WoW Classic made the 'radical change' to stop testing new content with players to bring back a sense of 'mystery and discovery'

Phase 3 launches for Warcraft Classic Season of Discovery today, and players will once again explore a WoW Classic update with no advance community testing. Not having a Public Test Realm (PTR) for Classic means some things will be broken, developers said in a PC Gamer interview—and that's okay.

Not just okay, Blizzard argued, but good, even.

"I think our whole team has been extremely pleased with not having PTRs," said Clayton Stone, associate production director. "That was a radical change. Keeping that level of mystery and of discovery for Season of Discovery, with each phase that we roll out, has really created a moment every time for the whole player base to come together and experience something fresh together at the same time."

Oddly, that means that players in the Classic version of World of Warcraft are sometimes seeing things with less notice or foreknowledge than players of the modern version. That can lead to some hiccups along the way.

"I recognize, and I think our players do, there's definitely an experimental nature that's inherent to the whole Season," Stone said. "Players are also a little bit open to us experimenting, or things not working out exactly as we intended."

The team plans for some live update time to go to fixing issues as they occur.

"We're able to hop right on and bring fixes and continue developing," Stone said. It's impossible for the team to predict everything that might go wrong, even with advance testing in-house. Some things break when creative players get their hands on them. Sometimes problems only arise when a bunch of players descend on an area at once, as they did for the Stranglethorn Vale Blood Moon PvP event, which debuted in Season of Discovery Phase 2.

"Occasionally our ambition outstretches our technical capabilities or the way WoW was originally crafted, particularly Classic WoW," Stone said. "Even though we're trying to run it on modern code, things like challenges with layers continue to pop up around some of our PvP events."

So when bugs pop up, the team attempts to fix them, and then iterates on those fixes.

"I feel very fortunate that we are still able to roll these out, and then the team has been so fast to respond to problems," Stone said. "We've made really quick adjustments to improve the player experience or improve some of those technical challenges, which really, unfortunately, only start appearing after we release it to all the players across the world."

That effort is worth it to give that true sense of discovery, developers said. It's one of the things that added charm to the original Warcraft, so it feels very at home in Classic. "It's almost like a win-win situation," said Nora Valletta, lead software engineer. "Our players are loving it, and we're learning a lot from the situation."

Stone agreed. "It's that sense of discovery in the world," he said. "It has been a solved game for so long, and we're saying that there are these really powerful secrets out there to go find. We're not going to tell them where they are, and while some players are looking towards things like datamining to try and figure it out, they're still hidden out there."

In addition to the sentiment they see from players on forums or on social media, they're also seeing different behavior in game, as people group up to puzzle out what's been added.

"We just loved seeing the ways that players have banded together sometimes in game, trying to search for all the rooms or secrets that are particular to an individual class, to uncover them all," Stone said.

One popular example was the sleeping bag, an item that gives an experience buff for anyone in the vicinity that sleeps in it. Not only is it a popular buff among players, but it's frequently hilarious as members of a group or raid pile on. The bag wasn't announced, but an image on social media teased its existence. "We do occasionally tease some of those secrets," Valletta said. "Players figured it out on their own, relatively quickly."

Some secrets make it longer into the season before they're discovered—but not many, Stone said. Even then, the team sees it as a reason to continue Warcraft Season of Discovery's PTR-less existence. "We are always really happy when players discover them, even if it's a bit further into the season–which usually isn't the case, because our players are smart," Stone said.