An old world for a new audience...
Before World of Warcraft Classic was officially revealed in 2017, Blizzard, or should we just say the famous J Allen Brack, a Production Designer for World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor way back in 2013, told us "You think you do, but you don't" when it came to wanting classic servers. Then at BlizzCon 2017, J Allen Brack took to the stage once again to announce classic servers. How about that? And with only two weeks exactly from this post until those servers go live, there have been some concerns. Yes, Blizzard have a release schedule of raids and PvP content they would be dropping to keep the interest going for the next year or so. But then what?
Well there's two ways I this could go: they re-release expansions up until the world of Azeroth majorly changed in Cataclysm, or they go the same route as what Old School Runescape did.
Let's just briefly touch upon the first idea with the re-release of the first two expansions. Now obviously, unlike most of the content found in WoW Classic, you can still play The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King today. However the problem with how they play today is that they have been nipped and tucked so much that they too have lost their appeal and charm. In WoW's current form, Blizzard has tried to streamline the levelling experience where they allow you to skip Outland entirely and go straight to Northrend, and then skip Cataclysm entirely and go straight to Pandaria. Most people these days do indeed just skip Outland when levelling, because of course you would want to progress through the newer expansion of the two, especially when Northrend gave you a choice of zones to choose between from the get-go. And I don't blame people for skipping it even if that wasn't the reason; Outland is now a dead zone and compared to today's expansions just looks plain ugly. Chances are you'll also be the only one grabbing the PvP zones, you'll rarely ever find a group for the dungeons, and some of the gear you can earn is so old, why would you ever want to transmogrify them? That's not to say The Burning Crusade was a bad expansion; in fact, it was far from it in its time. The raids, the daily areas, the questing, the end game content; for the most part, the expansion was spot on and kept you busy right the way up until Wrath of the Lich King. Speaking of, Wrath of the Lich King was just as good, if not better, and added so much on top of what was already a special game without changing the fundamentals of what it was... at least at launch it didn't anyway before they slowly started to do away with some of the niche gimmicks.
With WoW Classic now on the horizon, adding The Burning Crusade content at the very least to its phase schedule, once it runs out of Vanilla raiding and PvP content to phase in, would help strengthen the nostalgia we all once had and would help keep Classic alive once the player base starts to dwindle, and trust me, it will.
The second option is by going down the same route of Old School Runescape. Yes, if you didn't already know, you can still play the 2007 version of the browser-based MMO, and if it floats your boat, you can play it on your mobile phone or tablet too. If mobile phone games aren't your thing though, first of all do you guys not have phones? Secondly, whilst the game can still run on your browser like the good old days, it requires a launcher to do so; a mild hiccup to what is a stellar game. If you somehow have never even heard of, let alone played RuneScape, it was basically World of Warcraft before World of Warcraft existed (that is if you played the old old version back in 2001-2006). You created a character, were taught the basics, and then out in the world you went, completing quests, getting better gear, improving your stats and just exploring this vast open world. Best of all, the game was and still is free, granted you can pay a small fee (of £6.99) to gain access to the Members benefits, which unlocks more of the world as well as more quests, features and abilities. Yes the graphics are... incredibly basic, and don't get me started on the draw distance... but back in the day, running this game on a browser was a major achievement in itself. Over the years though RuneScape saw some major jumps in quality; the 2007 version of the game is where most feel the game peaked, which is why it was used as the baseline for OS RuneScape. And then we have the 2013 version, which... just lost its charm in my opinion.
But enough about the game back in 2007. What about the game in 2019? Well it's literally just the 2007 version... and more. To this day, OS Runescape still has hundreds of thousands of players daily. With the game bringing back an old audience, and introducing a new audience to bringing it to mobile phones, this gave Jagex, the developers of the game, the option to add new content to this version of the game rather than RuneScape 3. At first Jagex started doing what Blizzard will be doing after WoW Classic's release by phasing content back into the game. There was a lot, and I mean, A LOT of content Jagex had to phase back in. But then as time when on, Jagex must have seen their player base was running out of original content to play, so earlier this year they released a brand new area to OS RuneScape named the Kebos Lowlands. This release was actually a big step for Jagex considering Runescape 3 is still releasing new content to this day.
At the same time, OS Runescape has a system in place which, whilst it's mostly for paid Members of the game, helps improve the game into something the players actually want. Every now and then, players are able to vote on future updates that arrive in the game, though most of these choices are more based on balancing gameplay than, say, choosing between two brand new areas to bring to the game.
So what can this mean for WoW Classic? Well say that Blizzard didn't bring in the first two expansions into the mix, but instead they added entirely new content to Classic. Some of you might be thinking this would break the current lore of World of Warcraft... yes. Yes it would. But what would be wrong with that? What if Blizzard decided to go a whole new direction with WoW that they no longer can with its current iteration? It's already been established that time travel is a thing in WoW lore, so whose to say things haven't changed? What if Illidan never comes back into power, or the Lich King never reawakens from the Frozen Throne? Maybe a Gnome went back in time to the 2004 launch and somehow a butterfly effect changed everything. This could allow Blizzard to tell entirely new stories with long dead characters; a redo if you will, but they keep the core mechanics of the gameplay exactly as they will be on launch.
Of course this could hit a few snags were Blizzard to do this. First of all, as many of us can already tell Blizzard are struggling to keep up with their own mechanics in current WoW, having to stat squish, change what items can do what and change how you interact with other players. Another snag is how Blizzard will be charging for WoW Classic, in that it will share the subscription price with current WoW. While yes, this fee may allow for development of new expansions for current WoW, doing so for Classic might be a bit of a stretch. This is why it makes sense it would just be easier to re-release content players already know, unless they either start charging separately for Classic, or increase the price. They already have the assets, so why make new ones? The biggest snag of course is this: WoW Classic fails and Blizzard was right all along; players play it for a few months, and then after that, the nostalgia is gone, and not even old content being reintroduced can bring them back.
With only two weeks left until launch, only time will tell on if WoW Classic can keep the franchise going, or help it fall deeper into the hole its slowly digging for itself.