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WoW Classic Hardcore Servers Will Combat Griefing But Leave The Rest Up To Players

Permadeath servers are coming to WoW Classic soon, with surprisingly few changes.


World of Warcraft Classic will receive official "Hardcore" servers before the end of the summer, with a public-test-realm build for the permadeath version of the game going live on June 29. Heavily inspired by a popular community game mode with a "death=delete" motto, Blizzard's official version will sport some key differences but will largely leave it up to players to decide how they want to approach the challenge.

In a group interview with WoW Classic team members Josh Greenfield and Nora Valletta that GameSpot participated in, Blizzard revealed that its official Hardcore servers won't feature many of the restrictions that have come to define the Hardcore add-on that fans of permadeath in WoW Classic have operated under up until this point. Gone will be most restrictions on grouping, a ban on using the auction house, asking other players for help, trading items, and the ability to only complete each of the game's dungeons prior to level 60 a single time. Instead, Blizzard is taking a largely hands-off approach when it comes to Hardcore, putting the choice on players as to what further restrictions they would like to make the long and harrowing journey from level 1-60 even more challenging.

Part of the reason the Hardcore add-on bans using the auction house, trading, and grouping with other players who aren't specific leveling partners is that Hardcore play is currently conducted on servers where some players are playing the game normally. With that in mind, Hardcore players being able to benefit from players who have more than a single life didn't quite seem fair. But with official servers where everyone playing will all be operating under the same single-life ruleset, those restrictions no longer seemed necessary.

"As such we did make the decision to open up trading and auction houses on the Hardcore realms," Valletta, a lead software engineer on WoW Classic, said. "I know that's something the community ruleset didn't allow. But we found one of the reasons the community ruleset didn't allow it was because it was seen as undermining the Hardcore challenge if you were interacting with and benefiting from those interactions with non-Hardcore characters. So we thought this situation called for opening up those restrictions."

When it comes to lifting restrictions on only being able to do a dungeon a single time, Greenfield, a senior game producer on WoW Classic, said the team agreed with the idea behind the restriction in spirit. As a compromise, the team landed on players only being able to do each dungeon prior to level 60 once per day, in order to discourage players from dungeon leveling and thus incentivizing players to be out in the open world. Greenfield said missing out on a quest item or a highly sought-after piece of loot after doing a dungeon a single time isn't a great feeling, so the once-per-day lockout was a good middle ground.

WoW Classic Hardcore is Blizzard's official take on a popular community playstyle.
WoW Classic Hardcore is Blizzard's official take on a popular community playstyle.

Max-level characters will be unable to group with lower-level characters in dungeons, and if a dungeon group consists of a much higher-level character grouping with lower-level ones, XP rewards will be greatly reduced. Level 60 characters won't have any restrictions on the number of times they can run a dungeon, as farming dungeons is important for gearing up for the game's endgame raids. Unlike the launch of WoW Classic, which featured a content rollout schedule, all of the old-school MMO's post-launch "vanilla" content will be available from day one. Hardcore realms won't feature content from other Classic expansions like The Burning Crusade or Wrath of the Lich King. Blizzard didn't want players to feel pressure to keep up with the release of new content or chase achievements (another feature from the community add-on not present in the official version), emphasizing that playing on a Hardcore realm is about the journey, not the destination.

"One of the things we like about Hardcore is as high-stakes as it is, it's weirdly chill," Valletta said. "You're just going about your leveling experience, and then 'Oh no, I almost died!' And then you're just kind of chilling. You're going at your own pace. There's no rush to get to level 60."

For the most part, the actual changes being made to WoW Classic for its Hardcore servers are few and far between. Most of them are safety measures that will target griefing, ensuring players looking to ruin the fun for others won't have an easy time. Flagging for PvP is receiving an update to make it so it's a deliberate, conscious choice by all players involved, and quests that unwillingly flag players for PvP have been redesigned so that players can't be caught unaware. The ability to kite high-level enemies great distances so that they can wreak havoc in low-level zones has also been addressed. Additionally, certain quest NPCs will have protections to make it so players on the opposing faction can't kill them and prevent players from turning in quests.

Hunters won't be able to kite high-level mobs across zones and terrorize low-level players, Blizzard confirmed.
Hunters won't be able to kite high-level mobs across zones and terrorize low-level players, Blizzard confirmed.

There are a few class-specific changes, too. Paladins, for example, won't be able to use Divine Shield or Blessing of Protection to safely use their Hearthstone and teleport their way out of mortal danger, a rule that also applied in the community-led version of Hardcore. Resurrection abilities like Warlock Soulstones, Shaman Reincarnation, or Druid's Rebirth battle resurrection won't function on Hardcore servers. Those abilities are major parts of the toolkits for those classes, but Greenfield said classes won't receive balance changes or be compensated for the loss of some of their signature abilities. It all comes back to players having the ability to choose their difficulty level, and some classes will simply be harder to level than others, Greenfield said.

One big topic when it comes to permadeath servers is protection from disconnects and other circumstances that are out of players' hands, something that the Diablo IV hardcore community has been dealing with and which Blizzard has pledged to address. The community version of WoW Classic Hardcore allows players who felt that they had died unjustly to submit evidence to potentially have their death revoked. Blizzard said it won't have a petition system to overturn deaths, but there will be some backend changes to help protect players who disconnect from lingering in the game and risking their characters' lives. However, Blizzard doesn't recommend players in a sticky situation pull the plug on their internet in an effort to cheat death.

For players who are interested in engaging in incredibly high-stakes PvP, there will be some options. A new duel-to-the-death system will let players challenge each other, with the winner claiming the loser's ear as a grim trophy. Matchmade battlegrounds will be disabled, but players will still be able to run custom "wargames." However, the server's permadeath rules will still apply, so any kind of PvP will come with great risks.

Dying on a Hardcore realm will result in the slain character becoming a permanent ghost, which can pass off guild leadership and communicate with players but won't be able to return to their bodies and continue their leveling journey. Blizzard will have an option for players who have died to freely transfer off a Hardcore server onto a normal, Classic Era server, where that character could then come back to life and be played normally. Transfers to Hardcore realms won't be allowed.

Deaths of guildmates will be announced in guild chat so players can pay their respects and send words of encouragement, and server-wide announcements will be made for players who complete their journey and reach level 60, something that helps contribute to the strong community aspect that has made the Hardcore add-on so popular in recent months.

"That's one of the things I think we love the most about Hardcore, I think I can say this confidently about the team, is that it celebrates failure," Greenfield said. "Everyone is very encouraging. Even when you die, the pop-up box says a 'Your deeds of valor will be remembered' kind of thing, but it also says, 'Go again,' essentially, 'Try again.' It's very encouraging, and that's one of the things that's really cool about Hardcore and is an aspect that we love. Everyone comes together and encourages you."

WoW Classic Hardcore doesn't yet have an official release date, but is slated to release this summer following testing on the PTR. Meanwhile, Blizzard has confirmed it's working on new seasonal content for WoW Classic separate from the new Hardcore mode, though the developer doesn't yet have details to share on that front.

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