After a lot of rumors and wondering, World of Warcraft Classic is officially branching out to include its first expansion, The Burning Crusade. Like vanilla Classic, Burning Crusade Classic will exist on a set of servers that emulate what it was like to play World of Warcraft in 2007—except this time Blizzard is making some changes it hopes will enhance the experience while still preserving all that gooey nostalgia.
Prior to Burning Crusade Classic's announcement today, I had the chance to sit down with production director Patrick Dawson and lead producer Holly Longdale to talk about the project and how it'll expand upon the surprising success of WoW Classic. In addition to learning about some new features, like the ability to buy a one-time level boost so you can jump straight into the new expansion without first grinding to level 60, we talked a lot about the changes that Blizzard is making to the Burning Crusade in order to adapt the experience to a modern audience.
"The idea that we wanted to do with Burning Crusade Classic, which was a little different than WoW Classic, is, 'How do we serve the needs of today's community while still making sure that we stay true to those nostalgic values of what Burning Crusade has always been for everyone?'" Dawson said. "It's a much more savvy raiding environment, people know a lot more, they theorycraft everything. Some of these big social media platforms didn't exist back then. And now they do. And so everybody is able to get these resources on how best to play the game. We wanted to try to consider some possible changes to Burning Crusade."
Before you get too worried, Dawson said these changes are mostly going to be small things that a lot of players might not immediately notice. One of them, however, is likely to please Classic's hardcore raiders. See, when a new raid was added in WoW, it was pretty common that the fight was simply too challenging and, after a few weeks of unsuccessful attempts, Blizzard would nerf the bosses so more people could enjoy the feeling of pummeling them to death. Burning Crusade's raids were particularly infamous for being just way too hard.
When WoW Classic came out, Blizzard opted to use the nerfed versions of its raids. But because WoW players are much more competent today than they were in 2004, they were able to easily crush the bosses that were hair-pulling nightmares a decade earlier. So Blizzard is turning up the difficulty. "Originally the raids in Burning Crusade were really difficult, and we're going to bring that back for [Burning Crusade Classic], but with some modifications," explained Longdale. Neither Longdale or Dawson elaborated on what those modifications might be, but they did hint at the possibility of tinkering with the fights to make them not as frustrating. "Pat can tell you, as a mage, that he was not a fan of Meru as a raid encounter as a caster because there was a pushback—he talks about that passionately and often—so there's changes like that," Longdale said.
It'll hopefully put WoW Classic's raiders to the test, but if it ends up being too hard like it was when Burning Crusade first released, Dawson said Blizzard would "ratchet that down if we feel it's necessary, like we did in actual Burning Crusade, rather than give you that final version which might feel like less of a challenge for the more savvy raiders out there."
Tougher raids are nice, but there's other changes that'll affect a variety of players in different ways. For one, spell batching—a technical term that describes how the servers process abilities triggered by players—is changing from WoW Classic so that combat is more responsive as it is in modern WoW. Another change has to do exclusively with paladins, who used to be an Alliance-exclusive class before Burning Crusade. In the original Burning Crusade, Horde paladins and Alliance paladins each had access to a unique spell but, in hindsight, the Alliance version of that spell was pretty weak. So, instead, Burning Crusade Classic will let paladins have both spells regardless of faction.
Longdale says the team is also making bigger changes to arena matches to make the competitive PVP more accessible and exciting. "Matchmaking is going to be much more improved and how teams are structured will be improved to make it a more fun and robust experience for players, but it will feel very true to the original experience," Longdale said. "We always want to make sure we're preserving the nostalgia, but lowering some of the barriers to play so it's more fun."
While it'll be interesting to see what else Blizzard plans to change, everything Longdale and Dawson talked about feel like natural alterations that won't necessarily ruin the authenticity of WoW Classic.
If you're keen for more WoW: Burning Crusade Classic news, Blizzard has confirmed it will sell a one-time character boost so everyone can jump in right away, and I tried very hard to get Dawson and Longdale to talk about Wrath of the Lich King Classic. They didn't oblige.