In some ways, World of Warcraft Classic was as much a museum exhibit as game. Blizzard faithfully re-created the original MMO, quirks and all. The upcoming Burning Crusade Classic is a recreation of World of Warcraft’s first expansion, with all of the Outland-related content available to experience with the appropriate power levels and progression mechanics.
Burning Crusade Classic, which launches June 1, aims to be a little less faithful by design; Blizzard is actively tinkering with the experience. It’s a new approach that’s aptly called “some changes,” and it should make Burning Crusade more viable to play longterm.
Those changes include better matchmaking for the new Arena mode, which has 2v2, 3v3, and 5v5 competitive matches. The raids, like Tempest Keep and Sunwell Plateau, are also going to be a little tougher. Bosses will be at their pre-nerf difficulty, and it remains to be seen whether players will burn through these challenges in minutes.
“Before Classic came out, a lot of people were saying ‘no changes’ as kind of a hope that we wouldn’t go too crazy, right?” said Brian Birmingham, lead software engineer at Blizzard, in a call with Polygon. “It was mostly like, ‘hey, I want to make sure that still feels like Classic.’”
But the reality of “no changes” was a little unpleasant to deal with. There were bugs that, while very faithful, persisted throughout Classic. There were also balancing issues. For example, some players were hoping that old raids would allow for the Race to World First, an esports-style race through max-level raids. Instead, players burned through the content in minutes.
Near the end of the World of Warcraft Classic development cycle, Blizzard learned that strict recreation wasn’t the best approach. “We would say, like, ‘no, this bug is really not adding anything to anybody’s nostalgia or memories. It’s just an irritant,” says Birmingham.
Now, Blizzard feels a little less beholden to the original code.
“We now have the ability to do things that the team absolutely would have opted into then,” said Holly Longdale, principle game producer at Blizzard, in the same call. “We can have more players in a single area now, we can smooth out things for players for spell batching. We don’t need to inherit some of the things that were challenging for players, not in terms of content, but in playing the game.”
There are other potential changes that could happen in the future. When asked about the possibility of porting World of Warcraft: Shadowlands’ diverse array of skin colors into Classic for races like blood elves and gnomes, the developers were open to the idea.
“Diversity and inclusion is really important to us as a company. It hasn’t been something we have specifically been trying to do for Classic,” says Birmingham. “I’m glad you brought it up, it’s feedback that I honestly haven’t been specifically aware of. But it makes sense as a thing to explore. I definitely wouldn’t want to rule it out.”
On May 18, players with a World of Warcraft Classic character will be able to choose whether to progress to Burning Crusade Classic, keep their accounts in the original Classic era, or partake in both (which will cost a $35 character cloning fee). Players will also be able to make Draenei and Blood Elves to start the process of leveling to 60 and being ready to enter Outland. The Dark Portal itself, along with all of the Outland content, opens on June 1.
A pre-launch event will be running in the world, where demons invade the Blasted Lands and assault areas around Azeroth. Burning Crusade Classic is included with a World of Warcraft subscription, but players can pay for a deluxe edition of the game that includes a character boost, a Phase-Hunter mount with both retail and Classic designs, a special hearthstone, and a Path of Illidan toy.
Update (May 14): Blizzard has decided to change its price for cloning characters in WoW Classic from $35 to $15.