Vanilla Journal: Day 5, Fly In The Wall
Fly In The Wall
January 11th, 2017
/played: 3 days, 7 hours
Since release, I have played Vanilla World of Warcraft every day—Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Today—logging in (trying to log in) right after breakfast, not knowing if the sun has been clocking into work. It’s unbelievable. Not since Final Fantasy XIV’s closed beta have I been manically addicted to, not just an MMO, but a game. I even have acne, belligerent itches on my collarbone and one peaking through my mustache curtains. But I don’t care. They can watch me play.
What am I writing?
I need to know why. Why am I having fun? Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves To Death may have an answer but it’s been turned upside down on my desk since Saturday. There are others who claim to know why: two camps of smart-asses. 1. “Take off your rose-tinted glasses you nostalgic fgt.” 2. “Vanilla is the greatest MMORPG of all time.” I don’t think either is right, but I also don’t think either is entirely wrong.
This sporadic journal—written without obligation—may help me figure out why typing “/who” says there are 10,000 people greasing up their keyboards on a private server. Why they’re exploring a world—again—nearly old enough to be a freshman in high-school.
Vanilla zones have always been my favorite. Each is a wide open labyrinth, criss-crossed by hedge-trees and lumpy mountains, walls you can climb up and fall down so long as they’re not dividing one from another. They’re massive. Everything’s massive. Because scale is what makes zonal environments work.
In Vanilla you’re a miniature, not even able to size up against a stump. You get a sense that it’s a world made for Giants and you’re on a quest to kill their makers. Even buildings rest on meaty colonnades and fatty roofs, oversized halls with chairs from Big and Tall: the architect was fat from their gluttony, and that makes the world irresistible.
And I saw more of Vanilla’s world than any other, thanks to competitive item collection quests. I started in Darkshore, took a boat to Loch Modan, then Westfall by hopping the tram from Ironforge to Stormwind, rode a gryffin back to Loch Modan, Westfall one more time, and finally Red Ridge. A couple of kill quests and an escort or two isn’t enough to add 1 to 21 in Vanilla. If you want to level you have to hussle.
The game is slower, a soft served ice cream machine dripping gloops with plenty of time to digest. There’s no instant gratification. Each level can be a slog, and sometimes level 7 will be a rusty gear struggling to make one rotation, while 19 to 20 barely registers and you realize, “Oh, I only have one more bar to go.” And then someone in your party writes “grats, grats, grats.”
Chat is a constant communication: people trading, grouping, asking, talking... BSing. It’s teeming with life: you turn over a rock and you're shocked, there’s a civilization living out its existence against a universe of MMORPGs that barely register a background noise; it's a single planet where people talk to each other, actually communicate person to person for both good and bad. Vanilla’s chat is in a constant motion. If you don’t pay attention you’ll miss a revolution or two.
[1. General] [Anon1] Lvl 19 lock lfg wsg
[1. General] [Anon2] Vanilla’s economy is thriving
[1. General] [Anon3] wts [Prospector Axe] pst, already offered 90s
[1. General] [Anon4] LFM Fangore
[1. General] [Anon5] Its a 1 hour spawn timer
[1. General] [Anon6] WTS [Murlock Fin] 5s ea!
[1. General] [Anon7] LFM Yowler
[1. General] [Anon5] Yells: WTS [Murloc Fin] 5s ea!!
I’m wondering out loud if I’ve become a shill for myself, selling Vanilla’s virtues to justify inordinate time spent playing. Am I drugged? Does it matter? “If it’s not a pleasure why bother?” And so far, it’s been a pleasure, an addiction which may be due to some nebulous electric hype I tap into, just by immersing myself in a private server community, as if we all agree to love the game so long as we all love the game. Or maybe it really is fun...
But I have had a slight epiphany, one that might help explain something: my adulation is shaped by an event as rare as a clear meteor shower above a city: a fresh start. It’s an experience that slips beyond the horizon just as your eyes catch its light; once the game is established, it becomes a leftover meal. A latecomer can’t know what it was like when Vanilla was defrosted in that first month—or what any MMORPG is like during its Gold Rush. Maybe that makes the difference. Maybe it’s the exclusivity, an unspoken bond between me and every other fresh start junkie:
We were there when the world was born.