Are the Phases being rushed and can we expect a "Phase 2.5"?
After the Phase 2 release date at Blizzcon I started comparing the original Vanilla timeline to the just over two months of excitement we have experienced out of Classic so far. Unsurprisingly, we are ahead of schedule. Currently two whole months ahead of schedule in a game that many felt ended too soon. Let’s roll back the clock a bit for some perspective.
November 24th of 2004 sees the Launch of World of Warcraft followed four whole months later in March with the advent of Dire Maul and the World Bosses, Azuregos and Lord Kazzak. The following month of April introduced the Honor System with iconic Battlegrounds, Alterac Valley and Warsong Gulch, another two months behind in June. A brand new raid, Blackwing Lair, debuted in July of 2005 and the game’s initial content is rounded out in September with Zul’Gurub and Arathi Basin concluding a ten month window of content release.
Now let’s compare to where we are today. Classic launches in Phase 1 on August 26th speeding into Dire Maul, “Phase 1.5”, only one month and twenty one days later. At Blizzcon 2019, Phase 2 is announced for November 12th, less than 30 days from our last content release and just over two months from Classic’s launch. And here we are.
Even though the entire lifespan of the game can fit in just two sentences, it’s still a lot of information for the community to draw from. In the first two months Blizzard has already broken from their Phase plan for Classic WoW and, assuming we are going to see a life cycle for Classic similar to the twenty-six month life cycle of Vanilla, we are already months ahead of planned content scheduling. If we mirror Vanilla, the July 2005 release of Blackwing Lair and the Darkmoon Faire should slate Phase 3 to be released in April of 2020, giving Molten Core and the leveling curve eight month breathing room. However, that would lead to a five month long content drought between the November 12th release of the Honor System and World Bosses and the subsequent release of any new content.
To avoid this five month drought and ensuing player boredom I believe Blizzard will launch a “Phase 2.5”, similar to the Dire Maul “Phase 1.5”, which will include either one or both of the Alterac Valley and Warsong Gulch battlegrounds. There is already precedent. In 2005, Blizzard followed the release of the Honor System two months later with AV and WSG and it would be an easy leap for them to do it again here in Classic. The only stay on splitting the BG content from Phase 3 and releasing it earlier would be to retain the glory and integrity of the World as a character and the potential for active World PvP.
I think this will not be the case. Due to some of the server’s massive populations, the 400ms spell batching far exceeding the game play impact of its Vanilla predecessor and the 2.5 server tick rate, I believe the player base will be tired of interactions such as this: Skeram BRM PvP, already being referred to as “turn based” and “slideshow”, and will be ready to move into the instance protected world of more micro oriented battlegrounds. There is great opportunity in this game for very compelling, very large scale World PvP… If. Done. Right. We, the community, clearly want it as evidenced by videos such as the one linked, excerpts from Asmongold, and other vods from known streamers, and I think Blizzard would like to provide that platform for us. Sadly, I don’t see a solution for large scale World PvP being available in time to prevent the interim five months between Phases 2 and 3 from feeling unrewarding.
The questions then are, will Blizzard break from their Phase plan here again and might they continue to do so in the future? I think they will. Hopefully while keeping the lifespan of Classic no less than twenty-six months.