WoW Classic is Proving More Than a Fad, and Blizzard Should be Paying Attention

WoW Classic is Proving More Than a Fad, and Blizzard Should be Paying Attention

For success to feel good, you have to have room to fail.

World of Warcraft is ironically enjoying a mini-renaissance right now by returning to its past. WoW Classic is the strongest driver of World of Warcraft at the moment, as evidenced by a host of Twitch streams. That means Classic is pushing WoW subscriptions, potentially more than the modern version of the same game.

And yet, WoW Classic is every bit the frustrating experience I remember from playing the original World of Warcraft back in 2004. Early on in my Classic play, I was doing a quest called "Finding the Antidote,” where I needed poison sacs from Venomtail Scorpids. This quest was tied to another with a 45-minute timer, so I needed to get four poison sacs and get them back to the questgiver. No problem right?

Negative. Between other players also killing the Venomtail Scorpids, and the drop rate of the poison sacs, it actually took me most of the time to get the quest done. I come within two minutes of failing. I don't know what my Warrior was doing to these Scorpids that was ruining their poison sacs, but the listed drop rate was a paltry 34%. Just swing your sword a little slower, man!

I'm not the only player who has a story like this. The Barrens, one of the early leveling regions for Horde players, is infamous for having a number of animal killing quests where it feels like you're committing genocide simply to get a few quest items. The Alliance has Westfall, an area with roughly the same issues. "63% of all Goretusks in Westfall don't have livers," wrote Reddit user DogeCore9110.

"Stew be damned, I'm not running around Westfall for 4 hours killing meatless vultures for that shit," replied Reddit user RedSn0Living. "Then I spent an hour hunting for ingredients for Blood Sausage. So, what comes around and all that."

Ah, Stranglethorn Vale. | Blizzard Entertainment

World of Warcraft was once full of stories like that. WoW Classic is a machine, churning out water cooler tales about deep, deep frustration. Misery loves company, and part of building Classic's community is a shared understanding of the trials and tribulations that every player has to suffer through. Quests like the "The Green Hills of Stranglethorn," where you have to collect a number of random drop pages to complete the quest; regions like Southshore and Tarren Mill, where world PVP is an almost constant facet. There's an intense amount of rage and tedium around certain quests and areas; places where players just grit their teeth and push through it.

"The worst are the wingless buzzards in Badlands. Can't find them, the only reliable spot is camped by 10 people whispering profanities to you, and most don't have wings. I can see your gigantic wings flapping two of them what do you mean you don't have any?" wrote Reddit user PublicLeopard.

"I am still unable to safely recover my corpse, for I know that my insolence has landed me on the blacklist of a number of high-level Hordes. Stranglethorn shall be forever hostile to me," said WoW forums user Anthropea. "I still think this game is amazing. 14 years after its conception, it is still able to birth such feelings and emotions in players’ hearts. Sadly, for me and for many others, this game will be restricted to the starting zones. For dare we venture forward, certain death would await."

You ready for attunement? | Blizzard Entertainment

"The first part of ["Helcular's Rod"] involves getting the rod to drop off a Yeti in a cave. The problem is this has to be one of the lowest drop rates in the game. I killed like 100+ yeti for an hour before it dropped. Everyone else was in the cave killing too. Crazy low drop rate and the quest log doesn't even warn you about it, like it does some other low drop rate quests," wrote MMO-Champion user Zaqwert.

In retail, similar quests that require you to collect X items from local enemies tend to move rather quickly. Not only are the drop rates higher in retail World of Warcraft, but multiple people can attack the same target and receive credit. In Classic, only the first person to attack and their group members get credit for killing a quest mob. This means that named enemies sometimes have lines of players waiting for them to respawn, everyone trying to get the first hit. In retail WoW, you're mostly in-and-out; you can run by an unconnected mass of players fighting a named enemy, and help them out briefly before going on your way. Retail World of Warcraft respects your time. If you have 30 minutes, you can definitely get things done in that window. In Classic, that's more of a toss-up.

WoW Classic trades on this problem though, because frustration and difficulty build meaning. Players of World of Warcraft in its original incarnations remember these quests, even 15 years later. They recall the deep anger and interminable hours spent on a quest, or fighting the opposite faction in Hillsbrad, but they also remember the rush of feeling and emotion when they were finally free. You remember getting that last tusk or skull after two hours of grinding, or finally getting your first six-slot bag at random. You remember finally having enough gold or silver to pick up your next skill level, or your first mount. You remember that one group that fell apart in Scarlet Monastery after it took you hours to build the group in the first place. Overcoming hardship breeds meaningful memories.

We all hate Westfall Stew. | Blizzard Entertainment

This is the thing that retail World of Warcraft can learn from its predecessor. I think part of WoW should be achievable for the mainstream players, and should allow you to utilize your time well. But if all your content is like that, you're not building any lasting connections. There needs to be some lows in order for highs to exist, and retail World of Warcraft has tried to scrub away many of its potential lows. If Blizzard Entertainment can transpose some of that hardship over to modern WoW, it might help the next expansion feel as meaningful as a 15-year experience.

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. See our terms & conditions.

Mike Williams

Reviews Editor

M.H. Williams is new to the journalism game, but he's been a gamer since the NES first graced American shores. Third-person action-adventure games are his personal poison: Uncharted, Infamous, and Assassin's Creed just to name a few. If you see him around a convention, he's not hard to spot: Black guy, glasses, and a tie.

Read this next

WoW Shadowlands Info: Blizzard Talks Player Choice, Customization, and More

You can finally make yourself in World of Warcraft.

Three Blizzard Veterans Left the Company After the StarCraft FPS Was Canceled

Blizzard confirms the exits of three prominent Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm developers.

New Overwatch 2 Art Leaks on Blizzard's Website

We may have just learned who Overwatch's next hero is and what WoW's next expansion is called.

More Opinions

Starting Screen | Why 2019 Is the Year I Decided To Stop Rushing Through Games

Some of us have been playing Death Stranding slowly, and it's far better for it.

Checking in on FIFA 20 for Black Friday: Does It Hold Up?

We enjoyed FIFA 20 during review, but is it worth picking up on Black Friday? We check in on EA's soccer sim.

Red Dead Online After One Year: Has Rockstar Learned From GTA Online's Mistakes?

Red Dead Online has still had a rough year, but it's progressed at a much faster clip than its online predecessor.

Starting Screen | Five Games I Missed That I'm Planning to Play Now That the Holidays Are Here

A look at the games I want to play before 2019 is officially finished.

More on Mac

Phoenix Point Review: Still Trying to Rise

XCom creator Julian Gollop returns to the genre he helped kick off, with uneven results.

How Guildlings Went From a Satellite-Level Management Sim to Social RPG

"We had no idea we were making a JRPG until we were almost at full JRPG."

Gris Is Coming to PS4 Next Week With Retouched 4K-Ready Artwork

Plus, there'll be a "PlayStation-exclusive secret homage."

Inside Neo Cab, the "Nowpunk" Noir Indie That Is One of 2019's Most Underrated Games

We speak with Chance Agency's Patrick Ewing about the twists and turns of the studio's "Nowpunk" noir.

Shovel Knight's Final Expansions Are Coming Next Month

They'll mark the end of Treasure Trove, but not for our brave blue Knight.

More MMO Games

Final Fantasy 14 May Have Just Been Confirmed for PS5

Will the realm be reborn again on a new console?

Rare Announces Everwild, Its Mysterious New IP

We got a glimpse of what Rare's next project is.

Bungie is Dropping Some Cryptic Teasers for Destiny 2

Turns out hitting level 999 was just the tip of the iceberg.