With the exception of any that were a part of the Tech Alpha and Beta, people jumping onto those first brand new servers had nothing. They had no clue how to play, no idea where they had to go, certainly they had no Best in Slot shopping list data mined months prior to the expansions release. You didn’t need to keep spoon feeding players content at regular intervals because leveling that first character to 60 took a long time. Now an days, people max out in a day to a week. Quest details are all worked out for anything that has been data mined, people know how to min max every aspect of the game.
The problem with WoW? There is very little discovery any more. Looking for treasures? There’s an add on. Trying to find what piece of gear is best for you? Pay for a MR. Robot subscription and he will let you know which pieces in your bag are the best. There are add ons that will scan and show you World Quests that are expiring soon that don’t even show up on your in game map. Why? Because not only is there money to be made offering the information, there are people willing to pay for it, just so they can do things faster.
It took me 4 months to level my first character in Wrath from 1 to 80, and mostly because I had looked up all of the quests 8 months prior for my wife. I did it all by myself. Occasionally I would jump in to run a lower level to them dungeon, and I died a lot. But I had a good time, because I did not care, it did not matter if I was trying to get into the raids, or working on the Argent’s. I was just off doing my own thing, having fun exploring. It wasn’t until I was encouraged to get those last 5 levels ASAP because they needed me in the raid. I had to catch up, I was falling behind, don’t worry about that content, you can go back and do it later.
This was from the Vanilla/BC people, one of whom sworn to me I needed Agility on my Priest because it made you hit harder. Mmm Hmm.
In Cata, I followed the pack, worked to max ASAP, watched a guild fall apart from pushing to get into end game as fast as possible. In Mists I got to max quickly, and was feeling good until Heart of Fear, and that was when having an older PC started affecting how I played. By the end I had to buy a new PC. Draenor felt like we were pushed along, complete the questing, get into the end game. There has always been an underlying influence to push along. Be it NPC’s showing up at certain points to offer a quest, new content being added in, World Events, there is always some incentive to keep moving along. People may say, But I’m a casual, I do what I want, when I want. Sorry, no. Some part of the game will catch your interest and you will go after it without even realizing you are. For some it was Pet Battles, others like Transmog, some collected old recipes, mounts, pets, achievements. Like it or not, there is something in the game for the junkie in all of us.
Vanilla, even Burning Crusade may have been different in that there was no where near the level of content there is now, and the majority of things required working with others. Now? You can do what ever you want by yourself in your own time, how ever you feel like doing it. The one thing that stands out to me about Legion, is that it does not end. There will always be a harder dungeon, Mythic +5, +10, +15, +20, there are endless World quests, Professions require a lot of work. And I think people may resent it some. It’s one thing to feel you have to quest out a zone, but in the past you did and it was done. Except when they added Daily Rep quests, Professions you could max quickly, use what gear you could make, then they were put aside because the gear was not as good as what you got from a dungeon. Fishing, Cooking, all had finite duration’s. But now? Everything keeps going. There is no end.
So maybe Vanilla was best for a lot of things, but I think it may have been best because the concept of having an Alt army was a ludicrous idea. It had a beginning and an end.