If you were reading WoW blogs in the summer of 2019, you surely got oversaturated with WoW Classic talk. It was all anyone could talk about, unless they were also FFXIV fans, at which point the Shadowbringers main scenario quests and storytelling were also butting in every now and then.
If you weren’t reading my blog during that time, allow me to summarize my personal feelings towards WoW Classic – not for me. I played vanilla when it was new and fresh in the world, and I did make an effort to be into the Classic version of that experience, but it just didn’t sink the hooks in the same way (although I did bounce off of the original game a lot too – took me literally 6 months goofing around on and off with friends before I finally committed, and well…here I am). That being said, I find the idea of Classic servers fascinating – both in terms of the popularity, which has propped up WoW during less-popular times of the BfA era, and in terms of the path forward.
Because I’ve never played an MMO where Classic servers were a going concern, I’ve had to lean on the writings of those with expertise in the area, like Bhagpuss and Wilhelm Arcturus, who have seen the throwback servers in games like Everquest. What their writings on the topic exposed is an interesting point I hadn’t considered prior, which is the progression path as expansions come into play. Of course, on a live game, there is rarely a choice – the game updates versions and everyone moves forward, or stalls out and gets stuck in time. In most MMOs, there are changes that come with expansions that may change the shape or form of gameplay or content from the past, but in WoW, this is especially true.
So when the Press Kit for WoW’s Blizzconline plans leaked yesterday, there was an interesting paragraph near the bottom of the coverage about Burning Crusade Classic. The bullet points, of course, sell us on what content Burning Crusade has to offer, and that is all well and good. But we’ve all known that it was coming – it was, in many ways, the worst kept secret about the game until the whole press kit leaked. What has been stirring curiosity was how servers would continue forward.
The point of a Classic experience to many is to get wrapped up in a perpetual version of their ideal Prelapsarian version of the game. Whatever the point is before the expansion at which you point and frown, that is what you want to play. Classic rolling out an expansion means that the playerbase may very well have differing opinions on what the right period is. Blizzard’s press kit summarizes, somewhat confusingly, what the plan is under a bullet point labeled “Choose Your Era.”
What is unclear, as was pointed out by a comment from Bhagpuss on Wilhelm’s post on the topic, is simple enough – the wording here implies a limited-time chance to designate your character’s fates and, as a result, invites more questions than it answers. The good news here, at least? It does confirm that Blizzard is aware of how a retro MMO community works, at least well enough that they’re coming out of the gate with a plan to allow for a vanilla Classic and TBC Classic community to co-exist. Especially with WoW’s player power systems like old talents, having a single set of servers all move to TBC-era means content gets weird from prior to TBC. Of course, the challenge with WoW’s model in particular is that people migrating away from Vanilla creates a gap in the endgame there, as the popular raid content is 40-player required. However, not everyone on a classic server raids, and part of the appeal to many of vanilla WoW is the more wide-open nature of its content.
So from the outside of the Classic phenomenon, I remain with a few questions.
What is the actual, nuts-and-bolts plan for migrating characters between content eras?
What impact will this split have on the player communities of both versions?
Will blogs discussing the live game be inundated by the incredible smugness of the Classic community again?
Will balancing start at the 2.4 level (reduced experience curves and all) or will the phased content rollout include phased rollouts of balancing changes and the like?
Hopefully, all of this (well, the ones Blizzard can answer, at least!) is addressed over the next two days!