The WoW Classic team is expanding so they can experiment more: 'We are slowly crafting things that are effectively Classic Plus'

 World of Warcraft art.
World of Warcraft art.

The World of Warcraft: Classic team is expanding, developers told us at BlizzCon last weekend, and although the team didn't announce the much-requested "WoW Classic Plus"—an idea for expanding WoW Classic with new material rather than just advancing it through historical WoW updates—it will be producing more brand-new stuff for the throwback version of WoW.

"We are slowly crafting things that are effectively Classic Plus in seasons," assistant lead Classic designer Tim Jones told us in an interview, which also included game producer Linny Cooke-Saverline. That means more new content, tweaks and gameplay changes in Warcraft’s Classic version, the game that was originally an identical reproduction of WoW’s early state.

Seasonal changes include the revamped 10-man raid version of the Blackfathom Deeps dungeon and the wild new cross-specialization class abilities (healing mages! tanking warlocks!) in the Season of Discovery launching November 30. But Jones and Cooke-Saverline said those periods of dramatic experimentation could actually lead to long-term changes in the game.

"Something that makes this a little bit more comfortable going into it, is it’s a season, so we can do some crazy stuff and have some fun with it," Cooke-Saverline said, "without it being part of the main progression of WoW. So that gives us a little bit of freedom."

But it doesn’t stop there, Jones said.

"We really use that as a learning opportunity," he said, "because in the season, we can be experimental, we can try things within reason, and ideally we gain a lesson from that: What can we do in future seasons? Are there features or aspects of this season that people love so much that it could be in a permanent home, something that isn't seasonal?"

Part of that expansion in content is being supported by an expansion of the team working on the game, which seems long overdue given its huge subscriber numbers (reputed, at one point, to overshadow the modern game’s popularity).

"We have big dreams, we're growing our team," Jones said. "We want to do more. We need more people. So we're in the process of finding amazing talent to help just bolster our forces so that we can fill the shoes that we want to wear one day."

Part of those additions is a change in philosophy. When Classic was created, it was a reproduction of the existing game, so pretty much everyone on the small team were generalists, he said. Now they’re looking to hire specialists, particularly as they move into creating new gameplay and content.

"I'll bounce in between fixing raid bosses, setting up the scheduler for an entire expansion, working on items," Jones said. "We're all over the place and it's great. We have really great jack-of-all-trades people.

"What I'm hoping to do is find people that are specialized in making dungeon encounters. We want to do a lot with dungeons and raids, especially in the seasons—having people that are dedicated rewards designers. So really building that internal structure that allows us to reliably deliver the quality of content that we really want to."

For players that were debating between the new Cataclysm expansion (announced to be coming next year) and Classic Plus on their BlizzCon bingo cards, these developments affected the calculus of that choice, Jones agreed, because the game effectively was already doing Plus. So it made sense to move ahead with Cataclysm "100%."

Given the popularity of Classic, and the wildly positive response to the Season of Discovery announcements, a bigger investment in the Classic team makes perfect sense—and the new expansion bodes well for players. Instead of choosing between the expansion and more new content, they’re effectively getting both.