You can’t go back in MMOs (mostly)

While I do think that MMO nostalgists tend to wax a little too strongly on about how their game was SO great “back in the day” without acknowledging or remembering how crappy some of its features were and how some of the improvements that have come since were as a result of people being fed up with those elements, I can relate to the feeling at times.  There’s a keen sense of loss when you realize that you can’t go back to how things used to be, no matter how much you liked them or how great they were at the time.  Life and MMOs are all about changing, something that is often necessary, inevitable, and at times undesirable.

Over this past weekend a lot of players, both past and present, were evaluating the news of World of Warcraft’s fourth expansion with mixed feelings.  Some are excited, some cautious, some angry, and some perplexed.  I can’t see anything ever pulling me back into WoW no matter what they added or changed, so my opinion on whether or not this is a good move on Blizzard’s behalf is moot.  It may be the right direction, to angle it toward a younger set (it’s hard to argue that panda-people and pokemon are the result of marketing going after older demographics) and try something more whimsical than Cataclysm’s apocalyptic bent.  It may prove to be disastrous.

But for me, I’ve sent a couple moments here and there realizing that WoW is so far removed from the game I originally played as to not really be recognizable any longer.  And, for better or worse, that saddens me.  I’m sure a lot of the changes that have happened are for the better, and I’m certainly not saying that original vanilla WoW was far superior.  But it was a fun ride, especially in that first year or so when it was brand-new, when we put up with all of Blizzard’s stumblings because we were instantly addicted, and when it felt slicker than anything else we’d seen.  The “we” there is the royal We, by the way.  I speak just for myself.

The WoW of 2004 would simply not recognize the WoW of today, except for the character creation screen and its still stupidly limited visual choices.  The pace of leveling was much slower, the world (at least, to me) felt huge and often very dangerous, and hitting milestones like level 40 and 60 were major accomplishments instead of Hour Two speedbumps on your way to 90.  I know with games like EverQuest, there have been efforts to try to recreate the original feel and progression as much as possible, but even with that, it’s not really the same as having been there when it happened.  MMOs are more than just patch notes and expansions, they’re also about community and culture.  When I (slightly) mourn the loss of WoW circa 2004, I more mourn the loss of its culture than the actual version of the game itself.

You can’t go back.  It is just how it is.  You also can’t fight the moonlight.  Trust me, I’ve tried.


11 thoughts on “You can’t go back in MMOs (mostly)

  1. Nils October 24, 2011 / 12:09 pm

    Of course, you are correct. But let be say this:
    Blizzard should have added to the game instead of revamping it all the time.

  2. bhagpuss October 24, 2011 / 12:43 pm

    I have never believed that old saw that “you can’t go back”. I’ve always been very able to “go back” when reading books, watching movies or listening to music. My problem, if you can call it a problem, is that doing those things sometimes returns me so intensely to who and what i was when I first encountered them that it becomes difficult to handle.

    MMOs are slightly different in that, unlike those static forms, they continue to grow and change. Like the proverbial axe whose handle and head have both been replaced, there’s a question whether an MMO that has had both graphics and gameplay updated is still the same entity. Most MMOs, however, do not get this degree of surgery.

    If I log into Everquest, as I often do, and take one of my characters out to the Karanas, dressed in the gear they’ve been wearing for a decade, very little has changed. I can still solo there the way I did in 2000 and it feels much the same. Of course I prefer not to. I prefer to pop my mercenary and enjoy the very much improved gameplay of modern-day Everquest.

    But that’s my choice. If I want to go back, I can. So long as they leave the servers on.

  3. hordemaster October 24, 2011 / 3:47 pm

    I got into wow late circa 2008. I bemoan not having been around in 2004 to experience the community you speak of, but like you said, there is no going back. A game with pandas in the mix is a game I have no interest in playing. Some purists may argue, so don’t roll one, but they will be running around the world. Blizzard forgot the games is called “Warcraft.” Pandas do not evoke any warlike feelings in any rational person.

  4. Buhallin October 24, 2011 / 4:40 pm

    “I can’t see anything ever pulling me back into WoW no matter what they added or changed, so my opinion on whether or not this is a good move on Blizzard’s behalf is moot.”

    I disagree with this, Syp. If it were a really good move on Blizzard’s part, it would have those of us who have sworn off the game going “Man, that looks interesting, maybe it’s worth resubbing one more time…” Instead, I’m hearing people actually LAUGHING at Blizzard. Not “I’m not interested in that” or “Another talent tree revamp?” but actively mocking the direction they’re taking the game. Whatever your interest level is, it’s hard to argue that that’s a very bad thing.

    In general, I agree with you on MMO nostalgia though. I frequently describe Everquest as the best game I never want to play again.

  5. Amanda October 24, 2011 / 9:54 pm

    Full disclosure: I’m a hardcore original WoW fangirl.

    I think, for me, it’s that I had fun in Classic WoW. I did not have much fun in any of the expansions. I did not “see” flaws back then, but I do now. I didn’t care about the lag / downtime (though, I do still joke about falling into the hole in Lagforge). I don’t generally like the “improvements” to leveling speed or the dungeon/battleground finders. I was much happier waiting a few hours for my queue to pop for Old AV than I have been with rapid succession queues of the modern BGs.

    In summary, I hate “modern” WoW and would happily go back to Classic WoW, getting groups to fill out my Magister’s set.

    But you’re right, I’d be much happier if I had my Classic WoW friends back, but still only in Classic WoW. I still don’t think they’d make me happy in modern WoW.

    They’ve sucked me back in for each expansion prior to MoP with just the trailers alone. I will not be checking out MoP. Fool me three or four times…

  6. Dolnor October 25, 2011 / 12:36 am

    YOU can’t go back but I can. I value the fun factor. Fun to me is community and reliving why I liked the game in the first place. I still have fun breaking out my old copy of Privateer or Neverwinter Nights. I would still have fun playing the original EQ or Asheron’s Call. I would subscribe tomorrow if they created a pre-NGE SWG or a pre-ToA DAoC.

    Currently I am looking at getting a sub for Ryzom or Vanguard:Saga of Heroes…both of which I F&F beta tested…now that their systems and content are where they should have been on release.

    Besides, at my age…senility starts setting in…I can always blame it on that! -)


    Dolnor Numbwit
    Eternal Newbie

  7. Isey October 25, 2011 / 10:44 am

    I have gone back to WoW every expansion – it’s fun to see how it has grown up over the years. For some, it’s like watching your kid grow up, go to University, graduate, and get a career. For others, it’s like watching your kid quit High School, get hooked on drugs, get knocked up at 17, and start collecting pogey. Either way, it’s hard not to watch.

    I go back, consume the 30-60 days of content, then unsub again. Although,to be honest, there is nothing in MoP that is making me consider going back this time.

  8. Gina October 25, 2011 / 9:41 pm

    I can completely relate. WoW is dead to me.

    Of course, part of it could be that I went on my honeymoon to the first BlizzCon and now the marriage is over…

  9. hordemaster October 25, 2011 / 9:46 pm

    No for me it’s the pandas LOL

  10. Wolfshead October 30, 2011 / 5:17 am

    The current state of WoW and is a disgrace. It’s MMO pabulum designed for kiddies by kiddies. Blizzard has squandered the great opportunity they had to reinvest into millions of dollars in profits into improving and advancing virtual worlds. They have done no such thing.

    Other than a handful of bloggers, there is no intelligent community left to keep them accountable due to the churn and transient nature of the community. The caliber of the questions from the fans at BlizzCon was deplorable.

    In a way, I’m almost glad Blizzard is releasing Mists of Pandaria. Hopefully the resulting catastrophe will plunge a stake of bamboo through the heart of WoW. WoW needs to die as soon as possible to create the fertilizer for new MMOs where the developers are hungry and passionate to create virtual worlds of value and substance.

  11. Elle January 23, 2012 / 6:14 pm

    Thank you for writing this. You took the words right out of my heart so to say. I went back to WoW just a couple months ago for a brief period of time (about 2 weeks) and when I suddenly realized that it took me only about 8 hours of playtime before I found myself killing rhinos in Negrand I realized what a very disappointing turn this game has taken. I long for the true challenge that Vanilla WoW gave us. This game, unfortunately is now suited for the 13 and younger audience. I guess it’s time to say goodbye.

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