On Friday 11th February 2005, a 15 year old me rushed home from school to make sure that the postman had been to deliver my parcel that I so desperately craved. I had recently been gifted my own PC for Christmas and had spent the last couple of months playing Championship Manager 4 and The Sims, but my friends had been hyping me up about this upcoming game, World of Warcraft, which was going to be “the new Star Wars Galaxies”. They had been big into that game, but my lack of a powerful enough PC (we had a shared family PC that was just about strong enough to run Windows) meant that I was forced to just listen from the sidelines during our Xbox Party Chats about how good the game was and how much fun they were having, but with my own new, powerful PC in my bedroom, the PC gaming world was my oyster, and this time I could join in on the next big thing.
I had never played an MMORPG before (unless you’re counting Phantasy Star Online), so I spent the weeks leading up to WoW’s release reading up and researching, deciding which race and class I was going to play. I decided pretty quickly that I wanted to play as an Orc, largely because of how badass they looked in The Lord of the Rings movies, and I eventually decided that I wanted to play Rogue, because being able to take to the shadows and sneak around in stealth also sounded pretty cool.
And so the release date finally arrived. I was dramatically unproductive at school because all I wanted to do was get it out of the way and get home, and then I spent the whole journey home hoping that the postman had been. What if he couldn’t get it through the letterbox? What if my mum had gone out and it had been taken back to the sorting office? Every possible reason for it not to be there went through my head, but when I got home, there it was. I tore open the jiffy bag as I booted up my PC and took out the most glorious looking box I’d ever seen. Somehow, and I have no idea why, but I knew this game was going to be special just by looking at the box.
My excitement drained relatively quickly when I opened the box and saw four discs. Reality set in as I realised that this was going to be a long install. I can’t remember exactly how long it was, but I’m pretty sure it was hours, so I resorted to flicking through the thickest game manual you’ll ever see while I waited for it to install. When my install had finally finished, I set up my account and created my character and my excitement hit fever pitch as I knew I was about to begin my journey, but then came my second stumbling block – a queue to get on to a server. What? I have to queue to play a game? I had never come across anything like this in my life.
Once again, I can’t remember exactly how long it was, but I’m sure it was a good couple of hours, and every server that I remember trying was the same. I mean, this was launch day after all. With a bit more patience, and probably a second flick through of the game manual, I eventually got in and began my journey in the Valley of Trials. I was immediately blown away by the game, the size and scope of it, the aesthetics. There was so much to learn as I levelled up but I couldn’t wait to get on with it, but then I encountered my third stumbling block – loads of other players in the starting area competing for mobs and quest items.
That slowed down my progress in the game, but I didn’t care. I was so mesmerized by it all, I had never played anything like this; general chat was absolutely buzzing with people talking and asking questions about the game as everybody learned together, the music was goosebump-inducing and the world so vibrant and colourful, just screaming out to be explored. I knew that this was the beginning of something special, and I was happy to take it in at a slow pace. But as I continued my journey, exploring the world and meeting new people, I was continually hampered by my fourth and most frustrating stumbling block – Error 132.
In the early days of WoW, Error 132 was a monumental pain in the arse. It’s completely understandable for a game the sheer size of WoW to have some teething issues, but the Error 132 issue was a serious buzz kill. Error 132 still exists now as a genuine error message, but when the game first launched there was a bug relating to it. In the games first couple of weeks, people were reporting their game crashing out with Error 132 all of the time. In my case, I would say that I got the error probably once per hour, but sometimes it was even more regular than that, which meant that whenever I played I was constantly under threat of my game crashing out at any moment, often when I was in combat or about to complete a quest. It’s very difficult to keep your patience with a game that was, quite frankly, pretty broken at the start, but it felt so special that I was willing to ride the wave until it got fixed. Blizzard were relatively quick to patch it out, and from there on out my time with the game was truly special. I played up until Wrath of the Lich King and then stopped, returning briefly years later to check out Cataclysm. It was all so different, everything was so dumbed down and easy and levels passed by in minutes, and I wasn’t sure I liked it. General chat was dead, that sense of community gone, and any need for help or teamwork had been completely nullified.
And now here we are, fourteen and a half years after my first journey into Azeroth, and Blizzard has turned the clock back and allowed us to start all over as if it were day one again. Myself and the rest of the BuffNerfRepeat team decided to see how the original experience would feel a second time around, and we were bringing friends that had never played the game before with us too. WoW Classic’s launch day came, and we were all pretty excited; our WhatsApp group was active all day while we were all at work as we tried to arrange what time we would all be online, but once again our excitement was pretty short lived as we started to hear stories about ridiculous queue times. I got home from work, booted up my desktop and tried to log in to our server and was put in an unbelievable queue – 21,666 people to be exact, with an estimated wait time of 508 minutes. That’s definitely worse than the queue I was put in on the games original launch day, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to wait for eight hours to get into the game. We decided to switch servers and find another one with a much lower population to see if it would get us into the game quicker. It did.
That’s our first stumbling block overcome once again then, but there were more to come. Finally in the game and in different starting areas, we all started questing to begin our levelling process. But, much like WoW’s original launch, all of the starting areas were jam packed with players, so competing for mobs and quest items was the order of the day once again. There have actually been numerous reports (and evidence) of players actually forming an orderly line to queue for quest items. I didn’t see that myself, but I’ve definitely spent way longer than I would normally have to on these early quests because there’s so many other players doing them at the same time. There’s no sign of Error 132 yet, but our server did go down on the second day which left us unable to play for a couple of hours as Blizzard clearly struggled with the demand. Yes, WoW Classic has had some real teething issues too. You would think that would be a real pain in the arse, but you know what? I love it. It has helped to make the launch of WoW Classic feel just like the 2004 launch, it has made the whole thing feel like an event, like the beginning of something special all over again.
— Dr. Bright (@_EXPUNGED_) August 27, 2019
It’s not just queueing for servers and competing for mobs that has made it feel that way either; general chat is buzzing again with people asking questions and helping each other. There are obviously a lot of new players who have decided that Classic is the perfect opportunity to experience WoW for the first time, and those people mixing with old school players—or even experienced players who never played vanilla—has helped to give WoW Classic a real community feel that had been lost in modern day World of Warcraft. Players are willfully helping each other, strangers are grouping up to complete quests together, and drive-by buffs are a thing again (If you’re unaware of what a drive-by buff is, it’s a player throwing their buffs on other random strangers as they pass them in the world). Storage space was, and still is, a real struggle in vanilla WoW, but kind tailors have been active in the general chat offering to create bags for anybody that could provide the materials; one particular player spent two hours “bagging the bagless”, and I bloody love it. These are all very simple things, but they all build a sense of community and makes it feel like we’re all in this together, which is something that has been sorely missing from modern World of Warcraft. If you started a new character on modern World of Warcraft it would be a very soulless and lonely experience, where quests are completed with ease, you fly up the levels like nobody’s business, and finding a group for a dungeon just consists of pressing a button and letting the game do it for you.
If you’ve never experienced World of Warcraft before then I implore you to try it now while WoW Classic is in its infancy. If you’re an old player and you’re wondering if WoW Classic will stir up those feelings again then I can confirm that it will. WoW Classic feels like WoW’s launch all over again, warts and all.