Retrospective

Posted: 3 December, 2009 in misc
Tags: ,

So, 5 years of World of Warcraft.  My, how time flies.  I can’t actually remember when I started playing, I know it wasn’t exactly at the game launch in Europe, I was playing Star Wars Galaxies back then and not interested in any game that didn’t have Imperial Stormtroopers.  I remember that I quit Star Wars when Sony broke the game and started again from the ground up with the Combat “Upgrade” and that’s when I first dabbled with World of Warcraft.  All I know is that I bought the first available “second wave” of boxed copies of the game after the first load had sold out in the UK and I started playing on Hellscream EU the day the server was activated.

My first character was Henriksen, my trusty Dwarven Hunter, and he was also the first I levelled to 60 (and the last I got to 80!).  Things were very different back then in vanilla WoW.  There were no arenas, no battlegrounds, no world pvp objectives.  What we did have, however, was Southshore and Tarren Mill.  Nestled in the Hillsbrad foothills, these two towns, one Horde one Alliance, both with Flightmasters, both within easy flying range of Ironforge and Undercity, both with conveniently-placed graveyards and both within 200 yards of each other were the scene of countless clashes between Horde and Alliance players.  I don’t know if Southshore and Tarren MIll were deliberately set up this way to provoke the slaughter that ensued, but if it was an accident of game design it was a good one.  Right from the off, even before anyone on Hellscream had hit level 60, there was carnage at Tarren Mill.  Since hardly anyone was over level 50 back then, the fights tended to follow a repetitive pattern.  30-40 players of both factions would fight on the field between the two towns until one side would get pushed back, the losing side would fall back to the safety of their town, and then someone on the opposite side would get close enough to provoke the level 50 town guards (but to me they were just skull-level boss mobs!) who would rush out and promptly slaughter everyone.  The defenders would suddenly become the attackers and chase the retreating enemy to the borders of their town, at which point their own town guards would come out and turn the tables yet again.

Hi. I'm Deathguard Humbert and I'm going to kill you and eat your face.

It never got old, and no attempt to impose any kind of plan on proceedings ever came to anything (so it was a lot like Alterac Valley).  I cannot remember ever arriving at Southshore in the early days without there being some kind of battle going on, it was like a 24 hour bar brawl.  People would get tired of it and leave, but there was always someone who’d just logged on and wanted some Southshore action to replace them.  It was fantastic, emergent gameplay at its best.  And then Warsong Gulch came along and the Tarren Mill/Southshore battles died literally overnight.  And that was kinda sad.

The class talents were completely different to what we see today, too.  Paladin blessings used to last 5 minutes.  There were no Greater Blessings.  Arcane Explosion wasn’t instant cast unless you spent FIVE talent points in the Arcane tree.  Evocation was an Arcane talent and had a 10 minute cooldown, Ice Block was a Frost talent.  Imagine not having Ice Block or Evocation, or instant-cast Arcane Explosions?  Mana gems disappeared when you logged out.  They didn’t come in stacks of three, you got one and that was it, and they shared a cooldown with Warlock healthstones.  There was no Ice Lance, no Frostfire bolt.  No Arcane Barrage.  No Arcane Blast!  Mage Armour didn’t exist until patch 1.3.  Hurricane was a 40-point Balance Druid talent and had a cooldown. Swiftmend didn’t exist and only Restoration druids had access to Innervate.  There was no Tree of Life form.  There were no key rings, all your keys had to be left in your bags and the only 18 slot bag in the game was a drop from a 40 man raid boss.  There used to be a talent that increased your Wand damage by 25% if you were dumb enough to spend 5 talent points in it.  Holy Fire used to have a 5 second cast time.  Items that granted bonuses to healing didn’t give bonuses to spell damage, a level 60 priest in full tier 2 raid armour and weapons did as much damage with their holy spells as someone who just dinged 60 in greens and quest rewards.  Hunter pets often couldn’t keep up with their master and would lag so far behind that they’d despawn. Mages used to have a Detect Magic spell, unless this was cast, you couldn’t see what buffs a boss had.  You know, useful stuff like enrage, frenzy, bloodthirst etc.  Stuff your tanks might like to know about and have removed. Priests had different racial spells available to them that weren’t available to priests of any other race.  Only Dwarven Priests had Fear Ward.  There was no Need or Greed loot rolling, you either rolled on the loot or you didn’t.  There was only one Auction House in Ironforge and one in Ogrimmar.   If you were in Eastern Plaguelands and needed to get to Booty Bay in Stranglethorn Vale, you had to take a flight from each connecting flightmaster all the way down.  You couldn’t just select Booty Bay as your destination from Light’s Hope Chapel flightmaster.  You had to speak to each flightmaster at each stop every step of the way. There were no relics, totems or idols; druids, paladins and shamans had nothing to equip in the ranged weapon slot.  There were no mage refreshment tables and the highest rank conjured water spell (which you could only get from a quest in Dire Maul) only produced a stack of 4 water.  Raids had 40 people.  4 water per cast.  Do the maths.

Instance Bosses used to despawn if you didn’t defeat them within a certain time after starting the fight.  People who think the one hour per week time limit imposed on defeating Algalon the Observer in Ulduar is harsh, something like that used to be standard practice!  Just as one example, if you didn’t defeat Vaelastrasz the Corrupt within an hour of pulling him, it was bye bye for 12 hours while you waited for him to respawn so you could try again.  There’s a reason why Vael broke so many raiding guilds.

Zul’gurub was the first raid that wasn’t for 40 players, although you could “raid” some of the 5 player instances.  You could take 10 players into Scholomance and Stratholme and take 15 players into Blackrock Spire.  Believe it or not, people would still wipe.  Someone at Blizzard must have had a good laugh on the day they decided where to place Zul’gurub, the first 20 player raid instance.  Imagine you’re on a pvp server.  Stranglethorn Vale, already known as Ganklethorn Vale (and for good reason), teeming with level 30+ players of both factions, all ganking the crap out of each other while struggling to complete their quests, level up and get the heck out of this hellhole, now hadanything up to a hundred or so bored, epic-covered level 60s of both factions waiting for Zul’gurub raids to start.  The carnage reached epic proportions.

Another “undocumented feature” of Zul’gurub was the infamous corrupted blood plague that spread from there to… well… everywhere.  The last boss, the Blood God Hakkar, cast an effect on the raid called Corrupted Blood that was basically an annoying Damage over time effect that spread from player to player if you didn’t spread out.  Annoying that is, if you’re level 60.  Completely lethal if you’re level 20, standing in the Ironforge Auction House next to an infected mage who just teleported out of the instance.  It spread like wildfire and Blizzard were completely unable to do anything about it, being forced to hotfix the debuff and reset all their instance servers to remove the plague.  Experience gained here came in useful for their undead invasion event before the Wrath of the Lich King launch, however.

I guess the point here is that the game is constantly changing, and it’s this constant change that keeps it fresh.  I miss the old battles at Tarren Mill/Southshore, but the reason people stopped doing them and are never going to do them again is because it’s more convenient to visit a Battlemaster or just join from your pvp menu than it is to travel to the Hillsbrad Foothills and hope someone from the opposing faction is looking for a fight.  The game has moved on, it’s more streamlined and user-friendly than it used to be and this is a good thing.  We miss stuff not because it was good, but because there was nothing better to do.  The Hillsbrad battles are pretty much exactly what goes on in the Field of Strife of Alterac Valley anyway, except you’re guaranteed to find a fight there, not always the case in Hillsbrad.

Will the game still be around in another 5 years?  I imagine it will, but it won’t be much like the game we’re playing today.  Personally, I can’t wait.

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Comments
  1. Thraximar says:

    Thanks for that great walk down memory lane. I Bought the game the day it came out, despite the fact that I knew I wasn’t going to be able to play until my mother un-grounded me. I was young, and the game was beautiful It’s been in my life for 5 years now and I don’t know what I’d have done without it. It kept me sane when my life was changing, Its kept me in touch with friends who are hundreds of miles away. Its going to be my saving grace for the next 15 months in Afghanistan as a Deployed Member of the Military.

    Thank you for reminding me how wonderful this game has been.

    • Calli says:

      You’re very welcome. I feel slightly jealous that you can play WoW while deployed, our onboard internet connection is barely adequate for web browsing. Although I’m not actually jealous enough to want to be in Afghanistan myself!

  2. Shintar says:

    Oh man, I had completely forgotten about Detect Magic! Funny how quickly you get used to convenient changes (like all buffs and debuffs being visible by default)…

    • Calli says:

      I was pretty pissed off when they announced its’ removal, just one more reason to not bother having a mage in your raid. Still, it does seem like one of those things that just added unneccesary complications, especially since at the time a boss could only have a limited number of debuffs up too.

  3. Gex says:

    I’m very upset that I missed “vanilla wow” as you call it, the way you describe it makes it sound… Epic. I joined near the end of “Burning Crusades” release and by the time I reached 60 “Wrath Of The Lich King” had made it’s entrance, this forced me to ignore the quirkly quest chains and old school raids in my plight to get to 80, I want to thank you for providing insight into something that I’m very disappointed that I missed.

    • Calli says:

      Well it won’t be long before Cataclysm arrives and you’ll be able to tell people, staring at the lush oasis of Desolace, that you could remember when all this were nothing but desert!

  4. thistlefizz says:

    And you had to click through each leg of a flight. And we had to walk to raids, in the snow, uphill, both ways! And fireballs rained down from the sky, and they were the only way to make campfires to cook, and sea creatures attacked Orgimmar every ten minutes. And that’s the way it was and we liked it.

  5. Calli says:

    Fireballs rained down from the sky? LUXURY!

  6. […] three years of WoW. I guess nostalgia is in the air, becuase there’s also another fantastic retrospective from […]

  7. Tamarind says:

    This is an AMAZING post! Obviously I am still a relative noob so I missed most of these, errr, experiences – so thank you for sharing them. Which, err, given how terrifyingly frustrating some of them seem, sounds like the best *to* experience them, if you ask me!

  8. Calli says:

    I tell ya, before each and every Blackwing Lair raid I’d have to log in 15 minutes in advance with at least one emtpy bag just to make sure I had enough time and space to conjure enough water for the raid. And the warlocks bitched about having to summon people? LUXURY!

  9. Kurnak says:

    Yeah, it has been a very long trip.
    You forgot the Crossroads raids. By the time I was around Southshore the carnage was scarce, but it was very common to read everyday at any time in general chat messages like “/w me for xroads!”. Oh, and the long waiting times to get into a battleground when they were implemented. Or having to walk until level 40, then reaching 60 and realizing you had very few gold cashed and you couldn’t afford the epic mount (in these times mounts had prohibitive prices, while skill was cheap)…
    Mmmm I’m feeling old.

  10. Calli says:

    What’s the horde equivalent of the Crossroads raids? Astranaar perhaps? Anytime I’m anywhere near the place there’s warnings popping up on Local Defence.

  11. wildgrowth says:

    I came along several years in. Battlegrounds and Burning Crusade and flying existed already. So it’s always great to see how it used to be from someone who was there at the beginning. And a good reminder that we never can tell what’s going to come in the future…see you there!

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