WoW Archivist: What has never changed?

Scott Andrews
S. Andrews|02.14.14

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WoW Archivist: What has never changed?
Party fights a dragon
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

With WoW's tenth anniversary fast approaching, one thing is clear: virtually everything in this game has been changed, updated, or replaced at one time or another. The UI, the stats, character creation, raid systems, class abilities, questing -- all have undergone necessary overhauls to keep the game relevant and modern. A question for the Queue last month asked a very interesting question: What in WoW has never, ever changed?

You might think so, but no

Many aspects of the game seem like they have never changed, but they have.

The act of gathering: Sure, Blizzard added bonuses to the professions in Wrath such as the crit bonus for skinning or the HoT from herbalism. And as of Cataclysm, you can now earn XP by gathering. Gathering no longer requires tools. Yet the fundamental mechanics have always been the same: you right click stuff, get the stuff, and skill up so you can click on better stuff. Right?

Back in classic, gathering actually had a chance to fail. Orange difficulty nodes would not cough up their resources to anyone who wandered past with the minimum required skill. Failing three or four times on a node before a successful gathering attempt was not unheard of.

This led to some interesting "PvP" gathering scenarios, even on PvE realms. If two players converged on the node, the first to click it didn't necessarily get the goods. This situation sometimes led to a hilarious "duel" in which both players failed at gathering over and over again. It became a matter of luck, persistence, and rapid clicking. Mining was especially bad, because it used to take multiple strikes to clear out a node. Two players could spend minutes trying to outmine each other on a single rock.

Racial bonuses, enchantments, and items that boosted gathering skills all mattered much more, not just to save time from the failed attempts, but to beat other players to the punch.

Eating and drinking: The act of using a food or drink item to recover health or mana seems like the simplest thing in the world. What could have possibly changed?

Late in The Burning Crusade, Blizzard "nerfed" drinking. It sounds crazy, but it happened. The devs decided to end-load the amount of mana you received from drinking. Drinking during the first few seconds had a reduced benefit, but the returns ramped up as you continued to chug. In arena matches, players were finding ways to get out of combat and drink for a few seconds to help maintain their mana pools. The nerf made this strategy far less effective.

PvE players who needed quick drinks between trash waves in Mount Hyjal or pulls in Zul'Aman's timed run were not fond of the change.

Tracking: The handy drop-down menu on the minimap is so simple and intuitive it seems like it has always been with us. But that was an addition in patch 2.3. Prior to this, tracking had to be turned on and off by clicking a spell. My vanilla hunter had an entire hotbar full of tracking spells on the right side of my screen. Most such spells were buffs that had to be reapplied every time you died.

You also couldn't track things like mailboxes or vendors as all players can do today.
Tracking menu
The clock: Those pesky numbers below the minimap reminding you just how much time you've spent on "Timeless" Isle seems equally timeless. But the clock was added in patch 2.4.3. Previously, a sun or moon icon at the upper right of the minimap revealed the time if you moused over it. Just before the sun/moon became the calendar button, Blizzard added the clock.

Backpacks: The lowly 16-slot backpack that all characters share has been a thorn in players' sides for many years. Due to "bag inflation," what was once the largest bag most players had is now typically the smallest. Blizzard has wanted to change the backpack for a long time, but the code surrounding it is apparently so volatile that they've given up on expanding its slots. However, the backpack received a much-needed functionality boost in patch 4.3, when Blizzard added a search bar to it.

Hearthstones: Everyone loves hearthstones. They've been making travel much more efficient and getting us out of Kel'Thuzad's Chamber for many years. But hearthstones used to have an agonizing hour-long cooldown. When a paladin bubble-hearthed on you in vanilla, you could take some solace in the fact that they couldn't pull that trick again for a full 60 minutes. Blizzard shortened the cooldown to 30 minutes in patch 3.1, to compensate players when they fixed the "ghetto hearthing" workaround. Then the guild perk Hasty Hearth reduced it to a speedy 15.
First aid: It is by far the most basic and useless profession in the game and I am kind of baffled when Blizzard updates it expansion after expansion without really ... updating it at all. The mechanics of making bandages to level the skill and applying them have never been altered. But even this supremely static profession has undergone some changes.

In classic, you had to complete a quest at one point in order to advance the skill, and that is no longer required as of patch 3.1. Also, you could bandage yourself while running away, which I'm now trying to imagine doing in real life and yeah, I don't think that would work out very well. Especially since the very action of running would cause your heart rate to increase...

The ultimate irony of bandaging, though, is that you still can't do it while you have a bleed effect.

Item quality colors: Gray, white, green, blue, purple, orange -- WoW popularized the idea of labeling items with an easily recognizable color to indicate their power. Nearly all MMOs have done so ever since. The system works and has never been modified, but it has been expanded. When heirlooms were introduced in Wrath, Blizzard gave them a brand new color: light brown. A few other bind-on-account items have been given the brown font. Many raiders are hoping that mythic quality items will get a new color in Warlords, too.

Old character paneGear slots: Considering all the changes that have been made to weapons and armor, it's kind of amazing how stable the equipment slots have remained. Yet even they have changed, twice. Blizzard added a new slot for paladins, shamans, and druids called the relic slot during Burning Crusade. Prior to relics, all other classes could equip a ranged item that gave them a statistical boost. Relics were added to put all classes on equal footing. Of course, the other big change occurred when relics and the entire ranged slot went away in Mists.

Weapon types: No new weapon types have ever been added, but alterations have been made. Throwing weapons were removed in Catalcysm, and wands became main hand weapons when the ranged slot was removed. Hunters are still asking for pistols, ten years later.

What's never changed

Those two gryphons on either side of your main hotbar: Though many players with our fancy UI mods haven't laid eyes on them in years, they were our constant companions during early vanilla. They are still there when you load into the game free of addons, despite the fact that gryphons are totally an Alliance thing and Horde players should have wyverns there. Alliance bias!

Some people hate Lefty and Righty so much that entire addons exist only to remove them.
Hotbar gryphons
Armor types: WoW began with cloth, leather, mail, and plate. Those are still the only options and it isn't likely to change anytime soon. That is, unless Garrosh travels to the future next and Blizzard adds a Kevlar option for the commando class...

Profession racials: Most racials have been tweaked or replaced over the years. However, the profession bonuses have never changed. Gnomes have Engineering Specialization, draenei have Gemcutting, tauren have Cultivation, goblins have Better Living Through Chemistry, and pandaren now have Gourmand. Dwarves' Explorer and blood elves' Arcane Affinity were later additions, but none of them have ever been changed.

It's interesting that they haven't, since these bonuses are not equal. They could have been standardized long ago to give the same bonus amount.

Dances: Sure, every new race gets a new dance, but the dances of the races have never been altered or updated, despite many, many requests. The ill-fated dance studio would have ended all that. It seems inevitable that the new character models will have slicker dance animations in Warlords, though, or even entirely new moves.
Class icons
Class icons and colors: Class identity is important to Blizzard, despite the homogenization of years past. The icon and the color that represent your class have been the same since the game launched. It seems unlikely that they will ever change. Sorry, paladins. You'll always be Mr. Pink (NSFW language).

I'm sure there are a few other things, but these are the standouts to me. Naturally, in a game world so vast and enduring, you can point to many specific things that have never changed. The "angry bear" sound effect. The "duct-tape-assembled" staff and the dorky wooden shield you get at early levels. The pointy-faced water elementals in the old world. Spell effects like Pyroblast and Windfury. Icons for signature abilities like Mortal Strike, Polymorph, Rejuvenation, and Shadow Word: Pain. Many of these things have endured so long that they are living nostalgia for veteran players. They are part of the game's history and they shouldn't be changed.
Water elemental
But that doesn't mean Blizzard shouldn't continue to iterate the game or make sweeping revisions, when necessary, to surprise us and to improve players' quality of life. After all, Archivist will be there to document the way things used to be!
After months of surveying, WoW Archivist has been dug back up! Discover lore and artifacts of WoW's past, including the Corrupted Blood plague, the Scepter of the Shifting Sands, and the mysterious Emerald Dream.
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