Nostalgia is a powerful marketing tool to tap on, but the flip side is that sometimes, audiences can remember something fondly without the filters that allow us to reexamine things in their proper context. It’s why we adore the video games that defined our childhood, but not ever remembering the subpar graphics, inferior voice acting or gameplay that might not have aged well.
But don’t tell that to Patrick Dawson, Production Director for World of Warcraft (WoW) and the point person who oversees the production of content updates and many other aspects of Blizzard’s WoW titles such as Shadowlands and the upcoming expansion.
He’s also the one responsible for World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade Classic, the upcoming recreation of the first expansion for WoW that hit the shelves 14 years ago, in 2007.
And in his mind, the upcoming release will stay true to what fans, including himself, remembers about the expansion from 2007, when he was still a young developer at Blizzard.
“Our goal was to deliver the Burning Crusade experience that people remembered and the only changes we have made are ones that fixed things that were drastically imbalanced or severe bugs that existed back in 2007”, Dawson explained.
“More than anything, I wanted to play the game as a player, the thrill of working on it was tremendous but just knowing what was beyond the Dark Portal as the developer, I just wanted to get in there and play it, even after 14 years, that still exists today for me.”
But as much as loved the original, he acknowledges that his team took the opportunity to change one thing – travel through the Dark Portal, or rather, the journey that was originally intended, in an opportunity to set things right.
Despite the original expansion’s success, fans will always recall the notorious moments when hordes of players were stuck outside the Dark Portal due to server capacity problems. And while Dawson and the team intend to preserve the game’s authenticity to the core, he made an exception to fix this.
“We developed for the Classic era a technology called layering, which allows us to get more players on a server so that way, fewer people have to wait and queue to play.”
The team took a lot of care and attention to tackle the 2007 issues, by launching tests on their public test grounds to make sure they were able to provide a reasonable experience for players to go through the Dark Portal together.
With better systems that are more reliable and scalable, they can now offer a crisp and smoother Burning Crusade experience for players. Adding on, Dawson reassures us that they have an operation team on standby 24/7 if anything happens.
Not that they expect anything negative to. Two years ago, Blizzard found great success when it released WoW Classic, a recreation of the vanilla version of WoW that the community and its long-time players grew up with, and have long requested for.
That game’s success in 2019 included winning PC Game of the Year at the Golden Joystick Awards, and was also nominated for Game, Classic Revival at the NAVGTR Awards.
In fact, the pressure is on not just to match the success of the 2019 release, but also the one of the original 2007 expansion.
Burning Crusade was the first expansion set for World of Warcraft, when both communities of the Alliance and Horde gathered themselves to stop the invasion of the fel demons at its source.
It was at the Dark Portal, once a gateway to legends and fables of Draenor, and now a doorway to an invading army from the corrupted world Outland, that allowed players to face the Burning Legion and the wrath of Illidan Stormrage for the first time in Warcraft history.
As the defining expansion, WoW Burning Crusade set the tone for millions of players, thanks to its enthralling plots and the myriad of new features introduced to the MMORPG, including flying mounts, arena systems, unexplored areas and two completely new playable races (Blood Elves & Draenei). It was a crucial release for everyone because it was the first time Blizzard gave players a taste of what they had to offer into the future of WoW.
The Burning Crusade Classic is essentially a relaunch and a revisit, allowing fans to replay the old expansion (Burning Crusade) which continues the narrative of the current WoW Classic, and lets players further explore the new features of the expansion as originally intended.
The critically acclaimed 2007 expansion had set a high bar for the developers as it was one of the fastest-selling PC titles of all time and the best-selling one in North America and Europe when it was released.
The tremendous number of new features, dungeons and iconic villains in Burning Crusade had shaped up some of the most memorable fights and moments in the entire history of WoW. As if defeating Illidan the Betrayer once wasn’t enough, players get to put him down one more time.
“Bringing them back to life and recreating this world where you could go back and do it in the same setting it was meant to be was a labour of love from the team, and we wanted to make sure we got every detail as close to perfect as we could so players could have the amazing experience they did in 2017 but in a modern system and engine,” noted Dawson.
Since participating in the Burning Crusade Classic will mean your character has to leave WoW Classic behind, Blizzard created the cloning service that allowed players to clone their characters so they can enjoy both servers.
However, the cloning fee had faced a massive backlash due to its premium cost, and it didn’t take Blizzard long before they announced that it was reducing the US$35 fee to just US$15.
The difficulty curve of the expansion will also remain the same way it was back then, compared to the nerf-ed version of World of Warcraft Classic which players felt was unnecessary. Otherwise, how can players face the fel demons of the Burning Legion and feel like it was a pleasure?
Ever since the relaunch of WoW Classic, subscriber rates for WoW have reportedly been increasing, so it’s not a surprise Blizzard had put in more work to make sure players get what they want in the Classic servers.
The right thing for them, said Dawson, was to listen to what the community is interested in and feedback on how they wanna play and what they wanna engage in so they might be able to come up with cool things to keep it fresh and interesting.
Which is a good sign that fans can perhaps expect the wrath of one fallen king to arrive in the near future, and returning to WoW Classic right now might be the most opportune moment.
Included in the normal subscription, WoW Classic is, as Dawson defined it to be, “an iconic museum piece” that has no barriers for players who want to seek that nostalgic fervour.
Players who weren’t playing WoW Classic have the option to purchase the Dark Portal Pass, which grants a level-58 character boost and equipment to gear you up straight for the Burning Crusade experience at US$39.99 when it launches. An additional Deluxe Edition that includes 30 days of game time, event mounts and toys is also available for US$69.90.
With the Burning Legion right at Azeroth’s doorstep and the reopening of the Dark Portal on us, will you return to Outland and face the demons that reside in it?
World of Warcraft Burning Crusade Classic will launch on 1 June 2021.