Raids where big. Big to organize. Big to get to, big to do.
First off, you needed 39 other people. You needed 4 of them to be warriors (sometimes more, sometimes only 1). When the warriors where not tanking, they would be replaced for dps or healer (dps= mage or rogue and healer= priest). Classes where very well balanced: You had warriors to tank, Priests to heal and mages or rogues to dps. Then you had the other classes to fill up the rest of the spots and/or provide buffs.
My very first raiding guild raided on the premise that, if a person had waited outside of the instance, he would be in raid. So everyone showed up 2 hours before raid start. Or rather, everyone except the officers, and the MT.
Then we would sit outside of Molten core (don't you dare go on alts!!!) and talk or wait.
Needless to say, that when I switched guilds, I was delighted to see that they had signups.
How the raids where
Before i go on, I feel it is important to say, that most of these experiences in vanilla, are mine. This was how I experienced WoW at it's humble beginnings. Other players experiences may have varied. But take a look at this fantastic post by a fellow hellscream-eu blogger.
I knew the tank he talks about. Or rather... I once raided with him. I might even have healed in that ZG raid he talks about.
It sure sounds like the raid I raided with him.
My point with linking to said post, is to describe how lost everyone was. But as a positive.
Everyone was lost.
Addons where far from a given. Youtube videos guides neither. This was how a typical guide looked back then. ms/paint (or similar) where key!
Everything was brand new. Everyone where brand new. There where no cool-raiders (except for DnT and Nihilum, but they where on different servers, and one didn't just switch server!). There where no jaded bored or burnt out raiders (at least not near me).
I think it's hard to explain or understand now, given the climate we play in these days. Today, everything is "too easy" "held back for too long" "OMG NREF It".
Back in the Molten Core days, in the aq40 days. Back then, you could wait 4-5 months for a "class review".
Oh you don't know what a class review is? It is the patch where the developers look at one class, and try and get it adjusted with the others.
"Don't complain about that ability being over/under powered, wait untill that class is ready for review"
- the Blue posts would say. That was how balance where preserved. And the players took it. And kept playing.
When a class review came it was either like christmans, or the end of the world. Because if the class review did not solve everything, you knew there where all the other classes to go through *first* before your time was up again.
'How does all this ranting relate to raiding?' You might wonder. Well, it sets the theme. You waited. A frikking lot.
Imagine going to a boss with 39 other people. Then wipe. Then wait for everyone to get back (that would usually take 10 minutes, if you where at your keyboard AND where fast to get back. Then...
Well picture this: You and 39 friends go to a restaurant. Then you wait for the waiter. Then someone with long pointy ears is out to the bathroom. Then that pink-haired short woman if having a smoke. Then you need to get everyone buffed. Then someone starts talking trash, then another yells a joke. Then the Raidleader says: "wait the leader of the healing channel is telling me, that there is an uncertainty with the healing strategy (what is so hard about "heal the people who take damage"). Then you get to order your starters. Then the tank pulls.
Getting to a figh took forever. Getting over a wipe took a long time. Figuring out who got what loot... Oh boy.
If I got one item, on new content, once a month, I was happy.
Maybe now you are getting an idea of just how much things improved.
But a lot was lost too.
Losing your innocence
Of the 5 most scary things I have ever done in WoW, one of them does not seem all that frightning, yet it just may have been the most frightening thing for me to do:
That was the very first time I zoned into Molten core.
First off there was the fright of being in a raid. Suddenly 39 other peoples lives depended squarly on me. I did not know it at that time, but raids are sort of different from dungeons. Being the healer in a dungeon, that may have been true, but being a healer in a raid it was certainly not solely up to me. But it all added up to the fright.
Then there where the two first mobs you could see as you entered, the two massive 'Molten Giant's
They may or may not seem impressive by todays standards. But i recently went back into MC to get the achievement, and they still scared the crap out of me.
Everything was bigger, badder, harder and much more scary back then. Simply because it we had not been doing this for 6 years.
Just like in a sequel to any great (or even half decent) horror movie, simply does not get you going the same way, raids will sooner or later become routine.
Or to put it in a more... direct way
Show me a beautiful woman, I'll show you a man who's tired of fucking herI have talked a lot about chasing the dragon. About trying to get back to that first WoW-high. My first WoW-high was in Vanilla, and - sadly - I'll never get back to that. Some people cannot get past this fact. They refuse to accept it, they go and yell at anyone who tells them that either 'You'll never get it back', or 'It really wasn't that great'. The game *did* improve massively when that first expansion hit the shelves, some improvements where to my liking, some where not. Games evolve, either you evolve with them, or you find something better to do with you time. How this is a controversial statement, is beyond my understanding. But as my last post proved, a lot of things are beyond what I can understand.
Let's get back on track
Themes and plots and story. Oh my.
This is a big one for me, personally this part of the game is almost what matters as much to me as the actual quality of gameplay. I have played through some absolutly horrible games, because I wanted to see the story through to the end.
Back in vanilla, story was not so important. At least not the grand story arch, because there where a *lot* of story and quests and themes everywhere. It was just not a whole lot of it, that had anything to do with anything else.
Lets look at the major dungeons in the game, as an example:
Molten core, Blackwing layer, Temple of Ahn'Qiraj and Naxxramas.
Molten Core was the remnants of an old Dwarf war
Blackwing was Deathwings sons attempt at world domination (starting with killing the last boss in Molten core, so there is *some* connection)
AQ was... an old God who came from out of nowhere, pretty much, and wanted to enslave us all
And Naxxramas was The Lich kings first attempt at turning us all into ghouls.
Mind you, I had to wowpedia all of the above, because - lore enthusiastic as I might be - Raids where more about showing up, killing evil and getting loot.
Some will claim that this has not changed a whole lot. I will beg to differ in the next part of these series.
How questing and how Dungeons where
I can't for the life of me find the blue post that examplifies quests. Here is how I remember it
Quests around level forty, had a lot of going to different parts of the world, because we wanted the player to feel like they where seasoned players. We have since changed this.
Point was: there where a lot of "go here, pick up this, spend 45 minutes traveling to next spot and deliver" -types of quests. The world sure did seem like an awful big place.
It was also why the most common questions I ever read on forums back then was: "what is the best grinding spot for my level" and "can you recommend a great leveling guide". I am not to proud to admit that most of my alts took great pleasure in James leveling guide (I've learned something, never link to anyone.. So I will assume that most of you are aware of what James leveling guides where/are).
Dungeons where 2 hours of having at least 1 person in your group standing in IF and trying to get a warrior (or if I was not on my priest, standing for 4 hours looking for a warrior and a priest), then everyone traveling to that dungeon. Then have the mage dc or having to go to dinner, and leave, and then one of of your party memebers had to return and scream: "we have warrior and priest!!!" followed by 50 people spamming for invites... Good times.
But it also meant that people hardly ever dropped group. This was back when a good group could take hours completing a dungeon, and bad ones... well...
Story time: I remember playing in Strat (full clear!) with 3 people I had never met, and one guy I had played with a couple of dungeons before. Well back then I lived in a neighbourghood that had an awfull reputation (concrete hell, it was known as). It wasn't all that bad, but it did have this rep. Well I was playing with these people, when my phone rang. It was mrs Dwism, who was on her way home, (this was at night) and her phone was almost out of batteries and there where some creepy people on the bus with her. She wanted to know if I could go to the stop and pick her up. There where 3 stops that where equally close to our appartment, so I asked her, "which stop?" and then the line went dead.
I paniced, wrote something like: Gf had creepy people on bus with her, her phone is dead, brb.
And then I ran. 10 minutes later I had found her, with absolutly nothing to worry about. The creepy people didn't even notice her, when she got off, and the only thing bothering her, was that she could her some "girl in the distance screaming my name".... I blushed, and was very happy that it was dark. when I got back to the flat, the 4 other guys where still in the instance. waiting for me, wondering if everything had turned out allright.
Can you imagine this happening in a PuG today? The only reason they would stay would be for the mystery. I have waited in PuGs in vanilla when someone said "brb" and was gone for 20 minutes. Or a DC for 10.
But you did only do 1 maybe two dungeons a day, so on the good/bad scale I guess those two evens out.
The other thing about dungeons taking this long, was that you got to know people in them. This could be as big a blessing as a curse though. If you ended up with a 12 year old lolllersc8er, your evening was ruined. But Finch and Onxy got married a couple of years back, and we where at their wedding. They where a couple I meet through wow, and even though they do not play any more, we still talk a lot.
In the summer of 2009 the four of us even made it to Belgium (onxy, finch, me and MRs dwism), to visit Ratang, who we all used to play a lot with, but had never met.
So long lasting friendships, made through wow, not something I think an old grumpy Dwarf like me, will ever find again.
So emotionally nothing will ever compete with what the kids call 'Vanilla'. But gamewise... Well next part of this, will look at how The Burning Crusade panned out. (hopefully with a shorter interval than this one had)