Hey, look at that: Blizzard’s going and making Hardcore Classic an official thing. As well it should, considering how this community-driven ruleset’s been the single most exciting and popular part of WoW Classic for the past year. It’s a no-brainer to co-opt this concept and codify it as part of the already-experimental World of Warcraft branch. Personally, I’m pretty psyched to see this happen, as HC has been an absolute hoot to experience.
Yet it’s not going to be as easy as setting “PERMADEATH = 1” in the game’s code and pushing it live. Blizzard’s got to figure out many tricky issues with making an official version of hardcore, and it’s got to have this done before it releases (whenever that may be). Here are six problems that the studio’s got to tackle right now in the planning stages.
Dealing with overpopulation
Due to the very nature of how hardcore works, constant rerolling is a thing. Unlike your typical MMO, where the population skews upwards as you increase in levels, here the bulk of players are recycled into levels 1 through 20. That means that zones are hideously overpopulated, with players scheming, queuing, and stealing needed mobs for various quests.
While rerolling is part of the fun of Hardcore Classic (and experimenting with different classes and builds!), feeling like you’re wasting a gaming session because there are too many people per area can drain enthusiasm. The solution to this is pretty clear: wielding layering tech and upping respawn rates in those early zones.
Dealing with lag and disconnects
This is the question that I keep seeing in regard to an official hardcore mode: So what about players dying because of a DC or a bad bout of lag? In the unofficial servers, you can “appeal” a death if you’re over a certain level threshold, were recording it, and the death happened as a result of something the server did.
Make no mistake about it, this will be a headache for Blizzard. The studio doesn’t have to do anything about it, of course, but a level 40 player who has to start over due to a shard hiccup is going to probably push that player away from the game. Fair deaths are acceptable, but croaking due to the lag monster is a lose-lose situation.
I have no idea if Blizzard even has the capacity or technology to investigate server-caused deaths, but it’s going to have to be a consideration. Perhaps a player can appeal so an overworked GM could investigate the moment of death and issue a ruling?
Dealing with griefers
Now this is an interesting topic because this is one area that might become automatically better with official vs. non-official servers. Currently, griefers who aren’t abiding by the hardcore ruleset can pull all sorts of tricks to ruin others’ runs without any worry about losing something themselves. But if they have to exist under the same permadeath rules, then at least it gives everyone more of a fighting chance to survive those encounters.
There are plenty of ways to grief players into dying, and Blizz best be looking into the most obvious of these. I wouldn’t mind seeing PvP flags disabled permanently on these servers (or most of them) to keep griefers from tricking newbies into accidentally clicking on and flagging them. No matter what, griefing will be a constant threat because the potential to ruin someone else’s day is so high in this mode.
Dealing with the economy
If you’re not familiar with how Hardcore Classic works, participants are effectively cut off from the economy at large. You can buy and sell from vendors, but that’s it. There’s no trading or auction house engagement allowed. This is to force players to be more self-reliant and avoid twinking or passing gear back and forth.
It’s a really important part of the HC recipe, and if Blizzard wants to cut off many associated headaches, it would be wise to enforce this. Close down the auction house for everyone under 60, disable trades, and maybe hear the voices of a million botters scream in frustration at being thwarted.
Dealing with abusable skills
I’m a little bit concerned that Blizzard won’t pay attention to another avenue for exploiting and cheesing, which is the use of certain death insurance skills that are forbidden under existing Hardcore Classic rules. These include the Shaman’s auto-rez, the Warlock’s soulstone, and the Paladin’s famous hearth-bubble.
If these skills aren’t disabled or changed, almost everyone will gravitate to those classes to negate the danger. And that’s simply not fun in the long run. A team needs to be combing through all of Classic’s skills and seeing if any of them need to be addressed before the servers activate.
Dealing with dungeons
And then there’s the limitation of dungeons. The HC community wisely realized that endless server runs with a group was a way to circumvent a large portion of danger, especially if you had a dedicated group. So the current rule is that you can only run any particular dungeon once (mostly for quest completion) — and within that dungeon’s level range.
I have a hard time envisioning that Blizzard would enforce this, but like the economy, it really should. Dungeon spamming and boosting was a terrible facet of the initial run of Classic, and it could completely negate HC’s appeal if it was allowed.
Yet more questions
Will this be for Vanilla only, or will Burning Crusade and Wrath also have versions? Are there any pieces of gear or items that need to be disabled due to their exploit potential? Will Blizzard offer any optional achievement leveling challenges in the same vein as the HC mod? Will there be server transfers (on or off) allowed? Will Blizzard commit to not selling level boosts? Will battlegrounds be disabled?
These questions and others will hopefully be answered soon by the studio itself, and that answer is going to be an indication if official hardcore is worth doing or not. Blizz could strike gold with this, but it’s got to make some tough and discerning calls right up front. If there are no constraints or guidance, then I can see the community ignoring it and continuing with its own version that’s been working pretty great for a while now.