World of Warcraft Classic is progressing/regressing nicely

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Blizzard has been working on launching World of Warcraft servers that just run a classic version of the game, back before all of the updates were added to the world… of Warcraft… over the years. It’s an ambitious choice because it’s not just about re-launching some early version of the game; it’s about perfecting and updating a very specific slice of the game so that it will run well on 2018 hardware and engage with players in the same way that the most updated version of the game does. Today, we’ve got an update from the developer on how the World of Warcraft Classic restoration / anti-expansion is going.

Via an announcement on Blizzard’s site, we now know which version of WoW the team has chosen to build Classic from:

As many of you have noted, the classic period was two years long and full of changes. Core features like Battlegrounds were introduced in patches after WoW’s original launch, and class design similarly changed over time. After careful consideration, we decided on Patch 1.12: Drums of War as our foundation, because it represents the most complete version of the classic experience.

The team rebuilt some of the original code and has been rigorously testing this, during which they ran into issues with modern video cards, the log-in system for the game, and the advanced anti-cheating systems that have been built up during the course of the game’s lifespan. Without sacrificing the millions of hours of testing that Blizzard has put into the game over the last 13 years, they’ve found a way to insert the original code into their modern code, and built a working version that’s been through a few major prototypes already.

There’s a lot of engineering specific data listed in the official post that shows off the challenges facing Classic. But why do this at all?

As Alice said in our initial coverage of the WoW Classic reveal:

While a lot of WoW’s additions and changes over the years have been great, it has also made it a pretty different game. Modern WoW is a lot friendlier, a lot more streamlined, and feels less like a wild and dangerous place. It whips players through the original lands at breakneck pace to get them levelled up for the new parts, and some of those original lands are now greatly changed – or just plain gone. A lot of wanting that back is nostalgia, pining for the days that were and who we were then, but that wilder WoW was also more interesting in ways.

Check out the Classic Version WoWzers trailer below:

38 Comments

  1. TillEulenspiegel says:

    I’m weird because I never played WoW seriously, I don’t think it’s a good game, and yet I still have a lot of affection for some of those early zones which were destroyed in Cataclysm, which used to be cute places to explore. And for little things like a Hunter only getting a pet at level 10 or whatever. That felt like achieving something, earning a significant new power.

    These were well-designed things with real heart put into them. You “streamline” all the rough edges away, and soon enough nothing’s left but a cold soulless grind.

    • escooler says:

      I completely agree here. Although never really a committed player I still have very fond memories as a druid. In order to get your shapeshifting abilities, you had to go through trials in a special neutral zone on the map that was only assessable to druids, both horde, and alliance. It all had a lot more ceremony to it which gave everything more weight, rather than buying a skill off a trainer like you would buy a ham off an inn keep.

    • Abacus says:

      You’re right about the rough edges.

      I feel that while the streamlining has likely made WoW a better game, it has made it a lesser world. There are so many little details and quirks that were cut away in the name of streamlining, balance and fairness.

  2. SaintAn says:

    That quote from Alice is wrong. She said people want classic because of nostalgia, but a lot of people playing on vanilla servers never even played vanilla, and enjoy it because it is just a well built and fun MMO. It’s really a lot more fun and deep than the shallow non-MMO mess that WoW is now, especially the WPVP and AV.

    Is this version the version where Alterac Valley was a continuous BG where fighting lasted days to a week? I want old AV in this so bad. My main focus in vanilla will be WPVP and that awesome BG is something I need.

    • skyst says:

      That style of AV will be possible but it is unlikely that it will play out that way. After years of various versions of AV both in live WoW and numerous private servers, those massive stalemates that drag on and on likely won’t happen.

      For what it’s worth, classic AV on private servers is still a lot of fun. There are a few choke points that easily lead to large scale battles with 30 or more players participating on each side at the same time. I just haven’t seen any super long lasting conflicts since early vanilla, before everyone knew how to AV.

    • Asurmen says:

      How is it wrong? It certainly doesn’t seem wrong to me. I also wouldn’t call it well built, nor how modern WoW isn’t an MMO.

      • SaintAn says:

        It’s stated in my comment why she’s wrong to say that, so I’m not sure why you would ask me how she’s wrong.

        Yes, Vanilla WoW is well built. It’s impressive even now playing on a private server just how well made vanilla WoW was, and how its systems all come together to form an incredible game.

        And WoW stopped being an MMO when they added sharding in Legion. If a massive number of players aren’t able to play together anymore then it’s not a Massively Multiplayer Online Game, it’s just multiplayer. If you need more examples of games people wrongly call MMO’s then here’s a small list: PSO, PSU, PSO2, Destiny, Destiny 2, Warframe, half of TESO (only the giant PVP map is MMO, the PVE part of the game is not), TOR, Fallout 76, and nearly all survival games. FFXIV may not be one either, but I’m not sure. It does split the population into sub servers when there is too much stress on a datacenter at the launch of an xpac, but I’m not sure if the subservers are always there but the game population is too low to activate it normally, if it’s something they just turn on in high stress times to relieve stress on datacenters and then turn off, or just something on my server (Balmung) because it is extremely overpopulated.

        • airmikee99 says:

          Before Legion I used to see only characters from my server, and city chat was only with others from the same server. Now I see characters from multiple servers in the game world, and city chat includes many servers. Used to only be able to group with people on the same server, can now group with people from different servers. How do these changes make it less of an MMO because it feels like the game is much, much bigger in that regard.

          Have you not played WoW lately and you’re just basing your opinion on your imagination and the complaints of others instead of actually knowing what you’re talking about?

          And where is the technical definition that’s been laid out for all to use on what defines an MMO, because it sounds like you’re once again just making shit up with your imagination.

        • Thankmar says:

          I do not know the technical details of sharding, but if characters from different servers being together in one area (not only dungeons) is a result, sharding is waaaaay older than Legion, innit?

        • pentraksil says:

          How is the fact that you can see even more people on your low populated server “not an MMO” ?

          • po says:

            Raid cap reduced from 40 to 20. Open World PVP simply doesn’t happen, because of crap like faction imbalance, and the fact that PvP is always an afterthought to the WoW team (I’m betting plenty got sick of that attitude, and went to work on Overwatch instead).

            They could have taken their phasing technology, and split every zone into one phase for players at the maximum level that would reward XP from its mobs and under, and another for those above it, so that players of all levels would have a place for open world PvP, instead of it always devolving into who has the guild with the most max level characters to stomp all over the low level players.

          • airmikee99 says:

            RE: po

            So decreasing the raid cap in order to allow more raids to happen is something making the game less of an MMO? Back in Vanilla there were only three guilds on my server able to completely clear Naxxramas (and one of them only needed 20 people to clear it), now every guild can do every raid at whatever difficulty level they want.

            And how hilarious it is that you complain about something not being in the game that was added nearly two years ago. Whatever zone you travel to in Legion is matched to your level. If a level 100 toon and a level 110 toon fight the exact same mob at the same time, the level 100 toon fights a level 100 mob and the level 110 fights a level 110 mob. Even the original two continents include phasing so you can choose almost any zone to level in and it will match your level so it’s not too easy or too difficult.

            And to fuel the comedy of your comment, you complain that the raid cap was changed to open up raiding to more players, and then complain that question zones weren’t opened up to more players.

        • Asurmen says:

          I asked why is it wrong because you offered nothing substantive. And no, it wasn’t well built. So many flaws in the base game. A whole lot of pointless busy work, badly designed talent trees, stupid itemisation and quest rewards.

        • Phasma Felis says:

          It sounds like later versions made changes you don’t like, which is fair, but you’re trying to make your opinion sound more legitimate by coming up with idiosyncratic definitions of “MMO” that WoW no longer fits.

          You’re allowed to just not like it. Arguments over genre definition seem weirdly tangential.

  3. airmikee99 says:

    Going back to classic isn’t enough. They need to make a server based on the beta a few months before release, when Tauren had no mounts and got the Plainsrunner ability, and Hunters didn’t exist, and Enhancement Shaman could tank.

    • ludde says:

      Ah yes, plainsrunning. The Tauren mounts always felt like a cop out.

      But I think they need to go even further back, to when WoW was still in early development and the concept was that players would fight over mines, towers and so on to take over the contested zones, which made a lot of sense coming from Warcraft 3. That game I would’ve liked to play.

      • spindaden says:

        I want them to go back to the April fools prank they did before release and allow 2 players to play as 2 headed ogres. That was the main reason I bought the game in the first place and I’m still waiting!

  4. Replikant says:

    I stopped following WoW a long time ago, so I don’t know about recent versions but what killed the game for me was when specialized classes (priests, warriors, rogues, warlocks) were made obsolete sinca palas and druids could fill all roles. Class diversity really suffered then. Also, I now believe that PvP balancing will always kill interesting cooperative PvE.

    • Asurmen says:

      They weren’t made obsolete? They were made equal. Bring the player, not the class. Before those changes, those two classes which had multi roles available were only brought for buffs and healing because their tank and damage were subpar. Now they’re brought for everything, and those ‘obsolete’ classes are still used.

    • Jekadu says:

      Whoa, all of that was a long time ago.

      These days you pick a specialization and either tank, heal or deal damage, with no significant hybrid mechanics in play. What sets specs apart nowadays is look-and-feel.

      Also, Blizzard gave up on the “one system for everything” philosophy a while back and now scale abilities separately for PvP.

      • Replikant says:

        Yes, it’s been a while.
        I am probably severly old-school now, but I do like distinguishable classes. It made (5-man) instances feel somewhat like a pnp RPG with clear roles. A bunch multi-role characters which can all tank, heal, DPS and crowd-control? Thanks, I’ll pass, I guess.
        I don’t know if and how much WoW has been dumbed down but quest-markers and power-grinding through pretty backdrops sounds pretty boring.
        That said, mindnumbing grinding was already part of classic WoW, as was griefing and that stupid artificial “you cannot damage it if it is 5 levels above you” nonsense. The world and the writing were really good, though.

        • TheSkiGeek says:

          I am probably severly old-school now, but I do like distinguishable classes. It made (5-man) instances feel somewhat like a pnp RPG with clear roles. A bunch multi-role characters which can all tank, heal, DPS and crowd-control? Thanks, I’ll pass, I guess.

          5-man dungeons and larger raids still work like that, at least if you’re pushing at the edge of the content you can clear. You can still only generally do one of those things at a time, or maybe two of them suboptimally. It’s not like you can respec your talents in the middle of a boss fight, and it’s a loooooong grind to get multiple sets of endgame gear to fill multiple roles properly.

          Druids being worse healers than Priests AND worse tanks than Warriors AND worse at DPS than a Warlock or Mage (while needing totally different gear for each role in raid settings!) was extremely unfun at the endgame if you happened to choose that class a few hundred gameplay hours ago. It didn’t matter (much) that you could switch back and forth between roles mid-fight because to be even decent at one role in a raid context you were useless at the other ones. All the hybrid classes were like that in vanilla and it was not good. Maybe you’d bring one for a particular one-use ability, like the pally bubble or shaman bloodlust, but the optimal strategy was to stick to the single-role classes in raids because they were flatly better at that one role.

      • ludde says:

        … scale abilities separately for PvP.

        Ugh, how to make it feel like a game and not a place.

  5. PlinyTheWelder says:

    The classic version is something I’m not sure we can handle anymore.

    Ive been thinking about how waypoints have destroyed a core aspect of rpgs. I have a memory seared in my head of getting to the second area as a night elf and needing help in area chat to find a quest objective.

    The quests were written to give you hints about where to go. And then you found it using the map, the quest dialog and your time.

    This meant that all quests needed to be written well and read carefully. And finishing a quest felt like you figured out a puzzle.

    That’s great! But at the same time if the writing was bad, or you just couldn’t figure it out it could be frustrating.

    The lack of waypoints made wow a much more social experience. You talked to others and helped them and others helped you.

    But people got frustrated. Soon after waypoints were introduced it became obvious that you no longer needed to read the quests. You just clicked through them as fast as possible and opened the map.

    Writing became less important and suffered. Quests no longer required exploration or social interaction and devolved to fetch quests only.

    But the thing is we’ve all become so used to that convenience i don’t know if we can ever go back.

    Certainly any quests that were written after waypoints are completely impossible because writers stopped needing to take exploration into account.

    It seems to me this one change changed the game forever. Playing the Witcher 3 I found myself annoyed when the waypoint didn’t get me directly to my objective immediately.

    So even someone like me who immediately hated checkpoints now gets pissed off if they slow me down for one second.

    I don’t think we can ever go home again.

    • Abacus says:

      It’s just a matter of getting out of that mindset.

      I recently played Thief 1 & 2 for the first time and those games have none of the conveniences that modern immersive sims have. No objective markers, no overlays or pop ups to tell you what you’ve done or what you need to do. The UI is incredibly bare by modern standards.

      I replayed Dishonored and disabled most of the HUD elements, leaving only a few things enabled like the health/energy meter (only appearing when in use), the weapon toolbar (only when cycling through weapons), a dot for the crosshair and enemy awareness meters. It made the game a LOT more immersive, and a lot more rewarding.

      You wouldn’t be able to play a game like Skyrim like that because quests basically rely on the objective marker to give players direction. It’s lazy that they didn’t bother trying to implement that in a way that could be ‘turned off’ letting players navigate in a way that was coherent within the game world. I feel like a lot of the differences between vanilla WoW and modern WoW could probably be traced to the differences between Morrowind and Oblivion/Skyrim.

    • airmikee99 says:

      Blizzard changed how quests work because almost everyone had a quest tracker addon downloaded in the first place. Instead of forcing people to work with 3rd parties to download things that might affect the security of an account, Blizz incorporated those ideas into the game. Kinda blows your claim of the quests being well written and “well read” back then out of the water, doesn’t it?

      • Asurmen says:

        Nope, it doesn’t. It took Blizzard years to add that feature as base to the game, and as anecdote no one I knew installed that mod.

    • Viral Frog says:

      The lack of waypoints was the #1 thing I hated about vanilla WoW. The quests weren’t that interesting to read when all of them boiled down to “go here, kill this” or “go here, get this, bring it elsewhere”. It was more annoying than anything else.

      The only quests I bothered to read were chains for important things. Raid attunements, raid quests, class quests, etc. Everything else was useless fluff.

  6. Ghostwise says:

    I propose we call this a dexpansion.

  7. big boy barry says:

    I think a lot of people are possibly missing the point as to what made vanilla WOW so great. For me it was the community back then and the fact that we were all noobs at the game making us work together or at least respect each other and communicate more. Vanilla WOW in 2018 will be just as full of know it alls and elitists as the latest edition. That magic from 05-07 cannot be replicated for me as its no longer a new experience to be shared and learned about.

    • airmikee99 says:

      You think people respected each other more in game when it started compared to now?

      Just how rose tinted are those glasses you’re wearing? Near crimson, I’d imagine. “Barrens chat” got its name way back in classic beta, it’s not a new phenomenon.

      link to wowwiki.wikia.com

      • ludde says:

        It’s true that everyone was new to the game though and with it came a sense of communal discovery.

        I’d say there were fewer asshats as well, but obviously that’s completely anecdotal.

    • Viral Frog says:

      I disagree. Vanilla WoW was incredibly toxic. Trust me, I was a young teen and participated in that toxicity. Barrens chat, city chat, the forums, etc. So many ragequits. So many stupid arguments. Flame wars, obvious trolls, etc. I would say that’s only gotten better as the players have gotten older.

  8. Peksisarvinen says:

    Damn, Blizzard. Kudos for coming up with an entirely NEW way of milking a dead horse. Well, almost new, kinda similar to how WW2 FPS’ disappeared from the market for a decade, and when it was brought back and marketed as an innovation, people ate it up like crack muffins.

    I wonder if the next expansion for Hearthstone is going to be Hearthstone Classic, with everything they’ve done since launch removed from the game.

    Although having said that, I now realize it’s very likely that that might actually improve Hearthstone. And come to think of it, I’ve played WoW for about five minutes so I really don’t know if this is actually a good thing or a bad thing for it, so I guess I shouldn’t comment.

    But whatever, it sounds silly.

    • airmikee99 says:

      You think classic servers were Blizzard’s idea?

      So you haven’t been to the WoW forums where people have been requesting this since WotLK? Or the dozens of petitions asking Blizzard to do this over the past decade or so? And even though it’s going to be included in the subscription, you think they’re milking the idea?

      You should have taken your advice and realized that your opinion on this topic is worth less than what you leave in the toilet because you don’t even come close to thinking about maybe one day hopefully discussing the chance of having a clue.

    • Horg says:

      I think it’s worth pointing out that people stopped playing classic WoW, not becasue they wanted to, not becasue they saw the flaws inherent in the old systems and embraced the streamlining changes of the new expansions, but becasue it was made permanently unavailable. This ”dead horse” they are milking did not die of natural causes, it was shot while we were still enjoying the ride.

  9. Boardwalker says:

    I played “classic” WoW into the ground back in the day and have no interest in returning to it. I also believe in looking forward to game’s future and not getting hung up on its past. So I’ll be sticking with modern WoW as it is and as it will be.

    That being said, I hope everyone who plays classic WoW has a good time and it turns out to be what they’re looking for.

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