WoW: Here’s What Vanilla Means (& How Its Different)

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For World of Warcraft players, the term “Vanilla” often comes up in discussions about the game’s history and different versions. Playing “Vanilla” WoW was usually a badge of honor. But what exactly does it mean? Why is the Vanilla version of any game considered a big deal? To answer this question, we’ve decided to write this post, and before we continue analyzing the more complicated meaning behind the word, let’s first answer our primary question. What does Vanilla mean in World of Warcraft, and how it differs from the current version of the game?

  • Article Breakdown:
  • Vanilla World of Warcraft refers to the version of the game that was played before the release of The Burning Crusade expansion.
  • The term “Vanilla” refers to the original and unmodified version of the game and the state it was in before further changes were made to the content, story, gameplay, and other mechanics that the players used to interact with the world and play the game.
  • The term “Vanilla wow” shouldn’t be used interchangeably with “WoW Classic” term. Those game versions are not the same, even though WoW Classic tried to recreate the original vanilla experience faithfully.

What is Vanilla World of Warcraft?

Vanilla World of Warcraft was a version of WoW before The Burning Crusade was released. The term Vanilla often refers to something boring and plain and without flavor, and it’s a pretty common term to describe just about anything. The term is widely used in gaming as well. It often refers to the “pre-modified” versions of the game if modding is available.

Vanilla WoW was a cruel and rugged place, and it was anything but boring, however. Most people look back to the original version of the game with rose-tinted glasses claiming that almost every aspect of the game was better than it is today. But it is far from the truth. The game was difficult, at times confusing, and extremely gritty. It was hard to get into due to balancing issues, and the world was much smaller than it is today.

Vanilla Wow Map
Vanilla WoW Map

World of Warcraft will turn 20 this year, and nine major expansions have been released over the course of its history. Most of those expansions added something new. New races, classes, content, mechanics, overhauls, and the game is pretty much unrecognizable these days. Sure some things stuck from the beginning, such as the unique art style and the core of what made classes unique, as well as some questing systems, but overall the game improved greatly over time. It’s much more noob-friendly these days and welcoming for players who never had the privilege to play it “from the beginning.”

The game is objectively easier than it was before, but not for the reasons you might think. I’ve mentioned before that the players are looking at the game’s Vanilla version through rose-tinted glasses. It’s true for the most part. Veterans were complaining that the current version of the game was too easy and that the game was straight-up ruined. They demanded an authentic experience, and eventually, Blizzard gave in and decided to recreate the Vanilla experience.

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In 2019, World of Warcraft Classic was released, recreating the game as it was in 2006 after patch 1.12, before the launch of the first expansion. This means that the maximum level for player characters is 60, and none of the content from later expansions is available. The gameplay mechanics are exactly the same as the original version but with some modern enhancements and bug fixes from later expansions integrated in. Currently, Classic WoW is on Wrath of the Lich King expansion about to transition into Cataclysm content in the first half of 2024, as some progress had to be made in order for players to feel like they have some kind of sense of progressing through the game.

What are the differences between Classic WoW and Vanilla WoW?

Regarding content and other related mechanics, Classic WoW and Vanilla WoW are exactly the same game. The things that changed are the community and the way through which we interact with the game.

Most people didn’t miss the horrible PvP of the Vanilla WoW or terribly unbalanced classes. It was the socializing and the sense of newness and excitement that, unfortunately, cannot be recreated. Grouping up and raiding in Vanilla WoW was impossible without forming some kind of bond with your fellow group members. You have to actively participate in WoW’s social network to progress through the game, and that’s the part that people missed the most and the part that got ruined over the years through various implemented systems that made looking for other players easier and instant.

Besides this, even though the Vanilla version was hard, we’re more knowledgeable about the game nowadays. There are plenty of resources online and tools at our disposal to make that experience easier. The addon community is massive when compared to Vanilla WoW too.

Vanilla wow races
Vanilla WoW had only 8 races to choose from

But in a technical sense, the only differences between WoW Classic and Vanilla WoW are related to the WoW client and the newly-introduced layering. Besides that, most modern functions of the game have been removed, and most modern features that made grouping up easier were removed as well. The game was an almost perfect recreation of the Vanilla. WoW, at least regarding the game’s difficulty, content, mobs, mechanics, and other significant aspects.

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Overall, WoW classic was nice and successfully attempted to recreate the game’s original version, and players were into it for a time. It eventually lost its appeal, and most players reverted to the current version of the game.

Have something to add? Let us know in the comments below!

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