'World of Warcraft Classic' is a smash-hit that's bringing gamers back to the mid-2000s, but the launch was a fiasco that made me wait 8 hours to play
- World of Warcraft Classic launched Monday. This is a new version of the original game, with a decidedly retro bent that pays homage to the experience for millions of players back in the 2006.
- Blizzard, the company behind "World of Warcraft," calls Classic a "faithful recreation of the original."
- Fans have clamored for a Classic experience after years of new expansion pack releases and the culling of older content.
- But Classic players were met with obscenely long wait times upon release, as they rushed to re-experience the early days of the game.
- Here's how one player's experience during the launch went.
- Visit Business Insider SA's homepage for more stories.
The moment has finally arrived.
"World of Warcraft Classic" launched Monday on 3:00 p.m. PST - and in typical fashion for the biggest massive multiplayer online game around, the occasion was marked with obscenely long wait times just to get started. In the end, I wound up waiting 8 hours or so just to log on.
Classic is a subtly-revamped version of the original version of "World of Warcraft, which was originally released in 2004. Technically speaking, it's based on version 1.12 of the game, which was released in 2006. To put this into perspective, the modern "World of Warcraft" is currently at version 8.2.
"World of Warcraft Classic is a faithful recreation of the original World of Warcraft," Blizzard's website says of the game. "Combat mechanics, original character models, and [player skills] all contribute to a truly authentic experience."
The new version of the game, called "vanilla" by long-time fans, was a curious one for many people. I mean, who wants to pay a $13 to $15 monthly fee just to play a more difficult version of a game that already has a bevy of expansion packs?
There are many players who first stepped into the world of Azeroth in the 2000s and can reminisce about sinking countless days spent grinding; finding groups for quests and raids; and just walking around, taking in the sights.
All of these elements made it the nostalgic experience that many have called for in the wake of the big changes that "World of Warcraft" has made over the years, bringing fresh content and user interface features that simplified the overall experience. This new approach makes it easier to survive in-game and look for groups - but at what cost?
The original game was a cultural icon. It spawned viral memes, was featured in TV shows, and eventually helped combat the denigrating stereotypes of "gamers." It defined an entire genre of games, broke sales records, and became the gold standard for the countless of online games that emerged.
I first started playing WoW a year or two after it's original release and sunk countless hours leveling at least a dozen characters from different factions, classes, and races. Unlike the more dedicated players, however, I never managed to clear all of its 40-player raids, or participate in world-assaults against a faction's capital.
Still, despite this slightly more casual approach, I stuck with "World of Warcraft" for a while. But over the years, I lost touch with all of my former guildmates and renewed my subscription only when Blizzard released an exciting new expansion pack. Otherwise, I sort of fell off the wagon.
Will "Classic's" launch redefine gaming as it did 15 years ago? Probably not. But Blizzard's move to cater to the sentimental desires of its fans is a positive step in a refreshing direction.
Here's what the highly anticipated "WoW Classic" launch looked like:
Blizzard first teased 'World of Warcraft Classic' in 2017.
J. Allen Brack, then a VP with Blizzard, offered a delicious metaphor for the development of Classic, during Blizzcon in 2017.
"I want to talk about ice cream. Ice cream is great. Ice cream is one of my favorite desserts," Brack said to a cheering audience of fans.
"Personally, I love chocolate, and I love cookies and cream," he added. "Cookies and cream is actually my all-time favorite dessert. But I understand that for some of you, your favorite flavor is vanilla."
This was a winking reference to "World of Warcraft" fans, who have long referred to as the original game - before all the expansions, patches, and gameplay changes - as "vanilla."
Nostalgic content with a renewed look.
The demand for a classic experience has long been demanded by fans after years of releasing new expansion packs and culling older content. "WoW" enthusiasts had even launched their own, private servers that let players experience the vanilla game - servers that prompted Blizzard to take legal action.
While Classic is supposed to bring back fond memories of the original "WoW" experience, there are a few changes throughout the game.
Classic will allow players to boost the graphics settings for a more robust look - if your computer hardware (graphics card and CPU) can handle it.
Like most of Blizzard's games, "WoW" relies heavily on the CPU. Having a newer graphics card could actually bottleneck Classic's performance if your CPU is still outdated.
Gamers were excited for 'WoW Classic' — Google search interest for 'WoW' skyrocketed in the US in the weeks ahead of launch, and overtook 'Fortnite.'
Blizzard allowed current 'WoW' subscribers to reserve their character names.
Earlier this month, Blizzard announced it would allow current "WoW subscribers to reserve up to three character names for use in "WoW Classic."
I rushed to reserve my character names, but sadly, like many others, my top choices for names were already taken.
In the hours before the game launch, Blizzard eventually increased the limit to 50 characters.
I was not prepared. Upon logging in, I was greeted with this message I hadn't seen in years.
I initially thought the servers wouldn't go live until 3:00 p.m. PST - meaning I would have to wait that long before I was even allowed to get into line. That wasn't the case, it seems, and I was in for a very long wait before I would even be allowed to start playing.
"At this time, all realms that have a Full or High population tag are expected to experience extended queues," a Blizzard community manager said in the official forums.
But wait, there's more. Over an hour later, I had moved ahead in the queue, but my estimated wait time also grew higher.
This was disappointing, but in a weird way, part of the experience: The original "World of Warcraft" had the same problems when it first launched in 2004. Still, Blizzard had promised that it was working to stop it from happening this time, with a crack that went on to become a meme amongst "World of Warcraft" fans.
"We want to reproduce the game experience that we all enjoyed from the original classic WoW," Brack joked at BlizzCon 2017. "Not the actual launch experience."
At this point, I resorted to watching others enjoy the fun on Twitch, the streaming platform.
I bided the time by watching other people play 'World of Warcraft.'
To my surprise, there were over 1 million Twitch users watching streams of 'World of Warcraft.' The number slowly tapered off to around 600,000 viewers later on in the day - but it still surpassed other popular games like "Fortnite."
Watching those Twitch streams was unbearable. Popular streamers like "Asmongold" played the game and went over strategies to quickly level their characters. I was still waiting in line.
Amid all of this, some players found themselves abruptly booted from the game.
Players claimed in the official forums that they were being kicked off from the game servers in the hours immediately following the launch - meaning they'd have to go wait in the same line that I was waiting in.
Twitch streamer "Asmongold" got booted from his server after several hours of playing time. He rejoined the server and had to wait for over 17,000 players ahead of him. Eventually, he set up a mattress on the floor and slept on his stream.
"I can't believe it," the streamer said at one point on Monday evening. "I genuinely can't believe this happened."
"We are aware of, and as our top priority, we are working through issues that some players are having logging into WoW Classic, including the 'World Server Down' error," an official "WoW" account posted on Twitter. "Thank you for your patience."
I was almost at the finish line, myself. Coming back to see my progress, I was elated to see that I only had around eight minutes remaining.
But it was a false hope. I will still actually hours away and behind thousands of other players in line. Interestingly, even during this time, my place in the queue went down, but my wait time kept going up.
"This is BS. Paying $15 to sit in a queue for 347 minutes?"
Other players noted their frustration with the long queue times.
"Can't believe I got talked into taking the day off for this... thanks Blizzard," Alliance player "Josiebear," wrote on the official forums. "You never fail to impress me."
Another Alliance player, "Onkie," said: "Fifteen years and nothing learned. What an absolute joke."
Blizzard did not respond to Business Insider's request for comment.
After an eight hour wait (and a whole lot of Twitch), I was finally logged in. Strangely, I was able to log out of my character and server, and then log back in without waiting in queue again.
In hindsight, it was probably not the wisest choice for those who called in sick from work in order to take the day off - at least not until Blizzard manages to deal with the long queues.
To Blizzard's credit, it did warn players beforehand that there would be wait times for higher-populated servers, and it later attempted to mitigate the player congestion by releasing several new ones.
Some servers simply aren't as popular, and as such, have lower wait times. But playing on such low-population servers carry their own risks: It means fewer people to play with, too, and there's always the chance that the people on your server just up and move to a different game.
Was it worth the wait (and queue times)?
I ended up creating a human rogue, and spent 3 hours in the game so far, a small portion of which was used to adjust my in-game settings.
As I explored the beginning areas, all of the memories of hunting low-level wolves and thieves there a decade ago began flooding back. But did it intrinsically feel different from the game that came out when Daniel Powter's "Bad Day" topped the Billboard charts?
For me, it didn't. Aside from the minor changes back to the old user-interface and icons, it mostly felt the same.
But there were two big differences: The community was thriving again, and I could definitely feel that I was playing a harder game - "World of Warcraft" has gradually gotten easier over the years, but this is way closer to its original difficulty level.
Other players were able to swoop in on my enemies, taking my kills and stealing my loot. Enemy mobs respawned at a ridiculous rate and I died three times before hitting Level 7. (In my defense, I was playing solo inside a cramped cave.)
It was frustrating, but I felt a sense of accomplishment every time I gained another level or turned in a quest.
Players were also manually looking for groups for quests by typing into the chat box. Sure, things got hectic and you'd occasionally see the tired old memes around Chuck Norris here and there - but you could feel the nostalgic excitement from other players in the area.
More than anything, I really enjoyed the sense of bonding with the community that I've experienced in "World of Warcraft Classic." The recent versions of the main "WoW" game can feel sterile, populated with power players. This retro revival brings back fond memories of a decade ago, when things weren't so set in stone and there was plenty of mystery.
Isn't that what an online gaming community's about?
See you in game!
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