The Five Most Significant Changes In World Of Warcraft

Almost 10 years ago to the day, World of Warcraft was released in Australia. Today millions of people are still playing and I find that incredible. Why do people stick around? I'd argue it's about the evolution — the game has constantly grown with its audiences. But what were the biggest changes made? What were the most important? We asked Ion Hazzikostas, lead game designer on the game to name what he thought were the five most significant changes made to World of Warcraft during its 10 year tenure.

1. The Way Raiding Works

"This is nearest and dearest to my heart. In original World of Warcraft raiding required a 40 person group and a very large time commitment. One of the largest obstacles wasn’t that the content was difficult. In a lot of ways it was far simpler than even the simplest raid encounters we make today.

"There were all these barriers to entry but over the years we’ve made raiding increasingly accessible. We’ve preserved this hardcore high end challenge for those that want it, but you no longer have to block out those six hours every week or commit to joining a high end raiding guild just to see the end of the story. That wasn’t always the case."

2. There Are Far More Ways To Play The Game

"A lot of more successful changes have been things that have added entire new modes of gameplay, whether it was adding arenas in Burning Crusade, whether it was the achievement system in Wrath of the Lich King, which gave completionists a reason to play all this old content, whether it’s Garrisons in Warlords of Draenor – all of these things, by adding all these new ways to play and engage with the content, we’ve managed to keep things fresh for people."

3. Classes And Specs

"I think classes and specs are a big one. At the start we had I guess 10 classes. In many cases they only had a few viable ways to play the game. There was no such thing as a balanced druid. In a lot of ways if you went specific classes you could only play one way. Over the years I think we’ve broadened the viable choices and increased the level of balance between classes. There is more variety and depth there. It’s not like before: you’re a shaman, here are the four buttons you’ll be pressing for the next couple of years, hope you enjoy it! Now there are actually choices and options out there!"

4. The Player Base As A Whole

"There’s an increasing level of sophistication and information in the players and that challenges us to step up our game. It changes the way we work as a result. A lot of the flaws that weren’t quite right about the game early on were overlooked because they players didn’t really know how the game worked. It was just all new and crazy. Now there are incredibly sophisticated theory-crafters who are working out the optimal way to play. How you should be approaching things…

"That drives us to make the game interesting and challenging while not falling into the trap of making it all inscrutable for new players. A lot of what we’ve been doing with Draenor is trying to increase accessibility while preserving depth. Trying to streamline some of the complexity. We want to make some of the choices easier for new players but still allow high end players distinguish themselves."

5. PvP

"PvP is something that’s evolved tremendously over the years. There was barely any structure to it early on. It was just players informally agreeing to go fight somewhere! Because we weren’t offering anywhere to do it, there were no battlegrounds at all.

"When we released Arena in Burning Crusade that fundamentally transformed PvP and Arena dominated the PvP landscape for all the way into early Mists of Panderia. One of the problems with that arena focus is that it’s win or lose – there’s very little intermediate area. You can’t have small defeats!

"We’ve recently tried to patch up some parts of PvP that have languished over the years. We’re trying to open up more options in PvP, bringing back some of the open world PvP instead of just focusing on Arena. It’s kinda come back full circle in a way."

What would you say was the most significant change Blizzard made to World of Warcraft? Let us know in the comments below.


    I think that in this day and age, World of Warcraft still going strong is a testament on how great a game it is. Rarely have I ever felt transported to another world as when I was playing this game. I got addicted, but I got out. Still, I loved every bit of it.

    One of my favorite memories was when I was a maxed leveled drood and my friend who migrated to your land was playing as a level thirty something Death Knight, we went into that huge instance where there were huge golems, I never thought that the level was so huge! The scope of it was awe inspiring and there were only two of us trying to beat it.

    I hope that if they ever make a World of Warcraft 2, it'll be a success, but more importantly, it'll be better than the first one.

      I somehow doubt they'll ever do a WoW 2... I think what you'll find is they'll do an engine overhaul on the current game as part of a new expansion... It might be so big they might charge more than usual expansion price for it but I think if done well it will be well worth it.

      In a way, the game is WoW 2... The engine and gameplay is so far removed from what it was back at release.

        It might be so big they might charge more than usual expansion price for it but I think if done well it will be well worth it.

        I think they'd just eat it like they did with Cataclysms vanilla rebuild. That's if they actually do it. Personally I think they know to change things over time, bit by bit. Otherwise you end up with a Star Wars Galaxies situation where the playerbase outright rejects the upgrade. It's just such a broad change that it almost inherantly steps on the toes of every single player. Even when it's better you're removing the previous game. It's like taking everyone's copy of Link to the Past and replacing it with Ocarina of Time.

        I guess you're right, it is the World of Warcraft anyway. All they need to do is update the textures and add new contents and put all the new content there, and overhaul everything. Makes no sense to move to a new game then leave all the previous content behind just so they could increment a number.

      Death knights start at 55...

    I know people say this about WoW all the time but for me this is the first time the xpac has felt properly dumbed down.

    I went to level engineering last night and found that you don't have to level it up to learn new abilities, you just get them off the vendor and you can make them right away. Crafting my latest gizmo rather than taking a variety of items just takes 50 of the engineering resource.

      You conveniently leave out that you can only learn one recipe a day due to the currency CD. You also leave out that those 50 resources also require another daily CD crafted from a bunch of other materials, which for many are materials often outside your "normal" gathering skill. Crafting if anything got more depth added to it while making it actually possible to level up with new characters. You can take more advantage of having multiple characters with different professions than ever before. WoD if anything, has actually added a bit of depth back across all boards of the game since, Wrath.

        I get two of each ore and then give it to my engineer and then wait 4 hours to get each mat. I don't even need to smelt the ore anymore. Unless i'm missing something?

        Putting the skills behind a daily reset timer doesn't really have anything to do with making it more interesting.

        I mean most of the interesting items on this list just require Gearspring parts.;crs=6;crv=0

        Last edited 19/11/14 2:04 pm

          It's more interesting in that for once it's actually exciting to have professions, and not for some stupid combat buff forcing you to take 2 "real professions". Crafted actually stays relevant with appropriate upgrade kits. I'm forced to make decisions as to what garrison buildings to have because I want them all but at the same time can't, making it super enticing for me to actually give a damn about alts. Something I've never really cares for in the 8 years I was playing WoW before I stopped shortly after MoP.

          How is the current process of crafting any more dumb than previously? Mat variety stopped existing since Wrath.

            In MoP Blingtron 4000 took 6 different types of items to craft. In WoD Blingtron 5000 takes 100 Gearsprings.

      You mean you can just get all the previously trainer supplied Journeyman plans from the vendor once you reach the Journeyman skill level? Then use generic resources to skill up with? Does that extend to the top level stuff, or is it just to skip over the early parts?

      Actually, now I've had a little time to think about it that would be sort of smart. MMORPGs suffer from a big problem in that every expansion needs to introduce more for the player to do, and it has to be relevant to most play styles in order to be an attractive new feature, but by doing so they put more and more on the users plate and the demand for the users time goes up and up. It makes sense to start taking things off the users plate at some point.
      If Garrisons and Guild Perks demand a ton of time, why not take that away from the demands made by things like Professions? It would be a delicate operation because like you say, it feels dumbed down now, but does is anybody really playing because flying around farming herbs is super fun (aside from the odd kid or two whose parents tricked it into thinking farming mats for them was a super fun game)?

        No, you can actually level 1-700 using purely draenor crafts, you can even start gathering in draenor at 1. It makes leveling professions on new alts and characters actually possible and not soul crushing in getting old mate, especially tailoring.

        Last edited 19/11/14 3:06 pm

          Heh, 700. I guess that's what ten years of level creep does to a profession. =P

      I, for one, don't miss having to grind across four continents for the nodes to level a profession from zero to max. I'd much rather be playing a base building mini game and all the other interesting things on offer.

        I didn't think I mentioned going from zero to max? My main problem was all the items just cost gearsprings instead of making things like bolts and pipes.

    I think the answer is simple - they don't stick around. Even when they stay subscribed they come and go. Normally with a game, even a MMO where new content comes in on a regular basis, time chips away at the player-base. World of Warcraft however has not just a community but multiple communities and sense of history you won't normally encounter in a game.
    It means I could jump back into hardcore raiding tomorrow and it wouldn't matter that I don't know anybody. I could go to the websites I remember and find people who play like I do. Even if those specific places no longer exist I know that they've been replaced and I know how to find them. There's so much more to do than just play the game.
    The huge playerbase also keeps these sub-communities alive even during slumps. There's always enough hardcore raiders to maintain a competitive raiding scene. PvP seems dead sometimes but it's actually a fairly stable rise and fall. It doesn't die off near the end of a season and see only 5% of PvPers return for the start of the next season. Even when not as many people come back or there aren't many new faces it still feels like there's enough players around to hold a serious arena tournament. That ensures that if those players do eventually return there's still somethng there.
    There are better MMORPGs out there but they just don't have that ability to draw players back. Others manage to maintain large enough populations to keep the servers from being ghost towns but they don't maintain a large enough population/community to feel like the game is propetually in it's prime. The community will tell you it's peaked, it's almost universally agreed that the game has been falling apart since Burning Crusade, but it's still feels alive. The mechanics that hinge on the massive part of MMORPG still function like week year one. For any critisms I make of the game that's a pretty amazing accomplishment.

    I loved how they fixed a lot of the annoying mathematics with the game by limiting our variety which sounds bad but its actually a breath of fresh air since I really didn't like how my character had a ebb and flow every damn major content patch which caused me returning to the drawing boards.

    Enchants - Neck, Cloak, Ring and Weapon Enchants only.

    No reforging anymore.

    No hit/expertise/dodge/parry secondaries.

    No more colored sockets, one gem fits all.

    Professions offering no personal buffs.

    No item upgrade.

    Last edited 19/11/14 1:58 pm

      The removal of hit expertise alone means melee dps are competitive and fun from the start

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