Thursday, December 1, 2022

Watching the Bronco Busters Work

I'm watching the initial posts about Dragonflight from the sideline, such as Kaylriene's, and I wonder whether Dragonflight is for me.

Or maybe a better question to ask is whether Dragonflight is for someone who liked the open world of Vanilla Classic but gradually became disappointed with the tone and direction of TBC Classic and Wrath Classic. 

I already know I don't like the revamped Old World brought about by Cataclysm over a decade ago*, and the focus of you in Wrath (and onward) as a sort of superhero for merely doing the job of killing ten rats kind of wears on me. Yes, other MMOs have something similar in design --such as SWTOR and LOTRO-- but... the transition from Vanilla's do a variety of things or a couple of mini stories in a zone to your character having a soundtrack straight out of a Bonnie Tyler song by the end of Wrath doesn't quite do it for me. 

If I'm coming back to Dragonflight, it will be from the standpoint of a player who had effectively retired after defeating Arthas, teaming up with Neve to teach apprentices away from the crowds of Stormwind and Silvermoon. Card would have to be coaxed out of retirement by acquaintances among the dragonflights; in her case it would likely have been Haleh (or maybe Awbee) asking Card to come help explore the Dragon Isles since her eye for detail would prove invaluable. 

Coming back into the fray after having been (effectively) away for 20 years would be difficult for Card, which mirrors my own difficulties stepping back into Retail and finding so many different systems and expectations beyond what things were like in Retail Wrath.** Look at it this way: there have now been just as many expansions in World of Warcraft after I left than before I left, 8 years ago. That's a lot of "learn something only to discard it two years later" playing, but also a lot of changes to the basics and the systems behind the game. 

One need only look at the map to see evidence of that.

This is Wrath Classic, but it's functionally
unchanged since Vanilla Classic.

Yes, that's the original Azshandra.
The map is that smallish thing
with all of the quest markers and
whatnot in it.

The integration of the map with quest markers --along with other items-- would have been provided with addons until when the default map was changed, sometime after the Mists of Pandaria expansion. 

You can customize the map to an extent:

I had to hunt around for it, but this
is brought up by the magnifying
glass, above.

But not too much. The main quest markers are still present.

I guess I wouldn't complain about it so much if it was something I was used to from the start, such as SWTOR's map, 

Courtesy of my baby Imperial Agent.

except that SWTOR's map has changed a bit over the years. Some of the "non-story" quests are now hidden by default, and you have to manually select an option to show them, but largely it has remained the same. In fact, the quest design itself behind SWTOR is very similar to that of Wrath Classic, down to the display in the default UI.

Linna taking a short break at
Valiance Keep. Note the list of quests
in the upper right.

It's been so long since I played this
Agent that some things have been
reset, but the quest list is still present,
again in the upper left.

Of course, I never knew that the quest list being turned on by default was an innovation in Wrath itself until I began playing Vanilla Classic and discovered it simply didn't exist wasn't turned on. [EtA: corrected this but kept the original in editing. Thanks to Indy for pointing out the miss here due to my lack of clarity.]***

What I have found is that throwing away the map and playing in a non-optimized manner allows me to just explore and figure things out on my own, something I'd never experienced before in MMOs until I had the chance to in Vanilla Classic. I'm obviously in the minority here, because MMOs have evolved away from exploratory play and in favor of directed play. All you have to know about that is that Retail conditioned players to sprint to max level to begin the grinding of prepping for raids, despite design intentions in Dragonflight to counter that FOMO.

The relevant portion is at 0:51:10, about the
design change of players logging in without
mandatory content. However, if you've the time
the entire video is VERY much worth it.

Old habits are hard to break, particularly when the next expansion is well underway.**** 


All of that aside, the question remains: will a person who likes more of the open world, more cold war version of the pre-Cataclysm World of Warcraft find enough to love in Dragonflight, which on the face of it seems to be a completely different game?

If it were a matter of using the same subscription to go ahead and play that'd be one thing, but WoW still requires a person to pay for the expansions, so it becomes a matter of whether $50 is worth it to buy, play for a few hours, and then discard if I don't like it. And I don't know about you, but especially during the Holidays I don't have $50 just sitting around to blow on what to me seems a pretty risky gamble, so I'm going to sit on the fence for a while. I'm kind of used to that, as after all, it's not like I haven't done that before.

*I've been pondering that quite a bit lately, and I considered several reasons why I didn't like the revamp: the focus on the Horde and Alliance conflict, the shoehorning of Goblins and Worgen into an already existing world, and the constantly depressing viewpoints of the conflict (::cough:: Hillsbrad ::cough::). But I think the biggest reason why I didn't like the revamp was the need for every single zone to have an overarcing zone story. In Vanilla WoW, and to a lesser extent TBC and Wrath, there may have been stories set within a zone, but with a few notable exceptions (such as Westfall) there hasn't been a singular dominant story arc like that found in The Storm Peaks in Wrath. However, almost all of the revamped Old World zones have one dominant zone story to help propel the questing from hub to hub.

**Yes, for the record I stopped playing at the end of Mists, but I effectively stopped playing any sort of PvE group content shortly into Cataclysm; the toxic atmosphere and LTP noob nature of the LFD tool killed any interest in learning how to do group content beyond the occasional Normal dungeon run. Instead, I focused on (regular) Battlegrounds and by the time Mists of Pandaria was coming to an end I grew tired of the pervasive nature of bots and how the Alliance could only win the 40 person BGs. 

***Hence the prevalence of the Questie addon in the Classic community.

****It's like that in any software development house. At the one I worked at back in the 90s, the "official" release of our product was barely noticed by the development staff, as we were about 1/3 of the way into the projects already identified for the next release. And we didn't have issues like MMOs do, where the reception of systems and changes for the current expansion won't have a true impact on the game until two expansions later. That's because you simply can't change direction on a dime and devote a huge amount of resources to changing the game potentially mid-to-late expac development. In our case, it was a matter of which project got priority more than changing projects entirely.

EtA: I meant to put the proper code for Preach's YouTube video in there, but I forgot. Oopsie.


  1. I just logged onto a vanilla classic character to check, and up to 5 quests could be tracked. So I'm not sure what you mean about the quest tracker being a Wrath invention, it was there from the beginning.

    1. You can track 5 quests, but it's not the default. Wrath changed that so that tracking was the default, and you could track far more than 5 quests. I apologize for a lack of clarity.

  2. I think you might really enjoy Dragonflight. Yes, the talent trees, rotations, mechanics are very different, but so far it seems to be rewarding. Getting flying early with our dragons, the ability to just fly over the full map and get your glyphs, is really a game changer. It doesn’t feel like cheating because the whole map is designed for flying. The flying race courses are a blast, though kind of terrifying for me. It feels like crafting will be worthwhile, and it’s been incredibly fun collecting plants and alchemy on one toon and mining/jewelcrafting on my other. Questing, yes, there’s the overarching story, but also so many villages and side quests. I think this one is going to end up being very immersive. And the Tuskarr! I love them so much, and it’s good to see them here. Ok, I rambled, but I think your characters would enjoy carrying their story into Dragonflight.

    1. I may yet visit Dragonflight, but for now I'm going to see about working on getting Linnawyn --well, Linnawyn 2.0-- to max level in Northrend. I don't want to take Card into any 25 pugs --too many awkward questions about "Hey, I thought you weren't going to transfer Card over" when she makes an appearance outside of the 10s raid team-- and I know how to play a Ret Pally in Wrath already, so...