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5 reasons you should love classic World of Warcraft

Anne Stickney

I have a lot of love for World of Warcraft in each of its iterations. When I wrote 5 reasons you should love Mists of Pandaria, it really made me start to look back at the history of the game -- not necessarily the lore and story that I usually write about, but the various expansions from classic all the way to the upcoming Mists. Though the expansions themselves were vastly different in terms of story and progression, there are still things to love about every single one -- yes, including Cataclysm.

Maybe it's just human nature to be cynical. Maybe it's just human nature to be caught in the dissatisfaction of now. But I can't help but think that perhaps we've lost sight of the reasons we love this game. It's not just internet dragons, after all. There's plenty out there to look at and remember fondly and keep in mind as we move on into the future. So read these, think back and remember -- once upon a time, we were all in love with this game. I don't think that the game has altered from its basic tenets in so dramatic a fashion as to warrant outright hatred or derision.

5. Discovery

World of Warcraft was the stark realization of many, many years of hard work for one purpose: to bring the Warcraft RTS series to breathtaking life. And it worked, absolutely. Those who logged in for the first time and walked among the shadowy boughs of Teldrassil, those who heard the triumphant and stirring theme of Stormwind, those who heard the primal, bestial sounds of war drums in Orgrimmar -- there was a special kind of magic in those first few steps.

Everything we loved about the Warcraft RTS series was now alive in a way we'd never seen before. Every beloved character from the original games was there with us, talking to us, giving us quests. Azeroth was an incomprehensibly massive world teeming with life, and it was up to us to trek along the dusty roads and discover just what was out there to see. It was a story that was incredibly familiar, presented in a way we'd never seen it before, and there was a magic surrounding that transformation that drew people in.

4. A new kind of gameplay

What World of Warcraft offered was a streamlined, slightly easier experience than other MMOs of its time. While games like EverQuest punished players with experience debt for dying, Warcraft would simply let you run back to your corpse and go. There was no need for tutorials, no need to research beforehand or even read the game manual -- a player could simply log in and start playing, gaining levels fairly quickly as they traveled through the game.

This has always been a core tenet of Blizzard game design -- gameplay that is fun to play has always been at the top of the list, along with ease of learning. It may sound odd to those who remember vanilla being terribly difficult and the game being incredibly care bear and easy now, but in the days of classic, in the days where WoW's main competitor was EverQuest, the EverQuest population considered those who chose WoW the care bears and casuals. This game has always been about ease and accessibility, and players flocked to it because it let you get in there and play, without having to jump through any hoops to get started. It's a core belief of Blizzard's game design, one that it still takes into account today.

3. Visual diversity

Where most MMOs go for a more realistic, gritty feel in their graphics, WoW has never really wandered in that direction too far. The early days of World of Warcraft found it criticized for being too cartoony, yet there was an inherent charm in the way the game was designed. Villains looked appropriately villainous, heroes looked appropriately heroic -- and the scenery was and is still full of bright pops of vivid color and visual eye candy that you just didn't see in the real-world design of other MMO games.

I think a lot of that had to do with the game itself. It's a fantasy game that has its serious moments, but never takes itself too seriously. Fantasy games are meant to be an escape from the day-to-day toil of real life, and the graphics in WoW were a hallmark of departure from the thought that games needed to look ultra-real to be convincing or visually appealing. Players knew the instant they logged in that they weren't in the real world anymore -- and they embraced that fantasy wholeheartedly.

2. Community

While today the forums and blogs are full of horror stories about jerks in the Dungeon Finder and other unsavory personalities, in classic WoW, the community was a breath of fresh air. Servers played together, grouped together, and later in classic's lifetime, even worked together on a common goal, opening the gates of Ahn'Qiraj. There was a sense of self-policing back then; players who stole loot were quickly called out on the forums and in game channels, which prevented them from getting away with that kind of behavior again.

But beyond that, there was a sense of camaraderie, even between players of opposing factions. Server communities were close-knit. Players on the server general knew each other by reputation, and even when you were killing each other, there was still that moment of recognition across the battlefield. It was a living, breathing community of various personalities all tied together for one common reason -- a love of Warcraft and a love of engaging gameplay.

And the #1 reason you should love classic WoW:

1. Revolutionary changes

World of Warcraft wasn't just another MMO. It was an MMO that crashed onto the scene and immediately captured the hearts and attention of countless players. World of Warcraft sold over 240,000 copies in its first 24 hours -- more than any other other PC game in history at the time and far, far more than Blizzard expected. The original 40 servers filled up almost immediately with players, while still more players waited impatiently to log on and experience Azeroth for themselves. It required immediate addition of new servers in order to handle the demand -- a problem, yes, but a delightful problem to have.

Since then, every MMO out there has tried to recreate that magic formula, and nobody has been able to do it quite like World of Warcraft did back in 2004. It was a revolution in MMO gameplay and a revolution in the way that MMO's were made. Pretty much every MMO to date has taken bits and pieces from WoW's various elements, hoping to make a success story for themselves. While nobody has reached the numbers that WoW has managed to amass over the years, it can be safely said that WoW and the success of its launch changed the face of MMO gaming forever. Every new MMO launched is immediately compared to World of Warcraft and questioned as to whether or not it will be the "WoW killer," which is in its own way a tip of the hat to Blizzard's astonishing success.

Whether it was the vivid, startlingly beautiful fantasy landscapes or the ease of play, players fell in love with World of Warcraft. It was the continuation of a series of Blizzard games that had stories and situations that simply rang true with players. Simple moments at times, but moments that were real, genuine, and wholly relatable by anyone who picked up the game, whether they played the original RTS games or not. And though the face of the game may have changed over the years, the people behind it have not -- they still hold the same passion, drive, and genuine love for Warcraft as they did when they first brought it to life.

The news is out -- we'll be playing Mists of Pandaria! Find out what's in store with an all-new talent system, peek over our shoulder at our Pandaren hands-on, and get ready to battle your companion pets against others. It's all here right at WoW Insider!

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