Classic WoW in a Modern World

The more I think about the notion of classic WoW becoming official, the more problems I foresee Blizzard facing - beyond the question of which exact set of features should be included and at what level, that is.

Server Merges

Blizzard are probably pretty proud of having successfully avoided the spectre of official server merges despite of the game having experienced some pretty dramatic population drops over the years. First there were linked servers, then cross-realm zones. It may all be a bit convoluted, but they effectively managed to transfer their game to a single-server model of the type that more modern MMOs have without ever having to deal with the dreaded matter of officially having to shut anything down.

Since Blizzard has also already stated that WoW Classic won't have these features, I can't help but wonder how it's going to work. Regardless of how successful you think this experiment is going to be in the long run, it seems pretty obvious that there'll be a considerable launch rush as everyone sticks their nose in just to see what it's like. Are they going to limit the number of servers and let people wait in queues for that old-school feeling? If they open more servers to accommodate the masses, what happens to the ones that go quiet once the initial excitement wears off?

Old Game vs. New Player Base

I may be wrong about this, but it seems to me that World of Warcraft's player base has gone through some heavy churn, and that the majority of people who are playing today are not the same ones that played Blizzard games ten, fifteen years ago. The company caters to different tastes now.

So what's going to happen when "WoW Classic" suddenly shows up on the Blizzard launcher as a new option? Lots of people are going to play it just to see what it's like and will likely come away from it thinking the experience terrible and outdated (even if that's the point). This could produce some pretty bad PR for Blizzard. They will probably need to put up some sort of disclaimer when people first opt to download the game, that if they want fast and streamlined, current WoW is right over there.

Ignorance Is Bliss

I often hear claims that people only enjoyed Vanilla WoW because of the circumstances and that it's actually a pretty terrible game underneath. I strongly disagree with that, but circumstances have certainly made a difference. In Vanilla WoW, we were all bad at the game, and there was little help available. Sure, fan sites and databases like Thottbot did start to pop up over time, but they were woefully incomplete compared to what people are used to today, where everything is datamined, categorised and published on multiple websites often before it's even released. The game was a mystery, and since we were all clueless we didn't expect as much from our fellow players.

As an example, people like to cite Alterac Valley matches that ran for hours or even days - yet after re-experiencing the vanilla version of that battleground on Kronos, I couldn't help but think that this would simply be impossible nowadays. AV used to take days because too many people didn't know what they were doing, got distracted by quests and randomly hunting for kills. If most of the team knows the objectives and actually tries to capture them, there's just no way that things can stall for that long, not unless the two sides are insanely evenly matched or incredibly organised.

Or remember all those stories about half the raid in Molten Core getting away with being AFK or just hitting one button? You could get away with that because the content wasn't as demanding, but people also didn't know any better. Not everyone had damage meters or even any idea of concepts such as min-maxing their gear or having the correct rotation. Yet can you imagine anyone being admitted into a raiding guild and consistently being allowed to just tag along like that these days, with how performance-anxious many MMO players and WoW players in particular have become?

We'll see just how people's attitudes shake out, but it's definitely something to be a little wary of.


  1. There is, without a doubt, a minefield awaiting Blizz on this one. I still think, in the end, people will play it the way people jumped on EQ retro servers, as just a way to get a taste of what a new world is like.

    And there being a new world is a big part of it. Blizz hasn't had a new, no transfers server in a long, long, long time. That sense of newness, of everybody being level 1 again, even if the world is overcrowded and there are queues to get on the server, is a selling point that people skip over.

    1. I'm suspect that eventually Blizzard will let people pay and use the existing server for a one-way transfer _off_ a Classic server to a Current server. There are people that would pay this happily to unlock Vanilla-only transmogs or (legacy) achievements.

  2. As far as servers go, I figure Blizzard will use their current server tech and reimplement a Vanilla ruleset. That will give them the security features they need and Battle.net integration. It will also allow them to spin up virtual server shards as needed to handle the player base (this is how cross-realm zones work). As long as they don't go too crazy with creating the servers names you ostensibly log into, they will be fine.

    Blizzard does realize there will be quite a few one month tourists, but that over time a core dedicated group will emerge. They've said they don't mind if that is a small group and plan on supporting Classic from here on out.

    1. Brack explicitly said in the interview I linked that there will be "none of the cross-server realms and different [server] sharding options that we have available to us today"...

    2. Sorry, I should have been better with my description. Think Swtor instances rather than Blizzard actually opening the Classic servers as actual Cross Realm zones. I was thinking of them using the CRZ technology for load-balancing, similar to how they balanced people on a server with the launch of Warlords and Legion.

      I'm sure the first week or two the Classic Servers will be deluged as people hop in and discover just how rough Classic really was and drop back out. ^_^ Since Blizzard won't want to have the problem of a bunch of named servers being created and then go half- or mostly-empty, using virtual shards should handle that.

  3. I suspect that WoW Classic will require a separate subscription, and that might scare off some of the current WoW players. In US money, it's still $15/month, but I'm sure I'm not the only one where adding an extra $15/month is still an issue with family budgets.

    That said, I expect Blizz to incorporate some under the hood changes, such as expanded server capacity. It wouldn't shock me at all if Blizz decided to configure the WoW Classic servers as if they could handle (for example) 5000 users at once but actually have the capacity for 10000 users. By not announcing the true extent of the capacity, they can adjust their server size as need be to handle the rush.

    1. Thinking about it, I bet Blizzard will include the Classic servers under the regular $15 a month payment. They are going using the same backend systems to support both rulesets, they aren't going to add new Classic content, and I suspect they are going to try hard to use the same client for both versions.

      I hope they eventually do a Gamasutra presentation on what it took for them to bring Classic up on their modern infrastructure. As a former software dev, that sort of stuff fascinates me. :)

    2. I'm also a former software developer, so I'm curious as well.