A firey and hellish scene from the game World of WarCraft. (Featuring Ragnaros the Firelord.)

World of Warcraft Classic: Hell is other people

I didn’t play World of Warcraft when it launched 15 years ago. However, I did play it with friends about seven years ago, around the time of the Mists of Pandaria expansion. As I hadn’t played it before, I wasn’t into the lore nor did it appeal to me. I enjoyed running around in the big open world, seeing new places, and completing quests.

This year I got the opportunity to experience the original game with the release of World of Warcraft: Classic. The game rolled back the clock and got back to its roots. The Classic game is less complicated with fewer distinct systems to keep track of. There’s less to do in the world, but I don’t miss the busywork that has been added to the modern game. I thought I’d give it a try.

There are different types of servers with different player-interactions. Players are segregated by servers. I chose a player-versus-player server because it was the only server that wasn’t marked as “full”. I created a dazzlingly handsome and spell-casting green-haired gnome mage and set out to adventure for the Alliance!

World of Warcraft is a massively multiplayer online game. In the game, the two factions called the Alliance and the Horde are at each other’s throats. Many of the other creators, demons, and forces of the world will also try to kill you.

To make progress in the game, you run around and complete quests and try to right wrongs in the vast world. In practice, this meant running quite a distance to get to a small confined area and queuing for other people to be done so the area would reset.

The game was fun and we made good progress towards reaching level 60. The top tier in the game. We’d reached about level 49 when the game was updated to include the honor system. There hadn’t been any incentives for killing other players before this point. The honor system changed the game experience for the worse.

The honor system keeps track of how many people you’ve killed from the opposing team. You’re rewarded for each kill with honor points, which can be used to unlock certain items in the game. You’re only rewarded for players within ten levels of your own. A ten level difference is a fairly massive difference in terms of character power and capabilities. It’s not a fair fight.

Let’s just say we started dying a lot more after this update. When you die in the game, you have to run from the nearest graveyard, find your body, and resurrect yourself. The nearest graveyard can be two–eight minutes away from where you died, and you can’t do anything but try to find your body until you’ve been resurrected.

I don’t mind going up against the same number of players at the same level as myself. It can be a bit frustrating and inconvenient sometimes. But you get a fair go at it and sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.

This is how it’s done in other player-versus-player games I enjoy such as World of Warships. The ship classes in that game have different capabilities, but any ship at the same level can sink another.

This isn’t how World of Warcraft: Classic is being played, however. What happens instead is that groups of higher-level players from the opposing team stake out a location that lower-level players must visit to progress in the game. There are many quest and transport hubs in the game where you can expect players of certain levels to appear at regular intervals. Killing lower-level players is an easy sport; especially when they have to come to you.

I do enjoy running around completing quests and being alive. Spending minutes at a time dead running to resurrect your body to get something done isn’t fun at all, however. The world is massive, but there are thousands of players simultaneously on a server. The world gets filled up with the wrong kind of people pretty fast.

We tried being at the other end of this exchange in World of Warcraft: Classic. We went to a lower-level area to collect a resource and killed any lower-level player that approached. They didn’t stand a chance. We’d been killed by other higher-level players in this particular area even before the honor system update. It takes about six minutes to return to it from the nearest graveyard.

To be completely honest, it felt good to slaughter a few of them in the first few minutes. After we’d killed the same player twice, I started feeling awful about the whole thing. I felt guilty for ruining the game for them and for their long and boring trek back to this one spot on the world map.

We joined a raid-party to play in a dungeon instead. A dungeon is a closed-off area of the game where you need more people to get through the higher difficulty. The biggest challenge was getting into the dungeon. A group of higher-level players had camped out in front of the entrance and killed our party repeatedly before we could even get through the front door.

The three other people in our group were talking about how they’d return the favor and abuse Horde players when they reached level 60. We played for about an hour and then someone in chat called another party member a “homo”.

At this point, I decided that this wasn’t an enjoyable experience anymore. I don’t enjoy the game anymore and I haven’t enjoyed it since the honor system was introduced. The game just isn’t balanced in a away that allow people to have a good time with it. Hell is other people, after all.

There are non-player-versus-player server options available. These were all full when I signed up for the game. You can’t transfer your character from one server to another. In the modern-day version of the game, you can pay 25 Euro to transfer yourself from one server to another.

I’ve invested a lot of time into my character and I don’t want to abandon him and start from scratch. I find it especially annoying that the player-versus-player aspects of the game don’t come into play until you’ve invested around 24-hours into your character. You don’t know what the experience is going to be like later in the game until after you’ve already invested significant time in it.

World of Warcraft has come a long way since the classic game. However, I’m glad I didn’t play it 15 years ago. I can’t imagine that I’d enjoy the experience then and I certainly don’t enjoy it today.