One of the most defining moments of World of Warcraft’s history was the release of Burning Crusade, the first expansion for the long-running MMO. After all, it’s not like it was a sequel to WoW, since you still needed base WoW to play it. You also got treated to Illidan, one of the most iconic Warcraft characters, right up there with Arthas and Thrall.
We spoke to John Hight, Executive Producer of World of Warcraft Classic and Brian Birmingham, Lead Software Engineer to talk about the thrills of bringing back the expansion with Burning Crusade Classic, the first expansion for World of Warcraft Classic announced at Blizzconline this past weekend. .
Making The Choice To Move On
Obviously, one of the most dangerous things about adding expansions to World of Warcraft Classic is that it kinda goes against the ethos of the return to WoW’s simpler days. While some players are happy to relive the excitement of a new expansion, there’s sure to be Vanilla purists who want to enjoy their game without Demon Hunters checking your level of preparedness.
According to John and Brian, it’s not like either player will be forced to compromise too much. They’ve provided an out for those who’d rather stick to Warcraft as-is.
“So the way it’s gonna work is that your realm will moved onto Burning Crusade and you will be asked when you login. Do you want to go into Burning Crusade or Classic realm, and if you choose to go into Classic realm, that’s where your character will be activated, otherwise it will be activated in Burning Crusade”, John says. “If you really want to play in both realm, we’ll make a copy of your character so you’ll effectively have two characters, one in Classic and one in Burning Crusade. Anything you do in Burning Crusade won’t affect Classic’s character”.
“As far as what happen next in the Classic realm, there’s gonna be big communities, we want to make sure we support them and make sure the communities are healthy that they are going to stay in classic”, he says.
The snapshot feature is a neat way to connect to your friends who might not want to jump to Burning Crusade. By creating a copy of your character, you can still adventure through vanilla WoW and still enjoy Burning Crusade Classic on your own time. John and Brian stressthough that the end result is that you will very much still have two characters.
“To be clear, you need to make a choice. If you want to make a copy, you’ll have an option to do that. If you want to stay in Classic, you stayed in Classic. In terms of what happens after Burning Crusade, we haven’t made any commitments yet. We want to see how things go with Burning Crusade and how the community respond to the first expansion”, John says.
“I do want to add that if the player choose to go into Burning Crusade and activate the clone one week after or two weeks or a month later, that option will be available. But it will be the clone of the character, when we launched the Burning Crusade”, Brian continues.
According to Brian and John, this wasn’t just an idea born of whim and fancy. They told us how the decision to even do Burning Crusade at all was one they bounced off the community before attempting, making sure they weren’t going to work on an expansion no one wanted.
“We did run surveys and reach out to the community to see what will be their preference”, John says. “The majority of the players have responded that they would like to go to Burning Crusade, they would like to experience that. For many of past players to WoW, that was the first experience in WoW, so this is the nostalgia moment for them. But we want to make sure that both communities are healthy, the size of Classic’s community is pretty robust and we feel like it will be okay. That’s why we wanted to make sure that for people who want to stay in Classic, we are gonna do our best to group them together so that they have a healthy realm to play on”.
Although WoW Classic has always been about recreating the WoW of yore, that doesn’t mean it has to be entirely 1:1. Both John and Brian agreed that there is some room for quality of life, even if its as small as starting the game at a later version.
“The intention is we’ll start with 2.43, that felt like a better point with all the, you know where the talents were, any bugs and issues have been addressed at that point”, says John.
Brian also elaborated more on the other quality of life fix, which is earlier access to two of Burning Crusade’s new races, the Blood Elves and the Draenei.
“One of the things that we are talking about adding is quality of life features like, the ability to start leveling Blood Elves and Draenei at Level 1 with the pre-expansion patch so hopefully you’ll have enough time to catch up to level 58 to go to the dark portal with friends”, he says. “We think that WoW is better when you play with friends an other people so we want to give people an opportunity to make that change”.
While it might seem blasphemous to some for making changes to Burning Crusade ahead of its re-release, Brian assured us that the World of Warcraft team was treating the expansion with all the respect it deserves.
Rather than simply add whatever they thought was cool, he says the team are really making sure to honor the spirit of one of World of Warcraft’s most iconic expansions.
“There’s always a temptation [to change things[, but one of the thing that we are really charged with in taking care of this product and delivering an authentic experience is to try to resist the temptation as much as possible. Make sure that we really are delivering the authentic experience that existed back then”, he says.
“Obviously we are making changes like the ability to level Blood Elves and Draenei early, and the ability to use the boost because we think it’s important to drive those social connections, and make sure that you have opportunity to play with other players and that we maximize that. That’s really the core principle of WoW, so we will make minor adjustment to try to make sure that the players have optimal opportunity to play with one another. But otherwise, we really want to hold ourselves back tinkering with the core game mechanics or spells and abilities unless they are truly broken or cause some kind of serious problem”.
Same Old PvP
Of course, as much as they change things, they’ll also keep things as they were. Brian talked about the PvP changes coming to Burning Crusade Classic, similar to how they did back in the day with Burning Crusade’s launch.
“One thing that’s really interesting for PvP in Burning Crusade is the Arena Team system. So that was introduced originally with Burning Crusade and we are excited to bring it back. In modern realm we of course still have arena but not the ability to make a customized team that you can build camaraderie with”, Brian said.
“Both the team system and also the various brackets like 2v2, 3v3 and 5v5 brackets of course when we originally introduce arena teams your team can only be as large as the bracket so 3 players in 3v3 team so if any of them is absent or sick, you couldn’t play. So we will be using a slightly later version of the arena team system that eventually came into Burning Crusade in the later patches, where you can have up to double the bracket size in your team members so 6 players for 3v3. So that if you have alternates and if someone was absent you can play with other people instead. And then the team gets points for spending on gear, based on whether or not they participate in 30% matches of the week. So these were some of the changes coming to PvP with Burning Crusade”, he adds.
Welcome To The Burning Crusade
Of course, not everyone playing Burning Crusade Classic when it comes out is going to be someone who played it at launch. Brian and John had some inviting words for those who might not be Prepared for the expansion, with choice hints of where to head first.
“I think the big highlight for me is Karazhan Quests Change, to unlock Karazhan for the first time. It’s this great epic quests change that will send you all over the world starting from Khadgar and going through this long journey through all this different vistas and experiences, culminating in this trip back in time to meet the deed as he’s opening the dark portal, and see if he can put the final touches on things to get you back into Karazhan. That’s just such a great story and the dungeon itself is a real treat and the reward at the end as well”, Brian says.
” I think all the things that are happening in Burning Crusade are so amazing from the moment that you stepped through the dark portal. And you see this incredible battle raging in front of you and you squeak pass all the demons and you make it to your stronghold only to find the enemy faction is there to make a quick end of you. I can remember getting together with my members feeling pretty bold and taking on the other faction, only to hear the eerie sound and look up and see a Fel Reaver as it stomped us and took us out”, John continued.
With Burning Crusade Classic, newer WoW fans get a great opportunity to relive an iconic turning point in Warcraft history, largely the same as the day it first launched. It’s great to see so many people clearly passionate about World of Warcraft working on the project, and we can only hope that passion shows through when Burning Crusade Classic drops later this year.
Thanks to Brian and John for taking the time to answer our questions, as well as Blizzard for the opportunity to interview them about Burning Crusade Classic.