WoW Classic: Old Blizzard game design still shines, new Blizzard management still exists

This morning I was able to play WoW Classic a bit between work meetings, as thankfully the queue issue had not yet picked back up. I fully expect that tonight I won’t be able to get in again, but we will see. I was able to get to level 5 on my human rogue, going through the initial starter area and ending in Goldshire.

It’s obviously very early, but playing just felt right. As the video in the previous Classic post talked about, there is a sense that all of this content was created with a passion, and that passion shows in all of the little details that bring the zone together. Yes, the quests are very simple kill X of this, collect Y of that, but that’s not so much a problem as it is a core feature of basically any RPG. And there is a good reason that questing format is still being used after dozens of years; it works. It’s not a problem that needs fixing. In fact, when a game features too many overly complex quests, it can feel burdensome. There is beauty in the simplicity of those quests, and how while doing them you can focus more of your attention on the tiny details of the world you are playing in.

This is all especially true in a themepark MMO like WoW, where the core gameplay loop is simple and enjoyable, but the real ‘meat’ of the game is the social aspect and doing all of your activities in a virtual world, rather than alone in an offline RPG (or in current WoW, which is an online but basically a solo RPG with chat spam). Again its early, but I don’t think that fundamental design, that WoW eventually moved away, is a relic of the past, or something that isn’t applicable today. Classic being enjoyable, for me at least, isn’t just about the nostalgia, its mostly about the fact that Vanilla WoW was a really fun MMO to play. The graphics have aged, sure, and some of the UI elements aren’t up to todays standards of good design, but the core gameplay feels right, and it works.

Quickly on the subject of the queues and how Blizzard messed up. By now we all realize that “you think you do, but you don’t” (dude has Mittani-levels of smug in that video too, on top of being comically wrong) should just go on J. Allen Brack’s tombstone, which he will need since he should also be tossed out of his office as president of Blizzard (not an actual death threat, relax), but even Blizzard’s answer today about the queues, and how they didn’t want to open too many servers early is idiotic.

First, if you have to open dozens of additional servers PRIOR TO GO LIVE, you suck at estimating. I get having to open a few more servers for the most popular type/region, but that’s not the case here. Across the board they needed a lot more of everything, which is just a reflection of horrible planning. Had the original server list been twice what it was, at least, so many of these initial problems would have been resolved.

Second, considering this is the second time WoW is being ‘released’, and that it’s 15 years later, how is Blizzard still not capable of having a smooth launch? A queue that is 4 hours long might as well be the same thing as the servers being offline, especially if even those who are in-game are getting kicked out when a layer crashes. I understand that the first day is unique in the number of people trying to log in, and that everyone is starting in the same zones, but still, its 15 years later! Technology has evolved, you should have better hardware and tools, and, most importantly, you are now a massive mega-corp with practically unlimited resources launching what is surely going to be the biggest ‘release’ of the year. Of a franchise that is the very reason your entire company is so big to begin with. FIGURE IT OUT!

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in Rant, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to WoW Classic: Old Blizzard game design still shines, new Blizzard management still exists

  1. carson63000 says:

    “if you have to open dozens of additional servers PRIOR TO GO LIVE, you suck at estimating”

    Do they suck at estimating? Or did they just estimate based on the load expected in a week’s time or a month’s time? They did flat-out say that they want to avoid having to do server merges once the initial wave of curious people have stopped playing Classic.

    • SynCaine says:

      That wave of tourists can account for the servers they opened at release. Tourists weren’t flooding the name reservation a week or so prior to go-live.

      • bhagpuss says:

        Not sure that’s true. I’m a tourist and I subbed almost week ahead, mostly because everyone was going on about it so much. There’s a bit of a zeitgeist thing going on here. I wouldn’t rely on many people being particualarly rational about it.

      • carson63000 says:

        I don’t know if I’d use the word “tourist”, but I expect the majority of people who flooded the name reservation a week prior to go-live will no longer be playing Classic in a month’s time.

  2. mararinn says:

    If they opened up more servers for launch, you would end up with low population servers in three weeks once the novelty of opening night wears off. Then you’d be complaining about bad planning and Blizzard killing the game by having so many low population servers.

    A middle ground would be opening duplicates of servers, but then you and your friends log in to Alexstraza only to find you are spread out between A, B and C clones.

    Another option which Blizzard doesn’t have yet is one single server for each region/PVP/RP combo, with that server being scaled as required to cope with load. But then the people desperate for “server first” would be denied the moment one group got that first in their scaleable server.

    There’s really no win here.

    Corral the opening night crowds through the doors into the theme park, ensure everyone gets to have a turn, then revisit capacity planning after a week to see whether new servers are still needed. The opening week crowds will die down in time.

    You think you want more servers so you can log in on opening night, but you don’t want the caveats that will apply with any of the options that Blizzard has available.

    • SynCaine says:

      Again, as the post said, if you expect server pops to decline shortly after go-live (we shall see), then you deal with some queues on some servers. It’s not good planning when Blizzard has had to more than triple the number of originally announced servers. That’s flat out shitting planning/estimating.

  3. saltycleric says:

    The games been out for….2 days. Maybe a wee bit early to make a call on Blizzards estimate of server needs. And going off the name reservation is faulty reasoning given anyone with a current WoW sub can download Classic just to reserve the name they currently have just so no one else takes it. That is no indication of intention to play long term.

    • SynCaine says:

      You missed the point like the people above. Opening 3x more servers prior to go-live, and still having most of those servers have an unplayable queue during peak times, has nothing to do with expectations of retention. They initially estimated they would need 1/10th or so of the servers they have now. If someone is working for you, and gives you an initial budget estimate that ends up being just 10% of the total cost, are you hiring that person again?

  4. bhagpuss says:

    On the substantive issue of questing, I personally found the sheer quantity of quests to be the single most offputting thing about my first day in Classic (which I generally enjoyed a lot). I think all the positives you accentuate – living world, interaction with others, enjoyanle gameplay loop – would be hugely enhanced by cuttign the number of quests by at least 50% and increasing xp from mob kills accordingly.

    Regardless of whether you solo or group, the sheer volume of quests and the massive impact doing them has on your leveling speed (not to mention your gear) puts you on a schedule that you haven’t chosen. I felt a distinct lack of agency which is commonplace in modern MMORPGs and whose origins are very clearly evident in Classic. WoW invented this format (unless someone can tell me who they copied it from) and you’re absolutely right that it’s still being used today but that’s one of the reasons MMORPGs turned into something you don’t respect.

    Classic is more of a sandpark then later iterations of WoW but compared to MMORPGS of its day it was the purest of themeparks anyone had ever seen. Maybe the first? If pure themeparks are your thing then that’s great – turns out it was what most people who didn’t already play MMORPGs had been waiting for. If you’re not a themepark fan (I would rather spend the day in an empty room staring at the walls than go to real life theme park) then it’s not such a magiocal moment in gaming history.

    • SynCaine says:

      Once you get into the second zone, I recall it opens up a little more. Only the first zones are as highly step-by-step. Hell, when you hit lvl 40 most people run out of quests and end up grinding, as they are somewhat hard to find.

  5. Pingback: An outsider’s view on WoW Classic – Mailvaltar

Comments are closed.