Speculation has been rampant since the announcement of World of Warcraft Classic, with players wondering what features will make it into the game. Classic servers are designed to match the “vanilla” experience of WoW, before any of its expansions, but that still represents a period of about two years full of content updates. Today, Blizzard announced that WoW Classic will be based on patch 1.12: Drums of War, the final major patch before the release of the game’s first expansion. The team also broke down how they were able to do it while keeping modern server stability and security intact.
…World of Warcraft is a very data-driven game, which means the basic code is flexible and the specific way it behaves is controlled by information contained in databases. Things like quests, monsters, items, and the rules for how these all interact are defined by the designers and artists in data.
So we asked ourselves, would it still be possible to deliver an authentic classic experience if we took our modern code, with all its back-end improvements and changes, and used it to process the Patch 1.12 game data? While that might seem counterintuitive, this would inherently include classic systems like skill ranks, old quests and terrain, talents, and so on, while later features like Transmog and Achievements would effectively not exist because they were entirely absent from the data. After weeks of R&D, experimentation, and prototyping, we were confident we could deliver the classic WoW content and gameplay without sacrificing the literally millions of hours put in to back-end development over the past 13 years.
The developer’s website goes into more technical detail on the challenges of getting Classic servers up and running, including changes over time to how information is stored in its databases.
That decision answers some questions about WoW Classic, but not all. For instance, we now know that the game will contain all of the vanilla era’s raids. It will also contain cross-realm Battlegrounds, racial trait bonuses, and world PvP in Silithus and the Eastern Plaguelands, all added in patches after the game’s initial launch. Patch 1.12 still restricted Shamans and Paladins to Horde and Alliance characters, respectively. It also comes well before popular quality of life improvements such as the Dungeon Finder. Blizzard has yet to take an official stance on whether Classic servers will incorporate quality of life improvements from later in the game’s lifecycle, so WoW fans still have plenty of time to engage in their second-favorite game — arguing about what features the servers should include.
There’s still no word on when players can begin their slow, gank-filled climb to level 60 on WoW Classic servers. The game’s next expansion, Battle for Azeroth, is set to be released on August 14.