World of Warcraft Classic: The Burning Crusade Interview

VentureBeat continues their post-BlizzCon interviews with this one featuring World of Warcraft’s executive producer John Hight and lead engineer Brian Birmingham. The lengthy interview focuses on the recently announced The Burning Crusade expansion for World of Warcraft Classic and touches on Classic’s overwhelming success, TBC’s unique character-boosting service, the team’s future plans, and more.

Here’s a couple of sample questions:

GamesBeat: Were there any lessons you learned from launching Classic that you believe are going to serve you well in the release of Burning Crusade?

Hight: As I said earlier, we didn’t necessarily realize how popular it was going to be. What we’ve had to develop and learn along the way. We support Classic as we do modern WoW and the expansions in modern WoW. Brian has a dedicated team, but we also share a lot of resources from the WoW team proper. All of our live ops and server operations have to support both games. Keep both communities running 24/7. And so it was interesting for us to effectively be running two games. I guess they are two of the biggest MMORPGs on PC on planet Earth. That meant we’ve had to grow. We’ve had to scale to do that. We’ve had to organize behind the scenes. Brian’s team has certainly had to do a lot of work on deciding how much of our modern technology under the hood they bring in, and at what point they bring it in. It’s gotten us organized in the sense that we’re having to essentially manage two communities.

Birmingham: It’s been exciting to see how big the reaction was, and make sure we’re prepared with technologies. We had to offer free character migrations after Classic launched. That was something we had to rapidly develop and make sure we could deploy it quickly. We’ll make sure those are ready and able to be used if we need them for the Burning Crusade launch. There’s things like that in terms of how popular it was that we want to make sure we’re ready for. One technology we did use before, and we’re planning to use again, is layers. We know that layers are not everybody’s favorite thing, but when you’re talking about having to wait in an hours-long queue versus just spinning up a second copy of the world to let us all play at once, the choice seems clear to us. We want to make sure that these big launch moments, when everyone comes back at once, we have an option to let everyone play.

GamesBeat: Players can choose to move on to Burning Crusade or stick with vanilla Classic. What does that look like? Is each server getting split in two, into a Burning Crusade version and a vanilla version?

Birmingham: Kind of, but not exactly. It’s more that the existing realms will become Burning Crusade realms. We’re going to start calling them progression realms. They will progress to Burning Crusade. Then we’ll stand up new realms that are Classic era, and take a snapshot of your character at the moment we do that. Then you can choose which one of those you want to play. Do you want to play the snapshot that went to Burning Crusade, or do you want to play the snapshot in the Classic era? Or buy the clone service to be able to do both at once. That way you have that same choice. It looks the same to you. If you are a player who wanted to play classic era and you go and select classic era from the dropdown in and launch the client, you’ll see the realm list with the same realm names you recognize, and you’ll find your character where you expect to find it, and you’ll be able to log in and play it. We want to make sure that’s seamless, and especially seamless for people going to Burning Crusade, since we know that’s the expectation for most people. They’ll bring over their guild and their auctions and their mail that’s in flight. We’re going to make sure that as much as possible, we get everything feeling like the original launch of Burning Crusade for people who want to do that.