World Of Warcraft Classic Raises A Lot Of Questions

A separate sub-team will be focused on the WoW legacy server.

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Now Playing: World of Warcraft's Return to a Classic - Blizzcon 2017

World of Warcraft got a host of huge updates at Blizzcon 2017. A new expansion is on the way, and we even got a first look at the new cinematic. But Blizzard also made a surprise announcement with very few details: World of Warcraft Classic will bring back the Vanilla experience.

The news raises a lot of questions, and we talked with World of Warcraft production director John Hight to try and answer some of them. While we didn't get firm details for everything, the biggest takeaway is that the team is approaching the upcoming Classic server carefully. There's going to be a separate sub-team made up of WoW veterans working on this version of the game, but how players will access the content isn't quite clear.

You can read the breakout excerpt from our larger World of Warcraft interview below. And for even more Blizzcon news, catch up on the biggest announcements and more interviews from the show here.

The transcript below has been edited for content and clarity.

GameSpot: World of Warcraft Classic was definitely a surprise. What's the overall feeling on the team to go back to creating something like that?

John Hight: Super exciting. We have members on the World of Warcraft team that have been on the game since the very beginning. That in itself is awesome because not many people can say they worked on a game for 13, 14, and in couple cases, 20 years. Luckily enough, some of those are in key engineering areas that are super helpful for us to unravel the differences in the database and the way the game functioned back then.

When was the decision made to work on this?

This has been an ongoing internal debate. I'm sure that this has happened off and on throughout the years, right? But last year this reached a fever pitch, and we really had a lot of internal discussions because we want to make sure that we provide a great experience for our players. And I think our concern was gonna be our ability to execute Blizzard quality going back so many years. You don't want to ruin the experience. It has to be an authentic experience. But by the same token, people don't want some of the funky bugs that we had back then.

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Are you working at all with the teams who were trying to create their own classic servers or is this separate?

No, this is all internal. As I said, we're fortunate that a lot of people that worked on the original WoW are on the team right now, and they're super jazzed. We actually have set up a separate, sub- Steam within our main World of Warcraft team to focus just on this so that we're not trying to share resources. And that's always been the challenge for us: there's so many great things that we can do in WoW. Do we go back and do this or do we add this new feature to World of Warcraft? And that was the big decision for us. So we decided we're gonna set up a special team for it. Everybody that is interested, we're gonna have them volunteer or apply or try to get on the team. And we're gonna safeguard that so that they can be successful.

So is this also something that will be separate from main player experience in the game? It's not like an instance or something where your kind of experiencing that as part of your main World of Warcraft journey?

It's its own realm. Now how we're gonna make that available, we haven't announced anything there. We certainly are gonna make it available to our players, but exactly how we're gonna roll it out, how you're gonna end up going to the old Azeroth...those details we haven't completely aired out and we haven't released that information yet.

Do you see this as being something that's part of a main WoW sub? Would this be a separate add on?

That's the part that we haven't really talked about it. We certainly have opinions on it. As all things Blizzard, we go through extensive internal debate before we commit and then announce.

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Avatar image for ninjacola

I can't wait! I hate easy mode WoW of today and put this is my unsubscribe message 3 times when I tried to come back to the game. Last time being when they shut down Nost private server. I was like "well okay, I understand that you want to make money", and I bought the new expansion and paid for a month sub to give it an honest go. I played for about 20 hours over a couple weeks and then unsubbed. The game was okay but was simply too easy and has no customization anymore. I want to have choices, that is why I am playing an RPG. I have more choices playing League of Legends than the current WoW.

Avatar image for livedreamplay

Wow fan: these expansions suck, the game was better before

Blizzard: we are making the version without expansions available

Wow fan: and there won't be any of the changes?

Blizzard: no

Wow fan: oh, yay. :(

*wow fan realizing he will never play that initial version seriously but still pretending that it's what he wants*

Avatar image for danyjr

I give it one hour before players get bored of it and quit as nostalgia wears off.

Avatar image for nedrith

@danyjr: I give it a few years for the players who really want it. Of course the players who leave will probably be replaced by others.

Proof, Nost still managed to keep a large number of active players despite being an unofficial, private server. Other private servers exist as well.

Many people hate the new changes, it's why in Nost's post mortem, most respondents when asked to rate the pools barely gave any 10/10s and not many 8/10 or 9/10 to any expansion post-WOTLK yet the majority of ratings for Vanilla and BC were 10/10 with a large number of 8/10 or 9/10 with WoTLK having a equal amount of 8-10/10s.

Avatar image for omnichris

Can't wait, I can see millions joining and it becoming quite a success. :) Perhaps even more successful than the modern day dumbed down version they have now. Talent trees are back, thank god. Actual character customization. Why on earth would you take that out of a RPG? lol

Avatar image for deactivated-5a60d6fa78f84

Imagine it's free to play, and at any point you can play to 60 all without paying, quest with friends. DO the early instances. And when you're ready you subscribe and your character can transfer to a paid server with all the expansions. Also, stop making me buy all the expansions I missed every time I come back to the game. I don't understand how they need all the money from the subs plus the expansion money. Like... I'm poor here.

Avatar image for hyru99

@WingcommanderIV: You don't have to buy all the expansion over again. You used to have to. You only have to buy the current expansion. Everyone has to do it anyway. So when each new expanion hits, the old xpac becomes the standard. You aren't buying anything other than the current xpac like I said.

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Avatar image for altairdarius

This is a mocking from Blizzard to other rpgmmo games that are trying to take the market, but hey, we still have got that right since then!

Avatar image for RoachRush

Vanilla WoW is a mixed bag for me. I miss the community feel, the immersiveness (going to dungeon and bg entrances instead of Group Finder), and proper use of aggro, cc and focus fire in dungeons and raids. I do not miss low monster/quest drop spawns, poor gear and attribute optimization, near useless class specs (vanilla enhancement shaman), and being pigeonholed into one spec for raiding (vanilla resto shaman)

Avatar image for SirNormanislost

@RoachRush: unless they add TBC after a couple of years and then wrath etc

Avatar image for hyru99

I can't believe people actually convinced Blizzard to do this. I just can't. Don't people care about progression anymore? For me, be locked in "bare-bones" vanilla would be a living hell. Nothing would change, and no way to progress to another level and area.

But hey, if people will pay to play on vanilla servers, I am all for that, you will be funding Blizzard so they can work on the "REAL" World of Warcraft that doesn't stay the same forever in one state.

Avatar image for nedrith

@hyru99: Progression is great until the progression makes the game a lot more terrible. I had my fill of progression in WoW before WotLK released. After that it was just hell to play and not enjoyable.

Vanilla was enjoyable. If a better MMO comes along, one that has enjoyable 40 man or larger raiding without all the "QOL" features that harm MMOs, then I'll play that.

Avatar image for alvarezjacob

@hyru99: The whole game is progressing to another level and area...

"and no way to progress to another level and area"

Anyway, not everyone wants everything to change all the time. Personally, I started back in BC. I played a lot, but there were quite a lot of things I didn't get to do and areas I didn't explore. I played mostly on Alliance so I pretty much have another storyline (the Horde's) that I can experience.

I got my wife (then girlfriend) into the game slightly before Cataclysm. There's way more that she never got to experience, and then a lot of it was gone after Deathwing's shenanigans. So I look forward to adventuring with her and witnessing her experience things for the first time.

I'm looking forward to adventuring again. Sure, I've done a lot of it already, but have you never re-read a book, never re-watched a movie, never re-listened to a song? Those things don't progress, but that doesn't mean you can't still enjoy them over and over.

Avatar image for hyru99

@alvarezjacob: I am not saying that I wouldn't re read a book or movie. And I wasn't a fan of blizzard nuking the old quests, because I hadn't done all of them my first playthrough then quit on and off for many years, never fully getting every quest each time (I raided mostly).

My thing is, why would you "lock" yourself to a specific point in time forever? The smartest thing and most versatile thing to do is have Blizzard just have like a "timewarp" which includes all vanilla quests and all vanilla restrictions/skills. Therefore, you are able to travel back in time for as long as you wish and enjoy old content that was removed from Cat, while still given the option of returning to the current time.

It just seems like paying monthly for something that will never change is folly. And I know, at least for me, the fun of playing WoW was watching my character grow, and knowing that the game will always have something eventually new for me to do.

Avatar image for luert

@alvarezjacob: not evryone is the same on this topic alva, some people simply get bored really fast, it's just a matter of how much of these things and time you spent on it, and even then it's always personal, I played games for 10 to 15h a day for 7 to 10 years and I watched so many movies over and over, now I just simply can't bother anymore because it's simply too boring, I just play what I really like a bit for fun but only very few games remain and even those I just don't play so much anyways (=

Avatar image for srgntpep

@luert: It was almost two years before the first real expansion was a big game, but that was enough time do almost everything you wanted to do...I don't think anyone would describe two years of playtime as "really fast" in any games evolution.

Avatar image for nedrith

@srgntpep: Depends how you think of two years. Naxx for example wasn't out for very long. Many guilds also had issues getting through BWL or AQ40. Most raiders probably didn't even experience more than a couple legendary drops if any.

2 years is only 104 weekly resets assuming you played from the beginning. That's not a lot.

In terms of raiding I wouldn't call 2 years really fast, but I wouldn't call it slow or a lot especially considering that some of the raids didn't exist for the majority of those 2 years.

Avatar image for Nymphonomicon

The community have been saying for years that they wanted a vanilla WoW to play. They went to unofficial sources to experience it and put up with being razzed by the arrogant twats at Blizzard that told them "you don't want that"... Do you think maybe you can put away the speculative "do they really want it" nonsense? I know you have nothing else to say on the matter other than shit-talking fans since there's nothing else to report. So how about doing something more constructive than being a dickish journalist? Or is that all you can do with your power?

Avatar image for Baconstrip78

@Nymphonomicon: Calm down edgelord...

Avatar image for Marikhen

Personally, I'm wondering what sort of client is going to be used. A game's client can have as much an effect on players' perception of and reaction to a game as the gameplay and content themselves can. In this case using the first generation client will lead to a more "authentic" experience, but at the same time it's going to have various issues such as performance on/with modern hardware and APIs. On the other hand using a modern client would avoid many of the age-related issues but could leave to a cognitive disconnect of sorts for old-time players.

On the gripping hand, a modern client with an "old school" UI would probably be the best choice, but even there there will need to be changes made so that the "old school" UI can properly interface with a modern engine.

Another point to ponder is whether or not they should use the original or modern art assets. If they use a modern client engine then it would almost beg that they use the modern assets as well, at least where applicable, in order to make best use of the client's capabilities. At the same time this will negate some of the "authenticity" of the project even if all the core game mechanics make a comeback verbatim.

Hell, Blizzard's put out store-bought mounts and pets since the game launched. How will those be integrated into the "classic" environment? From what I've heard it could be a real pain in the ass to acquire "epic" mounts in Vanilla World of Warcraft which means that store-bought mounts will provide a significant advantage for early players.

Personally speaking, as much as I wouldn't mind playing through a "real, authentic Vanilla" experience, I feel that I would be much more inclined to stay if some of the more egregiously outdated aspects were updated. This doesn't mean that I feel that the dungeon/raid finder mechanics should be incorporated, as I don't, or that Hunters should be able to hot-swap pets as easily as they can in the current game. At the same time, however, having the expanded pet storage for Hunters that modern games have would be a useful addition, and increasing the durations of buffs, while *not* expanding on their scope/power, so that some of the old "buff bot" nightmare can be dissipated would be of great benefit to raiders.

Avatar image for srgntpep

@Marikhen: I'm guessing vanilla will be vanilla--start from scratch and play by the old, awful, really hard rules. No flying mounts, no unearned epic mounts. I don't think they could do it any other way. And of course then people will finally realize that no, they didn't want this after all haha.

Avatar image for luert

@srgntpep: sadly not evryone thinks that way, you have to think that people who played less have more patience and play occasionally or they really like the game will simply go along with it, I've seen my share but it's just a matter of those who prefer more easy going stuff and those who prefer hard work, you can't change mind without experiencing certain stuff and even then it'll take quite a lot that's why the world spins on itself (=

Avatar image for alvarezjacob

@srgntpep: "then people will finally realize that no, they didn't want this after all haha"

I think 99% of the people (myself included) who want to play WoW Classic realize what they're getting. I knew it before I started playing on private servers and still had a blast.

Yours is such a tired argument against Classic proponents.

Avatar image for srgntpep

@alvarezjacob: Really the argument is still (and has always been) will there be enough people interested in classic servers to make it worth it for Blizzard to dedicate money to the unimproved version of the game? Maybe there will? They obviously seem to think so. My guess is once people have to pay for the (again, unimproved) version of the game they'll start dropping like flies. I could be wrong, but I don't think I am. I think the fact that private servers were free kept people coming back. Once people have to pay for a version that is not as good as the version out now I think they'll opt not to. Once of the nice things about these types of games is that they're constantly moving forward and improving. Some people don't like change, and of course when 7 million people are involved not everyone will agree with the direction the changes take, but the point is the game is always changing. A static version of the game just doesn't hold a lot of appeal for most people, and I think this will finally show that.

Avatar image for brightamethyst

"Novelty and wonder were a big part of the experience, and those are gone."

This is honestly the biggest issue, and why I'm surprised that Blizzard is even wasting their time on vanilla servers in the first place. People don't want vanilla back. They want to be awestruck newbies again. It's not the game's fault that 13 years later you're not a wide eyed newbie any more, and a classic server can't give that back to you. All it can do is let you run old school Strat a few times for the nostalgia.

Nostalgia is a really powerful thing. It lets us remember the good while conveniently forgetting the bad. I remember the Good-Old-Days™ too, but I also remember literally broken specs and talents, faction specific classes, bags full of ammo and soul shards, 5 minute blessings, and a million other things I'm happy to have left in the past. Does anyone want to go back to that?

Avatar image for Marikhen

@brightamethyst: While you might not be able to completely recapture the original spirit, you can get a lot further than you'd think possible with players who are open-minded enough. Players who can go in, accept the game as it is, and avoid comparing it with anything and everything they've ever played will have a much better chance of (re)capturing the original spirit and joy of playing.

At the risk of using an offensive, dirty word, the players who are best able to immerse themselves in the game are the players most likely to (re)experience the feelings and emotions that people did when the game was new. Players for whom immersion isn't plausible are going to be in for a rough ride though.

Avatar image for Zyconnic

@brightamethyst: I think you need to do a bit of research and see the number of players on the different vanilla private servers. There is absolutely a market - no doubt there.

Vanilla still holds its place. It's a completely different experience that Legion but both "games" has it's strong sides.. and bad sides. I still enjoy Vanilla and there is a lot off things done wrong in the later expansion which makes people come back to the "good old days".

Avatar image for Barighm

@brightamethyst: None of what you believe changes the fact that Nost had maintained a population of nearly 1 million players, a number that could easily grow once you add official support and ease of access. The market IS THERE and that's a fact.

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@Barighm: We will see if the market is there. Big Difference in paying for something that is going to be same forever, than playing for FREE for something that is going to be same forever.

Avatar image for srgntpep

@Barighm: We'll see--they'll actually have to PAY for it again, and I imagine that was some of the allure of the private servers. Maybe a LOT of the allure, since you could play WoW without a monthly fee that way.

Avatar image for timthegem

I got a ring in there last night....

Avatar image for Starshine_M2A2

@timthegem: Dropped your pants?

Avatar image for lookhowselfawareiam

I've played on vanilla and WOTLK servers recently. Here's what to expect:

1. It's not the same. Novelty and wonder were a big part of the experience, and those are gone.

2. You're not the same. Hopefully you've found more effective ways of meeting your psychological needs in the last 12 years, so you won't find it as fulfilling.

3. The scope is smaller. Part of WOW was the promise of future change and character growth. Legacy servers leave you frozen in time, running the same endgame raids over and over. It leaves you with a feeling of "ok, now what?"

4. It's still pretty cool. Don't expect classic WOW to be a life-support system, like it might have been for you all those years ago. It's not, and that's a good thing. But the nostalgia is real, the game mechanics still stand on their own, and it's still fun to try out different characters and builds. PvP is still great. It's worth trying out.

Avatar image for Devil_wings00


8 raids (including UBRS) with over 70 bosses

9 max level 5 mans with more bosses then I'm willing to count since places like BRD have dozens alone

15 dungeons during leveling up which you actually will want to do because leveling was SLOW in Vanilla.

People are going to BLAZE through all that. Also you want to talk about scope? Everything in modern WoW does an excellent job of looking and feeling epic but it's all surface level because you are in and out in a few hours tops. In Vanilla dungeons actually were epic and sprawling. That goes from 5 mans to raids. Besides a handful of lower level 5 mans most dungeons were not something you could complete in a single night or even multiple nights.

Also the game world felt HUGE because there was very few conveniences. Ground mounts only, having to run to dungeons to summon people and actually having to fly to places using griffons. There was a sense of wonder and scope to the game world. Compare that to now where the majority of your game time is spent sitting in the capital city of whatever tiny new zone the current expansion added while the entirety of the world from all the prior expansions sits there empty and lifeless. There is no game world, it's just a glorified lobby now.

Seriously I could keep going on but I'm tired of writing this. The fact of the matter is Vanilla is a completely different game from modern WoW and is all of it for the better? Nope, I'm not insane, but In terms of game design it's one I vastly prefer and miss.

If I love an old game I can just go back and play it but with WoW that isn't the case. That old content is gone or rendered completely different because of the modern changes to the game. It's literally an experience I can NEVER have again without going to some buggy unofficial server that could be shut down any second. Now they are letting me have it. So how about you just don't play it and quit trying to rain on peoples parade.

Avatar image for srgntpep

@Devil_wings00: OMG I may have nightmares just thinking of trying to put the old 8-hour, 40-man Molten Core raids together again. Everyone having to have tons of specific gear, and then only getting through a tiny portion of the raid each week. No thank you. I will not be the bomb again.

Avatar image for Barighm

@lookhowselfawareiam: People don't have to be psychologically or emotionally flawed to enjoy continuously replaying one video game.

Avatar image for lyrx

After playing 3 years of Everquest 2001-2004, I was in the 1st group of World of Warcraft players in the fall of 2004. I was a continuous top 10 player on my server for my class. We leveled up the hard way. We did quests and ground it out. We did 40 person raids. Over the years, the game changed until the last couple of years, it was boring. We used to use many areas in the game instead of being stuck in one zone. I stopped my account recently. I'd like to go back to the old World of Warcraft of 10 years ago with 10 person dungeons (40 was a lot of work).