WoW Classic: Building Old Ideas on Top of New Foundations
WoW Classic’s popularity exceeded expectations, even among huge Warcraft fans. Classic servers were swamped at launch, with many filling up completely as players raced back to Azeroth to relive their first experiences with WoW. Nostalgia is a tricky business. Our memories are not perfect and contain strong emotions and past experiences. It's not uncommon to go back to your favorite games and find things that aren't exactly what you remember as good.
This gap between memory and reality makes projects like Blizzard Entertainment's World of Warcraft Classics interesting. Among the surviving MMOs games, there are others that run classic servers alongside traditional ones. Everquest provides what's called a progressive server, or eight different servers that can switch between old content on their own cycles. Trion Worlds' Rift has the same Rift Prime server. But Blizzard didn't use its classic servers until 2017, a year before WoW's seventh expansion, Battle for Azeroth, was released. Blizzard prioritized placing players in the same phases based on factors like whether or not they were in the same WoW guild, meaning that for a lot of players the Vanilla experience of bumping into the same random players over and over again and forming organic relationships while leveling on the server was somewhat undermined.
WoW Classic still threw players into an immense world where combat was far harder and communities had to form to take on even low-level quests as infamous elite mobs like Hogger once again reigned supreme in Elwynn Forest, even if WoW Classic players had to wait in line for them to spawn. With no flying mounts and riding training hard to attain, the World of Warcraft once again became an intimidating landscape where hostile NPCs and players alike could be waiting around any corner. For many fans, Azeroth felt like a living breathing world again, not just a setting.
It's important to note that World of Warcraft Classics is not just the original code for the game. About two and a half years ago, Blizzard actually unearthed the old code and set up a small team to study it. Given the grip of successful unofficial private servers like Nostalrius, community interest in vanilla WoW servers is clear-but things have changed since World of Warcraft was first released."There was definitely an outpouring from the community that they were interested in this, but it was always, 'How do we actually do this?' Classic was people using cheat programs like Glider, it wasn't on our current infrastructure, it had performance issues. We thought, 'That wasn't a Blizzard quality experience. We can't just re-publish that.' That doesn't seem like it's doing service to our fans or fanbase. How can we give players what they want, but still be true to our core values of quality and gameplay?" says Dawson.
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Battle.net has changed, blizzard service has changed, and with expansions like Cataclysm, the backbone of WoW has changed. The answer Blizzard came to was rebuilding the entirely of vanilla WoW on top of the World of Warcraft client. WoW Classic is a simulacrum of the original state of WoW, not actually the original code. It's a work-in-progress, with Blizzard running the old code internally and checking their digital golem against it. Though the most recent WoW retail expansions have failed to capture the attention of players, the classic experience represents a huge draw for World of Warcraft fans who love the game but are dissatisfied with its evolution over the years.