In case you somehow missed it, Blizzard Entertainment officially announced during BlizzConline in February that World of Warcraft Classic would be moving forward to explore the first expansion to World of Warcraft, Burning Crusade, later this year. Well, sort of. There's a whole new server structure that will essentially allow players to move on from the new "Classic Era" servers into "Burning Crusade Classic" servers and then generally play out the World of Warcraft Classic experience -- rolling through the original updates -- for the expansion. Immediately after the announcement, ComicBook.com had the opportunity to speak with World of Warcraft production director Pat Dawson and World of Warcraft Classic lead producer Holly Longdale all about it.
In addition to speaking more generally about World of Warcraft, Dawson and Longdale answered questions about the challenges of bringing an expansion from 2007 to 2021, splitting servers into different eras, and more. Notably, there are some quality-of-life improvements in Burning Crusade Classic, but overall? The team wants to remain true to the original experience of the popular expansion -- just like they did with the release of World of Warcraft Classic.
Burning Crusade returns.February 19, 2021
As noted above, World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade Classic is set to release at some point this year on PC and Mac. World of Warcraft Classic and World of Warcraft itself are currently available on PC and Mac. You can check out all of our previous coverage of World of Warcraft right here.
What do you think about what we have seen about World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade Classic so far? Are you excited to check it out when it releases? Let us know in the comments, or feel free to reach out and hit me up directly over on Twitter at @rollinbishop to talk about all things gaming! And keep reading to check out our full interview with Dawson and Longdale!
On the Reception to the Announcement
ComicBook.com: Obviously you've been busy, but what have you thought about the reception to the announcement so far?
Holly Longdale: We're excited. So far, while we've been doing interviews, we've been getting sneak peeks from people pinging us in Slack at work, in our work-from-home environment. And so far it's grand. It's everything we hoped for. It's been a lot of effort to try and do the best and right thing for our community. And I think we're getting there.
Pat Dawson: Yeah. I've snuck in a few looks at some of the reaction and reception to it. And it's really heartwarming to see the excitement surrounding Burning Crusade Classic, and even more so with some of the comments on the deep dive about the validation that some changes is right way for us to go. That feels good. It feels good to hear from the community that they're excited about working with us to make sure we get it right.prevnext
On Work-From-Home Hurdles
Since you brought it up, Holly, obviously the world is a very different place right now than it was when WoW Classic initially released. What sort of hurdles have you been tackling for Burning Crusade Classic in the work-from-home environment?
HL: Honestly, this team adjusted really well. I came on board shortly after work-from-home started, and they were already well on their way. It's a lot of coordination, a lot of making sure everyone's in a Zoom room rather than a conference room, working these things out. But there's so much dedication and commitment to getting it right. It's coming along really well. Yes, there are challenges. But I think a lot of that is just related to taking a game that's 13 years old. It wouldn't have mattered if we were in the office or not. We converted three-quarters of a million rows of data and updated Burning Crusade Classic into modern code. And you can imagine the challenges there. But somehow this incredible team, we've conquered collaborating and coordinating, all day every day, to answering design questions. So it's a labor of love with engineers looking back at several reference clients to Burning Crusade, the original code, and the builds of the game, and making sure we're doing it right. And it's a methodical process, but they've done an amazing job.prevnext
On When Burning Crusade Classic Became a Thing
Now, I did speak with some developers prior to WoW Classic launching. And the obvious question at the time was, "OK. Expansions? Burning Crusade? Is that a thing that's going to happen?" So I have to ask, when did you folks know Burning Crusade Classic was going to be a thing as opposed to just OG Classic?
PD: Yeah, it really was after launch. We were so focused on getting Classic and getting Classic right. So getting it out the door to the players and to make sure we got it right, that we weren't really thinking about what was coming next. It was like, "Let's do this. This is a pure love letter to the fans. Let's make sure we do right by them." And to see the reception we got from Classic really helped convince us that the next right step was to see where their thoughts and minds were. And that was in Burning Crusade. We heard the Classic community, they said they wanted Burning Crusade, and we said, "That sounds like a great idea. I think we should do that." So after it launched and we saw just how much people wanted this, is when we made the decision to do it.prevnext
On Learnings From World of Warcraft Classic
Obviously, Classic itself provides a lot of data points to potentially apply to Burning Crusade Classic. What sort of things did you learn from Classic's launch that are informing your work on this new expansion launch for Classic?
HL: Just as we mentioned, we were talking about this idea of some changes. Over the life of Classic, we see on a fairly regular basis, even how players played the game originally, they're finding whole new ways to play the game now. So it's a matter of making sure we're staying true to the nostalgic experience. We want it to feel just like it did for Burning Crusade Classic when it launches. But we do want to focus on quality of life.
And obviously, by modernizing the game, the focus is on performance and stability, but also quality of life. So for example, for arena teams, for Burning Crusade Classic, it didn't function as optimally as it probably could now. So for example, if you were in a 3v3 team, you have three people in your roster. If somebody was sick or had a connection problem, you were out of luck. So we're doubling the roster size in each bracket. And then we're also adding modern matchmaking code and systems. So that it's going to feel like Burning Crusade as it did then, but it's going to have some more modern applications to make the experience better.
So that's what we learned from Classic is that, yes, no changes, it was 100% the right decision for Classic. But moving into Burning Crusade Classic, we want to make sure we're paying attention. Not that we weren't paying attention before, but applying some quality-of-life improvements and correcting some issues.prevnext
On Classic Era Servers vs. Burning Crusade Classic Servers
Now, my understanding is that the Burning Crusade Classic players will be siloed into their own servers with Classic Era servers handling folks that just want the vanilla game. Any concern about splitting the player base this way?
PD: When we looked at it, what we found is, we really have pretty large communities for each of those choices. Both for Burning Crusade and for Classic Era servers. We do believe the Burning Crusade community will be larger. That's the one that we expect most people to go to. And so, it was a core goal of ours to make that experience as easy and seamless as possible. So, for the servers and the way that they would work is, if you are going to Burning Crusade, you'll just simply convert over with your same server, your same guild, your same character name, everything. All the social structures will remain in place. You'll simply log out of Classic one day and onto Burning Crusade the next.
For Classic Era servers, we do believe that community will be a little bit smaller. So we want to find ways to keep it healthy and strong. So what we're going to do there is, if Holly and I are on the same server and we want to transfer to a Classic server or remain in Classic Era, what will happen is we will both go to the same new server to keep those communities together that want to go, but we'll be matched players from other servers as well, that are going to also go to that server to make sure that we have a vibrant community on WoW Classic.
Interesting. But this is a one-way trip if people go to Burning Crusade, correct?
Well, what you'll have is, at the time of pre-patch, we effectively have a snapshot of your character at that point. And you can make a decision to go to Burning Crusade with that. You can make a decision to go to the Classic Era with that. Or for a paid service, you can choose both, including your character, and have a version in the Classic Era and as well as Burning Crusade.prevnext
On Further Classic Expansions
I have to ask, obvious question now that we have Burning Crusade Classic, what are the thoughts on the other expansions? Are these on the whiteboard as question marks? What's the plan here?
HL: We all have hopes and dreams, right? So right now obviously, we're focused purely on Burning Crusade Classic. And just as Pat said, this is an evolution of what the community asked for. And considering that we have this delightful, amazing moment in time with huge popularity in Classic, we want to continue that. And if the community asks for it? Sure, we'll discuss it and deliver what the players want. But right now, we are solely focused on making Burning Crusade Classic and Classic Era the best experience it can possibly be.prevnext
On Troubles With Burning Crusade Classic
Speaking more broadly about Burning Crusade Classic, you mentioned the Herculean task of bringing all that data into the modern day. Were there any troubles with that at all?
PD: Yes. [laughs] I mean, it is a challenge. So if you think about it, we evolved our code over the past 17 years, and the way the data looks, or the game rules effectively, were set up to be read by a code from 2007. So we've made changes to that over time. So a good example of this would be our area trigger system. And the data for that looked a certain way, it was shaped a certain way. And then it was updated once, I believe, in Wrath of the Lich King, and then again in Warlords. So when we use modern code, it's gone through two different evolutions of transformation that, that old data has not captured. So, part of the effort of how we make this game is, we have to go back and redo those data translations from two different points in time to make sure that we get it right. And that's just one example. There's many, many like that.
HL: Yeah, it's a day-by-day. Like in the deep dive, we show how we were so excited, we got the Burning Crusade Classic build running. And we jumped in, all excited to make Blood Elves and Draenei... Blood Elves were naked, just flesh-colored creepy things. And there's a lot of stuff like that. Just unexpected... This notion that Burning Crusade Classic, well you already have it. You can save as Burning Crusade Classic from Burning Crusade. It is not that at all. Mostly because we are making these improvements and gaining from the benefits of modernized code. So, it's got a couple of hiccups. But the rate at which the team gets through them is pretty staggering for some. I'm not an engineer, but when I get to see them pull everything together, it's a fantastic thing to see come together. It's amazing.
So, this seems to be, my understanding, a totally new kind of thing for World of Warcraft. Where you've got WoW Classic, you're bringing Burning Crusade Classic up to speed. And now you're trying to marry the two together to have effective transfers from one to the other. Were there any unique challenges to that?
PD: Yeah, there absolutely are. Fortunately, that mostly is in the data world and not so much in the code world. The games aren't talking to each other regularly. It's mostly, what your character looks like has to match between the two in order for us to do the cloning service properly, or even the choice and selection service properly. So, there was challenges around that to make sure that we're getting that right. And we're still uncovering some of those today, and we'll go through the beta to make sure that we do have it accurate to ensure that your character is whole and complete in both versions of the game.prevnext
On What Most Excites Them About Burning Crusade Classic
Now, as the first expansion for World of Warcraft, there's a lot of feelings I feel like people have about Burning Crusade originally. What are you most excited for people to experience once again in Burning Crusade Classic?
HL: We talk about this idea of expansions. And when we talk about expansions, the discussion is quite often like it's a product. But honestly, for World of Warcraft, Burning Crusade was an expansion of the world in every sense. With new races and storyline and the world, every zone felt like a world unto itself. It's a really magical experience. The level increase. Flying was a huge change for World of Warcraft. Jewelcrafting. And you may hear this as we go through, Pat and I, across the team, we run the gamut of every kind of player. I'm the Explorer, the RP-er, I bumble around and go to every dark corner and explore everything. I gave up high-end raiding at Classic. So Burning Crusade for me was this huge expansive world and exploration. And then also getting stomped on by the Fel Reaver many times while I was bumbling around. And there's so many epic experiences, and I'm sure Pat will share some of his. But I love the idea that World of Warcraft took this notion of an expansion and really was true to that idea, that it was growth of the world in a really massive way.
PD: Yeah, I'm a bit more of a hardcore player. One of the things I love about WoW is that there is something for everyone out there. But for me, it was some of the things that I really engaged with in Burning Crusade, where the raiding scene, these were some of the most iconic raids and raid bosses in the history of World of Warcraft. I remember throwing tainted cores on Lady Vashj or going through the five phases of Kael'thas or defeating Illidan atop the Black Temple. Those were super memorable.
The other two things I wanted to mention was, PVP was transformative in this expansion. It really took things to the next level with competitive matchmaking. And as an avid PVPer, that was something that I really looked forward to. And I can't wait to experience that again. And then finally, the big one for me is just that feeling of excitement around entering the Dark Portal for the first time. Just being able to go through there with all my friends and enter Hellfire Peninsula at that moment of launch was so great. In fact, that feeling that's shared by many people out there, of not wanting to miss out on that moment, is a huge reason why we did that boost. So that you can invite your friends to come and experience that again with you so that they don't miss out.prevnext
On Where New Players Should Start
With the Burning Crusade Classic expansion coming, it really feels like two very different products with regular WoW and WoW Classic. Someone who is totally unfamiliar with WoW, would you still tell them, "OK, you're interested in playing, well pick up regular WoW... Or maybe WoW Classic." Do you have any thoughts on what newcomers should really give a taste?
PD: Well, what I'd suggest is actually try both.
PD: They're both in the one subscription, so it doesn't cost you anything to give both a shot. If Shadowlands is more your thing, then enjoy that. If classic WoW or Burning Crusade is more your thing, then you'll have a home there. The point is, there's a big vibrant community for each of those. You play what you want to play. And some of you might find that you'll end up playing both, because they're both fun, just in different ways.prevnext
Is there anything else you would like to add about WoW, Burning Crusade Classic, anything at all?0comments
HL: WoW's the best thing on the planet. [laughs] No, I'm a relative newbie. I started April last year, I think I mentioned. And honestly, it's been the honor of a lifetime just to be able to breathe in the community itself. Coming from the other side as a player and now being on the team, it is an absolutely wonderful group of people doing their very best every day to do their very best for players. It's very unique. It's awesome.
PD: I just want to say thank you to the community and to all the people out there that help guide us to making the decision to even make WoW Classic in the first place. Knowing how much everybody wanted it, really inspired us to do the right thing. And now we're going forward and making Burning Crusade, just like folks want on that too. So yeah, excited to fulfill some hopes and dreams from the players.prev