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NOTE: please take the following with a pinch of salt, nothing is confirmed and I'm explicitly using past data as a reference for the future with no evidence whatsoever that this will be the case.

A bit of preamble first:

Having had a look around, it seems like it used to take something like 10 days of /played on average and moving at a decent pace to get to level 60.
Some people report it taking more like 20 days /played, but I would guess that 10 days is achievable if you don't try to get back to the AH twice a level to check for new gear. Also of note is that the fasted time I've seen reported is 4 days 20 hours by Joana/FuriousPaul. This is an incredibly optimised route for questing, and not achievable by everyone. So, something like 240 hours to get to 60, and then you start on going through the process of gearing up, raiding, PvP etc.

I admit freely that WoW Classic is probably not the game for me. My lifestyle at the moment leaves maybe 1-2 hours per week to play games, and often I need to be able to suspend those games at the drop of a hat. Despite this, I'll still play Classic when I can because my time with Vanilla WoW is one of the defining times of my life. Unfortunately, this means that it will take me over 3 years just to hit 60. It might not be this long in reality as my circumstances will loosen up a bit over time and I'll end up with a little more time to play, and occasionally I may be able to dedicate a few hours more per week etc.
This means that I'll have a tough time doing dungeons when levelling and an even harder time going on multiple-hour romps throguh BRD when I do eventually hit 60, let alone raiding.

Lets have a quick look at the known phases as of the time of writing, along with the time from launch for these in Vanilla itself (launch 23/11/04), as well as TBC launch for comparison:

Phase - Content (vanilla patch, release, time since last patch/milestone, time since release)
P1 - MC, Onyxia, Maraudon (patch 1.2, 18/12/04, 25 days, 25 days)
P2 - Azuregos, Kazzak, Dire Maul (patch 1.3, 07/03/05, 79 days, 104 days)
P3 - BWL, Darkmoon Faire (patch 1.6, 12/07/05, 127 days, 231 days)
P4 - ZG, Green Dragons (patch 1.7-1.8, 13/09/05, 63 days, 294 days)
P5 - AQ40/20, Item Update (patch 1.9-1.10, 03/01/2006, 112 days, 406 days)
P6 - Naxxramas, Scourge Invasion (patch 1.11, 20/06/06, 168 days, 574 days)
(TBC) - TBC (TBC launch, 16/01/07, 210 days, 784 days)

There's nothing to say that these time scales will be in any way indicative of the timescales for rolling out the phases of classic WoW, and as far as I know there's been no further communication regarding planned timings.
That being said, Vanilla lasted for 2 years and 54 days give or take, meaning that if we take these timings as a guess for the phases and I get to play as much as calculated above, I'll get to 60 around or after the final phase hits, meaning that I personally will have missed the majority of the progression and can jump right in with a Spellweaver's Turban and some Titanic Leggings.
Assuming people can get a few hours a day for most days of the week (say 3 hours for 4/7 days of the week) they will get to 60 in about 4-5 months, or about when Phase 3 is hitting.

From this, I hope not just for my sake that the timings are extended for the first few phases at least, as many people will want to experience as much of the true Vanilla flavour as possible.
Frostradamus has a video discussing the updates so far in which he touches on his preferred timings (paraphrased from the video, this discussion starts at about the 13:25 mark): phase 1 to last 6-8 months, phase 2 to last 2-3 months, phase 3 to last 5-6 months, phase 4 to last 4 months, phase 5 to last [lots of content, should last a while, say 6 months].
Overall this gives a timeline of 23-27 months, or about 2.5-3 years once we factor in phase 6, again close what I perceive my time levelling to be.
Interestingly, this isn't too far removed from the total original time, just reshuffling the actual timings a bit, but it does mean that my average player above will hit 60 within phase 1 still.

There's a side note here about why we got content thick and fast in Vanilla, which was due to people hitting the cap ahead of what Blizzard expected and them having to get content out to cater to the people at the endgame. It's highly likely that there will be a rash of people that level up within the first month or 2 and quickly exhaust MC and Onyxia if we don't get some more endgame content.

This all leads me leads me onto my next point: what happens after phase 6?

There are several choices here, of which some are more viable than others (note that all outcomes are my opinion only):

  • We live with P6 forever (most likely outcome)
  • All Classic servers progress to TBC (second most likely outcome)
  • All Classic servers progress to TBC, and new or copied Classic servers are created (my preferred outcome)
  • P6 is supplemented with content originally intended for release that never saw the light of day (least likely outcome)
  • Something else entirely?

This is the crux of why I rambled on about my time to level vs the average etc - how long will people be content with the content?

It might be the case that Blizzard is happy to provide Classic servers but also happy to leave this as just that, and never do anything more than let these servers stagnate at patch 1.12.

In the end, my limited playtime means that I'll actually be happy with anything, my simple aim is to level up in my own time and have fun, and eventually I have the lofty goal of getting some decent pre-raid gear and maybe getting into MC/Onyxia with a PUG.

There's a lot going on here which is why I didn't want to make a poll, I'd rather see actual discussion than a single data point, and the points about what happens next and what people are looking for are too nuanced.

So, time for some discussion!
Do you think the timings will reflect Vanilla?
What timings would you prefer?
Do you think you'll get to 60 in time for the content you want to see to be 'fresh'?
What do you think or hope will happen after phase 6?

If you've made it this far then well done, I can't give you your 10 minutes back but thanks for looking!

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Hey Teeny, awesome post and thanks for gathering all that useful information together with regards to patch intervals.

Teeny wrote:
3 months ago
Do you think the timings will reflect Vanilla?
No, I don't think so. The Classic team is small and this is considered a 'passion project' for them at this time. I think that the kind of dev resources they had access to when the game's population and fame was growing exponentially were far greater than what they have to work with today. That to me would mean patches stretched out further to be able to deliver them fully and on time. That said, if Blizzard are surprised by the success of Classic they may reconsider this I suppose.

Another thing to remember is that ultimately the demand and clamour for new content won't be as pronounced as it was back then. I can only speak from the people I've met in this community of course, but it seems a great deal of people such as yourself have less time to play for a variety of reasons, than they did in the mid-noughties. Only the most hardcore will be clearing raid content 'early', everyone else will still be levelling and I think Blizzard's demographics analysis will definitely see this trend and take it into account.
Teeny wrote:
3 months ago
What timings would you prefer?
I'd prefer them to be spaced out bi-annually. See above response for my reasonings.
Teeny wrote:
3 months ago
Do you think you'll get to 60 in time for the content you want to see to be 'fresh'?
I really dislike the term 'fresh' in this context. Also you refer to the possibility in another quote of the game 'stagnating' at patch 1.12. The whole reason why people think Classic will be successful is because your character and your progression will always be relevant, no matter where you are in the game and the current patch/content available. Raids will be tough, people will progress at vastly different rates, guild will form and die throughout the lifetime of this game - you will always be able to find people to run MC, probably even people who have never run it before - even if Naxx is out.

People are going to love this game because it will always feel timeless - that's the whole point of it. You can drop your sub for months and come back in and the ceiling hasn't raised - there's no 'catching up' to do, it's just progression and you will be able to pop in and out of that as you please. Still working towards Sulfuras or Thunderfury? Goals like this will still be attainable and more importantly they will retain their legendary feeling.
Teeny wrote:
3 months ago
What do you think or hope will happen after phase 6?
I'm personally not a fan of the recent 'extra content after Classic' or 'WoW 2.0' and such theories - I dismiss them as mere enthusiasm. People want vanilla wow and they want a finish line, they want a ceiling. The last thing they want is more 'original content' to be piled on top of the game they loved. That defeats the whole point of the game. It's what frustrates people so much about retail - living in constant fear of patch notes, new content and changes to the game that will force them to readjust their goals and completely devalue their previous efforts.

Fuck that! Keep it patch 1.12 and let people climb their own mountain - let them stand on top of its summit - let them achieve something great that will last for an eternity.

   Makaveli
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Teeny wrote:
3 months ago
We live with P6 forever (most likely outcome)
This is my hope, here's why:
  • If we go TBC we would have Barrenschat.com² in fifteen years.
  • If we copy then I fear the community will be too spread-out.
  • Supplemental content would be awesome, but only if it will be how I want it to. Which is different from each other player's opinion which is different from each other player's opinion again. There are too much different wishes to implement, speaking as a developer this seems like a can of worms.

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I would love to participate in endgame again as I did back in vanilla. However, this time around I have a career and a baby on the way. I think I'll have to settle for pvp for the foreseeable future. :(

But I'm rooting for you all!

   Pluuf
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I think it's going to move much faster than Frostradamus thinks. People will crush MC in under a month. And while those people will be playing far more and will be pushing much harder than everyone else, there's no way that we will sit on Phase 1 for more than 3-4 months.

As far as what happens after Phase 6, I have no clue what happens. What I've said elsewhere on this site was I don't really care at this point, I just want to know what it is because it could change what class I pick. It'd be damn cool to see additional Vanilla content added in, because god knows there's so much there to work with, most of which was later finally used in Cataclysm (Grim Batol, Uldum, etc.) and I think it'd be cool if there was an entire feasible progression track of 20 man raids (ZG -> AQ20 -> #3 -> #4), but I'm not married to the additional content idea. Just want to know what it is already.

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couchatron wrote:
3 months ago
I would love to participate in endgame again as I did back in vanilla. However, this time around I have a career and a baby on the way. I think I'll have to settle for pvp for the foreseeable future. :(

But I'm rooting for you all!
I'm in the same boat my man! 2 kids and a career, but with one evening of play a week and an infinite amount of time into the future (Option a: Classic servers remain frozen and open for all time) we should be able to get to our goals eventually.

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Pluuf wrote:
3 months ago
couchatron wrote:
3 months ago
I would love to participate in endgame again as I did back in vanilla. However, this time around I have a career and a baby on the way. I think I'll have to settle for pvp for the foreseeable future. :(

But I'm rooting for you all!
I'm in the same boat my man! 2 kids and a career, but with one evening of play a week and an infinite amount of time into the future (Option a: Classic servers remain frozen and open for all time) we should be able to get to our goals eventually.
This right here, so many of us are adults now. I don't think I could hit 60 in a month, let alone get geared for MC. I almost worry the base release schedule is too quick and will lead to people quitting or being burned out from having to play the breadth of hours we did back in '05 to stay competitive.

I really hope a casual raiding scene grows out of the game naturally.

   centurion
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teebling wrote:
3 months ago
Teeny wrote:
3 months ago
Do you think you'll get to 60 in time for the content you want to see to be 'fresh'?
I really dislike the term 'fresh' in this context. Also you refer to the possibility in another quote of the game 'stagnating' at patch 1.12. The whole reason why people think Classic will be successful is because your character and your progression will always be relevant, no matter where you are in the game and the current patch/content available. Raids will be tough, people will progress at vastly different rates, guild will form and die throughout the lifetime of this game - you will always be able to find people to run MC, probably even people who have never run it before - even if Naxx is out.

People are going to love this game because it will always feel timeless - that's the whole point of it. You can drop your sub for months and come back in and the ceiling hasn't raised - there's no 'catching up' to do, it's just progression and you will be able to pop in and out of that as you please. Still working towards Sulfuras or Thunderfury? Goals like this will still be attainable and more importantly they will retain their legendary feeling.
Cheers for this, what I was getting at is the periods of WoW's history where all the content is perceived to be conquered on an individual level, and what if anything is done for those in this position. It's purely down to the individual of course, some people consider the game done just by getting to 60 and others need to have every reputation at 999/1000 Exalted and be in full Naxxramas gear or whatever. I suppose those people will just choose a time to stop playing Classic and that will be that.

With regards to skipped content, the re-itemisation patch/phase (phase 5) will potentially introduce a slew of items that can invalidate some early raid content if people are willing to put in that effort (both in terms of gearing and skill), but as you say in a perpetual 1.12 scenario there will hopefully always be new players that want to experience the content no matter where progression has got to.

Edit: typo.

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Teeny wrote:
3 months ago
Cheers for this, what I was getting at is the periods of WoW's history where all the content is perceived to be conquered on an individual level, and what if anything is done for those in this position.
Alts :biggrin:

There's a great resource here since itemisation is semi-related to this thread by the way - https://itemization.info - it's a searchable database of all vanilla items which can help analysing changes to gear with filtering etc.

Congrats on level 10 also.

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I'm with you on wanting the content to be rolled out slowly. I'd prefer it if they took longer to release each phase so I don't have to worry about missing out.

As for the outcome after the last phase, I really hope they take a look at what the team from Old School RuneScape did. They added on to a 15 year old engine, bringing fresh new content into the best version of the game. OSRS is now over 4x more popular than RuneScape 3, and still growing.

I can definitely see Classic WoW becoming the main WoW experience over the next 5 years or so if Blizzard takes the same path.

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I'm hoping a large percent of the player base is as casual as I'll probably end up being. Life's quite a bit busier, so I can't even guess when I'd hit max. Hopefully content is rolled out pretty slowly, cause it'd be great to be a part of it all.

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I think something that we are going to see, is the realisation from Actiblizzion is that the population stability and general huge interest in Classic will surpass their requirements/expectations for this 'passion project'. I think there is going to be a pretty huge steady population throughout the life cycle of Classic WoW. What they do with that, is then the more important factor. Do they then try to turn it into a money spinner and ruin it (AKA Retail WoW), or will they keep it as is and let it slowly fade away? Or will they do something completely left of field?

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For the time-frame, I think having the entire server progression within maybe 18 months seems pretty reasonable. That's 3 months per phase if they split them evenly, which I don't think they will. I think something like 4 months for the first phase to give people a little more time to get settled into being 60, then 2 months on the Dire Maul/World Boss phases, then a new raid tier every 3-ish months. That said, I never raided in classic aside from a botched Zul'Gurub run with my crappy guild, so I don't know if that's enough to, say, gear up a 40-man raid team to get them ready for the next tier. Is that a reasonable timeframe on raids for people to play at a normal pace and feel they've gotten what they want out of the raids before moving on?

My only issue with following this is on the PvP side, I think having no honor system for the first 4 months is kind of brutal, and I'd like to see that bumped up a few months (Maybe 2 months into PvE phase 1?). That said, I don't want the honor PvP gear screwing with the flow of itemization, not that I really see people grinding out the upper ranks in World PvP. Anyone who knows better than me: is the PvP gear so good (and accessible) that you think having it in early would make MC/Onyxia/Maraudon useless? Or cheapen the experience of going there?

At endgame I'd be totally fine with moving on to TBC at some point, after a long marination in the Naxx era. I have my issues with TBC as I'm sure many people here do, but I also like the idea of not having a firm end point to my classic character.

I think forcing that'd probably piss people off though, given they didn't state these were going to be progression servers from the outset. Having it be an option to copy over to a TBC server at the end of the road would be nice, but I don't know if Blizzard is going to want to expend the resources to run another set of servers (and then another one to run the inevitable WOTLK version).

The earlier Everquest TLP servers handled this with a voting system. After all of the raids had been cleared, there'd be a waiting period (a few months), and then after that they'd ask the playerbase "do you want to have the server progress to the next expansion," and if a certain percentage of players voted to progress, the server would progress to the next expansion at the end of the voting period (a couple weeks). If the vote failed, they'd wait a few weeks and hold the vote again, and just keep doing that until the server moved onto the next expansion. Not perfect but it's a decent solution over running two/three sets of servers.

I also like the idea of doing an all-new, alternate post-Naxx progression that sticks to the design principles of Classic, but I don't think there's any chance of that happening.

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I vote for the extended timelines proposed in the above as well as expansions with more gradual gear increases than found in retail. There’s plenty of lore to work with.

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