It was leaked yesterday, but Blizzard has now made it official: World of Warcraft Classic, the re-revolution of the huge online game, expands to include the first expansion of The Burning Crusade this year.
This means an increased level of 70 (classic players will actually surpass the players in the modern game, which has had the cap of 60); an interdimensional adventure through the Dark Portal to the trippy, ruined world of Outland; addition of the races Blood Elf and Draenei; arena play against player, flying parties and more.
As before, World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade Classic (it’s dropped for some reason) will be included for free in a WOW subscription. Players who dedicate themselves to the original version of the game will not be forced to upgrade; you can choose to continue your character to the Burning Crusade expansion with the rest of your server, or move to a server that will remain forever on the current version of the game – which I guess we now have to call the Vanilla Classic. Original Classic. Classic Classic? (Blizzard calls them Classic Era servers.)
Serving a retro community when it comes to camps that want to experience the game as it was in different eras is a potential minefield, but Blizzard seems to have thought through all the options. Lead producer Holly Longdale and Production Director Patrick Dawson told me over Zoom that players who do not want to choose between the two versions of the game will be offered a paid service to clone their character on the Classic Era and Burning Crusade servers. Furthermore, diehard Burning Crusade fans who have not played Classic and can not meet the long tired up to the level requirement for the expansion, can pay for a lift to level 58. This option is strictly once, because “we do not want to minimize the performance of those who have worked so hard in Classic to make the characters clear, “said Dawson.
Blizzard is now discovering three versions of its flagship MMO simultaneously; potentially more, if this model continues to subsequent WOW extensions. It sounds like a headache, even though the classic community is clearly big enough to be worth it – Activsion Blizzard boss Bobby Kotick has spoken approvingly about the effect Classic has had on WOW subscription numbers. “Yes, it’s more complicated to run multiple products in this environment,” Dawson said. “But we have a world-class laboratory team ready for this challenge. We even go from one mega-game to two mega-games when we [launched WOW Classic] was a big change for that group too. So the good news is that we’ve done it before, we know what it’s like to add a new game to World of Warcraft. “
As with the WOW Classic, content from the original game will be rolled out in phases over time, allowing the raiding community to look forward to Black Temple, Zul’Aman and Sunwell opening up over the next year or so. But systematically, the Burning Crusade Classic actually starts from the end point of the expansion. “Our startup template is the latest update,” Dawson said. “It’s the class skills, the class balance and everything that existed for the final version of Burning Crusade … and then we’ll go ahead and look at what else makes sense to change on top of that.”
Oh yes. New changes. Initially, Blizzard took a purist approach and made only very minimal changes to the game as it was for WOW Classic, but that approach has evolved as the team has listened to feedback from players. “As a team we call this … I hesitate to say this, but I will anyway … we call it #some changes“” Longdale laughed. It turns out the players wanted the game just the way it was – but better.
Longdale gave some examples of changes that will be made in the Burning Crusade Classic. Spelling batching, a delay in processing player actions to work around the boundaries of server hardware from the mid-2000s, was imitated in the WOW Classic, but will now be thrown out for a “more reactive” feel to the gameplay. Seal of Blood, an ability given to the Horde Paladins in Burning Crusade, and known to be more powerful than the corresponding Alliance ability, is also given to the Alliance Paladins. The Blood Elf and Draenei races are unlocked before Dark Portal opens, to give players a chance to level up new characters.
Most controversially, perhaps, the team chooses a “pre-nerf raid approach”. In Classic, players were later given versions of raid bosses that had been set (wise in the event of a battle that C’Thun, the earlier nerf version of, according to Dawson, was “mathematically impossible”). With the Burning Crusade Classic, however, society gets the chance to test themselves against bosses in their scary pre-nerf forms. “We take a look at the raiding community, and it’s extremely vibrant, they’s extremely talented raiders, and they know a lot more today than they did 15 years ago,” Dawson said. “So we want to give them the pre-nerf version of these fights.” (Well, for the most part. Some bad game design choices, like spell checking on the original version of M’uru from Sunwell Plateau, will be left out, but “the hit point nerf and damage nerf that we got a few weeks in – let’s not do it right away , “said Dawson with a twinkle in his eye.)
The WOW Classic team has learned that returning the game to its exact state at an earlier stage is not really what society wants – nor does it take into account how things have gone. “Like when Burning Crusade was first released, you started YouTube, right? It was a whole different world – the common pages, the guilds were not as wise and robust as they are today.” In Dawson. “The game that was designed for that community is doing incredibly well today, which is just amazing to watch. But the way people get involved in it is a little different. And that’s fine. But that’s partly why we want to do some of these. the changes to say, hey, let’s serve the needs of today’s society, but keep the same nostalgia, keep the feeling that people had back in 2007. “
Nostalgia is a powerful force, and memory is subjective. One of the strangest problems the team faces is that the players’ memories of the game – even the development team’s own – may deviate slightly from the facts. (“A lot”, Longdale interrupts.) Should they redo the game the way it was, or the way the players remember it?
“One thing we’ve always had for both Classic and Burning Crusade is a reference client, so we can actually go back and look at how things actually were,” Dawson said. “With Classic, people would take things up, and we would take a deep dive and be like, ‘Hey, this is exactly how it works. And they’re like, ‘Okay, but that’s not what I remember’ … With Burning Crusade, instead of just answering ‘that’s it’, the question is, what do you think it should be? And we will listen. Because in the end we make a game for the people who want to play it. “
“Our goal is to bring the best possible experience to as many players as possible, although you may not like it that much when Pat was mounted in PvP and killed me over and over again,” Longdale laughed. “It’s about keeping nostalgia, the spirit of Burning Crusade and Classic for the nostalgic experience. But we want to make sure it stays as fun as possible for as many people as possible in the community.”