After years of fan clamoring, Blizzard has announced it’s working on World of Warcraft Classic, an official recreation of original version of the game, often called “vanilla WoW.” Players have been hosting unofficial versions of vanilla WoW on private servers for years, though Blizzard has shut down popular ones to protect its copyright, most notably fan server “Nostralius,” which shut down in 2016.
We spoke to World of Warcraft executive producer J. Allen Brack and senior game designer Jeremy Feasel at Blizzcon 2017 about the intricacies bringing a 13-year-old version of the game back to life, and what players can look forward to when the World of Warcraft Classic is (re)born.
Digital Trends: During the BlizzCon Opening Ceremony you said you want WoW Classic to reproduce the classic WoW experience, but not the launch experience. How do you achieve that balance?
Allen Brack: The “launch experience” is sort of a joke. The launch experience is not a great experience, so we want the gameplay experience to be great, with those 2004-2005 WoW systems, but have it be very stable, server uptime, not have a lot of server queues, right? All the modern conveniences that we have in modern WoW.
So, content-wise, it will be the same?
Brack: Content-wise it will be identical. Now, “identical” has a lot of nuance, [though], because WoW changed a lot in the two years between launch and Burning Crusade. One of the reasons we are talking about this as early as we are is to get the community’s opinions on which way we should go for certain things.
WoW changed a lot in the two years between launch and Burning Crusade.
A good example is U.B.E.R.S. — Upper Blackrock Spire is a dungeon that had a 10-person version and a 5-person version. At some point in development, we dropped the 10-person version. Was that the right decision? Do they want a 10-person version? Do they want a 5-person version? Those are the types of things [we’re figuring out].
You’ve mentioned that you are very early in the development process and making WoW Classic will take awhile. What are the challenges [to bringing vanilla WoW back]?
Brack: It’s mostly just huge technical challenges. The database works completely different today than it did at launch. The way the servers actually work is completely different today than it did at launch. Operating systems are really different — the code is really different, so there’s just a lot of technical challenges where we need to figure out the right, sustainable, best decision for going forward.
Obviously there’s been a lot of pressure from the community to do this, especially after the private servers were shut down. What are you hoping this will bring to the community?
Brack: There are several reasons that we’re doing this. I think the community desire is certainly one of the primary motivators. I think there’s also an internal Blizzard employee desire. There are a lot of people who have a lot of fond memories of WoW Classic now, and they worked on WoW Classic, or they wish they could have worked on WoW Classic, and this is an opportunity for them to do that as well.
Jeremy Feasel: There’s also a desire for us to preserve something. You can’t go and play the Blizzard-quality classic experience [now]. That’s just not something that’s available. We’d like to deliver that. We’d like to have a Blizzard-quality experience of the original game.
What will players be nostalgic for in WoW Classic?
Brack: I don’t if there’s anything that’s like, ‘this one thing.’ I think it’s the total package. It’s the package, plus the community. If you think about the way realms work today. The way player reputation is today, and the conveniences that we have today — those didn’t exist before.
So, if your guy was named “Awesomesauce,” and Awesomesauce did something bad on the server, maybe Awesomesauce got a bad reputation. And now maybe people don’t want group up with Awesomesauce, and now he was ostracized by the community. I don’t know if that’s necessarily good or bad, but it definitely was a hallmark of what classic experience was. There was no way to easily move from one server to another, so your reputation mattered. How you made your groups was [also] a very manual process back in the day. I think that’s something people remember.
WoW leveling was a lot more difficult back in the day. […] Get your epic mount at level 60? Don’t even think about it.
Feasel: I think some of the things people remember about classic WoW leveling was a lot more difficult back in the day. If you went down into Moonbrook, you were likely to die. It took a significant amount of work to get your mount at level 40. And get your epic mount at level 60? Don’t even think about it.
To me, those are things I remember fondly. The whole world feeling really big and really meaty, and not being able to run away from a guy on a mount and being in awe of that particular guy who got that epic mount. I think that’s something that players have always glommed onto: That idea of getting to reset the clock, and getting to be that awesome guy that had the swift white mechanostrider when nobody else did. This is your opportunity to be that guy again! [Or], maybe it passed you by because you came into WoW two weeks after your friends started and you were never able to get there. This is another opportunity to do that. To me that feels like one of the most awesome parts of doing this.
I think we will be seeing a huge amount of feedback about things like how long it takes to level and where those danger points are, and how Murlocs are jerks. I can’t wait to hear how players feel about all those concepts again.
World of Warcraft Classic is in development. Blizzard has not set a release date. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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