Perfect Ten: How WoW Classic could advance beyond its phased content rollout

    
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It’s far too early to say that World of Warcraft: Classic will get more updates beyond the planned phases of vanilla content. It could be that the player population shrinks pretty darn quickly, making it worth keeping around as an archived museum but not worth further development. It could be that the player population stays stable but not great. And it could be that there’s an unexpected surge of players happy to enjoy the game’s more entertaining mechanics regardless of its limitations.

Here’s the thing. It might seem obvious to assume that any further updates will just be to bring in the expansions… but by that point you don’t really have Classic any longer. So I wanted to go for a different thought experiment. How could Blizzard actually update, improve, and advance Classic while keeping it away from The Burning Crusade?

My rules were pretty simple. No increases to the level cap are allowed, no later-expansion features are allowed, no new landmasses are allowed, and no flying. In other words, any subsequent alterations have to keep all of that in place. I would also stress that any of these updates should be differentiated from “authentic” Classic, ideally with separate servers to keep the vintage 1.12 running for those who want to tour the museum. And yet I found that I still had plenty of ideas for adding things…

1. New race models

This one wouldn’t really take much; it could easily be a toggle in the options switch for anyone who wants the new models instead of the older ones. It’s also barely even a change to the game, but it would count as one for these purposes, because it’s something that was not in the original version of WoW that Classic emulates.

2. The later races

Well, yeah, this one sure is a change. It’s a pretty big one, even; Draenei were only hinted at in the base game, Blood Elves were barely seen, and stuff like Worgen, Void Elves, and Nightborne would require some writing around. I don’t think that inherently breaks the flow of the game, though. I think there’s space to add these into the game of 1-60 with just a few quests and some alteration to include them, even if there are elements that will naturally feel a little bit off.

If that seems off, consider also that of all the extant races and allied races, the only ones that people wouldn’t know of in any capacity by vanilla are… Nightborne, Void Elves, and Lightforged. Heck, even the last one is questionable. So I don’t feel that it’s too much of an ask to include the races, and since there’s no way to include the existing unlock requirements, people who want to play a Dark Iron without having to jump through reputation hoops will be able to do so.

Depth perception is for fools, I guess.

3. Housing

Fun fact, I debated where to put this one, but then I decided to put it early because I figured everyone who knows my writing knows that this is the sort of thing I’d put in as a wished feature. Why not get it out of the way early, right?

Housing was something that was long in the cards for WoW on launch; there are statements as far back as 2004 indicating that the studio still planned to do it. It feels like there was just an ongoing pattern of people finding other things to do and excuses not to, but hey, now you’ve got nothing but time and no raid tiers to add. Let’s roll this out and get it working. Yes, it takes a lot of time and effort. You have both.

4. Meeting stone attunement

The meeting stone feature was something that WoW never really quite rolled out right. They made for a good way of getting a party together in theory, but in practice they tended to be underused simply because you had to hike to the dungeon and then park there for an extended period of time.

Thus, I’m just going to blatantly steal a feature from elsewhere and say that you now will have stone attunement. You have to find the actual stone first, but once you’ve attuned to it you can use the meeting stone to find your group from wherever, with the added bonus of setting a separate hearthstone-style cooldown to the stone. And yes, the summoning feature should still be functional for meeting stones.

Of course, you could also steal elements of The Burning Crusade’s dungeon queue system, which definitely helped matters, but I did say no expansion features, right?

This isn't going anywhere.

5. Azshara Crater

Yes, I’m going to keep asking for this until it gets opened. I want me some Azshara Crater. The map is mostly done, just modify it! Work with what’s there!

6. Revised/expanded quests

Up to this point, none of the things I’m asking for really change the game all that much. Sure, they might alter some of the mechanics a bit, but the actual moment-to-moment questing will still be the same as Classic. But there’s absolutely nothing saying that we can’t get more quests added to the game, the option to explore areas otherwise left unexplored, and so forth.

Itemization for a lot of quest rewards was still a mess for a very long time, and that could easily be addressed by revising or improving some existing quests. There’s also space to add more quests all along the path. Questing thins out a lot in the base game post-40, but more quests could be added in to explore new storylines or expand what’s already in the game.

Heck, how many classic stories just ended with no firm resolution? You could add that resolution. You could add new quests in unused regions. You could add lots of things. Even…

7. More paths to equipment

Heroic dungeons and such are very firmly expansion features and will not be added. But why not add more equipment to reputations? Why not add a different set of mechanics for getting equipment unlocked and rewarded? Why not tinker with alternative reward systems that traffic on the way the game was (I’m firmly in favor of pinching Star Trek Online’s reputation projects, for instance)? There’s plenty of ways to take the much more leveling-based and open game and give players more to do at the top end.

Liches do it with nothing.

8. Hero classes

“Wait, didn’t you say no later expansion features?” I did! But who said that this is about later expansion features? Because while “Hero class” was bandied about for a long time, it wasn’t until Wrath of the Lich King that we actually found out what that meant… and it’s hardly the only possible meaning for that term.

Myself and a lot of other people speculated that “Hero classes” would be more akin to Prestige classes from D&D, something you unlock on top of your existing class for additional abilities. It’s not hard to see how that would work; add an additional talent tree or two for your Hero class, offering some basic benefits in ability and passive forms, and so forth. It’d be a different way to advance your character and something new to unlock.

9. Improved talent trees

The pass that we got in 1.12 was not the last pass that could be taken for WoW’s talent trees. Heck, that was one of the magical things about patches when you knew that several of them would include rewritten talents for your job of choice. Why not give them another brush-over now?

10. A new take on underused zones

I don’t know what the designers originally intended to do with Deadwind Pass, or the Alterac Mountains, or… look, I wrote a couple of columns on underused zones, you can check back to see that. But there’s nothing saying that you can’t do more with them now. Heck, this could just as easily tie into expanded and improved zones; flesh out quests, flesh out zones, everyone wins. There’s material for miles in the game as it stood, space for tons of different quests.

Hey, there’s no reason we can’t get original Hyjal. Or get zones added in places like Gilneas, or a split to explore more of Tirisfal, or… you know, more places within the existing landmasses. I said no new landmasses, after all.

Some of this stuff might not delight you conceptually, but that’s part of the fun. There are places for Classic to go, new places, and they’re new places that offer more adventure even without undoing the limitations of the base game. And that’s without putting out a new expansion at all.

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at justin@massivelyop.com or eliot@massivelyop.com with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”
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SirUrza
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SirUrza

No to all of them. The only thing you’ll see are patches that fix things that are legitimately broken (in other words, not working as it was in vanilla.) In 2 years we’ll see BC and then if the idea of classic is still popular, Wrath… which will polarize the classic players because Wrath is when the game started to become everything classic players hate, casual.

kjempff
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kjempff

It will never happen, but if they should add and alter the original (per expansion) features, then it needs to be done wholeheartedly and with intent to make a real re-make. Only including some features will fall between two chairs, neither satisfying those who wan’t close to original (per expansion) or those who dream of an extended wow or a “rewind-and-correct”.

Tbh I think they should just do the simple progression thing with asclose to original. Possibly as servers locked in time to one expansion, and allow players to permanently move up one expansion whenever they desire (which is essentially a server transfer).. That way players who want to stay in an era can do that, while those who want progression can progress at their own pace. Only downside is mudflation.

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Tamanous

“It will never happen”
Exactly what someone said to me and argued endlessly 3 years ago about Blizzard making Classic.

Predictions are the prophecies of fools.

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Bruno Brito

While i would love it, none of those will happen. Classic will be a museum and wasting manpower on it is a sure way to cannibalize their main product.

What i CAN see them doing, is to change Retail to be more akin tô what you’re saying there. And It would be pretty good.

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draugris

I think when the dust settles mainly the private server community will stay. So Blizzard should be very very careful with what they do with classic. Housing or new character models might be Ok but messing around with talent trees? No please not, i have 0 confidence that the Blizzard of today could add any value to that.

MurderHobo
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MurderHobo

Coming back to this, I wonder if we could apply first principles to changes in the game economy. What if the sparkle pony never happened? What could the developers change in their response to the proven fact that virtual goods and services have real, marketable value?

As much as I’d like to imagine this could lead to concessions toward player ownership of the product of their work, all my best pipe dreams fall short when I realize the game real-estate of any server is demonstrably too small to be managed as anything but a ruthless mafia of farmers and spawn campers.

TLDR: I can’t build a free market economy with only 4 elite rex spawns in Ungoro Crater. That’s as much of a toxic environment for the casual player as progression raiding.

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Ceremony

I think they have an opportunity to do something really unique, and not just be another “Progression Server” like Everquest does. (Start from the base game then vote on adding expansions). If they wanted to be really fucking awesome and blow people’s minds, they would cap the level at 60, and build content mini expansions or even full expansions on top of CLASSIC, new stories and arcs that dont exist in the retail standard game, focused entirely on Azeroth and 40 man raids.

ziboo7890
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ziboo7890

Agree with some of the ideas.

1. The new race models would be great, but not a game changer for me. But no to the newer races. Adding ‘something’ two years out to up the chase – gear, abilities, etc., not adverse to that, but needs to be thoughtfully implemented.

2. Housing would be interesting. They already have ideas/feedback from MoP/Draenor/Legion on the farm/garrison/class halls as to what is used/liked and what isn’t. And true housing is long overdue. It keeps many games playing long after you’d ‘assume’ they’d disappear.

3. Adding more quests and using the zones more – yes. There are areas just sitting there that could have side quests or events or ?

I’m most in favor of (and hope for) cloning to BC and then Wrath. Those were my favorite versions of the game. I don’t want progression, I want my character on three separate timelines as in three separate ‘games’ (along with the current expansion – hate the term retail! Not against having progression servers those are wildly popular in EQ/EQ2, but I’d rather have my characters ‘cloned’ to the next expansion and have them more stand-alone.

I’d always speculated they’d use Caverns of Time for something like this as it’s just sitting there and would work in the lore of the game.

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Roger Melly

The meeting stone attunement idea would kill world pvp all over again once people had found all the stones .

I really don’t think the writer of this article gets what a classic server should be about and why many of us who liked the world pvp left the game .

I also don’t really want to see Pandarian’s running around in classic .

The best idea I have heard of thus far is character cloning to a separate expansion server which allows you to play that character on both the vanilla and Burning Crusade servers at the same time .

Blizzards idea of “pristine servers” which keep the original rule set , complexity and difficulty of Vanilla but advance’s the game through various expansions might not be a bad way to go ( as long as their is a classic vanilla server always available for those who want to just have that experience .

MurderHobo
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MurderHobo

I’d be glad to see them reboot things along a different timeline/path, but I don’t feel like it’s a very rational expectation. It’d be a pleasant surprise if such a thing were to happen regardless of the outcome, as far as I’m concerned.

But a true-blue classic approximation would be fine as well. Family and friends have expressed interest. I probably have a year or two of gaming before the dust settles on whatever you call the current state of MMOs, so WoW classic a few nights a week with the fam could potentially regain our long-lost $15 per month.

For a while, at least. No promises. This is Blizzard, and I know what they do. It’s a port in a storm. Nothing more.

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Bullwraith

Sorry Elliot, can’t agree on this one. They are making it to be a museum and the Classic server should stay that way. Now if they did spin up a whole new game based on this article, it would be interesting to see how many peeps play it and for how long. You haven’t lost your edge on the imagining side of things, I’ll give you that.

xpsync
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xpsync

It better stay that way, it’s the prime reason i’m playing wow again in the first place.

When i heard rumbling about wow classic i had negative interest which pretty matched my entire perspective on wow, it was only a game i played with the kids/fam.

The reason for no interest was i thought it was going to be a progression server, which in itself is somewhat of a bad joke on players in that you are time compressing to the destination which gave reason to have progression serves in the first place. nutshell; racing to what made the game so bad that there was a need to go back when the game was good.

When it was made clear to me that was not the case, immediately i was interested since all i seem to be playing are decade+ old emu mmorpg’s. Classic is that.

Still huge on swg, and got caught up in coh (which it’s still installed) not going to say i’ll never deep dive that but, but i was curious and Utakata mentioned what i was intending/thinking so went for it and reactivated my wow account only to get familiar with the starter areas, maybe figure out a class i’d like to play on day one of classic, and that’s all.

Out of nowhere, completely unexpected day after day i noticed i was gravitating more and more to where i’m now deep diving retail wow and loving it, the lore, depth of classes, i pretty much ignored wow even though i played it fairly religiously almost every expansion with fam.

That i think was what made me never interested in wow itself, i mean my grade school kids are tanking and healing dung’s with strangers and doing amazing, that didn’t scream EQ2 depth to me i guess. I hit icy veins last night to compare notes with what i’m doing with my affliction warlock and OMG nirvana, the depth of information on this class alone, a wiki/research paradise to me. Who knew? <– that was a joke.