Eurogamer's Big WoW Classic Interview
31/07/2019 à 19:09
With just a month out from launch,
Eurogamer recently interviewed
Lead Software Engineer Brian Birmingham and Senior Software Engineer Omar Gonzalez on their incredible work reviving a 15 year old game to create World of Warcraft: Classic. Astute fans may remember Omar Gonzalez from his interview with
and mentioned by
Game Director Ion Hazzikostas
as one of the engineers principally responsible for recreating the patch 1.12 game world inside the modern client in order to make WoW: Classic a reality. Brian Birmingham and Omar Gonzalez were also interviewed together back in January by
German website Computer Bild
Ragnaros and Closing WoW Beta
Vanilla players may recognize similarities between the close of the original game's beta in 2004 and the the
final hour of WoW: Classic Beta
, as raid bosses and high level demons were spawned inside cities to chase players down. According to Brian Birmingham, one of the live-ops producers came up with the idea to recreate that awe-inspiring event, taking it a step further with Guardians of Blizzard and Sons of Flame assisting the raid bosses. The team wanted to create a memorable experience, awarding
Lame-tonnerre, épée bénie du Cherchevent
to players who defeated those adds, but underestimated how hard it would be to take them down, so only a lucky few were able to claim the legendary weapon before the servers shut down.
Rediscovering Old Game Mechanics
The old raids may be well known to players by now, but part of the allure isn't only seeing who manages to defeat them first, but in seeing how they get there. As Brian Birmingham puts it, the challenge isn't only in defeating the raid bosses, but also in optimizing leveling routes, gear, and choosing which characters to invest in on the way there. The debates surrounding such things are often surprising, especially as WoW: Classic Beta testers realize they don't understand all the mechanics of the game quite as well as they thought they did.
While in many cases players had the mechanics and numbers
right, there's a lot of detailed minutiae that players weren't aware of in 2007 which has been recreated for Classic, such as the recent
Hit Chance controversy
fixes and bugs,
Critical Strike Clarifications
, as well as maintaining an extensive
Not A Bug
list. It's important for the designers to recreate WoW: Classic as it was in Vanilla Patch 1.12. Omar Gonzalez cites the community of dedicated fans who spent days on end creating combat logs in order to backwards engineer the math for numbers that weren't officially released, and how that kind of devotion fuels the developers own passion.
The engineers were also impressed by how passionate and varied the players have been throughout the beta, especially with the communal drive to figure out all the combat math, and explore pieces the world that they wouldn't normally be high enough level to survive in. The expectation for Betas is generally that players will try the game out, test a few things, and then wait for the full release, but many players made a point to continue exploring, level up several times, and help other players level up, playing day and night despite the temporary nature of the Beta.
Vanilla WoW had a lot of issues with third party gold selling, many of which were curtailed by the Token system added in
Warlords of Draenor
. While tokens will not be available in Classic, because subscriptions are shared between Classic and the current Expansion, players will be able to buy tokens using gold in the current expansion in order to keep playing Classic. A brand new economy is a big draw of WoW: Classic, as players will be starting with nothing and working their way to unlocking mounts, skills, and professions, and as long as there is a human behind the keyboard actively playing the game, they're fine with most methods of farming; the issue is with automated bots which do it for them, though their detection algorithms and techniques are much better now than they used to be.
Note: Although the interview sidestepped the question, please remember that actually selling in-game gold for real money is also against the terms of service.
New Systems: Layering
One of the biggest pieces of feedback, and most important distinctions from the original game, is the advent of layering - a system similar to phasing which allows the game server to separate players into several pools, in order to better handle inordinately large amounts of players all massed in one part of the game world. As Eurogamer staff writer Robert Purchese points out, there has been a lot of
regarding the problematic and exploitative nature of the system, though the engineers are quick to point out that the numbers used for layering in the Beta are not reflective of those which will be seen on launch. The system is designed to scale up and down based on the total number of players, so that players are less likely to be alone or overpopulated in any particular area, but the thresholds were set much lower in the beta, in order to allow them to test the feature.
Preparing For Launch
That said, there have been some legitimate bugs, and other changes that had to be reverted in order to restore the original Vanilla gameplay, particular for hunter combat mechanics, movement aesthetics, and animations. Between now and WoW: Classic launch on August 27th, the engineers will be in full "bug smash!" mode, fixing as many things as possible, particularly the most impactful and obvious bugs, such as those that affect visuals and combat, in order to make the remaster feel authentic.
Not everything is meant to feel authentic, however, as they have no plans to force players through the same queue times that were present in the unexpectedly massive launch of World of Warcraft in 2004, as game servers struggled to keep up with the overwhelming number of players that turned out. Part of that problem is prediction; just as Blizzard severely underestimated the interest in the original game, it's hard to know an exact number of how many players will try to log on in August, but the teams are better prepared than they were 15 years ago, so if there is a similar surge of players, they're ready to handle it.
Internally, it will be handled similar to a major expansion launch, but there are major differences to what would otherwise be just a large software upgrade as the Classic launch includes new infrastructure and hardware in every region of the world. Scaling up and down post-launch is one of the most complicated issues; while their systems are much more flexible than they were 15 years ago, it's hard to predict player surge and recess. They may need to expand capacity on launch as more players show up than anticipated, then dial back as players distribute throughout the game world and spend less time playing daily. Either way, they'll have a NASA-like Mission Control Room set up with all hands on deck and the entire World of Warcraft team lending a hand in order to coordinate a smooth launch.
Six Phases of Classic
The original plan stated at BlizzCon 2018 was to break Classic up into four content phases, though that
has since changed to six
, more reminiscent of the Vanilla patch cycle.
BlizzCon 2018 Phases
PvP Honor System
Darkmoon Faire Decks
Ahn'Qiraj War Effort
There was a lot of community feedback that four phases were too few and concern that having too much available at the same time would trivialize competing forms of content, such as the Honor system rewards supplanting those available from Onyxia and Molten Core. The engineers aren't sure what the current plans are once all six phases are done, right now they're focused entirely on making WoW: Classic as authentic and accurate as possible and excited to see the fan reaction; the project has been a love-letter to them, something they've been demanding and the developers are eager to deliver. Moving forward, they intend to continue listening to community feedback, and are interested in what people want to see next.
If you're excited for Classic WoW, make sure to check the
Wowhead Classic Database
, with comments straight from Thottbot!
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