What Will Come After Classic?

It may seem pre-mature to worry about this when the game hasn't even launched yet, but with MMOs the long-term prospects are always interesting to consider and Blizzard are clearly already thinking about them as well.

Syp made a pretty good post about this a few weeks ago, which I'll use as a jumping-off point. Like him, I see four overall options, though I'd group them slightly differently.

1) Do nothing

Likelihood: If Classic is even a moderate success, I'd say the likelihood of them not doing anything with it except maintain it is pretty low. They've clearly given it zero marketing spend, so I'll be surprised if they don't fully recoup their costs and then some from the subscription uptick on launch day alone, at which point ActiBlizz will want to know what they could do to make even more money from it.

My preference: Honestly, I would actually be OK with this. I'm not going to no-life Classic, nor is it going to be my only MMO, so assuming that I dip in and out of it to casually level multiple characters, just the content that's there will be enough to keep me busy for years. To be honest I find it kind of funny how many people seem to be concerned about lack of new additions when the average MMO player doesn't spend nearly enough time in any game to even get through just the launch content.

2) Fresh start servers

Daybreak has made a proper business model out of launching new Everquest servers, sometimes with special rule sets, and then merging them back into the existing ones once interest dies down. People just love that rush of a pristine new server where the world feels fresh and low-level zones are buzzing. We see this in the private server scene too, where many people love to jump in for the launch of a new server even if they've previously played a lot elsewhere, just to be part of the launch day crowd.

Likelihood: Medium. While it's obviously a proven model, I also think that it feels very obviously cheap, an easy way of wringing some fun and engagement out of very little effort. If the Classic team is really devoted to the game's old-school charms, I don't think they'd be in favour of this, as it goes counter to maintaining a sense of persistence and community cohesion. Generally speaking, "seasons" are all the rage in a lot of modern Blizzard games though, so I can see the idea finding traction among ActiBlizz decision makers. The question is who'd win out.

My preference: I like that "fresh start" feeling as much as the next person, but I also like persistence, and if I'm only going to play casually I'd probably rather continue working on my "main" characters than do Elwynn Forest for the umpteenth time. So while I don't think this would harm my own experience (unless they force everyone to start over somehow), it doesn't particularly appeal to me either.

3) Give more expansions the Classic treatment

Likelihood: High. To quote from a Forbes interview with J. Allen Brack:

Interviewer: So there's the opportunity for, if folks wanted it, the vanilla server, the Burning Crusade server, the Wrath server?

Brack: Yes. I don't want to trivialize the amount of work that's required to do that, or the amount of time. It's not something we can just dial up and dial down at any moment. But assuming a wildly successful Classic, we'll see what the future brings.

My preference: This would be my personal favourite option. I'm looking forward to Classic because Vanilla WoW is what I originally fell in love with, but Burning Crusade was easily my favourite expansion. So I'd like it if they made an entirely new BC server where people can either re-roll or copy existing Classic characters over to start at a higher level. I do think that the original Classic server should be preserved though, and nobody should be "forced" into a new expansion that they might not even like.

4) Start developing Classic in an alternate timeline

Also known as the Old School Runescape option.

Likelihood: Low. Again, while there is a precedent for this working successfully, it would require the largest effort and carry the biggest risk. I just think that all of the other options must look that much more appealing to Blizzard.

My preference: I get why people like the idea of this, but to me personally this is my least favourite option. First off, tacking anything new onto Classic would go counter to their original intent of (among other things) treating the Classic project as a restoration and preservation effort. We'd lose the original game a second time! Plus, and this may sound harsh, but I don't trust the team to come up with new content that's sufficiently in the spirit of Classic to not "ruin" the game for me a second time as well.

Which option would you prefer to become reality? I think the odds for my own preferences are pretty good right now!


  1. I think option 2, the Daybreak option, would yield the highest return for the lowest effort. No doubt this will appeal to somebody at Blizz HQ.

    I think for the long term, best investment, they ought to figure out how to not just roll fresh servers, but then advance them to further expansions. It is a lot of work up front, but as we have seen with EverQuest, progression servers become something of a self-sustaining business.

    A new path for Classic would be interesting, but you'd need something like Metzen around again to spin an alternate tale of Azeroth.

    1. That makes me want to clarify that when I was talking about fresh start servers, I was only really thinking within a single expansion.

      I'm not sure there'd be the same hunger for re-playing the progression through different expansions in WoW as there has been in EQ. From an outsider's perspective, EQ's numerous expansions have always seemed mostly additive, while WoW has fallen into a pattern of mostly replacing the gameplay of previous expansions.

  2. Apparently, they are a small team working on Classic. It's impossible that they are already working on an expansion for Classic. And we know that the development of TBC started before vanilla was released. It would therefore probably take about 2-3 years after they decide to make a new Classic add-on before it could be released. If they would make that decision after 1 year, it would be 4 years after Classics launch. That's why to late. Therefore, option 4 is just not possible.

    Option 2 is very likely. They use the seasons for D3 and WoW took about every idea from Diablo 3 it could. I think season servers are a given.

    I also think that TBC and WotLK servers are a given, but I can't see them launch these addons on the Classic realms. Plus these addons did change much more drastically over their life time. It's going to be much more difficult to decide what "no changes" means for TBC and WotLK. I would assume they will launch TBC and WotLK parallel to Classic. Probably coupled with season servers for all 3 addons.

    1. I don't know if a Classic expansion would really take that long. I've always been under the impression that a lot of expansion development time is taken up by creative work (artists designing new zones etc.). If they stick to Vanilla-style graphics, those should be a lot quicker to make these days, lol.

      That aside, they could also decide to expand on Classic in a model that's different from the way current WoW does expansions, e.g. with more continuous content patches instead of big boxes.

      The question of which would be "the one version" of TBC/WOTLK is a good one. I think it's particularly tricky for WOTLK, where the introduction of LFD changed the face of the game forever. But you're right, TBC would have questions to consider too. For example I did most of the raids back in the day after their attunement requirements had been dropped, but would players really be happy for that to be the long-term state of the game?

    2. > [...] they could also decide to expand on Classic in a model that's different [...]

      What kind of content would you expect? More raids? That's the last thing the game needs and raiders will have left by that time anyway.

      New quests? For what? Better gear? Might be fun for 2 hours but wouldn't really fit Classic, IMHO.

      New dungeons like Dire Maul? That could be awesome but it'll be hard to give us a reason to want to run them without obsoleting the existing content.

      > I think it's particularly tricky for WOTLK, where the introduction of LFD changed the face of the game forever.

      TBC and WotLK had multiple gear resets during their run time. I don't see people collecting "phase 1" BIS in TBC if they know "phase 2" will severely nerf heroics and add better tokens. We know everything that's coming, that's a much bigger problem for these add-ons with gear resets.

      TBC heroics were inhumanely hard. Then they got nerfed to be hard (unless you had a paladin tank). Then they got nerfed to push over easy with the 2.4 patch, which also nerfed raids. Vanilla never had such gigantic nerfs to dungeon content.

      WotLK had different raid tier sets for heroic badges during different phases. That was fun back then but I don't see me farming the high tier badges if I know the same set will be available for the low tier badges after 3 month...

      Also WotLK heroics were hard, then became trivially easy. Plus the change with the LFD, of course.

      DK were "reworked" during WotLK. Frost tanks were replaced by blood tanks as "the real tank spec". Warlocks went from DD to insanely powerful spell power buff bitch with insane AE. Which state of the classes are they going to include? There wasn't just balancing but they changed the way they played. I loved DW frost tanking and stopped playing the DK when they killed that spec.

      Classic is really the only part of the game that aged well.

    3. What kind of content would you expect?

      Well, like I said in the original post, personally I don't particularly expect anything as I'd rather not go down that route anyway, but one would assume more of the same kind of content that previous Vanilla patches added, so yes, that would include new gear, dungeons and raids. What have raiders ever done to you anyway? :P

    4. > What have raiders ever done to you anyway?

      I think the way WoW implements raiding content is stupid.

      You often don't play your character but perform a boss-specific dance. That has nothing to do with an RPG. In an RPG it's about being your character. But in raids it doesn't matter what your character is.

      In a dungeon you get to be "clever" by using your toolkit. In a raid there's no room for that. There exists a predefined solution to solve a puzzle.

      If you run a dungeon, your priest might MC a mob from a specific group to make this pull easier. That's fun.

      In Naxx there's a boss designed in a way that the only way to beat it is to use mind control. Or with the Wrath update, to use an orb. That's boring. You don't feel clever for using mind control, you just perform your dance.

      If that's your game, more power to you. But it's not an RPG. Vanilla was, and Classic is, an MMORPG.

      To me, raids are like pet battles. An out of character mini game.

      Second complaint is that they are basically a welfare system. Only in WoW you get the best gear that way. That's stupid.

      But in the context of this reply I meant that AQ/Naxx epics destroyed the balance of Vanilla. Up to BWL you could keep up with dungeon loot because the raid epics allocated many stat points on raid only stats like hit or resistances.

      But as soon as your char is decked out in Naxx epics, the whole world and dungeons is trivialized. It's not TBC that obsoleted the old world and dungeons, it's the Naxx loot. TBC was only the solution to that problem (reset everything).

      Now, adding a new raid after Naxx would, of course, reward even better loot. But for what? There's no place in the game you would go to with such a char. The game, at that point, is over. The only thing left to do would be this new raid. But there already is a WoW where you can just login to raid and log out. Why should they make Classic a second raiding game?

      What they should have done is reduce the power of AQ/Naxx epics in Classic. This would be the only way to allow the game to run forever or even be extended horizontally. They didn't do that and the only solution they have now is the one they took last time... TBC.

  3. I suspect option 3 first, with option 2 the second (no pun intended) as the likeliest option. It would give Blizzard the most natural progression. That would potentially give each server up to a six year lifespan before they ran out of pre-Cataclysm content. This is assuming they kept the content releases at the same pace.

    If they do this I can see them keeping some servers at Vanilla, some at Burning Crusade, and some at Wrath of the Lich King. That would give nostalgic people their choice of era to play with. Drop in a few time-limited progression servers with (maybe) a special title for leveling to endgame and you have a nice little side bit for when folks are burned out on the Live servers.

    One thing to look for is if Blizzard ever allows transfers from the Classic servers to Live then you know they are trying to pump up population on the Classic servers. A sizeable chunk of the player base would certainly level and equip Classic characters just to move transmog and/or unobtainable mounts to their Live accounts.

    1. While they've said that character transfers between Classic and live wouldn't be a thing, I would expect them to drop that restriction if they ever spin up dedicated servers for other expansions, as I'd definitely want to be able to progress from one expansion server to another, and then what's one more move to live?

  4. I wonder how much politics plays into this. They earlier stated that they did not anticipate such interest in Classic. What happens if Classic outperforms Progression? I wonder how much the desire to make money will override their discomfort at admitting that Classic is such a hit, a complete (to me) repudiation of the current progression game?

    That would be interesting.

    1. If that happened, I'm sure it would lead to some very uncomfortable conversations for everyone working on current WoW right now. I'm not sure we'd ever get to know about it though; it doesn't strike me as the kind of thing they'd be happy to announce publicly.