When World of Warcraft Classic launched this week, no one was quite sure what the player response would be. The amount of interest in the launch has been massive, but how many people would show up to play?
The answer: Tons. So many, that the question is now “How many will stick around for the long haul?”
The game is mobbed, to put it politely. I managed to log on Monday for a few hours, probably because people weren’t aware that the official North American opening was on Monday, not Tuesday. Tuesday night, the queues were basically impossible — an attempted log in at 8 PM found me stuck in a 3-hour queue. Even at 10:30 PM — when sane people on the East Coast are headed for bed — I was looking at a half-hour login queue.
It’s, uh, busy.
I’ve decided to do a comparison between the leveling experience for 1-60 between retail WoW and Classic WoW. Thus far, it’s been a bit hampered, simply because the enormous explosion of level 1’s rolling in new character zones is so high. This is an obvious problem for any game — the rush of players experiencing the content at launch is always high, which means competition for resources, spawns, and drops is also high. Certain WoW Classic mechanics, like the need to “tag” mobs in order to receive credit (and only one person can tag a mob) means that it takes longer to complete certain quests.
This has been utterly predictable. What I find more interesting is how the player base is reacting to Classic on the whole. There’s a definite group of people who have no idea how to play the game — stumbling through various issues, fighting to orient themselves in classes they either never played back in 2004 or have forgotten how to play according to 15-year-old rules. On the Retail servers, chatter about Classic is mostly about how bad it is and how glad various players are not to be engaging with it. On Classic servers, the general chatter is over how much fun people are having and how glad they are to be back in a version of the game they like.
Well, that, and fighting over whether the Deadmines instance should be abbreviated “DM” or “VC.” I have witnessed this argument three times now, on two different servers. Other meme callouts include “50 DKP minus,” (NSFW based on language), “Shield / Hearth,” and… *sigh* “Leroy Jenkins.” There have been multiple calls for someone to fire up a Ventrilo server for everyone to group on and while I’ve seen some arguments in chat, I’d say Classic has generally been friendlier than retail. In fact, one amusing irony is that the Retail server I hung out on last night was full of more complaining about Classic mechanics than the actual Classic server I’m playing on.
(Aerie Peak and Pagle, for anyone curious).
The initial Classic launch on Monday night was quite laggy, but Blizzard had warned that it would be. For as long as I’ve played WoW — 15 years now, off-and-on — it’s been possible for the sheer number of players on the server to cause local lag. Right now, the queues for login are stretching past 9,000 people, despite the fact that servers can hold several times more players now than they could in 2004. Over time, this will fade away. The question is, what will be left when it does?
The idea that WoW Classic players are going to simply dump the old game is, I think, simplistic. While I have no idea how long the game will hold its players, at least some of the people who have come back for the experience, including myself, know exactly what they’re getting into. What I’d love to know is whether or not WoW Classic has generated a bump in subscriptions, indicating that people are reactivating old accounts to play the version of a game they already played once before.
It’s comparatively rare to get to compare the old and new version of a retail shipping product in this fashion. Most games do not evolve as much as WoW has. If they do evolve as much as WoW has, they tend to be online games with an eternally “updated” server. While WoW is not the first title to support both a “Classic” and a current client — Runescape also did this, with Runescape Classic, which shut down last year — it’s one of a relative handful of games in which the developer has formally offered two side-by-side editions that capture where the game was in a vastly different time period.
I shall be reporting from both sides of Azeroth in the not-too-distant future.
What to Know (or Remember) Before Diving In to World of Warcraft Classic
World of Warcraft Classic Gets More Servers, Fewer Character Restrictions
WoW Classic Has a Release Date and God Help Me I’m Excited