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WoW ClassicMar 11, 2019 12:00 pm CT

WoW Classic updates its content release schedule, will phase content in more gradually

What is an MMO? Ultimately, it’s the content — the stories you get to experience, the places you get to go, the monsters and maniacs you get to defeat… or get defeated by if that’s how it shakes out. One of the strangest and in some ways best times of my life was that period between 2004 and 2006 when I and a group of people I’d met online made our way through Azeroth. We got stronger, faced new challenges, and explored exciting places like the Molten Core, the Lair of Onyxia, and the Blackwing Lair itself. In time, we got our chance to explore Zul’Gurub, Ahn’Qiraj, and even the dread Naxxramas.

These experiences were special for a lot of reasons. I proposed to and married my wife during that period. I met and made friends. And all the while, the game unfolded gradually around us. All of these experiences weren’t available the second WoW shipped — we had to work up to them, and they followed each other in a progression of content releases.

I mention this because capturing that feeling of progression will be one of the signature challenges of WoW Classic. During BlizzCon, we were told that they’d be staggering content into four phases, but now Kaivax tells us they’ve decided to go with six phases instead. The goal is not just to mirror the process of gearing up and getting stronger, but also to allow the community to experience what it felt like to experience the content progression as it happened on servers at the time.

Originally Posted by Kaivax (Official Post)

At BlizzCon 2018, we proposed a plan to give Classic four content phases. These were planned to be centered primarily on raid power progression.

Currently, based on both your feedback and our own deliberations, we’re now planning to increase it to six phases. Our focus is still primarily on player power-progression, but we’re also aiming to capture what it felt like to play in a realm community in original WoW. To do that, we’re planning to mirror the approach taken by original WoW, with patches paired together. We’ll launch Classic with content from original WoW through patch 1.2.x, then the second update will include content that was in original WoW 1.3 and 1.4, the third Classic update will have 1.5 and 1.6 content, and so on.

Our first phase primarily focuses on launching Classic with Onyxia and Molten Core, but we’ve decided to hold off on Dire Maul for a while. Maraudon is still in the first phase, because it was originally released on December 18, 2004, just two weeks after the first player hit level 60, but we recognize that Dire Maul is in a different category. Some of the loot that’s attainable from Dire Maul is so good that it would affect progression through those early raids. We’re also planning to hold off on releasing Kazzak and Azuregos at launch as well, for the same reasons.

The next change we’re targeting addresses two concerns. First, Zul’Gurub and Blackwing Lair unlocking at the same time would differ from how they originally came out, and it makes sense to not have gear and enchants from Zul’Gurub available during early progress into Blackwing Lair. Secondly, the Emerald Dragons should be available earlier than the opening of Ahn’Qiraj, as they give us a way to start preparing nature resist gear for some of the encounters in AQ.

Along the way, we’ve taken a close look at items that provide the biggest power gains, many of which were introduced in 1.10 as part of a sweeping dungeon itemization pass. That patch was when Tier 0.5 gear was introduced, and Relics were added to the drop tables of many bosses. It also adjusted drop rates and drop locations of a lot of gear (to make room for the Relics). We’ve gone back and reconstructed many of the most heavily affected drop tables as they existed prior to the 1.10 patch, and we’re planning to update the drop tables alongside the Ahn’Qiraj War Effort. Prior to the Ahn’Qiraj unlock, most of the drop rates and locations will look as they did in the patches prior to 1.10, with exceptions—there are lots of little changes made in earlier patches that don’t have a big effect on player power, and in those cases, we’re planning to use the 1.12 drop rates and locations.

One example of the many items we’re planning for is: Titanic Leggings, which is a world drop that first appeared in 1.10. We can confirm that it will be controlled by the same content unlock that restricts the other 1.10 loot changes.

Here’s what the release order currently looks like:

Phase 1 (Classic Launch)

  • Molten Core
  • Onyxia
  • Maraudon

Phase 2

  • Dire Maul
  • Azuregos
  • Kazzak

Phase 3

  • Blackwing Lair
  • Darkmoon Faire
  • Darkmoon deck drops begin

Phase 4

  • Zul’Gurub
  • Green Dragons

Phase 5

  • Ahn’Qiraj War Effort begins
  • Ahn’Qiraj raids open when the war effort dictates
  • Dungeon loot reconfiguration: Tier 0.5 Dungeon gear, Relics, drop rates and location changes

Phase 6

  • Naxxramas
  • Scourge Invasion

We haven’t yet determined exactly when phases 2-6 will occur, and PvP content is notably missing from the list above. That’s because we’re still evaluating our options regarding PvP rewards, as they also changed over time (both in power and in terms of which PvP reward items were available).

While we can’t elaborate on every detail of every step we’re going to take (yet), we’re here reading all of your questions and we’re going to keep the answers coming.

Thank you!

Now, while I might have some suggestions on how exactly to best achieve their aims, I do actually think they’re on the right track here. Dire Maul was a big deal and it did affect MC/BWL progression, as did Zul’Gurub — I remember desperately killing Hakkar each and every week trying for Zin’rokh before I finally got my Sulfuras. Back then the 20 player raids definitely changed the way raid progression worked and encouraged big raid guilds to run smaller groups trying to gear folks up.

I also definitely agree with having Tier 0.5 — the dungeon sets that upgraded your classic Dungeon Set 1 gear into raid quality —wait a while. Getting that stuff was often an upgrade even for well-progressed raid teams and when I had a Warrior alt with that set people often mistook him for my main just because he was so well geared. That’s right, even back in 2005/2006 I had multiple Warriors.

I would support breaking this up even more, like maybe actually recreating the old patch cycles — there were 12 major patches —and having even more distributed content releases. Regardless, I think this is a good step for WoW Classic. It gets the experience as close as is probably feasible to the way it actually felt back then. I especially like when they’re planning to release Azuregos and Kazzak — I look forward to enterprising Horde kiting Kazzak to Stormwind again, although I suspect it won’t work. But man, I’d laugh if it did.

WoW Classic will be available to anyone with an active WoW subscription starting this summer.

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