xDlate WoW Classic Interview with Ion Hazzikostas and Calie Schie
Russian content creator
on WoW Classic. Notable topics include why Blizzard chose to bring back Classic over another expansion like Wrath, services like server transfers and race changes potentially for sale later on, and the possible return of Eyes of the Beast in BFA. We also learned that Blizzard engineer Omar Gonzalez came up with the prototype for Classic WoW's setup, inventing a way for the modern client and server to read 1.12 data.
If you'd like to learn more about Classic information from the Media Summit, check out our
WoW Classic Summit Community Information Round-Up
This interview is translated by our localization team. It is not an exact transcription of what Blizzard said.
Consider watching the full interview in Russian at the xDlate's YouTube channel
: Hello, could you please introduce yourselves to my audience?
: Hi. My name is Calia Schie, and I'm Senior Game Producer for World of Warcraft.
: My name is Ion Hazzikostas, I'm Game Director for World of Warcraft, and overseeing design decisions on WoW Classic in particular.
Why Developers Chose Vanilla Over Other Expansions
: Why did you choose Vanilla over WotLK? WotLK had many more players than Vanilla WoW.
: Classic is where it all began. I think that a lot of us, myself included, were players on day one. I wouldn't be sitting here, if not for this game that captured my heart in 2004, and there have been players asking for Classic servers to turn back to this time. If you ask players to pick their favorite expansion, to pick the elements of what they most want and most miss, there were things about Classic that made the community more important there than at any other point in WoW's history. If you go to WotLK, certainly you will see epic stories and adventures there, but many players say "oh by then raids were casual and the dungeon finder started to erode a lot of the sense of community."
It's something we heard requests for from a wide range of our community for a long time, and we thought we could actually bring this experience back. We committed to make it happen. It's been exciting to see the reception and the general energy around this plan, and we're incredibly happy to finally have a release date announced and to be able to say "on August 27th we'll be going back to the original World of Warcraft as it was".
More Legacy Servers
: Is there any chance to see another legacy server if Vanilla succeeds? For example, Burning Crusade.
: Not right now. I mean who's to say what's going to happen in the future. We've been listening to our community the whole way along.
: Definitely possible.
Why Blizzard Has Decided to Launch Classic
: Why did you decide to launch Classic? Did you see the success of other games or listen to players' requests?
: This was really just a matter of us listening to the community. It's something that's come up a lot. People have asked questions at BlizzCon for years "you're ever gonna do legacy servers?" and when we said "no" in the past it wasn't because we had some philosophical objection to the idea of it-- it's because we didn't see a way of actually making it real.
We had this old data, the old client and server that we knew couldn't run on modern hardware--it had a tons of bugs and exploits. There had been years and years of work between then and now that we didn't really know how to recreate without putting in years and years of work again. So what we said to ourselves was always "well, this will be nice, but we don't see how we can do this in any kind of real way without taking away so much from the development of the main game."
A few years ago, I think in 2016, there was a really big outcry around the whole topic and the community really forced us to take a close, hard look at it and to say "ok, we don't think we can do this". But what if we look again, what if someone told you we had to find a way to do it, what we might come up with, and some of our programmers tried different approaches.
One of them, an engineer named Omar Gonzalez, who is on the Classic team, tried the method of taking the modern client, the modern server and teaching it to interpret the old 1.12 classic data. He kind of locked himself away for a few weeks, and came out with something that was a prototype--it was very rough, contained tons of bugs, the world wasn't fully rendered, but it was the original classic world, pre-Cataclysm. It had the original skills and talents, and we knew there's was a ton of work to do, but we felt like we realized for the first time, "we can do this."
That realization came maybe around the middle of 2017-- when we finally reached that point, and we quickly set up to build a team around this project, and not long after we announced it to the world at BlizzCon. We didn't have a lot to say other than "hey, we're doing this." We thank the community for their patience bearing with us as we went an entire year after that not really having anything to say about Classic until this past BlizzCon, where we could actually show off the progress that we've made. We wanted to announce it immediately just to let the community know like "we listened, we're doing this, we're working on it, be patient while we work" and now finally, it's here.
Reliving Events From the Past, Schedule of Content Release
: Will we see something new on Classic servers?
: Ultimately that we're looking for is an authentic recreation of the game as it was in 2006, so we're not adding any new content. We haven't added anything at all that is new. We recreated things wherever possible, and certain events that players may have missed the first time around like opening the gates of Ahn'Qiraj. They'll be able to go back and relive this time around, but it's all going to be as it was the first time.
: Will you keep an eye on the progress of top guilds on Classic servers?
: We will be watching everything with a lot of interest. It's going to be fascinating to see different playstyles, what people will do with the knowledge they have today. I think the biggest thing that we are watching is not so much the individual top guilds, but more how the player base as a whole is progressing--that's going to be one of the significant factors that determines when we unlock the next phases of content-- when Blackwing opens, when Zul'Gurub opens, when Ahn'Qiraj opens etc.
: So you don't have a strict schedule?
: Exactly. We pre-announced them to a certain extent, but we don't want to lock ourselves into a schedule without knowing how players are going to approach the content they may lead us to the situation when unlocks are too far apart players could be left waiting for something new to do. If they're too rushed then people could feel like they haven't even finished Blackwing Lair and suddenly they're falling behind, and Ahn'Qiraj has just opened up. We don't want to minimize the impact of the loot from Blackwing before people fully explored and experienced it. We want to listen to our community.
: Are you going to implement in-game shop or things like that?
: Definitely not at launch. We may down the line if it's something that players want. When we say the shop I mean specifically only the services that were available in the original Classic period. Things like server transfers and race changes were available later in Classic. I could see a world in--let's say a year into Classic--as realms have become mature where a player wants to transfer to a different server to join a guild there to play with their friends, and they want us to provide a way that can make it happen. That's the sort of things we would do but no pets and mounts for sale or anything like that.
: Do you plan to use sharding?
: Sort of. First off, after few weeks in-- no, absolutely not, so by the time world bosses like Kazzak and Azuregos are out there we know there can only be one Kazzak up. If everyone wants to kill Kazzak, you can just keep killing each other until the last guild is standing and someone can actually fight the boss. It has to be that way. It there's suddenly two versions of Blasted Lands that's not Classic.
But for launch, in particular, we're expecting a lot of people to come and check out the game, and many of them may not stick around for too much longer, they may just be curious. They may not be dedicated to the long-term Classic experience, they just want to see what it was all about, and we want to make sure we accommodate those crowds. But also we don't want to open up so many servers that we're going to find ourselves underpopulated servers and having to look at merging or connecting servers a few months into Classic, so we're using some new technology we have developed for just the first few weeks.
Unlike sharding where we run multiple copies of an individual zone in modern BFA, what we're doing in Classic is actually running multiple copies of the entire world. So let's say you playing on a server there might be three entire copies of Azeroth, full versions of Azeroth, where you can walk around, take a zeppelin, and you won't see people appearing and disappearing around you and each one of them will have the same capacity as original servers did back in 2005-2006. We're thinking about for something like 3000 range--we'll see, these numbers are flexible. Over time, as the first weeks pass, we can increase those caps as players spread out around the world. We can also reduce the number of total copies of the world that are needed until a few weeks in we'll have one single copy of the world per server. So, there's no sharding of any type, and that's how things will remain from that point.
Development of Classic
: Did you want to change anything during the Classic development?
: We look at things and think "we could do that so much better now," but at some point it's dangerous to start substituting our modern judgments for how things were back then because we're changing the experience and our mission really is to recreate something that has been lost to the sands of time. Otherwise, it's a piece of gaming history. It's the origin of World of Warcraft's story, and some of us said internally joking "it belongs to a museum." We wanted to create that thing, we wanted to memorialize and immortalize it, and we can't accomplish that by changing it.
: Do you plan to take some ideas from Classic development and apply them to live servers?
: One example that I can think of--let's take a look at how our code evolved. We removed the ability called "Eye of the Beast" from hunters and, as a result of several code changes, it was actually impossible to us to reinstate it in modern WoW-- it would be a tremendous amount of work. Well, to make Classic happen, we had to do most of that work. There are still some bugs to fix, but we actually think in the modern game, thanks to the work we've done to make "Eyes of the Beast" work again, there's no reason we can't give hunters that ability back in Battle for Azeroth, and that's like a small example of something.
: Do you plan to release cinematics for vanilla or remasters of original launch trailers?
: It's a really cool idea that might be fun to do one day. For Warcraft III: Reforged, we saw an updated cinematic. I think one of the things that's really an amazing testament to our cinematic artists at Blizzard is if you watch that 2004 original launch trailer it still holds up, it still looks fantastic, but that's the kind of things that would be really fun to do one day. I'm a mere developer so I can't speak for our cinematic artists, but I'm sure they would love to do it at some point too.
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