When I booted up the World of Warcraft Classic demo for the first time a couple of weeks ago – while BlizzCon was still in full swing, and the servers were busy – the general chat channel was flooded with nostalgic longing. People were loving this recreation of the great massively multiplayer game’s early days and lamenting what WOW had become in the 14 years since. Someone celebrated freedom from the tyranny of item levels. Someone mentioned the hushed sound design, noting that they could hear every footstep and clink of their chainmail. Someone else remembered how the community was so much friendlier back then, in so much less of a rush.
I love modern WOW, but I do know what these people meant. For me, the nostalgic pull of World of Warcraft circa 2005 is as strong as it gets – for two reasons. The first is that it was one of the greatest gaming experiences I’ve ever had: an astonishing, epic quest of discovery, so much more powerful for being shared with friends. The second is that it was gone, truly vanished, and could not be recreated. Until now.