Last week Blizzard shocked all of us by announcing World of Warcraft: Classic, a project to resurrect the MMO as it first existed around its time of launch back in 2004. Being the pop culture phenomenon that it was, World of Warcraft has impacted many of our lives in some way. That's why, last week, I asked our community to share their fondest, most nostalgic stories of those early days in World of Warcraft.
Nearly a hundred of you responded, but I wasn't prepared for the detail and warmth some of these stories could bring. From players who lost beloved friends to a husband protecting his wife from monsters while she gathers herbs, each of your stories was a trip back in time to when World of Warcraft felt like an uncharted magical frontier we all explored together.
If you missed last week's call for responses, don't fret. After reading some of these great stories, hop into the comments below and add your own.
Burning down the house
I don't think it would be appropriate to reminisce about World of Warcraft without tipping our hat to the fact that Blizzard's MMO ruined quite a few lives thanks to how addictive and immersive it was. Fortunately, this story doesn't have an overly depressing ending. But still, if you almost burn down your campus dorm because you're too busy raiding, you might have a problem.
I have never played WoW, but I had a roommate back in college who did (11 or 12 years ago). One day he was cooking chicken tenders in the oven and he got busy raiding and was unable to go to the oven to take them out when they were done. The chicken tenders got burnt to a crisp, set off the fire alarm, and the entire campus apartment building had to be evacuated.
He closed the door to his room and kept raiding.
I remember walking up the hill towards the building after class, seeing everyone gathered outside, and then watching my roommate getting dragged from the building by campus police while yelling at them about how important some raid was and how they were ruining his life.
That day I learned that too much gaming is a bad thing. The scene of my roommate screaming at the police about his character and guild's fate while firefighters stood around laughing at him and showing everyone the burnt chicken tenders made me never want to play an MMO or invest hundreds (or thousands) of hours into a game. I will never forget that.
Playing World of Warcraft today, it's easy to take for granted all the little concepts that used to be so new back when it first released. The idea of tanking, healing, and DPSing enemies is second nature by now, for most of us. Yet poor old Brian had no idea what he was in for when he first signed up to join a group and complete his first-ever run of one of WoW's earliest dungeons.
Lots of good memories in Vanilla WoW. I will start with an embarrassing one: I started playing WoW in college, and my roommate already played (though he was not addicted, he just dabbled in it). I made a hunter because I wanted to have a pet. I was enthralled with the lore-rich open world and really enjoyed the quests. I remember that mind-blowing feeling when I got on a boat in Teldrassil, and it sailed into Darkshore with no loading screen. I looked back and I saw the enormous stump of the world tree looming in the center of the ocean. I just had never played anything like this before.
When I was around level 18 (over 10 years ago) my roommate convinced me I should do The Deadmines dungeon, as I would get better gear. I went to the correct zone and joined a group that was forming.
I am sure that group regrets inviting me.
Having been a solo player until then, and my experience with MMOs consisting only of Phantasy Star Online (which is really more like Diablo), I had no idea that one player was meant to be tanking things. I pulled, I went over edges without dismissing my pet, I left my pet on defensive, and I did all of this while probably pulling the worst DPS anybody had ever seen. I played the dungeon like I would have played PSO, hacking and slashing at everything and trying to run away when I was getting too damaged. I caused complete chaos for the duration of that dungeon run. It took that group 3 hours to drag my noobie butt through Deadmines.
I told my roommate I had no idea why anybody would enjoy doing dungeons. I learned the error of my ways many many levels later, and grew to love dungeons, but I still remember how badly I messed up my first.
Strangers in a dangerous time
One thing I see brought up every time we talk about Vanilla World of Warcraft is the unparalleled sense of community it had. The fact that people were actively looking to meet and play together, despite being strangers, instead of selfishly working on their own goals and ignoring everyone else. It's something I wish we saw more of in modern MMOs.
In all my time through every expansion, what I remember most fondly was meeting a troll rogue named Bloodyshank. I was on my troll shaman, Jelazinoka, a name for a troll that I'm still proud of today. Bloodyshank and I would play daily, at least that's how my rose tinted, limited memory recalls it. I was only about nine or so and Bloodyshank became a friend. I'd think about coming home from school just to play with him. Despite WoW not always being the friendliest community, Bloodyshank was a surprisingly cool guy. We would go journey through Stonetalon Mountains, where we met, and leisurely complete quests while talking.
What many people don't realize is how impactful those experiences can be. It was moments like this—questing in an unfamiliar zone and finding a friendly helping hand to guide you through the surrounding area—that defined World of Warcraft for me. While Classic won't bring black Bloodyshank or any of my other old friends who I've long since lost touch with, I hope that it brings back the same circumstances to allow for similar experiences. No matter how Classic turns out however, I'll always remember those times sitting in the Barrens, my chat box reading "The Crossroads are under attack!", running ungodly distances to complete menial quests, dying from other players twice my level. And yet, despite all this, feeling a sense of accomplishment with every quest, and a sense of belonging with every whisper. That will stay with me my entire life.
If your friends jumped off a cliff…
This next story doesn't have some deeper message about MMOs or online communities—it's just funny as hell.
There was a group of four of us, all mounted and auto-following through the Barrens around level 40. We were on our way south towards the desert because one of us did not have the flight path. All but one of us decided it would be a good time to take a quick break for the bathroom or to grab food, so we remained on auto follow and continued following the trusty leader. I was the character fourth in the train, at the back.
On my way back from a quick sandwich I, at the last moment, see the leader miss the elevator in Thousand Needles. All four of us just fall down the long canyon. I ran to reach my keyboard to find a way to stop the inevitable splat of my character and durability loss. It was at this moment I hear frantic laughing and the leader screaming "LIKE LEMMINGS!"
In sickness and in health
MechMouse has some great memories of playing with his wife. I particularly love his second story because it really captures on of the things that made WoW so special back then: the world felt so dangerous. You weren't the bane of the Lich King or the slayer of Deathwing, you were just some level 12 noob with a passion for picking flowers.
Me and the wife had just been killed by Hogger for the third time, so we headed north a bit in search of easier prey. We then swam west across a river, greens gave way to yellows and oranges, it was late so the sun was setting. It was one of the most beautiful vistas I've seen outside of a Tomb Raider game.
We're excitedly pointing at the rolling hills and darkening skies. At which point a level '??' coyote comes bounding up to us, and my wife screams "run!" and we hastily make it to the safety of the river. We finally return to Goldshire, purchased some white items from a vendor and gave Hogger his just deserts.
My wife continued to play while I was at work. Not wanting to level up, she took up herbalism. Except the plants in Westfall were no longer levelling her skill. I returned home to find she, at level 12, had explored most of Duskwood and some of Redridge mountains while getting her herbalism skill up. This turned into a challenge, maxing herbalism at the lowest possible level. With me and her sneaking around areas 20 levels higher to collect herbs. Often I had to valiantly distract the mobs while she finished collecting.
In the old days, World of Warcraft had insanely esoteric rules around who got the loot after a dungeon. Players would have to select whether they needed a piece of loot or only wanted it for greed, and then rolled to see who had the highest number. That system of chance wasn't great for guilds that were looking to reward the hard effort of their raiders, so many guilds turned to complex systems like loot councils and DKP—a point system where players earn imaginary points that they can then cash out on loot drops. But even those systems had their problems.
This isn't a "fond" memory by any means, but it is a formative one. My guild was a mix of progress-oriented raiders (like me) and casual, friend-oriented players trying to make our way through Molten Core. At the time, we were using a modified loot council to determine who got what. As a founding member of the guild, I was on the council. This got complicated quickly—if you're a casual raider who only showed up to every other raid, it was hard to see the high-attendance raiders get every loot drop. Worse, drops tended to end up in the hands of the original squad before anybody else.
So we finally get to the Golemagg fight for the first time, and he dropped the tier 1 chest piece. This was a huge deal at the time. One of our priests came to me with a request: Although he didn't join the guild until we had killed the first boss, he was present in every single raid since then. Despite this, he had never received a set item before any of the other priests. He asked if I would talk to the council about weighing this into our decision should the priest chest piece drop.
Before this, we had never considered who received an item first as a worthwhile point of debate. In the end, the priest chest dropped, and we decided to give it to the relative newcomer. Within twenty minutes, one of the other founding members of the guild—who I happened to live with—logged in for the first time in weeks and promptly quit the guild. Then the other original priest, who felt she should get the robe, also quit.
By the next morning, our core raid group of about 45 people had been reduced to 20. As our main tank and raid leader had gone on hiatus a few weeks prior, this meant that our guild was effectively dead.
So yeah, not a pleasant or fond memory, but a deeply formative one for me. I've learned the incredible importance of not only fair loot policies (DKP for life), but also the importance of clearly communicating how important policies will work for everybody and why.
Go ninja, go
Speaking of loot headaches, ninja looting was an awful part of Vanilla WoW. When a coveted piece of gear dropped, nothing could stop another player from saying they needed it and out-rolling you. Even if the item wasn't for their class, they could steal your hard-fought prize in a moment of selfishness. I always imagined those people were unrepentant assholes, but maybe they were just complete noobs who had no idea what they were doing.
I could write a damn novel just with everything I still remember from my first few months of playing WoW. I do have one that kinda stuck to my head. I'd call it "The day I was a ninja." It was my first ever run of a dungeon, Shadowfang Keep, with my first ever toon, an undead warlock. I was still discovering the game when questing somehow got me in front of Shadowfang Keep, where a group of players were already waiting for people to join. I got instantly invited and proceed into the dungeon without anyone asking me what my level of experience with the game was. I proved my skills first time I cast fear on a mob, resulting in all the outside court mobs aggroing and wiping us faster than my groupmates could say "F U warlock!"
I got called names and names, but the people in the group were desperately grinding for days and days to get the best level 19 weapon, Shadowfang Sword (or was it a dagger?), and they very much preferred to have an inexperienced warlock in their group rather than someone that could roll against them for the loot. Back then the loot system was Need/Greed or Luck. It was my first ever group so I had no idea what any of those buttons did, so I just proceeded to press them all. At first I pressed luck on a random rare drop, then I pressed greed for the next one, and, of course, when the most prized and rare item that everyone was aiming for dropped, I pressed need. I won the roll and I got to own an item that was completely useless to a warlock.
There was no way to give it back as it was 'bind on pickup' [meaning it can't be traded]. Man those other guys were pissed off. I remember one of them hunting me for days after, cursing me whenever I'd join the game, flooding me with personal messages. That was the day I found out a ninja is not a good thing to be in WoW.
The perfect weapon
This story is one I'm unfamiliar with, but the lengths that this player went to in order to use a broken wine bottle as a weapon is the most Vanilla WoW thing ever.
I have a lot of good memories of raiding but instead I'll talk about the most Vanilla thing ever: farming for the Barman Shanker as a rogue. Or as I'd rather refer to it, the unofficial rogue class quest that had you sneak into the sprawling capital of the Dark Iron dwarves to assassinate a bartender so you could use his broken wine bottle as a weapon.
Due to a quirk in how weapon damage was calculated to favor slowness over damage, it turned out that the hardest-hitting pre-raid dagger in the game was a relatively low level weapon in Blackrock Depths, the evil counterpart city to Ironforge for the Dark Iron dwarves. A dungeon that almost nobody wanted to run (being so confusing and having mostly bad gear), but luckily this particular boss was 'just' solo-able by a level 60 rogue in mostly blues or two rogues in worse gear.
As a rogue, stealth farming for your Barman on hitting 60 was like a rite of passage for a while. After getting mine I taught quite a few guildies how to do it. And despite being unintended by Blizzard, it made perfect lore sense. Actually it was the most rogue-ish thing I've ever done in WoW.
Long lost friends
This final story is easily the best of the submissions we received. It shows how WoW wasn't just a game, but a way for people to build relationships that impacted their lives years after.
I got World of Warcraft as a gift, by mistake. I had asked my parents for Warcraft, and instead they provided me with World of Warcraft. Oh boy, was I unprepared for the adventures that lay ahead of me.
I was quite young at the time, around nine years old, and it was my first fully 3D game. I struggled to make friends outside of church groups, because I was bullied a bit, and never really knew how to communicate with people. I got rejected a few times, and it rather destroyed my ability to meet other kids to hang out with. So, like many others, I retreated into the world of videogames.
When I started playing the game, I could barely type on a PC, let alone play a game. Soon I found myself in a great guild, and I learned to type quickly purely out of the fact that I died so much, and I had to keep typing "please help, I'm dying". Like a 90-year-old trying to play competitive Counter-Strike for the first time, I was atrocious at the game.
I had a character that I loved dearly, a hunter, and I remember all the crazy struggles that went along with hunters in vanilla WoW. What made those struggles worth it though, were my guildmates. I became particularly good friends with a guildmate who was active-duty army. It's quite frankly his fault that I'm as much of a sarcastic person as I am today, because we used to constantly make fun of each other, and it turned out to be a lot of fun. Eventually, the guild thought I was attacking him, because I made a joke about him, and they booted me from the guild. He found the joke funny, and left with me, and we started a guild together. I could barely make a few gold, but he, being a high-level player, was able to put the whole thing together, bankrolling it while I recruited other people. I used to raise money by jumping off of high buildings on my character for tips (that's how bad at this game I was).
I remember we stopped playing after a while because he got deployed to Iraq. After that, my playing of the game petered off a bit, and I didn't really play again until Cataclysm. I dipped my toes for a few days at a time into the other expansions but I never played for more than a day or two until Cataclysm. When it launched, my other friend got me back into the game, and I decided to try and find my old friend. At that point, my Vanilla account had been hijacked, and I could not get it back. So I started doing some digging, trying to see if I could get in contact with my old soldier buddy again. I remembered his name, and did some googling, and found myself quite distraught after what I found.
It turns out that, during that deployment, he was killed in combat. I found news reports saying he was trying to help protect some of his friends, and caught a few rounds, and died a hero. It blew my mind. This guy, who had meant so much to me as a kid, a guy who helped me become a better person, and who helped me learn how to make friends and socialize, as well as what kind of jokes are acceptable and what are not, and who helped me clarify my goals in life, had died. A guy I had never met in real life, but who left a major impact on me, both as a kid, and now as an adult.
Ever since then, I've always played Horde. I can't really bring myself to even make an Alliance character for more than a few hours, because it just feels wrong to me. Every time I level up a toon, I remember the fun times we had around Orgrimmar and Durotar, him helping me level and teaching me how to play the game. Hell, I was so dumb, and so terrible at the game, I didn't do any quests to level, I just thought you had to kill creatures to level. Every time I level a toon now, if I can, I go back to Durotar, and I level them through the Orc starting area. It just feels wrong to do otherwise.
RIP man, you were a rad dude, who did some really cool things. Though my old account may be gone, your memory will always live on in the symbol of the Horde, and the spiked towers of Orgrimmar.
These were just some of the excellent memories of Vanilla World of Warcraft. To read the rest, check out the article from last week.
Comments were edited for grammar and clarity.