Perhaps the most predictable unannounced project in the world right now are remasters of Warcraft III and Diablo 2. There’s demand for it and a team that can do it in Blizzard’s Classic Games team. But they haven’t, and that’s because, unlike StarCraft, those games just aren’t ready for the Remaster process yet.
For the new-new games Blizzard are bringing out, here’s everything we know about World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth.
“The whole ‘listen more than you talk’ approach with StarCraft was working so well, we were like ‘what do we need to do for the others,’” explains Peter Stilwell, senior producer on the Classic Games team. “Right now when you read the [Warcraft III] forums or talk to the community, the map pool is so stale. Not only that, there’s a bunch of maps in there that aren’t that great, that just get vetoed every time for whatever reason. That was the overriding thing, please give us another pool.
“Then the other thing is Undead only really has one build order, it would be awesome if we could change the balance a little bit to help [people] figure out different ways to play the game. There isn’t that overriding sense that you get with StarCraft where they’re like ‘don’t touch it, the balance is perfect.’ [For Orc] you have to have a Blademaster, you have to have the Death Knight for Undead – make some tweaks to some heroes so that maybe the other guy has to scout me and figure out what I’m playing with in order for him to develop his own strategy.”
In essence, it’s taking lessons learned from 20 years of analysing StarCraft and learning how it got to a point of perfect balance. “That’s the cool thing about StarCraft, the unit selections you make need to be scouted for them to be properly prepared for it, we want to try to achieve that level of balance for Warcraft III. That seems like most of what that competitive community cares about right now, so that’s what we’re dealing with directly. Matt Morris and our design guys are working on another pool, they’ve got it on a PTR, so that we can get some candid feedback before we say this is the official one. Hopefully very soon they’ll be happy with that and then we can actually get those balance changes out on the PTR as well.”
Diablo 2 is different. There isn’t a tournament scene to worry about, but there are leaderboards and they are packed with hackers on a regular basis. “With Diablo  the big one is the botters and the spamming is out of control, [people asking] could we please fix that. Keep rolling seasons but maybe eventually be good enough at combating them that you see real names at the top of the leaderboard again.”
The simple truth is that developing a full remaster takes a long time, and can’t really be done alongside other major changes. Blizzard want people to be happy playing what they have while they semi-secretly make it even better.
“Those are the type of things we’re focusing on outside of StarCraft at the moment. With SC, after we had done that compatibility pass to make it run on modern systems and all that, the next resounding thing we were hearing from the community was Remaster. That was the proper segue – [then we had to] go dark for a year to do that, right? So we don’t feel like we’re at that stage yet with the others, we want to have that moment where the community is cool to play [the version of the game] while we figure out whatever, [so] we don’t have to cringe every day as we read the forums.”
Of course, there’s a back catalogue stretching back years and years before Brood War became Blizzard’s then-most-recognisable success. Stilwell would like to work on those too, but it isn’t quite that simple.
“I would love to work on any of them, the first game that I fell in love with and didn’t even realise it was a Blizzard product was Lost Vikings. Any of those I would be thrilled to do [but] the difference between ‘it would be cool if’ rose-coloured glasses and there still being dedicated community there [is important]. We don’t want to turn our backs on people who are playing SC, War3 or D2`to go resurrect one of those things if there’s still [work to be done].
“That’s how I look at it, we still have a responsibility, they are still such good games, good communities, older games may have much more of the rose-coloured glasses issue – with War 1 where you’ve got to build the roads and you can only select four units. You wanna talk about a rough campaign…”
So it might be a while before we’re seeing the finely rendered HD hairs of a Lost Viking chin on modern PCs, but it isn’t impossible. Warcraft 3 and Diablo 2 are on the way – they just need to be as good as possible before they can get the remastering love.