WoW Classic Interview with Shacknews and Omar Gonzalez
Shacknews recently interviewed
Omar Gonzalez, Senior Engineer on
World of Warcraft: Classic
. Game Director Ion Hazzikostas
the difficulty in figuring out how to recreate Classic within the modern game client, and how Omar proved instrumental in making that a reality; below you can see the full Shacknews interview, along with our own highlights.
The basic premise for WoW: Classic is layering the old art and database information from patch 1.12 atop the modern game code, which is more robust and efficient than in 2004. The developers were very fortunate to have recovered some of those original art assets in old data archives, so many original models and textures could be used in place of the current ones rather than having to recreate them, however the code utilizes modern graphics rendering programs which didn't exist in 2004 such as DX11 and Metal. That creates its own challenge, because many of the calculations used in the modern engine for color and lighting are different from those in the original data, so not everything can simply be ported over and look exactly as it did 15 years ago; a lot of work has gone into refining those graphics to as closely resemble the original look and feel as possible.
For the engineers, utilizing modern code on top of old assets is also important, because it allows them to use the same backend interface to maintain both versions of the game, rather than having to become familiar and specialized in two different setups. Games don't generally devolve, or revert to previous versions, but thankfully Blizzard still has the original source code, allowing them to make direct side-by-side comparisons to see if the new system's functionality differs at all to the old, thereby fully emulating the original World of Warcraft experience on the player's end, with much more efficient and modern standards.
For example, the old code understood and organized realms as a single cluster of servers - each realm was entirely self contained and didn't interact with other realms, but the modern system is more shared and distributed to allow players to interact with one another across different realms. Utilizing the new system is much more efficient in terms of resources, despite being set up to emulate the Classic approach of player characters being restricted to one realm without cross-realm grouping or gameplay in order to preserve the original experience.
WoW's codebase is very old and continually evolving to match the needs of the game, but not all portions change at the same rate. Some of the old code being recreated within Classic is actually Omar's own code from his beginnings as a junior programmer in 2005, working with Jeff Kaplan on tapping and loot sharing systems. A few pieces of WoW's now 15 year old code are near original simply because they never needed to change as the game evolved over time, while other systems had to be rebuilt continually in order to meet the needs of the game or improve as programmers themselves discovered new ways of doing things. Looking back, there are some things that Omar would like to do differently, as a now more experienced programmer, but ultimately what matters is not the cleanliness of the architecture, but delivering a fun experience to the game. The engineering team plays a balancing act to preserve a codebase which can run robustly for the long haul, without compromising on the quality of gameplay.
There's been a lot of excitement for WoW: Classic, though with continual debate on exactly how much should be subject to change. Many are adamant about a completely faithful 1:1 recreation of the original game, and have already decried additions such as mailbox changes and limited loot trading making their way into Classic, while others are excited at the potential for modern addons and outside services such as Discord allowing better communication within server communities. Unlike these obvious differences from 2004, the engineering side of the game is something that players often feel, but rarely ever see, and Blizzard appears committed to making modern improvements for better stability and efficiency, while keeping faithful to the original design as much as possible. What do you think?
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