Weather effects were incredibly exciting when they were first implemented, I thought. They added a real sense of the world being alive in a way that few other things can manage. Passing through Elwynn Forest and getting caught in a downpour or leveling a new alt in Dun Morogh and finding yourself in a powdering of snow is somehow more magical than any fireball or bolt of shadows our characters can conjure.
It is unfortunate, then, that Blizzard drifted away from weather as a part of World of Warcraft's aesthetic. Rather than making weather an unpredictable, fluid part of Azeroth's life, the developers began to wield weather as a part of scripted events or an ever-present feature in specific regions of the world. Northrend has no randomized weather and no weather patterns. It does have specific places on the map where there is a weather effect in action around the clock. It's not so magical, then.
One of my fondest weather memories is from Zul'Gurub in classic WoW. Zul'Gurub, being an outdoor zone, was given randomized weather just like other world zones. It wasn't triggered by a boss or any particular event; it just happened sometimes. One night, my raid was nearly done clearing the zone, and we just started our push up towards Hakkar when ... it started pouring rain. We had never seen the weather effects in that zone before. It's fierce enough that your visibility actually decreases in the zone. It added a whole new level of tension to the zone as we pushed toward Hakkar. I haven't experienced anything since and rigid, perfectly scripted events will never be able to emulate that sensation.
Gearing in classic World of Warcraft was pure luck of the draw. On top of that, people who didn't raid would never, ever be kitted out in epic gear. There were no heroic dungeons, there were no badges or points, there was simply Stratholme, Scholomance, Blackrock Depths, Blackrock Spire, and later Dire Maul. With the exception of a small selection of epics that dropped in 5-man dungeons or were world BOE drops, someone who didn't raid at all capped out at blue gear.
However, the fact that class-specific pseudo-tier gear existed in classic WoW took some bite off of that. Even someone who capped out in blues had an iconic, class-unique appearance. Cloth blues didn't all look the same. Plate blues didn't all look the same. Everybody had a unique appearance on par with a tier set. The core problem still existed, though: Casual players had no method of character advancement. In classic WoW, rather than casual players' getting the raiders' hand-me-downs, they were given a completely different method of character advancement: questing to upgrade the gear they already had. Your pseudo-tier gear, later known as Dungeon Set 1, could be directly upgraded into Dungeon Set 2 through a series of challenging quests that could be done solo and in 5-man groups.
One of the future Archivists on my list is a full walkthrough of what this Dungeon Set 2 process entailed, so I won't go into extreme detail on the individual quests here. What it ultimately culminated in, besides new gear, was the ability to summon new bosses in existing dungeons. Not only did this quest chain give casual players a way to upgrade their gear, but it also spiced up old dungeons with new challenges.
Personally, I thought this quest chain was an absolutely brilliant move on Blizzard's part, and I treasure my paladin's Soulforge set to this day, but it appears the developers have decided such quest chains are just too much trouble. They even removed the existing quest chain with Cataclysm. Raiders' hand-me-downs is how it is now and how it will continue to be.
Patch 1.10 generally improved the base experience of the game. Look over the patch notes and just take in all of the small details we take for granted now in 2011 that players had to do without back in 2004 and 2005. Quests done at the level cap did not grant gold, making questing at level 60 almost entirely pointless except to experience the story of each zone. You couldn't queue up a flight from one end of the continent to the other. If you were in Stormwind and wanted to fly to the Eastern Plaguelands, you had to sit behind your keyboard and purchase each flight one by one. Tram to Ironforge, fly to to the Wetlands, fly to Arathi Highlands, fly to the Hinterlands, fly to the Eastern Plaguelands, one by one, purchasing each individual flight.
You're almost certain to notice that 5-man dungeons received yet another revamp, improving the loot again and restricting the number of people allowed into the dungeon at once even further. We went from no limit to a 15-man limit and then to a 10-man limit, and finally to a 5-man limit. Alterac Valley continued to mutate in the same way (which is yet another Archivist to come), with the developers pulling out aspects that detracted from the PVP combat of the zone, toning down how much looting and how many item turn-ins you had to deal with, eliminating PVE elements from the battleground, and so on.
Next time on the Archivist ...
If all goes well, next week we'll examine the Scepter of the Shifting Sands quest chain!
The WoW Archivist examines the WoW of old. Follow along while we discuss the lost legendary, the opening of Ahn'Qiraj, and hidden locations such as the crypts of Karazhan.