Casually Classic: BlizzCon took WoW Classic into the ‘plus’ era


While the three-expansion revelation of World of Warcraft’s Worldsoul Saga stole the show at BlizzCon this past weekend, I was even more excited — and nervous! — to hear what Blizzard had in store for WoW Classic. Four years into this experiment, WoW Classic brings out a lot of opinions and strong feelings from people who’ve grown attached to this legacy version. Many players assumed that the studio was going to announce one of two options, but Blizzard surprised us all by going down paths both predictable and uncharted.

There’s a whole lot to digest and discuss about the WoW Classic announcements, so let’s dig into them in today’s column!

Hardcore: A new option

While Hardcore Classic got the least amount of lip service, I honestly didn’t expect to hear anything about this at all, so it was good to see even so. Blizzard created a cool splash screen for it, shared some updated death statistics (alas Hunters, your pet hardly knew ye), and a new option. Having been disappointed in the past that hardcore didn’t include the “no trade or auction house” rule, I’d say it’s applause-worthy that it’s finally coming to the ruleset for those who elect to take on a bigger challenge. I hope that we see even more hardcore variants in the future — and rewards to go with them.

Wrath Classic moves into Cataclysm

This was the only time during the panel when I threw my hands up in frustration. I didn’t want Cataclysm Classic, and I’ve heard very few (but some) who did. This was the obvious path for Blizz to make, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good one. Cataclysm marks the tipping point from when World of Warcraft moved out of the old design and pacing and into a more modern era. In other words, it’s not really “classic” so much as “older stuff” and now cements Classic as nothing more than a progression server rather than game preservation.

Hearing that the main WoW Classic branch is moving ahead into Cata seriously killed any interest I had in leveling up a new character through Wrath. I’m not pitching a fit or anything; it merely robbed me of my interest. I feel that if I wanted to play Cata with a modern design, there’s retail.

But my personal feelings aside, I get why Blizzard is doing this and don’t blame it for the move — too much. It’s a huge chunk of premade content that allows people to take their favorite characters forward, and I’m sure that there’s a crowd out that’s already drooling for Mists of Pandaria. So if that’s your bag, then go have fun when this drops next year!

I will say that the studio’s reps saying — twice — that this move into Cataclysm was the sole result of player feedback is as shifty as it is disingenuous. I sincerely, wholeheartedly doubt that the majority or even plurality of Classic’s community wanted Cata. These statements came off as a way to deflect the criticism Blizz knew it was going to get over this. “Hey, you guys wanted it, not us! Don’t yell in our direction!”

Season of Discovery: Training wheels for Classic Plus?

When the studio initially announced Season of Discovery, I was “eh” on it. But then I watched the What’s Next panel, which made me sit up and really look at this new server experiment for what it is. It grew on me, and now I see this as the most interesting move the Classic team is making.

The core idea is to launch new seasonal servers that level gate the community and challenge players to find hidden runes to endow their characters with special abilities — ones that could even fundamentally change or hybridize their build. Raise the level cap every so often, throw in some new raids, and keep everyone discovering and buzzing together.

Yes, this is almost wholesale lifted from a private server, but you know what? That’s what Blizzard does. It sees what works and isn’t ashamed to incorporate it into the official build. It’s intellectual theft mixed with naked admiration.

There are naysayers about this, of course, but this could be really, really cool. It’s a great idea to keep this season off of the PTR, as exploration and secret-uncovering is a centerpiece here. I can’t wait to see the community charging onto the server and collectively investigate the locations and uses of all of the runes.

It shakes up the class status quo while still keeping the game firmly in the Classic Era period. And best of all, it’s coming out in a few weeks. We’ll be able to spend the holiday season leveling up to 25 and scouring the world for runes to collect and kit out our builds. I can’t wait.

We all heard the people yelling “Classic Plus!” in the crowd, and Blizzard no doubt knew that was coming. It didn’t give us Classic Plus, but once you see past that disappointment, you may see three factors that offer consolation.

First, let’s be fair: Nobody in this community agrees on what a “Classic Plus” would look like. It’s an umbrella term for continued development using the vanilla base as a starting point, but I’ve heard so many different ideas where this might go that it’s plain to see there’s no consensus. Blizz could’ve gotten up there and proclaimed the new dawn of Classic Plus, and there’d already be an opposition from those calling for it because the announcement didn’t (and couldn’t possibly) meet all those contradictory expectations.

Second, it’s really cool that Blizzard isn’t giving up on WoW Classic but is doing all sorts of things with it. I was fearful that once Wrath was finished, the studio would give up on Classic or endlessly regurgitate the same progression rollout. Instead, we’re getting a variety of initiatives here.

And third, Season of Discovery might not be Classic Plus, but it’s at least a big step in that direction. It’s taking the vanilla base and going somewhere new with it. It’s focusing more on keeping the community together, excited, and engaged. We even heard a couple of devs obliquely indicate that this was “Classic… plus a whole lot more” and suggest that Blizz is willing to take Classic Era even further in the future.

What if this was training wheels for a much bigger development initiative down the road? What if this is gauging how willing and flexible the community is in handling not just #somechanges but #manychanges? If so, Season of Discovery ends up being a stepping stone to a very interesting future indeed.

Stepping back into the MMO time machine of WoW Classic, Justin Olivetti offers up observations and ground-level analysis as a Gnome with a view. Casually Classic is a more laid-back look at this legacy ruleset for those of us who’ve never stepped into a raid or seen more than 200 gold to our names.
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