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Former World of Warcraft lead developer hints at something big coming to Classic

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World of Warcraft Classic may soon be getting a major update, and former lead engineer Brian Birmingham hinted—very vaguely—that it could be the World of Warcraft “Classic Plus” that some players have been calling for.

The original World of Warcraft has changed a great deal since its launch in 2004—that’s nearly 20 years ago, after all, during which time nine major expansions have been released, expanding and improving the game in countless ways. But of course there are always going to be grumpy old-timers who prefer things the way they were (not that I’m speaking from experience or anything like that), and so for them, Blizzard launched World of Warcraft Classic in 2019. 

Classic takes World of Warcraft back to the good old days of 2006, before so many of its systems were streamlined and smoothed out by later expansions. Understandably, it’s a double-edged sword: “Blizzard’s revival of 2006-era is a gruelling and often frustrating experience,” our reviewer said, “But it’s also helped me rediscover why I love Warcraft in the first place.”

World of Warcraft Classic Plus would in theory come down somewhere between the two, adding new content and some quality of life changes to Classic while keeping mechanics, talents, and skills as they are. Think of it like a remake, where the structure is familiar but the activities are meant to surprise both old and new players. It’s an idea that’s been kicking around for a long time: Streamer Asmongold, for instance, shared thoughts about what he’d like to see in “Classic Fresh” in August 2021, a list he resurfaced during a 2022 livestream:

With the talk of Classic Fresh on the horizon, Blizzard should not go with some changes, they should go with ALL OF THE CHANGESHere’s my wish list :)@WarcraftDevs pic.twitter.com/ZU2tmFiZrPAugust 18, 2021

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The possibility that something of this magnitude might actually happen came to light over the past weekend. “Looks like we’ve got something new for WoW Classic Era on the way!” streamer MrGM tweeted on April 20. “The encrypted wowdev endpoint has just been updated to patch 1.15.0??”

Things got a lot more interesting a couple days later, when Birmingham replied, “I’m a little bit biased, but I think you’ll like it. Incredible team working on that.” When someone asked if he was talking about Classic Plus, Birmingham said, “I can neither confirm or deny, of course, but I can say that I always loved that idea.”

Birmingham is in a position to know: He was lead engineer on World of Warcraft Classic until January 2023, when he was reportedly fired by Blizzard for refusing to go along with the company’s “stack ranking” evaluation program for employees. The program requires managers to give about 5% of their employees a low performance evaluation to fit on a bell curve of relative performance, but Birmingham said in an email to staff that it “encourages competition between employees, sabotage of one another’s work, a desire for people to find low-performing teams that they can be the best-performing worker on, and ultimately erodes trust and destroys creativity.”

Given the length of time that an update of this magnitude would take to develop, it was surely in the works prior to Birmingham’s dismissal. And even if it’s not the Classic Plus option that players have been waiting for, I don’t think Birmingham would be quite this cagey if there wasn’t something big in the works. 

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