WoW classic: it’s the ruleset, not the content!

WoW classic was announced and I am excited. The dwarf hunter at the end of the trailer was a “whoa, dreams do come true after all” moment. But I’m also the same Goblin, always suspecting something nasty coming. So no, I won’t jump on it or hype it until I see clear specifications. This can and – knowing the game industry – likely will go wrong.

How? By Blizzard assuming that players long for Vanilla content. It is demonstrably not true, Vanilla content was so underused that Blizzard decided to rework it in Cataclysm. It was great in 2006, but no one cared for it in 2010. I doubt if anyone does in 2017. It’s not the low poly models, not the colors of Desolace (bleh) or the “kill 10 wolves”, then “kill 10 larger wolves”, then “kill the great bad wolf you killed 3 times already while killing the previous wolves” quest system that made WoW a huge hit. These are all outdated and I won’t miss them. Every expansion content was better than the previous.

It was the Vanilla ruleset. They might didn’t even think of them as “ruleset”, they just came as natural, but they were perfect.

  • Skill matter: if you mess up CC, pull too many mobs or simply suck, you die
  • Gear/levels matters: if you don’t have enough stats, no amount of skill gets you a dead Patchwerk
  • You get gear and levels by completing tasks. Not by getting welfare from devs for logging in, or buy in the shop
  • Everyone who has the same rewards completed the same tasks. No one got shortcuts
  • Lot of content wasn’t defeatable by morons. Much was out of reach for baddies. Some content could be conquered by the best of the best

These implicitly made WoW competitive. You could make an official topchart of character progression. Some third parties created raiding and gear toplists. But for the ordinary people it appeared as competing with the people they knew. The people they saw at the AH. Those who were better were seen better, were wanted by better groups and could do more.

Current WoW is not competitive. You can achieve anything by logging in. Maybe not as fast as others. But everything is available to you just by waiting. If they implement this ruleset on Classic content, that will be a flop. If they bring back the old ruleset, no compromises, no catchups, no welfare gear, no boosted skills that allow 1-button characters clear anything, Classic will be the a huge hit. There is a whole generation who are fed up with P2W and “social gaming” and “accessibility” and “patented matchmaking”. A whole generation that wants real, competitive games and get none.

I have my suspicions. Even if they release Classic right, I’m afraid they will cave in when the “oh shiny” players start to quit because they can’t kill a monster at their level. Or when they are booted from their RFC group. When the player count drops after the initial spike. Instead of just sticking to the vision and waiting for the core audience finding them, they’ll just cave in and nerf. I hope they understand that the hardcore MMO playerbase were lied to so many times, that no amount of cool trailers can make them believe. Only if they see – only if I see – that the game stick to the competitive ruleset even when inconvenient will this group play again. Then the player count will slowly rise and will keep rising forever, just like it would have if the WotLK abomination doesn’t kill it.

I’m hoping, but I’m not expecting. I won’t play at the start. I will wait at least 6 months before I give Classic a chance. But if it sticks to the ruleset, it’ll be my retirement game, the one game I play forever with no other games taken seriously.

Author: Gevlon

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17 thoughts on “WoW classic: it’s the ruleset, not the content!”

  1. 2 Predictions: First, they’ll not use the original vanilla graphics engine, but instead their current one with “retro” graphics, much like Starcraft Remastered.

    Second, they will backport at least some “quality of life” “improvements”. If those are going to be actually useful things like guild bank or the horrible LFR is anyone’s guess.

    I will also note that Blizzard does not want it’s top raiders to switch to vanilla, and I’m sure they have something planned to prevent exactly that.


  2. I’d love to be able to return to my main character as she was before the launch of TBC. But I guess it’d have to start completely from scratch. Ah well, as we can play it for years without changes, I’ll re-grind the Argent Daan rep… And slay Furbolgs for weeks in Wintergrasp… and… OMG you are right, this has potential.


  3. One has to wonder how much Classic really costs Blizz to implement and what are their expectations of it.

    They will most likely update the graphics (though i am not sure how much actual assets they’ll need to recreate, if any). They will also most likely have to put the old instances on the new instance tech (which means implementing stuff like LFD might literally be a line of code away). Also, there is no way to tell if there are some backwards incompatibility issues between old content and new tech.

    In terms of expectations, it would be the best if they didn’t expect much from the server money-wise and just used it to pacify their more rabid fans. Monetary expectations of the developer is the thing that gives the forum whiners power.


  4. I think it will fail for different reasons. The people who nostalgia for these things and remember that good fun they had 10 years ago (myself included), don’t have that kind of time to play anymore. Clearing vanilla content was not all skill, it was mostly strict time investment. Fire boss? Fire resist gear must be farmed. DPS check? Potions must be farmed. Even the raids themselves are time consuming to an absurd degree, hours of trash to clear, buffs to pass out, 39 people to herd into the raid before even the first pull, ect ect…

    Even if this extreme time investment could be mitigated by ‘modernization’ it would make the whole experience little more than a novelty with no staying power, an expensive to (re)develop and maintain novelty. Newer MMO players will have no interest in WoW:c because of obvious reasons, so there is little to no hope that they will be a driving force to sustain a stable playerbase.

    It will be very interesting to watch even if it succeeds. It might even be that the one true ‘WoW killer MMO’ is literally WoW itself. Perhaps its success will reinvigorate the idea of harsher rulesets, and the race to kill WoW will begin all over again.


  5. I could see some basic graphic updates and quality of life updates, (Guild Bank). But beyond that, I hope they keep it as pure as possible. The only thing that I would want is for any gear or mounts earned on Classic Ruleset servers would unlock the applicable mounts and transmog on normal servers.

    You can earn that Zul’Gurub tiger again, but you have farm a 10 man raid for it that you will never outgear. Along those lines, there should be some account wide reward for hitting the theoretical max on a vanilla character who is clearing Naxx.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Personally I agree for the most part. While I liked vanilla content, it was the gameplay that made it the best. Not as insultingly as you worded it. I miss the sense of adventure, camaraderie, and accomplishment that everything brought.

    Finishing one of those really tough quests like stitched or mor’ladim in duskwood felt just as amazing as finishing a max level dungeon and getting a set piece. Because they both took effort, patience, and friends helping you along the way.

    Current wow is LOOK AT ME SOLO EVERYTHING LOLOL IM THE BEST!!!! Followed by ridiculous amounts of trolling because there’s no need to keep a good reputation. You literally don’t need anyone on your server. I just want to have to try again. To have to make friends again. To be a part of something that I can’t overcome alone.


  7. I would pee my pants in shock if they actually released a swear to gosh vanilla server. And not because I want to play vanilla, I don’t. I’m under no delusion as to why vanilla was fun then and why it would suck now.

    What I expect they will do is redo vanilla in the current vision. It will have the “vanilla” zones, and the “vanilla” character set, but it will be a modern version of WoW.


  8. Gevlon did you start in vanilla or TBC? I recall the first posts on your blog being written shortly before WOTLK came out.


  9. likely will go wrong.
    ohh there certainly will be. they have to port 10year old deprecated code. and with their manpower over the years I wouldn’t be surprised that they overhauled and completely redesigned core parts of the software.
    But they think that they have a breakthrough with porting the old onto the new tech. so the only thing we can do is ignoring their PR and wait calmly and patiently for when they will deliver in 1-2years.
    don’t read too much into it. all the IT/PR buzzwords are there. It is fair to say they are committed now and in typical blizzard fashion will deliver at some point.

    Vanilla content was so underused that Blizzard decided to rework it in Cataclysm.
    please explain. plateaued at licking of the window. TBC was still “ok” can’t tell if it “peaked” because of new subing and old unsubing. I didn’t like TBC and unsubed (flying mounts, everyone with a braincell knows that this kills openworld in all aspects overtime.).
    Or I misunderstand your paragraph wrong.

    I’m totally on the ruleset, you captured it!
    soloing also meant something or most likely duoing because vanilla was pretty hard, and only the gear you found so no soloing in fully deced-out T2 for a LONG while!
    another point would be: no flying mount! a lot will whine, but flying mounts are the death of openworld … as fun as flying is, please just don’t!
    yet another point would be: no cross realm phasing bullshit. your name gains reputation in what ever it is you do, on a server with a couple hundred or thousand others. you will know every ganker, all names and guildname after a while, that makes a community … it takes a long time and that isn’t bad or good.

    I have my suspicions. Even if they release Classic right, I’m afraid they will cave in when the “oh shiny” players start to quit because they can’t kill a monster at their level.
    why would they? caving doesn’t cost blizzard any dev time after it runs smoothly. the very simple answer would be “go play ‘insert current expansion’!”. Blizzard has the luxury at that point to ignore vanilla whiners. I sincerely hope they don’t expand the classic servers. not tbc. window licking, cata … if people want “fresh” content it is readily available within the new expansion.

    The current dev guy said, after the nostalgia tourism is over and a very core playerbase is there … they will be fine with it.
    I guess that is fair to say. sure a lot of players will start classic but I have no doubt in my mind that only 15-30k concurrent will be there in the end … kind of the private server numbers now. and that is totally fine.


  10. Second, they will backport at least some “quality of life” “improvements”. If those are going to be actually useful things like guild bank or the horrible LFR is anyone’s guess.
    no LFR, no LFD, no cross realm, no flying, no phasing. just 1.12 max as we know it … something else would be crap.
    they said in blizcon 2015 on a legacy servers question … “you think you want to run vanilla servers, you don’t” or something along the line. after that private servers exploded and disgruntled vanilla players played there. kudos to the private server devs, it’s a labour of love at that point.
    Now with all the private server stream shutdown and crap. My guess is that Blizzard wants back the playerbase on private servers. Also after that classic is launched they can go hard on privat servers and sue the shit out of them. I would hope that Blizz hires the private server guys. some of them will want to do that for sure and are the people with the most experience on the vanilla subject.

    Also there is no doubt that they will fuck some minor stuff up. if they nail gameplay 100% and 1.12. I don’t really care if the graphics are old or new. I also wouldn’t care if transmutation is in the game. And if performance bugs are ironed out. I also wouldn’t mind exploit fixing, and that is a very grey area. But if lets say the core “ruleset” is spot on 95-100% as it was 1.12. or what ever patch they target to port. I’m okay with it.


  11. Gevlon, if you really want to play as it was, but for free, check out any of the private servers out there. Most have 5-10k people playing at any time.


  12. “It was the Vanilla ruleset. They might didn’t even think of them as “ruleset”, they just came as natural, but they were perfect.”

    Here’s the problem. Players already cracked the hack to totally trivialize that ruleset. It’s called “Gang up on it.” This didn’t work well early in Vanilla because we hadn’t mastered the other part: “min max the skills.”

    As such, competition will be no more effective as it is in the new version.

    Let’s take Mor’ladib as an example. I had a hell of time with that guy the first few times I killed him, I had to either out level him, or just double box him. I liked double boxing him best, it was difficult to co-ordinate the characters on two screens with no “double boxing” system, but I persevered and killed him. Awesome! That felt like an achievement.

    Then joining effective guilds happened, then all I had to do to kill Mor’ladib was use the cheat code: “/guild Can someone kill Mor’ladib? I need him for the quest.” And a Warrior would show up on a mount and slaughter him.

    I expect that the apparent popularity of the “illegal” vanilla servers is that they’re free. Hell, people will play “Watch paint dry online” as long as it’s free. Ok, perhaps not that one… but many others!

    Don’t get me wrong, I would love a harder, more competitive version of WoW too. But you’re not going to get it as long as “Players must group” is either a dogma, or an available “exploit.”


  13. @Smokeman:
    “I expect that the apparent popularity of the “illegal” vanilla servers is that they’re free.”
    If that would be true then every f2p MMO would have a ton of players. Which is not true.


  14. Searching as I go, because the whole thing wasn’t on my radar at all.

    The infamous april 2016 blizzcon quote “you think you do, but you don’t” from J. Allen Brack (

    No idea if this at all set things in motion, but I guess it was good fuel for the legacy petition.

    I don’t know the exact time line. but on april’16 Mark Kern (former vanilla team lead) joined the Legacy Server Petition and Nostralius Project (private server)
    here his thing and what he did

    What an interesting turn of events.


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