Vanilla Challenge

With all the talk about private vanilla servers and the ease in which they are logged onto, I had an idea for some gonzo journalism. “I’ll join one and document my experiences!” Then I remembered something: a whole lot of the vanilla (and TBC) experience was utter garbage. Take paladins, for example. Just… the entire class.

SynCaine doesn’t see this as a possible problem:

I know you didn’t play WoW in vanilla, but do you honestly think some minor class issues (you are talking to someone who did the plaguelands rep grind using a raid spec tank) would have that big an impact on what is overall far superior content and design?

Uh… yes? The paladin experience was unremitting garbage on into TBC when I started, and by all accounts vanilla was worse. But, hey, that is clearly not going to impact the amazing 2004 design. Despite, you know, having to interact with everything through the prism of said garbage class design and moment-to-moment gameplay.

Amusingly, what we know from Nostalrius is that almost 25% of all characters on their two servers were Warriors. The Warrior/Rogue/Mage trifecta was nearly half. Three guesses as to which classes were on top back in the day.

Classes.JPG

Hmm.

But why speculate on these vanilla issues when we can pontificate? Put your money time where your mouth is, and roll a paladin on a private server now! Or a druid. Or a shaman. And don’t heal in dungeons or at the endgame. Nobody cares what sort of nonsense you put up with in 2004, what matters is the nonsense you are willing to put up with (and potentially pay $15/month for) today.

I’m thinking about doing so myself, despite my New Year’s resolution, and despite the fact that we all know what is going to happen. It will be awful because it is objectively awful if you are not zen meditating inbetween mob pulls. Vanilla was probably popular back in the day because it was the least painful entry into a nascent, virtual world filled with co-dependency mechanics to ensure you made internet friends. Which was great if you needed some, but I’m full up these days, thanks.

You know what, though? Fuck it. Let’s wreck this train.

VanillaWoW.JPG

Don’t say I never did anything for you.

 

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Posted on April 15, 2016, in Commentary, WoW and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 27 Comments.

  1. Noo please don’t roll a paladin. :) I actually tried because I wanted so much to be a tankadin on nost vanilla but, its really really hard to make one work. But I guess its cool if you want a challenge. I guess the largest challenge in real vanilla was the others wouldn’t let you even try tank anything unless you were a warrior.

    But yes, vanilla has these great problems as you describe. Especially with the hybrid classes.
    Still it wasn’t on my mind when I tried really since I knew it was a real vanilla server with the aim to simulate exactly how vanilla was. I mainly compared the leveling experience with a few different classes the others being mage, rogue and priest that in compare to paladin worked great for the entirety of vanilla. But comparing early levels while leveling paladin ain’t really broken either, the main issues with the classes doesn’t show much until end game raiding.

    Paladin was one of my most actively played classes through my entire WoW life, it felt like it was better in tbc(still some flaws) -> wotlk before the simplification of everything started to reach the horrible state WoW has today.

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    • Paladin has been my main class since practically the beginning. My first first class was a Belf warlock that got abandoned in the Hinterlands, but after that Azuriel was born as a last-ditch effort to get my money out of having purchased the base game + expansion right off the bat. I tanked the entire way to level cap in TBC, with some minor Ret in BGs (to get the Arathi Basin shoes and other BG gear) along the way. While Tankadins got some heroic dungeon cred towards the end of TBC, I’m still bitter how Blizzard allowed the spec (and Ret) to be all but unplayable for half a decade, including in the Vezax fight in Ulduar in Wrath. I rolled a Death Knight replacement for my main specifically for that fight when my guild was progressing through Ulduar.

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      • I tanked Vezax fight for our raid group progression without any problems!
        Mana drain was manageable (especially on progression), and Paladin was the only one who could skip entire “kite the boss” part and just power through it with cds and Ardent Defender.

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      • I tried, futilely, to look up when they augmented the Vezax encounter for Prot paladins, but I absolutely remember the consternation during progression. If you managed to beat Vezax, great, but my guild was not. Indeed, Wrath was a long string of “I should’ve rerolled Death Knight” with the only saving grace being the OP Ardent Defender, which did not stay OP for long enough.

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  2. According to MMO-C last November, WoW population balance is just as bad as Nost, if not worse.
    Nost warriors are about 80% above the mean population. Warlords hunters are 80% above the mean population
    Nost’s top three classes are about 45% of the population, while the Warlord’s top 3 (Hunter, Druid, Paladin) makes up 40% of the population (with 11 classes as opposed to 8).
    Nost’s bottom two classes (Shaman/Paladin and Druid) are equal in population to the biggest warrior. Warlord’s bottom three classes (Rogue, Monk and Warlock combined are only slightly more populous than hunters.

    Personally, I think that is why hunters are getting wrecked by the class fantasy bat.

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    • I dunno about Hunters being wrecked. I definitely remember having a guild member in TBC that tried really, really hard to make a melee Hunter work. He did so many Black Morass runs to get Latro’s Shifting Swords… gives me heartburn just remembering it. If he’s still out there paying attention to WoW news, I’m sure he’s excited.

      As for class distribution, do you have a link? What I can see from this post is that (active characters only) the Hunter/Druid/Paladin combo make up 35.42% of the total. Which is high, but the expected value is ~27%; nothing like the near 25% of Warrior alone in Nost.

      The real bottom line though is that everyone has a chance to be viable in endgame content no matter what the spec, these days. That was absolutely not the case in vanilla or TBC.

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  3. Paladins and shaman can only be played by alliance respective horde. That’s why they will always be less popular over all.

    I’m actually with SynCaine on that. I’ve leveled a warlock in vanilla, which in PvE was a lesser efficient version of the mage class. But I’ve enjoyed it because it was more fun to me, had more appealing class fantasy and more interesting spells and tools.

    One huge problem vanilla had was a lack of tanks. Not playing a tank, nor being befriended with a tank, would lock you out of some content. That probably explains why the majority plays a warrior, the unrivaled king of tanks and the only hybrid unaffected by the hybrid tax.

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  4. So, it’s already been done, with said blogger just barely finishing. She rolled a pally, played almost solo (on a pvp server to boot), and that as a second or third game. She has spent less than 5 hours a week on average to get there.

    I hope you have as much fun as she seems to have had.

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  5. Well, as I said in the comments to Syncaine’s post, I actually did just finish levelling a paladin to 60 on a private Vanilla server, as prot/holy no less. Yes, I did tank and heal dungeons while levelling, I’m not sure what that particular part of your challenge is supposed to prove. It seems kind of circular logic to want to prove that Vanilla WoW gameplay isn’t fun while explicitly forbidding people from doing something they might find particularly fun (healing dungeons).

    Anyway, I don’t disagree that some of the class design was pretty wacky in Vanilla. In fact, in one of my first posts about playing on the private server I poked fun at the fact that I spent hours and hours having no offensive abilities and could do nothing but auto-attack. Or how about tanking instances with no taunt? I’m not claiming that’s great, but the overall package is still more engaging than current WoW. The last dungeon run I did on retail the entire run was one futile effort to catch up with the tank to be able to hit something (since I was melee dps) while he just rushed straight to the end, dragging all the mobs with him and taking hardly any damage. Now that is truly pointless.

    That said, I look forward to reading about your experiences. I expect that you’ll hate it, based on how focused you always seem to be on efficiency when it comes to gaming. :P But not all of us are like that.

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    • An early winner!

      …why would you do that to yourself? :P

      I’m surprised that you were “allowed” to tank on the paladin, for all the reasons you already described. Warriors were the only “legit” tank well into TBC from my experience, and I was acutely aware of how much I was holding my own guild back for main-tanking Kara as a Prot paladin.

      In any case, the non-healing part of the challenge is to highlight how heavy the hybrid tax was in those days, to the well-established point that one wouldn’t be able to raid at all without being a healbot only. It’s a facet of the vanilla experience oft glossed-over in the rush to proclaim the brilliance of the rest of the design, as if class balance and moment-to-moment gameplay is irrelevant in comparison.

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      • I only really recall one group turning me down as a tank, and I suspect that may have had more to do with the healer being a paladin as well and not wanting to risk extra competition for whatever loot he was after. What happened more often was that I was the one to pass on tanking opportunities because I could see that one or more damage dealers were higher level than me and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to hold aggro against them.

        It’s basically the opposite of rose-coloured glasses: people thinking that things were much worse in Vanilla than they really were, e.g. “nobody would let [class] play [role]”. The truth is, much fewer people were even inclined to try to play a spec that wasn’t really supported. But when you’re spamming chat with “LF1M, need tank”, would you rather take someone whose class might be sub-optimal or keep spamming? People were/are a lot more flexible in that sort of environment than you might think.

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      • As someone who played a Paladin in Vanilla, you won’t see the full weight of the tax until raiding. The paladin was “good enough” in 5-man content, especially if the playerbase is a more competent than average. Though my personal opinion is that the Vanilla paladin (and shaman) was originally designed as a “5th person” off-tank/off-healer to complement the tank and healer at the same time.

        The main reason paladins were unhappy in Vanilla is that you hit 60, went to raid, and were forced into the single role of healing. Generally paladins were pretty happy before that point.

        A lot of my older posts from the first year or two of blogging cover this in detail. See: http://blessingofkings.blogspot.ca/2005/12/what-is-paladin.html

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  6. Wait so the least popular classes are the two that are locked to one faction? No way! What next, classes that are more limited by race are also less popular? Shit is the sky blue today?

    Here is the main point you are missing in all of this though, silly ‘challenge’ aside: If in your opinion large parts of vanilla are utter garbage, what does that makes large parts of current WoW? Or are you saying you believe current day WoW is a better game overall than vanilla WoW? Because if you are, please consult the scoreboard and re-evaluate.

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    • The same infographic shows there were more Alliance than Horde, and yet somehow more shaman overall. Nevermind how all healers put together barely match Warriors alone.

      If in your opinion large parts of vanilla are utter garbage, what does that makes large parts of current WoW? Or are you saying you believe current day WoW is a better game overall than vanilla WoW? Because if you are, please consult the scoreboard and re-evaluate

      If we’re going by scoreboard, Wrath was clearly the pinnacle.

      The WoW devs have made a lot of dumb decisions over the years, but the actual pushing buttons aspect of WoW has never been better. Is there even any way to dispute this? As someone who spends more time pushing buttons than being socially engineered, I can appreciate that.

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      • The expansion that stopped the growth of the game (or more accurately, saw it lose subs in existing territories, offset by launching in new areas) is your view of the pinnacle huh? Ok then. Kinda explains your view and understanding of vanilla enjoyment.

        And that last part makes zero sense. If pushing buttons was better than ever, why has 60%+ of the population left? Guess they were just all having TOO much fun, yes?

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      • You said scoreboard, Wrath has the highest score. It is also comical for you to reference expanding in other territories when the meteoric rise of WoW was largely due to Chinese players. Nevermind market saturation, the fact you routinely call WoW a “fluke” in the first place, etc, etc. The fact remains Wrath held 12 million subs throughout nearly its entire duration.

        Besides, if we assume a 5% churn rate per month, it’s arguable whether WoW’s growth actually died out at all. When looking at just WoW West, it was 2.5 million subs at the beginning of 2006, and 3.5 million at the beginning of 2007. So, replacement of 125k/month plus ~84k on top. In 2009, Wrath started with 5 million and sustained for the whole year, meaning 250k/month replacement subs. 250k > 209k, ergo Wrath actually gained more subs at a higher rate than any time since the release of even vanilla WoW, on average. (2008-2009 period had ~277k/month, but that’s arguably confounded by the release of Wrath itself)

        And that last part makes zero sense. If pushing buttons was better than ever, why has 60%+ of the population left? Guess they were just all having TOO much fun, yes?

        For all the dumb decisions they made in other areas, of course. This isn’t rocket surgery. Unless you believe all the asinine vanilla nonsense like having paladins only auto-attack for nearly a dozen levels or 5-minute Blessings (etc) are the key factors in its growth.

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      • You’re link with the ‘data’ stops showing NA/EU long before WotLK… so what was the point of everything you wrote? And how does anything you did say/show counter the fact that during WotLK subs went flat for the first time in WoW’s history, despite the fact that during WotLK WoW was released in new regions?

        “For all the dumb decisions they made in other areas, of course. This isn’t rocket surgery. Unless you believe all the asinine vanilla nonsense like having paladins only auto-attack for nearly a dozen levels or 5-minute Blessings (etc) are the key factors in its growth.”

        See this is what you aren’t getting. 5min blessings weren’t amazing design, but they didn’t make anyone unsub either, meanwhile 95% of the rest of vanilla was keeping people subbed. The reverse is true for the current game, they ‘fixed’ that 5% (arguably, but lets at least give them that), while throwing the 95% into the dumpster, which is exactly why so many people jump in for a month, eat the content up, and leave.

        Honestly feel we are moving into trolling territory now with you trying to say current WoW is a better version than the one that had double the amount of people playing…

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      • You’re link with the ‘data’ stops showing NA/EU long before WotLK… so what was the point of everything you wrote?

        The NA/EU data is combined under WoW West, which continues on into Wrath’s first year. Wrath gained more subs than vanilla did, no matter the metric. I have an extra nice post queued up for Monday just for this discovery, so thanks for that.

        Honestly feel we are moving into trolling territory now with you trying to say current WoW is a better version than the one that had double the amount of people playing…

        And I feel you are reverse trolling me here. What is difficult to understand that a game can be fun, but not have the hooks that keep people playing long-term? You talk about that every single time you talk about WoW! Killing mobs has never felt better than today – certainly worlds better than auto-attacking and trying to Seal-twist as a paladin. Other than Nils, who likes having to keep stacks of food/water to drink after every 3 pulls? Things like leveling might feel super dumb these days, but the actual cadence of attacking is on point.

        I’m not even going to get into raiding, but there has been every indication that the raid encounters have been the best they ever have. Ulduar is still the pinnacle for a lot of people (Vezax notwithstanding, IMO).

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  7. My most amused memory of vanilla WoW is that we had a Paladin in my guild who was the specialist out-of-combat rezzer. Yes, his job in our raids was to stand 50 feet behind the rest of the group so he didn’t get pulled into combat when we engaged a boss, and could freely rez any of our healers of ranged DPS that died in the fight.

    He loved it. Not surprising, since the other main job for Paladins was refreshing a buff on 40 raid members every five minutes.

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  8. Glad to hear you will give it a try. Roll on Kronos, got good scripting and population. Let us know how it goes. :)

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  9. This doesn’t seem like an experiment in the truest sense of the word. Rather, it seems like you saying that vanilla was crap, and you will now play vanilla to tell us how crap it is. A bit self fulfilling. :)
    I’ve played on a private server, and I’ve played live versions of each expansion. I prefer vanilla. But I wouldn’t claim that everyone would or should feel this way.
    I just don’t understand this need for people who don’t like vanilla to try so hard to prove to people who legitimately like it that they are wrong.

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  10. I’m looking forward to the exciting post where you detail your issues with downloading the client :-)

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  11. Pretty good recreation of Vanilla WoW is offered and I don’t know how you feel about things like private servers, but there are some running right now.

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