This Is Not the Warcraft It Used To Be

It’s a week into the Legion expansion, and I can tell I’m on the outs with Blizzard already.  The backing image on my Battle.net launcher has been changed to the Burning Crusade packaging image from the image that adorned the packaging for Warlords of Draenor.

You may well ask “Why Burning Crusade?” at this point. Burning Crusade is the first expansion of World of Warcraft, not the vanilla version, the original version.

The answer to that is both simple and complex.  The simple answer is that Blizzard has dropped the myth that Burning Crusade is a separate expansion (even though you can buy packaged versions of it and later expansions from Amazon) and back in the days of Mists of Pandaria they bundled the two together, creating a default image for WoW that was different from the vanilla version of the original game.

With the current expansion they have dropped the pretense that any of the previous expansions were actually expansions to the original game in the online store. So why are they sticking to the Burning Crusade image? Because changing it would take work, and they are on a budget from Activision. It is either that or perhaps there is truth in advertising. Burning Crusade is what the current WoW experience seems most like. Burning Crusade is where Demon Hunters, the new playable character class, was the enemy of choice. Burning Crusade is where the Burning Legion was first assaulted directly.  Legion is a rehash of Burning Crusade in much the same way that Warlords of Draenor was a rehash of story content first introduced in Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal.

In the online store you can’t get any of the previous expansions. You can only purchase World of Warcraft and Legion. There is a problem with this, and that is where the story really gets complex. It gets complex because there really isn’t two versions of the game.

Blizzard will tell you that there are two versions. There is the version of the game which includes preserved content from previous iterations of the game.  Then there is the version with the additional content that they want to charge you almost three times as much to play, as well as the cost of a monthly subscription.

Never mind that the content represents the smallest expansion of World of Warcraft to date. The problem is that what they are calling World of Warcraft isn’t World of Warcraft. What you are purchasing is a disabled version of the accumulated base programming that Blizzard has put into their World of Warcraft project. You are being asked to pay for what the programmers who first put together Blizzard gave away for free. A shareware version of content to whet your appetite for what Legion has to offer. That is because there really isn’t a version of WoW other than Legion.

Having played every version of the game since and including Burning Crusade, I can tell you the differences between each expansion it pretty gory detail. I won’t bore non-players with too many of these details.

It is worth noting that major sections of each expansion have been lopped out of the current game structure.  The legendary quest lines for Mists of Pandaria and Warlords of Draenor have been removed. It may not seem like much, but those quest chains marked the actual progress through the game as it was played when it was the current version of the game. If you are playing the game today and you wonder why certain factions, structures and islands still appear in the game, what you are seeing are the remnants of endgame content that has been bypassed and pruned.

This is aside from the fact that playstyles of the various classes have also been changed and simplified. If I was purchasing and playing the first game called World of Warcraft, I would have to have extra space in my bags for soul shards while playing a Warlock. Brew poisons as a Rogue. I would have to have arrows or bullets for my weapons. There would be no professions of inscription, jewelcrafting or archeology.  There would be no Pandarens, no Blood Elves, no Draenei. No playable versions of Goblins or Worgen. There would be no Death Knights or Monks. You would have to be in a particular faction to play Paladin or Shaman. I would not see a disabled option for creating and playing a Demon Hunter.

In short, it would be a different game if it was really World of Warcraft.  This is the bigger problem for Blizzard. Last year Blizzard shut down the fan-run server Nostalrius.  Fan run servers do present a threat to Blizzard’s intellectual property, and they had every right to shut that server down; but the existence of the site and others like it present the problem and the question that Blizzard wants to go away.

Players want to play the games they purchased, and those games don’t exist anymore.

There really is no place to play the games that I have faithfully purchased from Blizzard over the years. I cannot play Wrath of the Lich King. I cannot participate in the battle at the wrathgate and then storm the Undercity in retaliation, facing off against the opposing faction in the throne room of Sylvanas herself.  That pivotal moment in the game is lost.  The Kor’Kron and the rise of Garrosh? Also lost.  Orcs no longer guard Undercity watching the forsaken, guarding against another attempt to turn all of the living into puddles of goo.

If you click one of the many links above (aside from the battle.net links) and purchase one of those products right now, you cannot play the game that is pictured on the outside of the box.  You will be forced to play the disabled version of Legion, the version now called World of Warcraft. There are no servers which run the historic versions of the server software, software needed to play the games historically sold under the World of Warcraft banner.

A consumer should be able to be assured that their purchases can be used in the fashion advertised. This is business 101.  That none of the expansions exist to be played in the fashion the game was intended to run at the time of publication and purchase presents a problem to Blizzard, specifically because they make noises about this being one of the longest running games in the history of computer gaming. Because they are still making money off the franchise they have created.  Because they have a lot of disgruntled fans out in the hinterlands who have previously purchased games they’d like to play but are prevented from playing them because Blizzard does not maintain a copy of previous integral parts of the game’s programming.

If this is one of the longest running Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games Blizzard, why can’t the fans of previous versions still log on and play the game they played then?  I really wish someone at Blizzard would take the time to answer that question.

Postscript

With the release of Classic WoW and now Classic Burning Crusade, those two specific versions of the original game and it’s first expansion are now available. It is a lie that Blizzard engages in when it claims that the game is exactly the way it was when the game was introduced. It is not. The player base is different and there are significant differences in Blizzard’s monetization strategy visible in the purchase offerings for those classic games.

You can now boost to get to level 60, for the first time ever. That is one example. I would have loved to have that option available to me when I subscribed back in 2008. Maybe I would have understood then that the real gameplay only occurs at max level, as far as Blizzard and the players it caters to are concerned. That would have been a highly valued bit of information, and it would have saved me an immense amount of time trying to play a completionist version of World of Warcraft. Just run to max level and skip the distractions. That would be the advice I offer new players today.

The original game and Burning Crusade still remain flawed in crucial ways. There is no system in-game for organizing groups and doing the one thing that MMO’s were set up to do, namely play in massively multiplayer areas of the game. There are no guild advantages in-game aside from the ability to create a guild. There is no guild bank in the original game, making organizing groups the only reason to have a guild since joining a guild is the only way to organize anything in game. Cross-server looking for group and looking for raid functions did not exist until late in the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, with patch 3.3.0 Fall of the Lich King. This makes dungeoning and raiding in both World of Warcraft and Burning Crusade the same kind of torture it always was, with one crucial difference.

In the classic versions of the game, there are elitist players who cater to the newbs so long as they obtain large quantities of in-game currency to pay them with. The black market for gold has never been larger or more vibrant than it is in World of Warcraft Classic. You are constantly barraged with offers (WTS) to lead you through dungeons on the public text channels. Just have a fat purse for them to loot in the process and you are good to go. Raids remain the domain of guilds and elites that come prepared to join the few pick-up groups that do manage to be created in the hobbled universe that was World of Warcraft and Burning Crusade.

I would have been more impressed with Blizzard’s classic roll-out if they had put forth the effort to incorporate the classic game into the current retail version of World of Warcraft, allowing all the expansions to be played directly together from one login. I erroneously assumed that was the reason that they proposed the level squish at the beginning of Shadowlands. With max level returning to level 60, all raids could be played at max level as if they were current content! What a feast that would have been to experience. Alas, they did not take that route and instead made everything before Shadowlands irrelevant to end-game play; just as each succeeding expansion has made previous content not only irrelevant, but apparently despised and envied in the eyes of the programmers who created it.

As they said when fans were putting the Nostalrius server together:

Why would anyone want to play that old game?

Apparently they have figured out that there is money to be mined from nostalgia, just as Hollywood did the first time they remade a silent and then black and white movie. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Vanilla WoW is as gone as 2008 is now. I’m certain I don’t want to go back to 2008, either.

I took a break from World of Warcraft when Legion went live. I took a break because Activision/Blizzard stood fast on the promise to release the game without flight being integrated into gameplay. I took a break because World of Warcraft wasn’t World of Warcraft anymore. But mostly I took a break because the game wasn’t fun anymore.

One of my guildmates on the Muradin server observed, after I spent several minutes bitching about Legion gameplay:

If you aren’t having fun, why are you playing?

That stopped me in my tracks. I logged off right then and there. I fired up the Playstation 3 and I played Playstation games for the next year following that observation, specifically because I was having fun playing them. This was completely the opposite of my experience playing World of Warcraft for the last few years. The constant farming of raid materials. The constant drive to seek the newest and latest gear so as to have the best chance of beating whatever progression raid boss we were on at that minute. The same material grind and the same gear grind repeated through Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria and Warlords of Draenor. Different mats and different gear, but always more mats if not more gear. Stacks and stacks of meat and fish and herbs and… everything. Always more. More time, more energy, more strategy. All devoted to equipping a team to play a game that I didn’t enjoy anymore.

The game had become the grind, and the grind was never fun. So I took a break until I heard that the developers had added flight back into Legion. When that happened I contemplated getting back in the game, but I didn’t subscribe again until I heard that the final patch of Legion was due to be released. I did want to see what the game was like before they changed it again.

I burned through the content of the expansion in a few weeks. Then I did portions of it again on a few other toons, nowhere close to the twenty-two that I pulled through Mists of Pandaria. The content was silly, which is true of a lot of games and especially true of most Blizzard content. Silliness has never kept me from playing a game I wanted to play. The silliest of all was the fact that they had Rogues leading armies as heroes, not to mention Mages willing to follow Warlocks into battle as if Warlocks hadn’t been demonstrated to suck the souls out of their friends when the expediency of the moment calls for it.

Rogues do not lead armies. Rogues hide in the bar until the army is distracted, then they gank the wealthier ones and steal them blind. Rogues as heroes? Warlocks as heroes? That is beyond silly and bordering on the unbelievable. Following a demon hunter onto Argus to destroy the heart of the Burning Legion? That is insanity. That part I was up for, if I had the right group with me.

So I had flight again and I could move about the maps doing the parts of the game that I wanted to do without having to crawl through the same damn MOBs repeatedly (the one downside to Mists of Pandaria. Flight had to be earned for each individual toon) however, I didn’t manage to get into the final raid because I wasn’t willing to go without my raiding guild friends that I had abandoned to play other games instead of helping them through Legion when it was hard going work. It was too much to expect them to let me back into the group at the last minute just to go through the raid one last time, carrying me all the way.

They’ll get bored and want to get achievements for old content eventually. There will be vengeance against the legion for me one day in the near future. Then I’ll be able to turn in those final unfinished quests.

If you missed Legion too, here is a treat for you:

WoW Legion: The Movie (All Legion Cinematics in Chronological Order) 2 hours! (Harbingers playlist)

I deleted a good portion of my toons over the course of Legion. Every time I thought about starting up the completionist obsessiveness again, I deleted another toon. I abandoned whole servers and classes in the process, and because of this sparing approach to the game I’ve managed to stay entertained and raiding through all of Battle for Azeroth and the first patch of Shadowlands. We’ll just have to wait and see how much further the game and I go together.

Video game giant Activision Blizzard Inc., maker of games including World of Warcraft and Diablo, fosters a “frat boy” culture in which female employees are subjected to constant sexual harassment, unequal pay, and retaliation, according to a lawsuit filed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

A two-year investigation by the state agency found that the company discriminated against female employees in terms and conditions of employment, including compensation, assignment, promotion, and termination. Company leadership consistently failed to take steps to prevent discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, the agency said.

news.bloomberglaw.com

Author: RAnthony

I'm a freethinking, unapologetic liberal. I'm a former CAD guru with an architectural fetish. I'm a happily married father. I'm also a disabled Meniere's sufferer.

Attacks on arguments offered are appreciated and awaited. Attacks on the author will be deleted.