A week into the Legion expansion and I can tell I’m on the outs with Blizzard already. The backing image on my Battle.net launcher has been changed to the Burning Crusade packaging image from the image that adorned the packaging of the Warlords of Draenor.
You may well ask “Why Burning Crusade?” at this point. Burning Crusade is the first expansion of World of Warcraft, not the vanilla version, the original version.
The answer to that is both simple and complex. The simple answer is that Blizzard has dropped the myth that Burning Crusade is a separate expansion (even though you can buy packaged versions of it and later expansions from Amazon) and back in the days of Mists of Pandaria they bundled the two together, creating a default image for WoW that was different from the vanilla version of the original game.
With the current expansion they have dropped the pretense that any of the previous expansions were actually expansions to the original game in the online store. So why are they sticking to the Burning Crusade image? Because changing it would take work, and they are on a budget from Activision. It is either that or perhaps there is truth in advertising. Burning Crusade is what the current WoW experience seems most like. Burning Crusade is where the new class was the enemy of choice. Burning Crusade is where the Burning Legion was first assaulted directly. Legion is a rehash of Burning Crusade in much the same way that Warlords of Draenor was a rehash of story content first introduced in Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal.
In the online store you can’t get any of the previous expansions. You can only purchase World of Warcraft and Legion. There is a problem with this, and that is where the story really gets complex. It gets complex because there really isn’t two versions of the game.
Blizzard will tell you that there are two versions. There is the version of the game which includes preserved content from previous iterations of the game. Then there is the version with the additional content that they want to charge you almost three times as much to play, as well as the cost of a monthly subscription.
Never mind that the content represents the smallest expansion of World of Warcraft to date. The problem is that what they are calling World of Warcraft isn’t World of Warcraft. What you are purchasing is a disabled version of the accumulated base programming that Blizzard has put into their World of Warcraft project. You are being asked to pay for what the programmers who first put together Blizzard gave away for free. A shareware version of content to whet your appetite for what Legion has to offer. That is because there really isn’t a version of WoW other than Legion.
Having played every version of the game since and including Burning Crusade, I can tell you the differences between each expansion it pretty gory detail. I won’t bore non-players with too many of these details.
It is worth noting that major sections of each expansion have been lopped out of the current game structure. The legendary quest lines for Mists of Pandaria and Warlords of Draenor have been removed. It may not seem like much, but those quest chains marked the actual progress through the game as it was played when it was the current version of the game. If you are playing the game today and you wonder why certain factions, structures and islands still appear in the game, what you are seeing are the remnants of endgame content that has been bypassed and pruned.
This is aside from the fact that playstyles of the various classes have also been changed and simplified. If I was purchasing and playing the first game called World of Warcraft, I would have to have extra space in my bags for soul shards while playing a Warlock. Brew poisons as a Rogue. I would have to have arrows or bullets for my weapons. There would be no professions of inscription, jewelcrafting or archeology. There would be no Pandarens, no Blood Elves, no Draenei. No playable versions of Goblins or Worgen. There would be no Death Knights or Monks. You would have to be in a particular faction to play Paladin or Shaman. I would not see a disabled option for creating and playing a Demon Hunter.
In short, it would be a different game if it was really World of Warcraft. This is the bigger problem for Blizzard. Last year Blizzard shut down the fan-run server Nostalrius. Fan run servers do present a threat to Blizzard’s intellectual property, and they had every right to shut that server down; but the existence of the site and others like it present the problem and question that Blizzard wants to go away.
Players want to play the games they purchased, and those games don’t exist anymore.
There really is no place to play the games that I have faithfully purchased from Blizzard over the years. I cannot play Wrath of the Lich King. I cannot participate in the battle at the wrathgate and then storm the Undercity in retaliation, facing off against the opposing faction in the throne room of Sylvanas herself. That pivotal moment in the game is lost. The Kor’Kron and the rise of Garrosh? Also lost. Orcs no longer guard Undercity watching the forsaken, guarding against another attempt to turn all of the living into puddles of goo.
If you click one of the many links above (aside from the battle.net links) and purchase one of those products right now, you cannot play the game that is pictured on the outside of the box. You will be forced to play the disabled version of Legion, the version now called World of Warcraft. There are no servers which run the historic versions of the server software, software needed to play the games historically sold under the World of Warcraft banner.
A consumer should be able to be assured that their purchases can be used in the fashion advertised. This is business 101. That none of the expansions exist to be played in the fashion the game was intended to run at the time of publication and purchase presents a problem to Blizzard, specifically because they make noises about this being one of the longest running games in the history of computer gaming. Because they are still making money off the franchise they have created. Because they have a lot of disgruntled fans out in the hinterlands who have previously purchased games they’d like to play but are prevented from playing them because Blizzard does not maintain a copy of previous integral parts of the game’s programming.
If this is one of the longest running Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games Blizzard, why can’t the fans of previous versions still log on and play the game they played then? I really wish someone at Blizzard would take the time to answer that question.