World of Warcraft is a game that has undergone tremendous change over the past fifteen years since its launch, and players have always wanted a way to play the original game they fell in love with before the expansions began rolling out. From illegal servers that faced lawsuits, to the repeated message that going back was all but a technical impossibility, we are now three months away from the official launch of World of Warcraft Classic.
What a long, strange trip it’s been.
Recently, both Calia Schie, the Senior Game Producer for World of Warcraft and Ion Hazzikostas, overseer of design decisions for World of Warcraft Classic, gave an interview to discuss the decisions the went into making the game a reality and what they are focusing on as the launch nears.
One of the more interesting points is how the game went from technical impossibility to functional prototype. Hazzikostas explained how, for years, when the topic would become widespread among the community, or rear its head again at BlizzCon, a number of the older programmers familiar with the original game code would take a look and evaluate what they had to work with.
First off, the old data was always available, but the problem was that the old client and server would not run on modern hardware, and as a result would be plagued by many new bugs and exploits. The topic would often be left to rest at that point, internally speaking, because those challenges seemed insurmountable.
In 2016 or so, the topic again came to the forefront of internal consideration. Hazzikostas affirms that this time the attitude was taken as “what if someone told you we had to find a way to do it, what we might come up with, and some of our programmers tried different approaches.”
The answer came from an engineer named Omar Gonzalez, who locked himself away for a number of weeks in an attempt to force the modern client and server to interpret the classic data from patch 1.12. When he emerged, Omar had produced what must be considered the first prototype of would become what we will see launch in the near future. It was described by Hazzikostas as “very rough, contained tons of bugs, the world wasn't fully rendered, but it was the original classic world, pre-Cataclysm. It had the original skills and talents, and we knew there was a ton of work to do.”
With the largest technological hurdle now passed, the announcement was soon made at BlizzCon and the team has been working steadily ever since.
How authentic should Classic be?
Ever since players have begun asking for legacy servers, a spectrum has developed regarding what should be included from the original game, what should be touched up, and what new quality of life features should be added for the sake of convenience.
Some can be considered purists, wanting literally nothing added that was not in the game when it was released with the exception of some, but not all, bug fixes. Others meanwhile slide down the spectrum in various degrees. Some want loot trading for everyone to be available, others want the Looking For Group feature from patch 3.3.0, while some want all current professions that exist today in their old game because from a lore perspective, it is not as though Inscription and Jewelcrafting happened overnight.
To this, Hazzikostas and the entire team have been resolute in their vision of the game: No new content will be released, and they are seeking an authentic recreation of the game as it was in 2006. This has led to some players in the Beta finding a number of bugs that are in fact not bugs, but features that are working as intended. The current list of those “features” can be found here, and doubtless will continue to grow in quantity as time goes on.
Up to this point, the only concession in terms of a change has been made for players who will raid the endgame contend. Loot trading among members of a raid will now be permitted to avoid frustration at the highest levels of gameplay, but that is the only change so far.
No New Content, Gradual Releases of Old “New” Content
In the original game, there were a number of patches that added content to the game we consider as normal today. Honorable kills, Alterac Valley and Warsong Gulch, and Arathi basin for example all launched in different phases. Raid content like Blackwing Lair, Zul’Gurub, and Ahn’Qiraj will open in different phases as well, not on a firm schedule, but depending on how the top guilds in Classic progress and at what speeds.
One question on a few minds relates to the events relating to the Corrupted Blood problem from patch 1.7. Will the bug that spread an incurable Damage Over Time effect occur again to wipe out entire cities and their players?
In any case, that might be one event they correct before it even occurs, or perhaps for the authenticity of the experience, we may have another near apocalypse on our hands.
Looking Forward To The Past
Fans of legacy servers who are excited to play Classic will also be closely monitoring how well the game is received, and ultimately if Blizzard considers the investment worth the time and energy to bring to fruition. This is because it stands to reason that if the project brings back previous subscribers back to the game, there is no reason not to believe that other legacy servers could come in the future.
When asked about the possibility of other legacy servers, such as one for Burning Crusade, Hazzikostas answered that it was “definitely possible.”
With that in mind, we can only hope that the launch of World of Warcraft Classic goes well on August 27, 2019