For those who want a more vanilla World of Warcraft experience, Blizzard is releasing World of Warcraft Classic this summer. The retro server will take players back to game patch 1.12 from 2006, though in-game content will start from the beginning of the game and release at a similar pace as the original release. So, players can grow alongside WoW all over again.
In the past few weeks, Blizzard has been detailing the different aspects of World of Warcraft Classic on the MMO's forum, so fans can know exactly what to expect when the server launches later this year. The latest forum post takes a look at the itemization system for the game.
While you might think that items wouldn't be a major sticking point for an MMO retro server, for WoW Classic, things get a bit complicated.
According to Blizzard:
It's been a lot of fun over the last couple of months to dive into the development of WoW Classic with the team, while trying to answer some of the many questions that have been posed here and elsewhere. Looking at the plans for a phased content release, unlocking dungeons and raids, and unlocking other systems, it's clear that the aim is to create a progression experience that resembles the original arc from when WoW first launched. In thinking about what belongs in each of those phases, the team's focus has always been on rewards.
Developers have scoured through vendor lists and treasure tables for items that were added in patches, and then attached them to the staged content unlock plan. This means that if a new item was originally added to a dungeon boss's loot table with Ahn'Qiraj, you shouldn't expect it to appear in WoW Classic until Phase 5, which is the phase that contains Ahn'Qiraj content.
Along the way, we've seen many questions asking if we're also retracing the steps of incremental changes to individual items and their stats that may have occurred throughout original WoW. Such a plan could be called "progressive itemization."
Here's an example of progressive itemization. The Tier 2 warrior Helm of Wrath originally had Spirit and Agility on it, as well as critical strike chance. In Patch 1.5.0, the helm's stat budget was changed to Stamina, Strength, and Defense, along with elemental resistances. Then in Patch 1.7.0, the amount of Defense on the helm was reduced. In Patch 1.8.0, the 5-piece set bonus that included the helm was fixed to work with Whirlwind, and in 1.9.0, it got a better look with an art update.
WoW Classic will only include that last version of the item, as it existed in our reference version: 1.12.
Of course, this raises the question "why?". Why differentiate between adding new items along the way and making modifications to existing items?
When new items are added to loot tables, you're generally seeing a deliberate effort to provide catch-up gear and/or to provide new goals for players who had exhausted an existing reward structure. For example, in original WoW, items were added to give players a way to quickly prepare for Ahn'Qiraj without having to spend months in Molten Core and Blackwing Lair.
The changing of existing items in patches often illustrated the original design team responding to how players played the game. Their primary goal at the time was to make rewards more relevant and exciting. Developers realizing that Spirit probably wasn't an ideal stat for a warrior raid set helm* was an example of this sort of change.
While some fans might be upset that the items won't slowly evolve over time to reflect the various original patch updates, we do have to agree to Blizzard's point that item changes between patches are all about finding balance. So you won't be dealing with the same item-based balance and content problems you had back in 2006. Which is, really, the best of both worlds. You get the retro leveling experience while also avoiding some of the pitfalls of early WoW.
World of Warcraft Classic will launch on PC in Summer 2019.