The announcement of Warcraft III Reforged during opening ceremonies yesterday was one of the highlights of Blizzcon for me and is something I know many longtime Blizzard fans have been asking for. The story of Warcraft III revolves around the stories of Arthas, Thrall, and Tyrande and really sets the core of everything which has followed in World of Warcraft. As someone who sadly missed the original Warcraft III I’m excited to see how this storyline plays out and to have this experience I’ve been hearing about for years. After the announcement I was able to sit down and chat with Brian Sousa, Art Lead, and Tim Morton, Production Director for Startcraft 2 who has been working Warcraft III Reforged as well.
One of the first things I asked them about was why they decided to start with Warcraft III instead of starting with Warcraft Orcs & Humans and then working their way through each game. The reasoning turned out to be more straight forward and simple than I expected. The first reason is because story is so iconic and players in World of Warcraft are still dealing with the fallout from it they thought it would really resonate with both fans of the original games but also people who never got to experience it. Many if not all the main characters will be instantly recognizable to most WoW players, especially if you have been playing since the beginning.
The second part of the reasoning has to do with the technical aspects of updating the game. The first Warcraft game Orcs & Humans came out in 1994 and Warcraft III came out in 2002. Eight years might not seem like a lot of time, especially compared to the fact it’s been 24 years since the first game came out, but those eight years added up to a lot of change in the games themselves. For one thing Warcraft III was the first Blizzard game to be made with 3D graphics. As a result converting it into a modern 3D RTS is more straight forward than it would be if they were trying to convert Orcs & Humans from 2D to 3D. Similarly with some of the other specs the transfer from the past to the present is a more straightforward process than it would be with the other games.
One thing which always comes up when remasters are discussed is “how much is going to be changed and how much is staying the same?” This concern is especially potent with such an iconic story. We don’t have to worry about any of the big bits of story changing with this update. The storylines for the three main characters will still playout as it did previously. One thing which players maybe happy to see though is some of the background characters might be a bit more fleshed out and involved than they were previously. They didn’t go into any detail about what characters might be getting more attention this time around though though if they are taking a cue from WoW it would make sense if both Sylvanas and Jaina had a bit more attention.
One area where they did decide making changes would be a good idea was the maps, at least where it made sense to do so. For example the mission The Culling takes place in Stratholm and had a very specific look in Warcraft III. However, when WoW was made they made certain choices about the layout and design which didn’t really work well for what they were trying to do with in the MMO, so some changes were made. For anyone who has gone to the Stratholm dungeon in WoW it has a very particular look and layout to it. Because of the fact Strat has existed for so long as is they wanted make sure when players went there in the remaster it would be a city they recognize. This doesn’t mean Strat is going to be a ruin already when you get there in game, instead it’s layout is similar enough that while playing the demo it was recognizable to me.
The reconstruction of Warcraft III is also being done in such a way that they are still running the same engine and then layering the new rendering on top of that. This may seem like a bit of a weird way to go about this but it has one very big upside for players. The multiplayer experience in Warcraft III Reorged will be completely compatible with the original game. This means if you have friends who choose to not buy the remaster but own the original game, you can still play with them, which is a huge boon.
After playing the demo and getting a good first look at the game I can’t wait to get my hands on the full version next year.