The German Connection

Ever since the unveiling of the World of Warcraft Classic Demo at Blizzcon this last November, fans have been wanting to know more about the upcoming “retro” experience. The demo was well received, however not much more has been heard about the experience.  So, how is everything going with the development of WoW Classic?

Brian Birmingham and Omar Gonzalez, developers from Blizzard WoW Classic team, recently sat down with the German website Computer Bild to discuss what was new in the development of the game. The interview was incredibly revealing, and shed some light on some issues that the developers are having on adapting the original experience to the modern age. Though the original interview was posted in German, it is now easy enough to translate different languages through the use of Google Translate. With that said, this is what we found out from the interview.

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Brian Birmingham is one of the masterminds behind WoW Classic. Courtesy of WoWWiki

Back to Patch 1.12

The first thing that was revealed through the interview is actually something that fans have known for quite some time. Patch 1.12 is where WoW Classic will begin. Yes, that’s right, near the very beginning of the game’s release. What this means is that you will be able to experience World of Warcraft as it was at the beginning of 2005. This will be pre-Molten Core, and the developers have assured that the full “vanilla” content will be released in waves. According to Blizzard, this is how it will happen:

  • 1: The Molten Core, Onyxia, Dire Maul, Kazzak and Azuregos (Original Release: March 2005)
  • 2: Blackwing Lair, Battlegrounds and Honor System, Zul’Gurub (Original Release: July 2005)
  • 3: Ahn’Qiraj (including opening event), Tier 0.5 raid tier, Silithus content (including AQ’s opening event), Green Dragons (Original Release: January 2006)
  • 4: Naxxramas Raid, Scourge Invasion (Original Release: June 2006).
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Omar Gonzalez is the Senior Software Engineer at Blizzard and has been with the company since the release of WoW. Courtesy of WoWWiki

The developers were very ambiguous on the details of what features will remain in WoW Classic and what will be changed. However, if the interview is any indication, WoW Classic will be very, very close to what the original was.

A Wealth of Nostalgia

A large part of the interview was spent between both Birmingham and Gonzalez reminiscing about their personal experiences with vanilla WoW. Both avid gamers during their younger years, they used to play World of Warcraft with their friends. They remembered having to search for healers in order to get through just one of the three wings of Maraudon. They also hoped that the waterfall jump didn’t kill them when they hit the water wrong. Gonzalez remembered the time when he was questing through Silverpine forest and had to look out for the Sons of Argul because they would one shot him if given the chance. Both men seemed to look back at these memories as joyous and not latent frustrations.

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I’m sure that you remember the originals. Courtesy of Polygon

Birmingham was quick to remind the interviewer that the old days of WoW are nothing like the modern times. In Battle for Azeroth, you are a seasoned champion with plenty of battle experience. By contrast, in WoW Classic you are a novice hero where everything is a dangerous threat. This classic experience was created to allow players to relive every aspect of the old game. That, of course, includes the nail-biting challenge of developing your avatar into the mighty hero that he or she will be.

Challenges in Development

Both Birmingham and Gonzalez have stated that there were definite challenges in creating WoW Classic. Birmingham states that the greatest challenge is integrating the classic gameplay of WoW within the modern infrastructure of technology. He stated that so much has changed over the last 14 years that it would be nearly impossible to “port back to the earlier experience.” Patching and distribution, cloud services, account security, and new hardware all have to be integrated into the old system, which is a major challenge in itself.

They also said that the original game was designed “rough.” A lot of this was due to the lack of modern technology. Purposely recreating something that would be considered sloppy by today’s standards is not easy for a software engineer. Gonzalez recounts finding an old piece of code in the game and instinctually fixing it because of his years of experience. He had to purposely stop himself from doing what he was trained to do in order to recreate the 2004/2005 MMO gaming aesthetic.

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You better start putting together your 40 man team now if you want to take on this guy. Courtesy of Blizzard.

Plenty to Look Forward To

Both of the developers who were interviewed stressed that WoW Classic is not meant to compete with the modern World of Warcraft; they are both two different experiences that excel in different areas. There is no talk of continuing this classic treatment with Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King. However, the classic content will be released in increments. WoW Classic servers will be available for everyone with a WoW subscription sometime this summer.

Do you remember what World of Warcraft was like during 1.12? Well, let me remind you of some of the long forgotten mechanics of the game. Players walk everywhere because they could not get mounts until level 40. Each weapon type was leveled up much like a profession. If your weapon level was not high enough, it would not hit the enemy. On top of that, there was no dungeon or raid finder, heirlooms, or experience buffs. It was a hard game, and it took a long time to accomplish anything.

It would seem that the developers are going to return players to this time. The big question is this, are players ready to go back? Are they ready to go back to a time when social interaction was the dungeon finder? How about when it took hours to get out of the opening area? We shall soon see if fans are ready or not. Are you?