Why the Hate for Vanilla WoW?

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Over at the venerable WoW Insider, Senior Editor Mike Schramm stirred up quite a controversy by pointing out something that’s been rumbling in the WoW community for a while now: should Blizzard get rid of/bolster and rework Vanilla WoW?

Now by “Vanilla WoW,” we mean all of the original level 1-60 content that launched with the game. You remember that stuff, don’t you? Onxyia and her whelps, Tier 1 gear, Deadmines and the Defias, Tauren fighting the Centaur in Mulgore, and of course, who can forget Barrens chat?

Silliness aside, there are two very diametrically opposed camps here; some people out there want Blizzard to open “Vanilla Servers,” where the level cap is still 60 and all of the content ends with the content released before Burning Crusade – a place where people can still wrap themselves in the original content without the treadmill rush to level to 70 and then 80, rushing through Outlands and then Northrend. On the other side of the argument are the people who want to essentially sunset 1-60 entirely, and make all characters like Death Knights: as long as you have an 80 somewhere you can roll a new character starting at level 55 anywhere. Some of those people even say you can limit it to a server – if you have an 80 on that server, you should be able to start any class at 55 on that server.

I can see both sides of this debate: there are those of us looking to gear, level, and armor up to assist our guilds with raids and instances, and for those of us who are looking to do that the original content from 1-60 is little more than a path to that, and at worst it’s an obstacle in the way there. At the same time, for those of us who really enjoy the original old world content for its rich story, lore, interesting NPCs and gameplay, the thought of removing it or otherwise toning it down or isolating it from the higher-level game content is abhorrent.

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At this stage, with 2 expansion packs behind it and a subscriber base of 11.5 million people, all looking to play the game for their own reasons but many of them looking to experience the biggest and best content the game has to offer; the height of the lore events, the biggest achievements, to get the best gear and run the hardest raids with like-minded friends, or even to PVP and test their skills against other players of the highest caliber, it makes sense that they’d all be interested mostly in leveling as quickly as possible to experience that content.

To those people, old world Azeroth is a staging ground, a place they’re forced to return to for certain quests, and a place they don’t really care to experience because all of the content doesn’t reap the rewards they’re looking for. If you put auction houses in Shattrath and Dalaran, I don’t think many players would ever go back except for world events like holidays where people are forced to. To those people, it makes sense for Blizzard to offer them a way to skip that content entirely and begin new characters at level 55, the same way you can with Death Knights. Their argument is that if you didn’t have to level from 1-55, there’d be more people playing other classes and not just Death Knights.

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Then there’s the other side of the argument; the people who think that Blizzard’s lorecrafting was best in Vanilla WoW, and the staging ground was set for a number of excellent world events, openings, content introductions, and roleplay that was perfectly balanced and well executed at the time. Those people would prefer to stay in that old-world content, rolling new characters and living new virtual lives easily between levels 1 and 60 without the pressure to get into Outland and then again to get into Northrend. To them, the expansions have all but diluted the game by forcing all of the players into new and smaller zones with less opportunity for story and development of the world that World of Warcraft is primarily set in.

To those people, the only way to reclaim that world for themselves and people like them is for Blizzard to either re-work the old world content (possibly using phasing) so it’s enjoyable at higher levels as well as lower levels, to introduce more high-level content into the old world, or to simply open a series of vanilla WoW servers where the game can only be played up to level 60. To them, it’s the only way to breathe new life into the content that really drew so many people into the game. The possibility of allowing people to skip it entirely, even in the form of Death Knights, is a slap in the face.

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Like I said before, I can see things both ways, and I don’t really have a solution. I don’t think that Vanilla WoW servers are a good idea; they’ll likely wind up being low-pop or RP havens, and we have both low-pop servers and RP servers already where people can experience that content any way they like. The vanilla-WoW crowd could very well stop at 60, not buy the expansions, and stay where they are; even form guilds of like-minded people who want to experience the content in the same way. It would make more sense than Blizzard spending time and energy reworking old world content or building new servers exclusively for that content.

The “skip it entirely” crowd doesn’t have the best idea either – allowing players to skip old-world content all but ensures that content will never be played, and it ensures that players will never really get a feel for their classes or their abilities, or take the time to experience that old world content. They’ll only visit it in order to level tradeskills and complete certain quests. You’ll essentially wind up with a host of players who play like the eBayers did back when people still did that, and the content even in the end-game will suffer for it because the general quality of player will go down and the difficulty and maturity of that content will have to go down with it.

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Mike argues in his post that Blizzard will eventually have to give us some kind of option to either power-level or start later in the game, as the level cap marches higher and higher it’ll be all but inane to make people level through it, and eventually that content won’t get played anyway – only so much as is required to level. I agree, but again, I have no specific suggestions on how Blizzard should do it.

Perhaps only allow someone to start a class at 55 if they have an 80 already? Perhaps Blizzard will eventually rework or add new Azeroth content specifically for higher levels, or add higher-level versions of old world content – just evolved to allow for level progression (the laughable “heroic Deadmines” idea, or the “level 80 Deadmines with Smee in charge now” idea). Perhaps Blizzard won’t do anything, and the onus of how someone plays the game will be left to the individual players – which is the best way to go, in my book. Blizzard provides the stage, let the players decide how they perform.

What do you think? Is Vanilla WoW dead? Should it be removed and everyone start in Outlands? Should it be modified to suit more end-game players? Is Vanilla WoW fine the way it is and more people should play it? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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