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An Argument Against Legacy Servers (Part 2)

Earlier this week I started talking about why a legacy server in World of Warcraft is a bad idea. Quests existed for gear rewards and intrinsically promoted grinding. Questing required grouping with other players because difficulty fluctuated wildly. Questing just wasn’t a viable means of leveling. Once you reached max level, raiding was a joke. Everything about PvE was built around tedium and made playing WoW like a second job. Things were bad.

Today we’re talking about PvP, what it was like to be a max level player who didn’t raid, and how the state of the gold economy was back then. If you’ve read Part 1 of this series, what follows shouldn’t come as a surprise to you. I guess that doubles as a spoiler that things were bad.

At Least PvP On A Legacy Server Will Be Better

Classic PvP heavily favored melee. Casters were screwed. The only ranged class that could reasonably compete was hunters. See, what happened as a caster is you’d be walking along and then suddenly die. Maybe it’s a warrior charging you or a rogue ambushing you. You’d be wearing cloth, so you wouldn’t have the health or armor to survive. Hunters got off easy because they were wearing mail, making them sturdier targets than casters.

Melee players also learned early on that you can run through people. Virtually every spell at launch required the caster to face the target. Melee could run through you and interrupt your cast. More often than not, you’d die before they took any damage, unless you brought your staff out and tried to melee them.

The exception to this rule is the priest. Priests are just plain awesome. We could shield and heal which made us harder targets to bring down. On top of that, priests were also the best healers in the game (we still are), so going up against a priest meant a long fight. Melee would probably still win, but they’d have to wait for us to run out of mana before killing us. Honestly, being able to play a priest in classic is the only good reason a legacy server would be a good idea—a tiny ray of light cast on an endless sea of darkness.

But World PvP Was Awesome!

I remember the epic world PvP battles. Ashenvale, Hillsbrad, and Crossroads were all popular battlegrounds. There’s a reason for that, and it’s not a very good one. It ties back in with how tedious leveling was. However, when people refer to world PvP, they just mean the endless Tarren Mill/Southshore conflict, which I’ll refer to as TMS from this point.

TMS was a conflict born from emergent play. There are two quest hubs in the area, one for each faction: Horde had Tarren Mill, Alliance had Southshore. The zone was flagged as Contested, meaning everyone in the zone would be flagged on a PvP server. The problem is that the Horde players would come in to the zone at around level 20 while Alliance players would be coming in at around level 26. This meant that Horde players were naturally at a huge disadvantage. Furthermore, leveling broke at this point due to a huge gap in the Horde leveling experience. Horde and Alliance were forced into an uneven conflict and the broken quest design meant these players would be stuck there for a long time. It was a natural powder keg.

TMS usually started with Alliance aggression. The bored and over-leveled Alliance players would swoop in and attack the quest givers in Tarren Mill. This would prompt players to flee to Undercity to rally the Horde to defend Tarren Mill. If the Alliance’s group was large enough, then they would even take out the flight master, thus rendering Tarren Mill helpless to call for aide.

Sometimes the Horde would initiate an attack on Southshore by summoning Helcular.

The Horde would then assemble an army to destroy the Alliance in Tarren Mill. With this new army, the Horde would then retaliate and attack Southshore. The Alliance would fight back and drive the Horde back to Tarren Mill. This back and forth would continue for an hour or more until the battle brought both armies to the area between Tarren Mill and Southshore. Hapless players who were trying to kill the lions, bears, and spiders would get roped into the battle and die quickly. TMS would usually end in the freshly minted No Man’s Land, as both towns would be heavily decimated with town NPCs still dead and waiting to respawn.

Larger TMS skirmishes often involved hundreds of players. The warzone between Tarren Mill and Southshore wasn’t very large. When you have many players grouped together, server bandwidth explodes exponentially. TMS was often the cause of the Eastern Kingdoms servers crashing. Anyone playing on a legacy server would be in for a nasty surprise, if only it would ever have the population to enable those infamous crashes.

World PvP was the by-product of a broken leveling design. It was an accident caused by bored players who wanted to grief the enemy faction. World PvP as it existed in classic WoW is gone because players don’t spend very much time in a given zone. World PvP is gone because players come into a zone and they’ll be the same level as the enemy faction.

World PvP is gone because it was only fun if you were participating in the battle.

My Mounts Will Mean Something On A Legacy Server!

Mounts used to be a status symbol; only the best and dedicated players had mounts in classic! However, this is a fallacy. Players did have to work for their mounts, but that was because mounts were very expensive. The first mounts, a 60% ground mount, were available at level 40. These cost a total of 100 gold—90 for the mount, 10 for the training. A 100% ground mount was available at level 60, and it cost 1000 gold— 900 for the mount and 100 for the training. You’d technically have mounts, in the sense that you’ll have your 60% mount and your 100% mount. Having a stable of 70+ mounts is just not going to happen on a legacy server.

That mounts are a status symbol is a fallacy because there just weren’t that many players back then. There wasn’t very much gold in circulation. You could NOT sell a stack of copper ore for more than one gold because no one would be able to buy it. You might have been able to sell a stack of mithril for that much, but you’d have to work for it. You’d be working for days before you could get your level 40 mount—it was more likely that you wouldn’t have it until after you hit level 50! Acquiring an epic mount meant months of work.

The alternative to walking around on foot was to talk to a flight master. Flight paths back in the day were more expensive, they were slower, and they didn’t take you the whole way. A modern flight path from Stormwind to Light’s Hope Chapel will take you to Thorium Point, Thelsamar, Refuge Pointe, and Aerie Peak first. On a legacy server, you would land at Thorium Point and have to talk to the flight master to go to Thelsamar. You’d do this for every flight path. If you wanted to go from point A to point B the fastest way possible, then you needed to have a map that told you which flight point goes where, how long it would take, and the cost for each route.

Again, this falls back onto how playing WoW was essentially a second job.

Professions Were Prestigious Cash Cows

There’s another fallacy where the top crafters on your server were to be looked upon with reverence. Granted, they would be max level and have several rare patterns and recipes that you didn’t. Your options for people who could craft the item you wanted were few. This meant that the “best” crafters had very little competition to sell their goods. Minimal supply and high demand means having to pay a lot of gold to get that item you want. On a legacy server, which will undoubtedly host less people than a real server did at launch, you’re effectively going to be out of options.

The problem people have with professions is the ubiquity with which players acquire their patterns. There are more players today than there were at launch, so there’s inherently going to be more competition for top-end patterns. On top of that, very few patterns come from rare drops, meaning that you don’t have to wait days for the one person on the server who can craft your breastplate to come on; you could just talk to any of the dozens of players and have it made within 15 minutes. How is that worse?

The Economy Wasn’t Garbage

Runecloth was a very valuable commodity back then. It was used by first aid to make bandages, it was used by tailors to make high-end gear, and it was used for quest turn-ins. There was a lot of demand for runecloth, but because it could only be acquired by high-level players the supply was low; it was a money maker. The problem is nobody really had any money.

When you combine that with how expensive mounts were, you see that players needed more gold. Where was that gold going to come from? Gold farmers, of course! Back then, you would see a lot of bots. These bots would grind mobs to level up—as was the custom—then those bots would farm runecloth and other valuable commodities. Sometimes those characters would be controlled by actual players, making them harder for Blizzard to detect as gold farmers.

The economy was so broken back then that it gave gold farmers a foothold on Azeroth. With a better economy at the start of the game, there wouldn’t be a problem with gold selling today. Technically there would be, but it wouldn’t be as big of a problem. See, a modern gold seller uses social engineering to compromise accounts instead of farming the gold themselves. It’s faster, more reliable, and requires a lesser investment of resources. Basically, if you or someone you know has ever had an account “hacked”, it’s all because of the broken economy.

Today’s economy has the opposite problem: there is too much gold in the economy and not enough places to spend it. Daily quests, raiding, and guild perks all generate a lot of gold. There are a few gold sinks, but they aren’t draining the economy as well as they need to. More sinks, such as the black market auction house, are coming in Mists of Pandaria though.

Speaking of bots…

World of Theme Parks

A complaint heard today is how the post-Cataclysm world is structured. There are NPCs out in the world fighting each other, walking around cities, talking to each other. Animatronics meant to present a facsimile of life on Azeroth, albeit very poorly.

Wouldn’t it be great if NPCs in WoW acted the same way they did back at launch? I have very fond memories of walking up to Kaja in Orgrimmar and giving her all my trash in exchange for silver. Then I would walk over to Thrall and he’d tell me to kill a hundred Orc warlocks—I’m not exaggerating—in Skull Rock for a Lieutenant’s Insignia.

That covers literally everything NPCs in vanilla WoW could do. They would stand in one place all day waiting for someone to bring them a squished rabbit carcass. They would stand in one spot waiting to tell you to go kill 10 boars. They would wander around aimlessly in the wild waiting for you to come kill them.

Seeing NPCs dressed like heroes and walking around Dalaran makes the world feel more alive. Seeing soldiers battling in the field shows us that there is an actual war going on and we’re not the Horde’s one-man army; or the Alliance’s one man army, if you prefer being coddled.

The Legacy Server Will Have A Tight-Knit Community!

When WoW launched, there weren’t as many people playing as there are today. On average, there would have been 12,000 players per server. Realistically, you’d have more or less depending on how many players are on each faction, what time you’re logging in on, and if your server population was high, medium, or low. It’s more likely that you would see 8,500 players on a server at prime time. Of those players, how many would be max level? How many would be raiding?

As a max level player, you wouldn’t see many other players at max level. Your options for grouping would be severely limited. There just weren’t very many people who made it through the slog of leveling. Estimates would put number of raiding guilds per server at around 10, which would mean about 400 players at max level. This is just speculation on my part, but you would be very lucky if you could find even 100 players at max level on a legacy server.

The notion that Looking For Dungeon and Looking For Raid are detrimental to community is completely false. LFD and LFR didn’t do anything to the community. The lacking sense of community has more to do with the natural expansion of the population. If you have several thousand people at max level, of course it’s going to be more difficult to remember any single person or group.

Besides, there isn’t anything that mandates players use LFD and LFR. There is nothing in the game stopping them from interacting with their fellow player. Post on the forums! Recruit people from public chat channels! With just an iota of common sense, anyone complaining about the lack of community can see that it’s just as strong as ever. But of course, that requires effort and it’s easier to bitch and complain.

I should ask one of these people if they would want to go to Wintergrasp with me.

What makes me laugh though are the people who complain about cross-realm battlegrounds ruining the PvP community. A legacy server isn’t going to fix that, because cross-realm battlegrounds were added in patch 1.11. That’s legacy territory right there! Those complainers won’t be able to escape it. Hah! Anyway, cross realm battlegrounds were added because PvP was horribly broken and faction numbers were imbalanced. It also allowed more players to engage in PvP and not having to wait hours (or days, for Alterac Valley) before they could get a chance at playing.

What The Hell does ‘Legacy’ Even Mean?

This is the biggest point of contention. What is legacy? Obviously, it would be content that came before what is currently live. What’s the cutoff though? If it just means pre-Cataclysm Azeroth, then we’re in Wrath of the Lich King territory. However, players wanted legacy servers in Wrath, so it would make sense that it would have to be Burning Crusade content. Again, players wanted legacy servers during The Burning Crusade, so it would have to be vanilla WoW. As you can see, there isn’t any agreement amongst the players who do want a legacy server over what legacy means. If they can’t come to agreement, then how is Blizzard supposed to make it happen? This is a case of players not really knowing what they want. It’s what makes looking through Rose Colored Goggles so easy.

Next time, I’ll present a solution that Blizzard could actually use to address the issue. It won’t be a legacy server, but it’ll be the next best thing. This isn’t saying much, to be honest.

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