What the Ahn’Qiraj Ten Hour War event shows us about how World of Warcraft has changed
I often look at WoW Classic and wonder about the way that game is playing out. If nothing else, it shows us that there’s a demand to return to a simpler time in WoW, even if such a simpler time is ultimately somewhat illusory. But events like the recent Ten Hour War on the Sulfuras server have me thinking about the nature of player community and the changes we’ve seen over the years. How one faction with more people can utterly steamroll the other, how players today can use trolling tactics like mass reporting to attempt to blacklist players, how a group of 600+ Horde players and 300+ Alliance players were willing to stay online for ten hours to try and accomplish their aims.
I mean, no offense, but I wouldn’t stay online for ten straight hours nowadays unless there was something like a million dollars waiting for me at the end of it. My behind would be in agony.
The emergent gameplay of the past
Now, as Cory pointed out, there are a lot of reasons why you couldn’t do this today. NPCs have much better AI, and there are a lot of tools in the game to keep something like keeping the quest mob in combat for ten hours from happening. I remember doing the War in Silithus back in the day and it was a crashtastic mess, so I’m not sad that the game has moved beyond those days, but I do find myself wondering — the draw of community action on this scale is one that feels almost quaint, it’s been so long since I’ve seen it. WoW today is a game I can play for an hour or two, have some fun, and log off. WoW back then was a game I sank hours and hours of my life into. I’ve easily dumped ten or more hours into events in World of Warcraft over the years — the Eranikus battle in Moonglade, the original Scourge Invasion, the aforementioned Scarab War getting our GM his Black Resonating Crystal.
Both the game and I have changed. It feels pointless to deny that. WoW today, as we head into Shadowlands, provides a lot more content that’s digestible in smaller chunks. Even long questlines like the legendary cloak are doable in stages — I don’t have to get 40 friends together and devote six hours of my life to them in one go. Talking about quests we miss and wish were still in the game on this week’s podcast, we discussed the Hunter quest for Rhok’delar and how involved it was, how it took you all over the world and required precision and in some cases it required that you get your future husband to mount up on a horse and repeatedly get Devilsaurs to chase him around Un’Goro.
Well, it did in one specific case, anyway. Tank gear was my friend.
You can’t raid the Crossroads again
Would the game be better today if it supported massive efforts by one faction to prevent the other from accomplishing a limited, one-time event as retaliation for a shady banning campaign? Well, I don’t think so, but I understand why people are nostalgic for it. Server community was once a defining part of World of Warcraft and for every player like me that found navigating those social waters an irritating chore, there were players who found themselves suddenly good at organizing groups of people, or players who were happy to be in those groups. Whether it was ridiculous 16-hour back and forth battles between Tarren Mill and Southshore or the berserk chum of players crashing into each other at the Crossroads in the Barrens, or the time I participated in a four-hour tug-of-war over killing Azuregos that ended with me kiting the big blue jerk halfway across the map, the game and the faction conflict felt real back then.
For that matter, there was the sense of community in forming up dungeon runs. Yes, they took forever to organize. Yes, I was often besieged with, “Hey, you want to tank Sunken Temple?” messages as soon as I logged on. Yes, half the time you’d sit in Ironforge or Orgrimmar trying to find a fifth member. But there was an informal whisper network on most servers — players who knew other players by name or reputation, who’d navigate that social labyrinth and put groups together. It was something that, when it worked, could be pretty amazing.
Of course, when it didn’t work, you spent six hours trying to get a Blackrock Depths run and another four hours in Blackrock Depths, only to fall apart when the Mage had to leave to eat dinner.
When boats ended up in Stonetalon and blood plagues were common
Ultimately, I look at WoW Classic and events like the Ten Hour War and I’m reminded of the Corrupted Blood Plague, an event so disruptive that Blizzard made sure it wouldn’t happen again when they launched ZG in WoW Classic. I have a lot of nostalgic memories of it, now. Does that mean Blizzard should have let it happen? Should they just have left the Corrupted Blood unpatched and let people spread it via their pets outside of the raid? I mean, that would have been faithful to the way the game originally launched that raid. And how long should they have left it like that before hotfixing it? A lot of players I knew at the time took their diseased pets and ran into the opposite faction’s capital cities to spread the plague to NPCs like the Auctioneers and bankers and loved it — is the fact that players enjoy that enough reason to let them do it?
I don’t have an answer on that one. I mean, part of me is like, “Why should WoW Classic players get to avoid that mess?” and I feel like all the chaos and all the strange moments of players doing things like spending ten hours keeping a dragon from giving someone a quest should be preserved. The game as it was, warts and all. But I know I definitely don’t want that kind of experience when I log on to WoW nowadays — I don’t have an entire day at a time to dedicate to the game like I did back in 2005. I’m not that player anymore, and I’m not sad that WoW isn’t that game anymore. And isn’t that what WoW Classic is for? If that’s the game you want, there it is, waiting for you.
Originally published 09/24/2020
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