quests for the rewards. Grinding is not fun, so Blizzard changed it so that questing is the primary source of experience. When I told this to the group they were unable to comprehend a setup where quests were optional. Leveling on a Warcraft legacy server would be a chore. Leveling is actually better today.

Raiding Was Harder and Harder Is Better

Roughly 3000 people ever saw classic Naxxramas to completion which is 0.0008% of vanilla players. This is not good! That’s beyond awful. There is a difference between challenging and beating the impossible. Those who did beat the impossible were the dedicated few. It should also be noted that Blizzard’s raid design team rarely did any extensive testing. Instead of forming a full raid of 40 employees, they would go in with less people and overpowered gear to compensate for the loss. Blizzard has since improved on their design techniques over the years which is why raids are apparently easier; Blizzard is building content they can actually test with the appropriate number of players using the actual gear they’ll have.

The original boss mechanics were ridiculously simple. It was an endurance race to see which would die first: someone in the raid, or the boss? Fights would be so long that healers would need to be rotated out so they could get mana back. Making people sit and wait while other people get to do stuff is not fun, nor is that difficult. There was very little challenge in terms of strategy: you just point your DPS at the boss, point boss away from raid. The real challenge was putting a full raid of 40 people together and getting them to cooperate. This is why there’s an add-on called Deadly Boss Mods; getting 40 people to listen to the raid leader (or one of her many assistants) is much more difficult than having a giant block of text pop up saying “kill the whelps!”

Today, players can lock their experience at level 60 to do that old content with 40 people and have a ridiculously easy time. Their level-appropriate gear won’t be poorly itemized. Every class now has utility for all three specs whereas in the past some were relegated to support roles—shadow priests were almost exclusively mana batteries. Today’s players will be wise to Blizzard’s tricks, which is basically avoiding fire on the ground and standing behind the boss. They will have the strategies, tactics, and DBM available to take the edge off; these are things that were not available to raiders back in the day. Raiding is easier today because the community made it easier.

In fact, I issue the following challenge to anyone serious about raiding being easy today: for each new tier of raid content, convince your raid to turn off DBM and Blizzard’s own boss emotes. None of you can look up videos for strategy; you have to come up with a strategy on your own. You also cannot open the dungeon journal and see what the boss can do, meaning you have to wipe several times before you can make sense of what to do. I look forward to hearing someone saying raiding is not a challenge!

On Thursday, we’ll talk about what questing did to PvP and why non-raid max level content sucked. Oh yes, there are more reasons why giving World of Warcraft legacy servers is a bad idea.

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