October 28th, 2005 was a Friday. I’d turned 39 five days earlier. Farming in the Burning Steppes the word came through that the rumours were true: Warcraft was getting its first legitimate Expansion.
The Burning Legion were coming.
For many, this was the worst possible thing that could possibly happen. With the level cap being raised to 70, all current Instanced content would effectively be negated overnight. For an already precarious Raiding alliance this was the last straw, and a couple of weeks later, the whole thing simply imploded. There was drama on every corner, in each Capital City. It was the end of an era for so many, too: players who had made their fortune selling one item or exploiting a particular professions niche were forced to either adapt or effectively watch their market die. We lost some good people in January when the Expansion finally launched. However, for those who remained, it was a time quite unlike any other.
My mate Duncan and I pre-ground Jewelcrafting to 300 before it was even introduced: patterns dropped in old instances to help secure maximum level, and we made sure we had enough raw materials to hit cap as soon as the skill was teachable in the Exodar. That was a glorious side project, the like of which I have never experienced before or since. There were moments pre-Legion when I caught a whiff of that similar anticipation (a Tailoring recipe dropping in Karazhan) but I can’t see a day now where ActiBlizz would allow that level of competitive edge to ever be acceptable or permissible again. Then there was the chaos when we went to pick up our pre-ordered copy of the Expansion on Launch night from our local supermarket. We’d had some eyebrow raises when I’d asked to do it, for starters. Nobody will want this game at Midnight, said the assistant. Forty people turned up that night for the half a dozen copies that weren’t already secured.
Those were crazy times indeed.
Up until this point, Raiding had pretty much been my life and almost overnight, that vanished. I can remember the moment I almost quit too, and it had nothing at all to do with any of the chaos around me. Someone suggested a new UI might help adjust to the changes incoming, and so having installed this it became apparent that the ‘Feed Pet’ icon didn’t function correctly, and the Shadow Panther I’d owned since it was tamed in the mid 30’s in the Swamp of Sorrows ran away. I cried quite a lot. I thought the game was stupid and that maybe I’d be better off without it in my life. I wonder what might have transpired had that come to pass.
It was also the first time I realised that this ‘game’ wasn’t just being played because of the people. I was enthralled by the story and what was promised going forward. Amazingly going into outer space seemed perfectly logical, even though no-one on Azeroth had developed either the means or the technology to do so. For the first time probably ever I willingly succumbed to game fantasy, and was playing all night in a Hellfire Peninsula so laggy that at most points I was happy with 5fps. It was like being a pioneer, at the start of a new and brilliant adventure, and the realisation that with the slate wiped clean, our Guild could raid on their own, assuming we could get through the Attunement process to arrive outside the gates of Karazhan.
As a Guild we’d already seen Karazhan’s allure up close: a party of five of us had ventured into the catacombs below the Tower after the interim patch deployed. We’d farmed the spirits that had appeared there, one at a time, and the stacks of cloth we sold were snapped up within minutes, giving vital gold for the Guild raiding effort. Our priest even snagged a Blue L68 staff, and the joy when that dropped is still recalled even now. We were 5 manning L70 mobs, in sub-standard gear, and it was glorious. I remember that priest riding from Hellfire to Shadowmoon on opening day just so she could see what the Flying Mounts looked like. I suppose I should have grasped then how important the ability to use the Z Axis would become for players.
On reflection, the Burning Crusade was a lot more fun than I previously remembered. The process of 60-70 is recalled in a lot more detail than I could ever do with 1-60, mostly because it was done entirely with my husband in tow, and often with groups of Guildies. Those early days in Hellfire, how it felt like a real slog to head east to Zangermarsh. The marshes and the joy of the early instances, and how hard they truly were. The ridiculousness of ‘clown’ gear when there was no way to transmog the disparate looks away. Mostly however it was the sense of true discovery: unspoilt for what was to come, there were some genuine jaw dropping moments. There was also some real slogs: six and a bit hours to do the easiest dungeon in Auchindoun with five changes of personnel. The first run of the Shattered Halls as a guild five man and my Husband becoming a tank again.
Just how hard EVERYTHING was, and that it made the entire experience UTTERLY BRILLIANT.
Now the Legion are back, it’s not quite the same. I couldn’t tell you why, either: you would think that re-introducing those quintessential Big Bads would inflame passion but somehow… nope, not happening. I realise now, of course, it’s not the Company’s fault but very much my own. It was a particular time, a different set of circumstances, and looking back on those days, I’d not change a single thing, and am glad I stuck with it. My best friends were there, and it was more fun than had ever been had with pixels before.
For that reason alone, The Burning Crusade was a brilliant Expansion.