There’s been a bit of fuss recently with the closure of a “vanilla” WoW server, and it has me thinking about the pull between nostalgia and progress. Now, for the record, I believe that Blizzard is 100% within their rights to force the closure of any 3rd party WoW server of any flavor. It is their IP, it is their game, they’re right to protect it. However, I’m also in the camp that would absolutely love to see them launch a legacy server or three. Full disclosure: I’ve played briefly on a vanilla server a few years back, during WoW’s Cataclysm expansion. I had never even played WoW during vanilla, I didn’t get sucked in until the first expansion, The Burning Crusade. The vanilla server still called to me because I wanted to see for myself what things were like back then, and because it conveniently erased all of the changes that were making me outright hate the game in its current state. It was a very different game at a very different pace, and I could have happily kept playing it indefinitely if the nagging understanding that I was walking in a moral gray area at best hadn’t driven me back to the straight and narrow. The fact that my chosen vanilla server has long since been closed down tells me I did the right thing by stopping.
I hold out hope that Blizzard might one day launch legacy servers the same way I still hold out hope that they’ll institute an invisible mode for battle.net. They obviously think both those things are not in their best interests or they’d have implemented them by now, but a girl can dream. Ironically, I think that having legacy servers might actually let people enjoy the current offerings more. There have been almost too many quality of life changes to the game to count, and running around questing on foot until level 40 with no heirlooms or dungeon finder might put some things in perspective. I also think that during the flatly awful lulls in content it would be nice to be able to travel back to a simpler time and be a tourist still in WoW, still giving Blizzard money but experiencing something a little different for a few months instead of quitting the game completely.
Looking forward towards Legion I don’t see a lot to excite me, and I do see a few things that turn me off. I feel like I am drifting farther away from WoW’s target demographic, and maybe that’s ok but it still makes me feel a little sad. I also look at the game itself and it is showing its age more and more. The older zones look pretty awful and that’s fine on a nostalgia server but a harder sell for an actively updating game. Each expansion works a little magic and brings a partial facelift but even the newest zones don’t hold a candle to the graphics of more modern MMOs in my opinion. After all this contemplation I find myself strangely yearning for the change that relegates all of WoW to “legacy” status, a fresh clean 2.0 with modern sensibilities and graphics. Maybe if that happens Blizz will finally open a vanilla WoW server.