Blizzard Is Adding World Of Warcraft References To Warcraft III: Reforged

At first glance, remastering 2002’s Warcraft III seems like a fairly straightforward task. Take the ugly bits and make them pretty. Overhaul the cutscenes. Give all the muddy terrain and building textures a 2018 makeover. Redo Arthas’ weird face. For Blizzard’s classics team, though, that’s just the beginning.

Warcraft III, after all, opened the door to World of Warcraft. Back in 2002, Blizzard had no idea what kind of behemoth its then-unreleased MMO would become. The 2002 RTS set countless World of Warcraft stories into motion, from Arthas’ defection to the dark side, to Thrall’s increasingly convoluted hero’s journey, to Illidan’s eventual coronation as king of the edgelords.

As a result, Blizzard’s classics team doesn’t just want to give Warcraft III a visual overhaul. They want to bring a classic in line with what came after.

This starts with locations. During an interview at BlizzCon, executive producer Chris Sigaty and QA lead Nicholas Louie showed me the map of beloved level “The Culling”, where then-hero Arthas’ kicked off a heel turn that would eventually see him transform into a World of Warcraft mega-villain. Just like back in 2002, the level tasks the player — as Arthas — with purging a human city full of undead-plague-stricken citizens.

However, that city, Stratholme, went on to serve as the backdrop for two dungeons in World of Warcraft, so its layout in Reforged has been altered to mirror its later WoW incarnations.

“Even down to Crusaders’ Square, over here,” Louie told Kotaku, pointing to an iconic location where WoW players have since discovered the Scarlet Bastion and fought a boss named Timmy The Cruel. “There are other tidbits, too, that are also WoW callbacks. Or I guess call-forwards.”

Sure enough, just playing the BlizzCon demo, people noticed appearances by bosses from the World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King “Culling of Stratholme” dungeon, in which players travel back in time and help Arthas do his dirty deed. The development team is still figuring out exactly which locations will get WoW-ified, but Stratholme definitely won’t be the only one.

Warcraft III also introduced characters who’d eventually become movers and shakers in Warcraft lore after players, er, killed everybody else, but at the time, those heroes and villains’ personalities and motivations were only given thin outlines. That, too, is going to change in Reforged.

“We’re also looking to flesh out characters that... we were unaware they were gonna blow up,” said Louie. “Characters like Sylvanas [Windrunner] and Jaina [Proudmoore]. In the events of Warcraft III, they’re not these huge, pivotal characters. It’s important to us that we bring them into parity with their presence in WoW in terms of importance. Their characterization time, their big character moments.”

Again, the team is still ironing out specifics of how exactly they’ll do this, but Louie said dialogue and cutscene alterations are definitely on the table.

Of course, the potential problem with all this is that those characters and locations weren’t important by design. Warcraft III wasn’t just a vehicle to ferry players into World of Warcraft, and peppering it with winks, easter eggs, and outright rewrites — especially involving material that wasn’t conceived until years later — could turn it into something it was never meant to be.

Blizzard’s classics team, though, includes multiple members of the original Warcraft III development team, and Louie said they’re doing their best to avoid knocking this holy grail off the pedestal players erected for it in their memories.

“We always want to honour the original source material,” he said. “It’s of critical importance. So the big things we’re looking for are important story beats. Does it take place in an important location in WoW? Is this a location or an event that players who played through WoW are gonna recognise? Does it feature characters who are crucial to the storyline?”

Make no mistake, though: The bulk of Reforged’s DNA is still Warcraft III. Sigaty described the classics team as “lucky” to have access to all of Warcraft III’s original code and assets, as Warcraft III marked the first time that Blizzard really made a concerted effort to preserve a game while creating it. That wasn’t always the case.

“We’ve done some things with Warcraft II and the original StarCraft in the past. There were moments when we couldn’t find the machine [with the information on it]. We’ve modernised now,” Sigaty said, describing the company’s current not-quite-ubiquitous (but getting there) automated system in which source code, builds, and assets are all saved and immediately preserved.

“Blizzard is a lot better about this stuff now, but in the early days, nobody imagined we’d be talking about something 20 years later — or in this case, 16 years later.”

So Blizzard is looking forward while glancing back, but where is all of this headed? Longtime Warcraft fans, of course, are hoping for the same thing they always do: A new real-time strategy game, Warcraft IV. And while Blizzard says it doesn’t have anything currently in the works, Sigaty gave me the most encouraging answer I’ve heard in all my years of attending BlizzCon and asking this same question literally every time.

Warcraft III: Reforged gives us the opportunity to see if the appetite is out there,” he said when I asked him about a potential Warcraft IV. “And personally, I love the idea of us revisiting the world in RTS form at some future date. But there are no specific plans.”


Comments

    I always considered WoW separate from Warcraft.

      You do know what the last W in WoW stands for right?

        Yeah, but WoWs story is a shit show and some of us lost interest after TFT.

          I disagree. Both Wrath and Legion had some amazing story.

          If you get past the mmorpg parts, there have been some truly great moments in Wow's following story. It is a shame a lot of the main story events are just now canon with - AND THEN A BRAVE BUNCH OF HEROES FROM THE HORDE BANDED TOGETHER (or alliance depending on which side got the world first) TO BEAT .

    Arthas has a really small head. His hand (judging by him holding the hammer) would cover his entire face which is out of proportion.

      He IS wearing a gauntlet and seriously bulky armour, but it's also part of his design. As long as all the other characters follow the same design choices then it will be fine.

      The last two street fighter games do the same thing. Their feet and hands are huge!

        Yeah, that's the stylised design that Warcraft uses. Human men IRL aren't as ridiculously barrel-chested as the human men in WoW are either :P

          You see the thickness of the armour they wear? They HAVE to be that thick.

          THICC

    This could be so good though! Like, as long as they do get the big things right - layout, map alterations, just a tiny bit more backstory - without changing or harming the narrative, I say go for it. This can only be good. We do not seriously want to play the exact same game, anyway, it was far from perfect. Classics could add minor gameplay enhancements, like tiny random events, and we would welcome it when it comes time to actually play the game. As long as what they contribute are enhancements they literally cannot go wrong. (And lets be honest, its frustrating as hell that the maps in particular don't match up with WoW).

      Totally. This is why I was a little disappointed in StarCraft remastered. It IS great but they stayed so true to the original, I wish they could've at least added more animation frames to make the unit movement look more appealing.

      A remastering AND a re-imagining is a good idea.

    Sounds good so long as they don't mess too much with what made the game (and story) great.

    I haven't heard if this is supposed to include The Frozen Throne story or not but if it does, I'd hope one thing they change is the Orc story from that; for anyone who doesn't remember it, it was basically WoW-lite, you played as Rexxar and completed quests for Thrall to help build Orgrimmar. It was an interesting test at the time (and very likely lead to WoW) but I'd love to see that storyline re-done like the rest of WC3.

      It does include TFT. It's the complete package, basically same as what they did with the SC remaster.

      I liked the end mission though, but then again I'm a huge fan of AI battles (like Crap Patrol in SC2)

        I actually liked it too but I was always a little sad that Thrall and the gang didn't get as much of a fleshed out story in TFT as the other factions.

          oh for sure, they kind of just did it because the Orcs didn't get screen time haha

          dont forget it also didn't come out all at once but I doubt that will happen with the reforge

    Sounds cool. But it hope it's not too crammed with *wink wink, nudge nudge*' look at what we are referencing' the whole way through.

      Things like having a hidden Chromie in the culling map?

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