World of Warcraft Classic servers launching as game celebrates 15th birthday

It's a big year for Blizzard with its Warcraft franchise turning 25 and the genre-defining online epic World of Warcraft marking its 15th anniversary. 

To celebrate, the game developer and publisher is turning back the clock on their biggest title, launching World of Warcraft Classic servers to offer nostalgic players a painstakingly recreated early version of Azeroth. 

Senior Software Engineer Omar Gonzalez says crafting an authentic experience was key. 

"Historical preservation was kind of a big idea from the get go," Gonzalez tells Newshub.

"We understand that World of Warcraft is such a huge cultural phenomenon. But we were pretty confident early on that we could not only bring it back, but hold onto it as kind of a museum piece."

Despite his team's confidence, Gonzalez acknowledges the process wasn't exactly without challenges. 

"Unlike our other games like Warcraft III or Diablo 2 where you could just pick up the disc and play the old versions, with World of Warcraft the original version was essentially lost to the annals of time."

When does World of Warcraft Classic come out? In New Zealand, 10am on August 27, 2019.
Photo credit: Blizzard Entertainment

In an age of glossy remakes, Gonzalez says his team went through everything from original art assets and animations to underlying coding to ensure the game looks, plays and feels exactly as it did in 2004.

For those concerned about whether there is room in their life - and wallet - for both modern and classic versions of the game, Blizzard is offering a single subscription that grants access to both, with each offering unique experiences.

When asked how he'd contrast the original World of Warcraft with the modern version - which has now received seven immense expansions and 15 years worth of regular content updates - Gonzalez emphasises both storytelling and social connections.

"The world itself is a character and features very prominently in World of Warcraft Classic. The world is a very dangerous place," he says.

"You pick up how important it is to make social connections because there's so much that you can't do alone. You have to rely on other players. We want to strongly encourage players to make a human connection."

As for the future and whether beloved expansions like the Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King could get the classic treatment, the dark portal seemingly stands open. 

"We're open to community feedback. We've been listening to the community this whole time," Senior Game Producer Calia Schie says. 

Gonzalez reiterates that Blizzard stands ready to give fans what they want.

World of Warcraft Classic servers launching as iconic game turns 15.
Photo credit: Blizzard Entertainment

"In a big way, what might happen is really up to you guys in the community," he says.

"Tell us what you want to see. From a technical perspective, there's very few limits on what we could explore."

The World of Warcraft Classic servers go live in New Zealand on Tuesday at 10am, but in keeping with the classic experience, keen players may want to prepare for some lengthy login queues.