World of Warcraft Classic: 1 step forward, 2 steps back or a huge leap for mankind?

Reusing a previously successful recipe is not just a smart thing to do, it is often the easiest and more profitable gamble to take. While in the entertainment industry of movies and games, reboots, remasters, and relaunching games is common practice, it looks like 2019 is getting the extra push with the release of World of Warcraft Classic.

Coming up on its 15 birthday in November 2019, World of Warcraft or WoW for short is the reference of a successful MMORPG. In the extremely rare case that you have never heard of the game, this is Blizzard’s 4th entry in the Warcraft universe and the epic conflict between the Horde and the Alliance. The game currently counts seven expansions with Battle for Azeroth being the latest. The game peaked in November 2010 at 12 million subscribers. Considering the game operates on a monthly fee and provides additional mostly cosmetic services for a price, a lot of revenue is created this way.

If something is around that long, nostalgia must be roaring its pink glasses covered head somewhere. What exactly is nostalgia? “Nostalgia is a sentimentality for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.”

Since WoW is an MMORPG it is continuously adapting itself with minor and major patches and expansions. People that originally started playing the game in 2004 won’t necessarily recognize the game as it stands today. Well visually they will but many features have been added that in their opinion will have made the game “too easy” or “too dumbed down”. Luckily for them, they can now enjoy WoW Classic for free with their regular WoW subscription. While WoW has a decent continuous player base, every expansion, new players or returning players peak and logging in to the game is often leading to standing in a virtual queue. For WoW Classic it was no different, the launch was a massive success and is sure to expand WoW’s life for a couple more years and introduce the game to a new generation.

This might just sum up the two main points of a remaster, rerelease. A new generation of gamers, as well as fans of the original, get to enjoy the game once more, be it in a polished version of the original. Whit this formula the developers can bank on the success of the original with minimal risk and effort. If not well executed, the developers take the risk of upsetting the returning player base and scaring away potential new players. While it is certainly not easy to please everyone, the game should improve upon its predecessor.

Returning to the example of WoW Classic, knowing Blizzard they did not just primarily aim to grab more cash from players. They do not charge extra for the Classic version, you already pay for your subscription. They will, of course, reap the rewards of their efforts. The effort put into “downgrading” Azeroth was more than simply looking for an old backup of the project and throwing it online. As it is an MMORPG, many more hurdles had to be taken to introduce the game in the established Battle.net ecosystem.

A game of this scale is bound to have its issues, be it bugs, glitches, or balance problems. Looking at the early patch notes we can see that Blizzard needed plenty of iterations to get the game to run semi-stable and balanced. Because of this a later patch was used for WoW Classic, more specifically patch 1.12, titled Drums of War, that released on August 22, 2006. This version was according to Blizzard the vanilla version of WoW at its most feature-complete, stable, and well balanced. Once they picked a version they could start working on integrating it into Battle.net.

It is hard to even compare patch 1.12 with the current iteration of WoW. The world of WoW has expanded immensely. The original map only included only two continents, Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms while several continents and even planets were added later. They also did a complete revamp of the original map in the Cataclysm expansion due to the destruction caused by Deathwing. However, the world seemed a lot bigger as it took so much effort to grind the money you needed to buy your first mount, let alone buy the fast version. Now players can purchase or grind even flying mounts that can traverse the map at three hundred percent speed compared to regular walking. The addition of flying has always been a discussion point on its own as it allows you to bypass obstacles that you would otherwise have to defeat. We’re sure we all remember crossing the Barrens on foot or being ambushed by Murlocs.

The addition of new continents has also introduced a myriad of new playable races that have joined either the Horde or the Alliance. It even introduced a race, the Pandaren, that is available to both Horde and Alliance. These new races often introduced new playable classes as well on top of the numerous iterations the original classes have undergone. The original iteration builds more upon classic skill trees such as can be found in Diablo 2. Players are free to assign points in any of the three skill trees each class had at its disposal. This allowed for interesting combinations. The system as it stands today has you choose a role, tank, healer or damage dealer and locks you into one of the three skill trees, allowing you to select only a small amount of unique skills. While this is perceived as bad and a limitation of choice it has also cleared up some of the useless skills that no one ever picked. This is a clear case of nostalgia and personal preference.

Finally, there is the maximum level, in Classic WoW this is 60 while the current iteration has you level up to 120. Plenty of improvements and tools have been added to smooth out the leveling process for your characters once you have one character at max level.

The interesting thing about WoW Classic is that we already know all the issues it has as they have been already recorded over a decade ago. If you kept getting insta-killed by those pesky undead rogues you better be prepared for the same struggles this time around. You can also count on humankind to exploit this inside information for personal gain. Starting a new game always puts you on a disadvantage against players that have played the game for a while but now you’re at a double disadvantage.

Nostalgia, on the other hand, is built upon fond memories, and normally you don’t get a second chance at reliving those memories. So, in that sense, WoW Classic is an interesting experiment. Often these memories are created together with someone else, your first full clear of a raid after months of trying with a guild of close friends. Chances are not all those friends are playing anymore and the raid isn’t as exciting anymore as you have cleared it a two dozen times already.

Conclusion

World of Warcraft Classic is a dream come true for many veteran WoW players, as it is a chance for newer players to get a feel for what the guys are always talking about in chat. Blizzard has done a great job facilitating something a decent chunk of the player base has asked for over the years. It will expand WoW lifespan for a couple more years and will serve as a nice addition to the current game. It is also the biggest nostalgia experiment to date and we’re looking forward to seeing how many bubbles will burst and what route Blizzard will take.

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Rex
Rex


I am an Illustrator/Artist who studies Concept Art and Game Design in my free time. Designing things is in my blood and I am always very curious in making games. Motivated and dedicated to become better in every way I can. You only live once and I intend to fully enjoy it! As for gaming itself I do prefer to play the following games: FPS, RPG, Action Adventure Games, Fighting Games, Hack and Slash.

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