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."
"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.