Im 22 now and i raided all of Vanilla. The raids were not hard as much as they were tedious. You also have to remember what the internet connections were like back then, a lot of the fights weren't mechanically difficult because most computers wouldn't of handled it.
I was 18 and was finishing my freshman year in college when I got into Wow (June 2005). Freshmen year was typical for me (dating lots of out of state girls, partying, etc) but man, when I got into Wow after finishing my first year I got hooked.
The magic of Vanilla Wow was that it was more social than any of it's expansions. Each server had it's own identity and they were generally close knit with events such as battlegrounds (you only fought people on your own server before one of the pre TBC patches), world pvp, and the greatest event ever in Wow: The opening of the AQ gates (everything from the mat gathering to the scepter chain to opening the gates themselves). And I always loved the old social gathering spots. For WSG, tons of Horde waited in the Northwest Barrens to wait for WSG while Kargath was for MC and BWL where Horde players dueled and showed off their newest gear while waiting for the signal to head out as a group to Blackrock Mountain.
The game was more adventurous back than as well. Class quests were plentiful and required players to travel all over Azeroth to get mats to learn spells or get a fantastic weapon (Fuck yea Whirlwind Axe). From Warlocks getting new pets to Shaman getting totems to Paladins getting their mounts, each class had unique quests (and even race was involved, as the Orc and Forsaken locks had different pet quests). That unique class identity is lost in today's "hit level cap, grind valor and buy epics" Wow. The Green Fire quest reminded me of the old Dreadsteed quest and I hope Blizzard cranks of more of those for other classes. And the lack of flying made the world more dangerous and fun to explore (which is what I like the MoP Beta so much).
Now when people compare 40 man raiding to today's 25 man raiding, 25 man raiding is so much better. There's less people to carry, getting loot doesn't take months due to RnG (Fuck you Razorgore for 6 months of no Netherwind Bracers), bosses are more interesting (Half of Vanilla was basically: wand till 90% to dps, dispell, adds, repeat), PC tech is far more cheaper and powerful, and the quality of life improvements to classes is tremendous.
I believe I was 17 when I stepped into a Molten Core, however I didn't raid much in Vanilla, I was a paladin back then and apart from being very very niche, I wasn't all that invested in being someones reviving/buffing bitch, but I conceded that it was mostly all the class was suited to at that level and point in the game.
I did a few very mucky half pug raids for giggles. Barely got much down and never received any loot until an Onyxia raid.
I couldn't invest time since 17 is obviously when the most important exams happen, so until late BC I was rather casual. When finally my spare time freed up and the friends around me encouraged to step up and get attuned and get geared to be a decent back up holy paladin.
Vanilla raids were fun because you were with alot of people and some of them extremely funny. It was all about the interaction for most people, not about the game nor the raid encounters themselves.
I joined in when people started putting on their serious faces it seems. Because from what I recall (not much) Vanilla was a circus. Entertaining, but not quite as accomplished.
It was different back then, I was 24, the mindset was different. It was basically a combination of the old timers from old RPG's and those that were looking to get into it. It wasn't as competitive back then, you had people actually helping out with each other and not really competing as much but necessarily just trying to get to the end game. It was the first time we were introduced to an environment that was as dynamic as the World of Warcraft, no other game could offer that at the moment. It wasn't until the introduction of the arenas that the World of Warcraft changed, the more competitive people stepped in, mostly the younger crowd, and it started to change the environment and the community as we know it.
I was already a dad when I raided in Classic and my kids are now grown up. We were a pretty mature guild, the youngest then 17 or so, but most were 25 and older. Me and another guy basically the Methusalems.
I found these stories epic to read and MC / Ony turned ot be just as epic:
But I know that compared to today..yes..MC was basically big cave with 3 ability bosses and half of them snakes (with more and more adds). Magmadar, Geddon, Garr, Golemag as bosses done from re-using trash mob models. Things that would cause a shitstorm today...
What is "like usual" (do I really want to hear that?)
Sorry..WoW was my first MMO...no stories of raids in MMOs before that.
But game wise I go back as far as Loderunner...Mission Impossible and http://www.c64-wiki.de/index.php/Decathlon probably my first game evah...
I remember my human pally in molten core, only getting invites to buff people every 5 minutes for 4 hours. I then remember later getting destroyed again and again and again and again etc by the 4horseman in 40 man naxx
I was 20 when I started. Made a character and then my laptop fried and died. This was about a month after launch. It was another year before I was able to get back in the mix. I raided MC, AQ 20/40 and BWL a few times each. I did a lot of Ony and ZG. I never saw Naxx at level. I don't think the raids were harder we were all just worse and the boss design was not where it is today either. The Devs were still trying to figure out the appropriate way to handle boss encounters. Odd things like standing out of range to drink during a fight, standing out of range of the boss to keep debuffs down, only allowing 8 dots on the boss. Shit like that was what made it hard, not the actual fight mechanics.
I think the nice part about vanilla is you could have crap gear and still do a raid. Enrage timers were nowhere near as tight as now or they just didn't exist. Unless you were the tank you could be pretty bad and still down the boss.
^You make a good point. I remember being the designated out of combat resser for my guild's first few magmadar kills.