WoW Classic Will Be A Frankenstein's Monster Of Modern Code And 12-Year Old Game Data

Image: Blizzard

The collective, vocalised nostalgia for World of Warcraft from "back in the day" was enough to get Blizzard working on a ancient, timeless version of the MMO, smartly named WoW Classic. In a new developer post, the company has revealed the new-old game will be based on patch 1.12, however, the client and server software will use up-to-date code.

Given the task of recreating WoW as it was 12 years ago, Blizzard had two options: grab everything from 1.12 and bring it up to scratch, applying fixes, security updates and the like, or work backwards from the game in its current state, and feed it data from 1.12.

As the post explains, Blizzard tried the former approach first and while it did get something running, it was going to take "a lot of work" to make it "live up to the Blizzard standard of quality":

Our initial runs exposed a few (expected) issues: the game sometimes crashed, didn't recognise our modern video cards, and was incompatible with our current login system.

That first pass also couldn’t support any of our modern security and anti-cheating capabilities. Clearly we had a lot of work to do to make WoW Classic live up to the Blizzard standard of quality, and deliver the experience players want.

So, it went ahead with option two. The problems dealing with an old codebase were addressed, but it meant Blizzard had to find a way for the 2018 software to properly process 2006 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.

While our initial effort helped us determine the experience we wanted to provide, this second prototype really defined how we’d get there. Starting from a modern architecture — with all its security and stability changes—means the team’s efforts can be focused on pursuing an authentic classic experience.

Any differences in behavior between our development builds and the patch 1.12 reference can be systematically cataloged and corrected, while still operating from a foundation that’s stable and secure.

And that's all we know for the moment. Blizzard has promised more of these "dev watercooler posts" and even though I abandoned WoW almost ten years ago, I'm keen for more.

Dev Watercooler: World of Warcraft Classic [World of Warcraft]


    Pretty interesting that so much of the code has changed over time that they can't just whack up the original game and call it a day. As a long-time on again off again player of WoW I have to admit I'm more curious and interested in trying classic WoW and seeing the reactions to it than I am for Battle for Azeroth.

      From what I read, they don't even have the original code. Hence a big part of the problem. They've been trying to piece it all back together again.

      Personally, I'd probably prefer they used 2.xx or even 3.xx as the codebase. So that we got a bunch of the quality of life improvements that came with The Burning Crusade. While I enjoyed vanilla, I think TBC (or even Wrath of the Lich King) was a much better experience for a lot of reasons. I'd like to keep skill trees, and spell ranks and whatnot, but I'd also like to have flying mounts and expanded skill trees and new spells that were introduced in TBC (or Wrath).

      I can however, understand purists or nostalgists wanting to stick with a vanilla experience.

      I do wonder what Blizzard will do if it's very successful though. If there's more demand will they release a TBC version, and a couple years later a Wrath version and so on - until we have seven different versions of WoW running concurrently?

        I jumped in right at the end of classic but didn't really start playing properly until TBC, so I probably don't know enough about how classic WoW works. I don't mind doing away with flying mounts though. I remember having to grind hours back in TBC just to afford the 300ish gold it took to get the mount and flying training because that much gold was hard to come by back then.

        Really I just want to see how it goes, I'm more interested in how the community treats it than playing it seriously myself. In-game communities are a different beast now than they were back in 2004-2006 so doing things like organising raids via trade chat should be interesting to watch, I feel like people don't have that kind of patience now.

          Flying was a terrific addition to the game when it comes to quality of life. I hate the first few months of the last couple xpacs where they arbitrarily decided no one can fly again. So going back to a version of classic where flying is completely unavailable kills it for me.

          I suspect the people who are willing to play WoW Classic won't be the same ones who think LFR is the greatest thing since sliced bread. So I actually suspect community might be stronger in WoW Classic. Especially if they do go back to 40 man raids. It's just too hard to pull a serious MC, BWL or Naxx run out of trade. So I suspect 40 man guilds will become a thing again.

          Like you say it'll be interesting to see how it plays out.

        Yeah. They didnt keep back ups of the original server code from those days. The way they build the game is chaotic with games built directly by code and asset injection on test servers.

        The thing to remember is that a lot of changes to WoW are things we dont see to keep it compatible, running effeciently and stopping people exploiting or breaking it... seriously its many 14 year old game it.

        Also the first comment when classic comes to a PTR would probably be "4k"...

    What a lot of people dont realize is thats its not as simple as just grabbing an old version of the game and putting it up.

    From what i read in the dev watercoolers they said there are lots of thing incompatible with modern systems. For example the vanilla client does not work with modern hardware. Leading to crashes and inconsisten peformance. The old client does not work with Blizzards modern customer services system. It also does not work with their modern login system.

    Pretty much all the private vanilla servers have huge bugs in their versions. While it is going to take a long time. Id prefer Blizzard do it once and do it right.

    Id rather wait 2-3 years for vanilla and get a good launch than get it sooner and have a terrible launch and client.

      Not sure why you got down voted, but you're absolutely correct. Legacy code that won't run properly on modern 64bit OS, security exploits, crashes, hacks, stability issues, and poor frame rate are all things that need to be fixed

        Just ask the GoG restoration teams what it takes to bring the old games back. DOSbox is great, but it's no magic bullet.

          To be fair Wow is newer than some of the games GoG has fished out of the depths of obscurity. But yeah, it's a whole big ball of different complications that all need to be resolved.

          That said, I figure if Nostalria (I think that's the right name) could bodgy together a working version then surely Blizzard can.

            Sounds like they tried, but couldn't get it to talk properly with their authentication servers or play nice with their anti-hax stuff, which is a big deal that the pirate crews didn't have to worry about.

              I kinda wish I'd had a play on the pirate servers just to see how well they did. So I had a decent point of reference against genuine Vanilla WoW and "WoW Classic" once it's launched.

                they had 97% complited data bases, you would find it hard pressed for find something not working like it did.

            Even Nost was not feature complete. It was one of the best but it was buggy as hell. People accepted the buggyness and the lack of stability because it was:

            A: Free
            B: Vanilla.

              1.12 was buggy back then on offical server there was alot of ingame exploits people used.

                Hence why blizzard is taking their time. They would not want those bugs in classic on launch.

    I've got to admit, I'm a little disappointed they decided to go with the 1.12 version of the game. I get that it's the 'most complete' version of Vanilla, but it's also the version that existed for the least amount of time.

    One of my hopes for WoW Classic was that they'd launch it in a form that the original game launched in, and then release each stage of new content that Vanilla had over time (probably a faster schedule than the real thing though, maybe one new raid tier a month).

    I especially was hoping that Classic would allow us to relive the AQ opening event, which is easily the best in-game event WoW has ever had. If the game is launching with AQ already open (and Naxx, for that matter, which means the remodeled EPL that existed for basically two patches-- something most Vanilla players wouldn't remember).

    I'd be okay with some changes though, like getting rid of the old spell-rank system and maybe the old honour system too (although, if I'm honest, I'm kind of looking forward to five-day AV matches again).

    One thing that would be cool to see, especially if they do launch a content-complete classic version, is to open up areas that existed in an unfinished state, and were rumoured to be coming in Vanilla but never did. Original Karazhan and Hyjal are obvious candidates for this. I'd especially love to see them clean up and open up The Upside-Down Sinners, probably the most well-known 'locked' area from Vanilla (because it was possible to access it by ghosting through the grill that locked it off).

    Bringing places like this to Classic would be a great way to answer the many, many 'what ifs' that Vanilla was left with when TBC launched.

      As much as it would be amazing for a staggered content release. If its taking this long just for 1.12, Imagine how long it will take for the other patches. Then the other issue comes up. When does the patch cycle end? What happens at the end? Does it reset?

      I think for now. 1.12 is the best we are going to get.

      The biggest issue with 1.12 is that we're a little overtuned for content at that stage. I actually prefer it back when Strath / Scholo were nasty.

        I used to love Scolo too! Playing as a holy priest, shackling, healing and rezzing.

        Reading the comments above about what might come back into the vanilla game (what, there are no skill trees now?!) makes me realise how long it’s been since I played. I don’t think I ever played much beyond vanilla.

          I do miss crown control in dungeons and raids. There is a little bit in Mythic Dungeons but that's about it. I can think of only two fights in Antorus that want CC - the adds in Coven and Agramar. I don't really want to go back to the Tempest Keep version where you needed to try to CC 3/4 of a pack of trash before you pulled. But I think it was a cool mechanic to be able to take at least a couple mobs out of a fight while you dealt with others.

        1.12 is after they added limits to dungeon group sizes too, so you couldn't "raid" strath/scholo with 10 people, or do 15-man UBRS runs.

        On the bright side, I'll be able to do my favourite hobby of sitting on the Ironforge bridge advertising my lockpicking, so can't wait for that.

      They can still pick 1.12 as the base and then stagger the release of the raids. Just because the raids are in the game it doesn't mean they have to have them all open from day 1.

      I'd be happy with them keeping spell ranks. Managing mana by using different ranks of the same spell was an art, at least for healers. I remember cast times and mana costs increasing drastically for Healing touch at the highest level. So I had a "mid strength" healing touch that I could use almost like a paladin's flash heal, and the mana cost was so low it was spammable.

      I'm not sure when they say they're basing it on 1.12 whether that refers to content or *just* the engines/mechanisms. They could conceivably be releasing content on a timed basis as you'd like - just with the one completely patched engine behind it. Or they could be releasing a ton of content all at once. Potentially even stuff like TBC that was in an even later version of the engine.

      I'm wondering whether UBRS will be 5 man or raid?

      In an ideal world I wish they provided instancing like they have with the Blasted Lands. That way you could choose to play a pre-cata version of the zone.

      If I was Blizzard, I'd be trying to gear up to split each expansion pack \ patch cycle into 12 content drops released monthly. At the end of the cycle, the new expansion pack drops.

      At this point, three options are given occur.

      1\ Move your character onto the next expansion (maybe with an option of leaving a copy of your character on the current expansion).
      2\ Stay at the current expansion.
      3\ You can start again at the start of that expansion pack.

      It'd be fairly economical too, at the end of a 'season', people would be rolled together onto that expansion packs 'realm', which is frozen at that expansion packs last patch, and the current one would reset back to the start of that expansion packs release.

    So many rose coloured glasses from fans asking for this. Most specs were terrible and if you could heal you almost (unless very lucky) healed in raids. Good fun getting 40 people together for a raid too. Even in TBC most of the gearing was atrocious (T5 ele shaman gear with stacks of hit when you had 12% from talents and set bonuses improved a heal...)

      What people miss in Vanilla is less the gameplay and more the community. When they release classic it wont be anything like playing Vanilla for the first time, We know way to much now. but its still a good thing to do none the less. Wow could easily go past 10 million subs again once classic launches.

      I never played vanilla, But i am definitely looking forward to experiencing it.

        It goes past 10mil every time they release an xpack, so yeah it'll do that for wow classic too.

        I think it's a mix of both. Guilds were a tighter thing because they had to be. Needing forty people meant you had roughly half the number of guilds even with the same number of people playing. And when 10 man raiding became a viable thing it caused even more carnage guild wise because people found it a hell of a lot easier to scrape together 10 or 11 people instead of 25 or 45.

        But I think there were some good things about the gameplay to. The pacing was slower, but it didn't really skip zones like it does now. And it felt more like a big epic story (though that may come from the fact we hadn't had 5 expacs worth of kill & collect quests by then).

        I also much prefer the way skill trees worked where you could choose what worked for you. I'd much prefer a kind of hybrid approach to skill trees in the modern game. Make a flat main spec tree that you just get. Then have the other trees available to pick and choose from. Think of a prot paladin: eliminates the idiots who try to tank without any tanking talents, but allows a tank to say pick some extra healing talents from the holy tree or to maximize their DPS while tanking by picking some extra ret stuff.

        Or a druid being able to main feral and pick some bear talents to make them less squishy, or pick some balance talents if a fight has a phase that favours ranged (or vice versa).

      It's not just rose colored glasses though, this has been proven by the popularity of all the private classic servers

        It definitely will be rose coloured glasses for many. No doubt.

        I have played private classic and wow was not really in many ways better (if any). The quests were pretty terrible and the levelling was incredibly slow - and that's really all you need to know - because to pass into endgame, you're going to have to back to a time when you could put huge hours into a game that almost certainly, you no longer have the capacity to do.. because.. life.

        Those days for me (and I'm sure many) were a perfect storm of never really playing an mmo, huge open world in a scale I'd never experience before, massive scale, starting a server and having fast levelled villains causing trouble (if you were alliance on Blackrock in those first days you knew the names Sforce and Iced (the latter who glitched up onto the roof a building in darkshire, ganking all and sundry).

        It will have its moments - wow servers when they start are just great, period - but I think it'll likely degrade quite quickly. I'll give it a shot, though.

          That's your opinion though, big private servers have had solid player bases that have come back donated money donated time and support. There's a market for it and there is a market who prefer the older style game play.

            Given that my opinion is based on it being rose tinted glasses for many (not all) I'm not disagreeing with what you're saying. As stated - I have been on those servers and I definitely can confirm they do have thousands of people on. Those people have stood the test of time. I don't see that happening for a huge percentage though. We all have fond memories of the past but the funny thing about the past is, it wasn't quite as amazing when we were in it, was it?

            There will be a problem when this comes out. Every man, woman and dog will be playing. Not after a month of playing will there be anything like the amount. That leaves server populations in a bit of a odd situation.

        Yeah, the fact that they were cheap/free is totally an irrelevant coincidence. :)

          Some of them weren't, some of them raised large amounts through donations, i'd wager most playing (everyone in my guilds) paid for the retail on the side as well. It has a player base, some people might want it back with rose tinted glasses but there is a substantial base who will pay for the old one that they used to play and know well to be back. Hence why Blizzard have finally caved and are doing this.

    This might just sucka-punch me back into WoW. I missed the vanilla days by a year or two,... but if the player base is "old school" then I'd be very tempted :)

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