World of Warcraft has been around for a long time. In fact it this fall it will have been around for seven years! That is a long time for any game to survive, never mind thrive. WoW was the huge game of the year in 2004 when it came out, and is still a monster in 2011, with no other MMO having numbers anywhere close to WoWÄôs.
One big factor in World of Warcrafts ongoing success is itÄôs constant changing and updating. As time has progressed the game has changed dramatically with each expansion, both adding content and changing core game mechanics. In fact the game has changed so much that many features that are taken for granted by long term players, would make the game unrecognizable to players that left the game years ago and returned now.
What are the changes and are they improvements or just simplifications from the old game? Let's take a look here are just a few of the many key changes and how they have affected the game. Is the Old School way really better or is the New School way superior?
Log on Procedure
Old School: When WoW first came out You simply created an account with any name you wanted as the account name. You then used that name and password to log into the game and away you went.
New School: You must use a valid email account as you user name, and it must be linked to a battlenet account. You are then required to enter your password, and then a security code from your authenticator. Only then do you get to pick your WoW account and start playing.
Verdict: All the changes here were put in for two reasons. The first being to try to help curb player account theft, which became rampant as gold farmers decided it was easier to steal accounts and gold than to actually farm it. The second so that RealID could be linked to all accounts so that you can talk to friends across servers.
While the new log on system can be a bit annoying, it does help provide a better level of security to the game. While I have not seen any numbers released, I know that everyone that I know that had their account hacked had not yet linked an authenticator.
Overall while the new system is a bit more work to log into the game with, I think it's a better system that offers enough features and added security to be worth the hassle.
Finding an Instance Group
Old School: In the old days you had 2 ways to find a group. The first involved socializing with people in your guild or in the zone that you were in and finding players that also needed to run the same instance as you did. The second was to sit in a capital city and spam the trade channels looking for a group.
Either way, you had to actually talk to players.
New School: Now all you need to do is click the LFG tool, jump in, not say a single word, get gear, and leave when done.
Verdict: This one comes down to a draw for me. While I really like the new system and like the ease of finding groups and running instances, there are drawbacks. I always feel like we have lost something though, as almost no one speaks. I'm playing with other people in a group, I want to feel like it's a group. In general though it feels like me and what amounts to poorly programmed npc's that occasionally mumble unintelligible phrases.
Getting around to other zones, instances, continents
Old School: At one time you actually had to use the transit system to fly from area to area, or continent to continent, then fly to the right zone, then mount up and run across the zone to get to where you want to go. This took time an effort to get anywhere, but did leave you with time to talk to friends and guildmates.
New School: You can now jump between almost any major current content area using portals. You can also instantly jump into instances, raids, and pvp from almost anywhere. Even in the worst case you can use meeting stones, warlock summons, or Mage portals.
Verdict: Again, this is a draw to me. While instant access is nice in many ways it takes away something from the game. If this was star trek it would be alright in my mind to beam all over the place. This is a fantasy game though, you should expect travel time.
Old School: Back when WoW started PVP existed as running battles between South Shore and Tarren Mill. There was also large amounts of PvP outside of raid and dungeon instances as players waited for groups to form and players to get there.
New School: Now there are battle grounds, arenas, pvp zones, and in general world PvP is dead.
Verdict: Draw. While the old PVP scene was really fun at times, it was also a real pain at times. I remember waiting for a Molten Core raid to start on a PVP server and it being an hour late because no one could get to the instance. Not cool. On the flip side the new PVP seems kind of bland. Players jump in purely for points and ratings and thatÄôs about it.
The worst thing about new style PVP though is that it is very exclusive. In arenas if you are not a certain class or spec, you are of little use. In battlegrounds, if you show up without a certain amount of resilience gear already, or without being a specific class or spec, again, you may as well not be there as you are hurting everyone else. Yet, everyone shows up, as it is a game for the masses, yet less than 25% of the players really matter.
Old School: In the beginning raiding was new to many WoW players. The fights and raids seemed long and complicated. Molten Core for example was generally done in several nights to be able to manage all the trash, the fights, and the time to do it. It also took a long time for most guilds to beat it, sometimes months of farming and learning it. Raids were made for groups of 40 players and required massive coordination. The other early WoW raids all followed this model.
New School: While most fights do have a ton of mechanics and there is more going on in any given fight, most of the mechanics have been seen and done before. Because of this content has much harsher do X or die mechanics rather than minor subtleties. Also almost all normal content is demolished on the day it goes live by the elite guilds and most serious raiding guilds within a week or two. Raids are now for as few as 10 players and grant the same loot if you run it with 10 or 25.
Verdict: Draw. Again, I have to say this is a draw. While we all have fond memories of the old days, and most of us cherish those early Ragnaros victories, I believe that is because it was all new and shiny. While I like the exclusivity of raiding in the past, I also really like the ability to jump on, find a few competent guild mates and run a 10 man raid on the spur of the moment.
I also like some of the subtleties that are being built into mechanics. While sometimes it is not so great that a single miss-step or glitch causes a wipe because a mechanic instant kills you, it does help players to concentrate after the cake walk that was WOTLK raiding.
Old School: There were players in zone that were doing the same quests that you where. Players asked for help and received it most of the time. Players had to talk to one another, as they had to be able to form groups and work together. A lot of this happened because they had time to kill while traveling from one place to another.
New School: The zones are barren other than the highest level zones for Cataclysm, and almost no one talks to one another other than to insult someone. Even when you form a group to run an instance, usually using the looking for group tool, more often than not players do not even have the common courtesy to say hello. The first thing you will hear is a complaint about some other player if there is a wipe or if someone doesn't put out enough DPS to satisfy the complainer.
Verdict: Vanilla WoW has this one hands down. WoW is an MMOG, and for those out there that donÄôt know what that means it is Massivly Multiplayer Online Game. Notice the multiplayer part in there? Somewhere along the way Blizzard lost track of that in the regular game. It only really exists in instanced content now such as dungeons, raids, arenas, and battlegrounds. Outside of that no one does anything together, and therefore doesnÄôt bother to socialize. Then we wonder why the rest of the game suffers.
Overall Verdict, Old School or New School?
There are many more things that could be discussed, such as player style (hardcore, casual), class differences, zone differences, progression, and much more. In the end though, I think that a lot of it comes out as most of the above points do, as a draw.
There are those of us that yearn for the old days of Vanilla WoW, and those that say it was too hard and Cataclysm is much better. In the end I think the truth is someplace in between. The original game had its style of doing things, and it worked for its time. WoW 7 years later has a different style, a more inclusive style, an easier style, but one that works just as well.
Those that loved the old game, like myself, often reminisce about when WoW was a ÄúrealÄù game for real players. But honestly much of the game is still a confusion to most players, and it really is only about the top 10-20% that really see and understand the game. For those players, it is generally still a great game and a challenge. For the other 80%+ of the player base, the changes have made the game far easier and more enjoyable, and they are able to play at a slightly higher level then they could have before,
All to say, essentially WoW has gone through so many changes that it is barely the same game it was when it launched all those years ago. While it may be different, itÄôs still a top notch solid game.
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