Story of the develpoment of Burning Crusade
Author : feangren
Good day to you, yes you, you essplorers (for the majoriry of you).
Today I will tell you a story. *Oh yeah ganpa fean, tell us a story !*. I'll tell you about the Burning Crusade.*Waaaaaaaah, Burning Cruuuusaaade !* Yeah, Burning Crusade, what an expansion! It brings (among other things) flying mounts, Blood Elves, Draenei, but also Outland! Blizzard planned to implement Outland very early (as explained in Souline's report about the Hellfire Peninsula). It was planed to be a patch for Vanilla, instead we got it for the first expansion.
Blizzard loved Outland so much that they made a second run in an alternative past version of it for Warlords of Draenor. What about we jump in the past (the present past, not the alternative one) and take a look to the origins of the Burning Crusade?
We will first look at the status of the first playable version of Burning Crusade, its Alpha, which began in August 2006 if I am not mistaken; then we'll take a quick look at the content of the extension and what happened between its release and that of Wrath of the Lich King.
Let's start with the starting areas of the Blood Elves, Eversong Woods and the Ghostlands, for which I would not put any screen because they were almost finished, which is logical: the Blood Elves were the first race to have been announced in 2005 , and it was the only playable content during Blizzcon 2005. The two Draenei islands were also almost finished too, so no screens.
For the outland areas, we will be interested in a little treasure that I found by rummaging in the files of the Alpha: old minimap zones. It is not uncommon in Alpha builds to find files that are much older than the Alpha in question. Here, they are minimaps, and for the case of one of them, Shadowmoon, it reflects a very old version of the area, while it was still in the state of "textured concept". You will understand by seeing it.
So let's start with the first zone: the Hellfire Peninsula. The zone was already 95% finished at the beginning of the alpha: normal since it was the first zone on which the players would visit, especially since the zone already existed since the Vanilla beta (see Souline's report). Here is the minimap:
As can be seen, the area was indeed well advanced. However, the in-game version is newer, and north of the Kil'Jaeden Throne there is no badly cut piece of land. We could still stumble upon textures not well glued, as for example here:
The Mag'har camp was not textured:
In the same way, the entrance of Magtheridon's lair was not textured:
An other place not finished but nod accessible to players was Kil'Jaeden's Throne:
After the Peninsula, the players headed for the Zangarmarsh. Like the Peninsula, the Marsh was very advanced, and almost finished, as shown by the minimap below:
The mushroom hosting the Alliance camp (Telredor), was not textured:
We could also see pieces of land in the void:
There was also a portal:
On the other hand, near the blade's edge mountains, the textures were not totally connected:
As with the Peninsula, the version in play is newer, and the barbarian-textured piece of land on the Nagrand border to the southeast was textured normally.
Well, as long as we're here, let's take a look at Nagrand, for a lot of players' favorite zone during BC. Like the Peninsula and Zangar, Nagrand was almost complete at the beginning of the Burning Crusade Alpha, as this minimap shows:
At the launch of the Alpha, the non-textured area to the northeast was textured. However, the one in the east was not really, but we'll see it for Terrokar. The only place not being done was the Netherwing Dailies area to the west, behind the mountains:
Ah, if, in one place, statues were talking in the air:
What, however, is very surprising (less if you have correctly looked at the minimap), is the presence of a piece of the Hellfire Peninsula and a large white plate to the southwest of the area:
Moreover, when looking into the void here, we can see that:
Remember this screenshot, it will be useful later. Even more strange than the piece of Peninsula at Nagrand is the presence, on the white plate itself, of water:
Let's move on to Terokkar Forest. Here is the minimap:
Terokkar était assez bien avancée lors du début de l'Alpha de Burning Crusade, à l'exception de Shattrath, qui était assez loin de ce qu'elle est actuellement (dans l'Outreterre hein ^^), et de Skettis
The center of Auchindoun was not finished:.
Just like the Arakkoa encampments around:
Similarly, Skettis was far from over:
So far, the areas we saw were largely finished, just had to be tweaked, add a texture to a building ... It's time to move on to something more exotic don't you think? :p
Let's start with the most advanced of the least advanced areas, Netherstorm! Unfortunately, for Netherstorm, no minimap was present in the files of the Alpha of BC (or so I searched badly but I really think there was none ^^). The area was in a still fairly conceptual state: the roads were present, one or two villages present, the relief was in its globality correct, and ... that's all.
See for yourself:
Netherstorm is known for hosting the Storm Keep, which is:
As you can see, only one ship was present, however the absence of the other ships was, in my opinion, not an oversight, being that the files of the Alpha contained the data of the 3 five man instances, unless Blizzard planned to pack everything into one ship, but I doubt it.
Don't you see anything else missing?
Aren't the ecodomes missing? :p
Last thing for Netherstorm:
Yes, let's go to the Blade's edge mountains! (although at this point, the textures of the Peninsula were used)
The Blade's edge mountainswere probably the least advanced area of the Alpha. Even Shadowmoon (as you will see later) was (a little) more elaborate. But above all, a little reminder. Currently, the blade's edge mountains is basically that:
Remember? Good. Now look at the minimap of the area:
And the in game version:
Nice, huh? D Wait, it's not over! You know, the Blade's edge mountains, is high-rise areas and a large central alley inhabited by a gaggle of ogres. Well…
However, a small part of the area was still more advanced, especially to the north:
As well as Cenarion and Night Elf encampments:
On the other hand, far north, far beyond the void, was a huge white plate, with ... nothing on it:
Here again, remember this third screenshot, it will be useful later.
And the last area, Shadowmoon Valley, ancestral land of the Shadowmoon clan, in which the Orcs and the Draenei peacefully coexisted, until Grom Hellscream's Iron Horde came to knock on the gates of ... Wait, that's not the right expansion.
Shadowmoon Valley, where Illidan flees after being shriveled by Arthas at the foot of the Ice Throne, an area devastated by Gul'Dan who amused himself with invoking demonic magic everywhere and corrupted everythings in his path.
In the Alpha of BC, Shadowmoon Valley was scarcely more advanced than the blade's edge mountains. But, remember, at the very beginning of this review, I talked about the hidden minimaps in the Alpha client, and I said that Shadowmoon's was a "textured concept". I have made you patient long enough, so see for yourself:
Do you see what I meant? Before showing the area as it was in the Alpha, we will dwell on how the area was designed, because it's not every day that we have a minimap as conceptual as that (I do not remember having seen such a minimap elsewhere, in which version of the game whatsoever).
Let's decipher this gibberish. You can see an "ORC" at the Orc Camp site, and a "DWARF" at the Dwarf Camp site. The "GY" is Graveyard. There are two more "GY" in the area, one at "CAMP", which seemed to be a neutral camp as no faction is indicated. This is where you can find Maiev Prison.
The other cemetery is next to "REP". It is easy to guess what that means, because at this place, there is currently the Aldor camp. "REP" means reputation. It is interesting to note that at the time this minimap was created, late 2005-early 2006 (I'll explain after the presentation of the area where got this date), Blizzard already had in mind the idea of the Aldor. However, by looking at the minimap, we see no place for the Scryers! Where the Scryers camp is now, there is a WHELP. At this place, there are dragon eggs. And we all know what the Outland dragons are: the Netherwing! The idea was therefore also present in the spirit of Blizzard very early.
The Black Temple was obviously planned, but on an "island" apart. We can see several times an "IAC", and it's quite easy to guess: Illidan Army Camp. "POI" is Point Of Interest, and "MICRO" is micro-dungeon (probably a cellar with naga). It remains "SD", which I suppose means Sunken Draenei, since in the final version there are broken draenei in this place.
Well, now let's see what the area looked like Alpha's launch (hint: it was more advanced than the minimap). Already, when we entered, we were greeted by a beautiful mountain mono/bi/tri textured:
The Bastion of the Legion was not so imposing, just ... non-textured:
The Dwarves camp was in the right place, but far, far from finished
The area in general was still quite empty:
The area planned for the Netherwing reputation was there ... in part ...
Obviously, Black Temple was there, but the layout was vastly different from what we know today:
When I spoke about the minimap earlier, I said that it probably dated from the end of 2005 to the beginning of 2006. How can I know that you are wondering? And I answer you that I do not know anything about it. It's only speculation. In order to determine the date of creation of this minimap, we will go back a little more in time, in 2004 at the launch of Vanilla to be precise. When WoW came out, the game already contained the Blackwing Lair and Zul'Gurub files (fun detail, Zul'Gurub appeared earlier in the game data than Blackwing Lair: D). Yet these areas have been available at patches 1.6 and 1.7. It should be known that most of the development of BC took place at the same time as the development of patch 1.9, Ahn'Qiraj. In the game zone name files, the AQ 40 raid appears after Outland. Look at the list of maps of the game, classified by order of creation (the number in the left column):
What does this list teach us? That all the maps of Burning Crusade instances were created in one go, and that the development of all this little bazaar was done at about the same time (and also that Sunwell was created after half of instances of WotLK ^^). In the files of the Alpha, we find quite a lot of data related to Ahn'Qiraj (normal since everything was developed at the same time). It therefore seems logical that the Shadowmoon minimap also dates from this period, ie late 2005-early 2006 (Ahn'Qiraj was released in January). Maybe you wonder why the minimap was not re-generated for the beginning of the Alpha? It would be a good question if the Alpha started now. At the time, there were no MMO-Champion and WowHead who were very fast at datamining, so it was not so important to check that stuff.
During Burning Crusade's Alpha there was an area east of Shadowmoon Vale, which was quite special: it was quite large, 98% empty, and had no name. "But what was in those 2% occupied? "Well, you know, there was a tag:
And a not completely textured mountain floating in the void next to a white plate:
Note that the mountain is a piece of Shadowmoon Valley. I have not yet understood what this area was for. Probably a test of a developer who was bored.
These areas very incomplete, Blizzard did not particularly want to see the players wander there. It's no surprise, Blizzard has always tried to put sticks in the legs of the essplorers (with more or less success). During Vanilla, we could see big infernals guarding the entrance to Hyjal (link wowpedia & screen). These infernals were not perfect, however, and it was during the Burning Crusade beta test that ... No Man's Land made it's apperance!
Yes, that good old No Man's Land that drove those who tried to access Hyjal before Cata! As a reminder, No Man's Land is a spell that triggers as soon as the player crosses a certain place in the game, and teleports the player a few kilometers away. No Man's Land was used recently during the Alpha and Warlords of Draenor Beta when attempting to enter an area not yet open (mainly for Tanaan).
During the Beta of Burning Crusade, when a player entered, or attempted to enter the Blade or Shadowmoon before the opening of these areas, the No Man's Land was triggered and sent the unfortunate to the other end of the continent.
Burning Crusade represented two challenges for Blizzard:
- It was necessary to make 2 zones for new races.
- The Outland is a land floating in the void.
You are probably wondering how making 2 areas was a challenge. I agree, doing two areas is not a challenge in itself. But maybe you wondered why, when you're in Outland and a member of your group is in Quel'Thalas or the Draenei Islands, do you see that person on your minimap? Perhaps you have also wondered why the loading screen of Draenei and Blood Elf areas is the same as Outland? The explanation is simple. For players arriving after Cata it will seem weird, but at the launch of Burning Crusade, new races were only available for those who bought the extension, and therefore their starting areas too: those who did not buy TBC could not access it. It was therefore necessary to find a way to prevent those who did not buy TBC from going there. The solution found was to put everything (Outland, Quel'Thalas and the Draenei Islands) on the same map, which was named Expansion01. If you search through the game's files and retrieve and assemble the Expansion01 minimap, you will have:
Lore and gameplay wise, it makes perfect sense for the Draenei Islands: we take a boat that takes us there, loading screen, no worries. However, for the Blood Elves, there is a concern: Quel'Thalas is "attached" to the Eastern Kingdoms. The solution found by Blizzard was to put a gate north of the Eastern Plaguelands that was taking on the Expansion01 map. It was also necessary to include elements of the Plaguelands on Quel'Thalas side. A copy and paste of the area around the portal was made
In Cataclysm, the Plaguelands side of the area was redone
As I said above, historically the Outland is a land floating the void. I'm going to spare you the details, but when Ner'Zhul wanted to escape from Kil'Jaeden and open a lot of portals on Draenor, the earth shredded and began to "float" in the Distorted Nothingness (worst of all did not help much as Kil'Jaeden still caught up with Ner'Zhul and turned him into the Lich King, but that's another story). The challenge was: how to make this impression of floating in a vacuum?
You have probably noticed that if you get too far from the "earth", you are flying in a vacuum (and if you go even further you will die). If you look down, you see there is no ground. Yet there is one. It's all black.
I understand you have a hard time believing me, but try with Free Far Sight, remove the fog and increase the distance from view, and you will see that the ground is entirely black. Blizzard just added a thick fog over it and set the deadline high enough so that you could not see the ground
I'll quickly come back to the fact that the Outland, Quel'Thalas and the Draenei Islands are on the same map. You may be wondering that it must be possible to cross the areas from one to the other, for example from Quel'Thalas to the Outland, or from Quel'Thalas to the islands. Although there is a large gap between each area (a bit like the island of MJ and Kalimdor), it is indeed possible to do so. Or at least it was possible by bugging the gryphons to make a long, strange journey. Our favorite retiree, Zhao, has also shown it in Point of View, part 6.
TBC is not only Outland, it's also a gaggle of instances and raids like never before. Let's look at what was present at the launch of the Alpha.
5 mens instances:
- Hellfire Citadel: The three instances (Rampart, Furnace and Broken Halls) were present at the launch of the alpha, and completed.
- Coilfang Reservoir: Here again, the three instances (Slave Pens, Steamvault and Underbog) were present and completed.
- Auchindoun: Again, the four instances (Sethekk Halls, Crypts, Mana Tombs, and Labyrinth) were present and finished.
- Tempest Keep: The Botanica and the Mechanar were almost finished. Mechanar was much darker than it is now:
Here, however, the Arcatraz was not finished at all. So to speak, only the first room was made. Moving on to the second, the instance looked like this:
And that's about it :p
- Caverns of time: a special case, because the caverns of time did not appear in BC, but during the beta of Vanilla! There was a map named CavernsOfTime (which still exists), which was divided into two blocks: what was used for GT1, and GT2. Yes, it existed since Vanilla. However, in BC, there was a small change, the map was partially amputated GT1, which was moved to a new map, HillsbradPast. The CavernsOfTime map is always used, and when you go to GT2, that's where you are. However, the part GT1 has not completely disappeared, it still remains a visual wonder, which is worth the detour (part 8 of Wanderings of an Essplorer will show you more ^ ^)
10 mens raids :
- Karazhan: a special case too, because Karazhan exists in the game since the alpha of Vanilla. It has existed in various forms, and the best known is often called the Observatory. Karazhan was originally intended to be Vanilla's last raid, but this idea was abandoned rather quickly. Between the BC Alpha and the release, Karazhan has hardly changed.
25 mens raids :
- Gruul: present in the Alpha, finished (well, it's only two caves and a corridor ..: p)
- Magtheridon's Lair: was planned from the start, the entrance was un-textured as seen in the Peninsula's presentation
- SSC: present in the Alpha, in a version very different from what we know today. You know, when you enter SSC, you have to take the elevator of death to go down in the main zone. Well, in the Alpha version, there was no lift, we arrived directly in the main area, looking quite different:
The platform of Vashj was also a little different:
And a thick fog was present when we were there:
Similarly, the architecture of the "wings" of SSC was radically different:
One of the Morogrim / Karathress rooms
The Leotheras' room:
- Tempest Keep: The Kael'Thas raid was also present in the Alpha, and almost identical to the version we all know. The only difference was the cold atmosphere:
- Hyjal: Hyjal was also present, and it is certainly the instance that required the least amount of work from the designers, all they had to do was to take the already existing Hyjal area in Kalimdor and put it in a separate map. Hyjal (GT3) was available at the same time as SSC and TK, but the access conditions were so impossible to realize that nobody could go before 2.1 (recall, it was necessary that each member of the raid had the two vials of Vashj and Kael, except that before 2.1, they only looted one, not one for each raid member).
- BT: The instance Black Temple was not present at the launch of the alpha, but it appeared very fast and knew many evolutions before the final launch. One could make an archeological record on BT so much there is to say. *Oh well here's a good idea*
Burning Crusade is also patch 2.1, the Black Temple! The moment when the big villain of the expansion, Illidan, was at the mercy of players, and only 4 months after the release of the extension, which was a mistake on the part of Blizzard, because the big guilds little to do after (ZA was not insurmountable for them)
Burning Crusade is also patch 2.2, which ..., uh ... Burning Crusade, it was also patch 2.3, which I would call "semi-filler" which brought Zul'Aman, new raid to 10 players who was welcomed with pleasure by the guilds who could only do Karazhan, and a big nerf of the Vanilla levelling.
During 2.1 was developed the 2nd expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, bringing the Lich King and Northrend. We already knew that Northrend would be the focus of the 2nd expansion, because in PTR 2.1 a Northrend folder was present .
However, WotLK was not ready to go out so soon, and they had to occupy players. Zul'Aman was scheduled for Patch 2.3, but it was not a raid the same size as BT. We had to find something. My theory is that Blizzard took some of the content from WotLK and used it for BC. Of course, I want to talk about patch 2.4 and Sunwell!
« Huh? Content of LK? What did you smoke? »
Nothing, nothing, I reassure you! I know that usually, the last patch of an extension is developed at the same time as the next extension, which explains that the game data related to Sunwell appear after those of Northrend, however there is an element showing that Sunwell was originally intended for WotLK and not for BC. This item that is in the Alpha files of ... Wrath of the Lich King! Look :
Yes, the Sunwell loading screen with the WotLK logo on it! (I guarantee you it's not a fake)
We are now going to venture into the realm of speculation so I can be completely off the board, but I think Sunwell was expected to be the first tier of WotLK raid instead of Naxxramas (remember the general surprise when Naxx had been announced as an introductory tier).
The most logical reason for this change of circumstances is that Blizzard soon realized that LK's development would be much longer than expected (for reasons explained in Saouline's Northrend report) and that if players had nothing to eat for a long time (especially since the big guilds had killed Illidan after two months) the players would not be happy (it's funny, at the time Blizzard would not let the players for a year without content ...)
That's why we ended up with Sunwell, with a difficulty increased to the extreme (because I doubt very much that the difficulty of Sunwell has its exit was suitable for the first raid of an extension :D ). Especially since Sunwell and Isle of Quel'Danas allowed, through the strong undead presence and Kil'Jaeden (who had tried to kill Ner'Zhul in the past) to make the transition to WotLK and Arthas.
And that's it for this (long) report, I hope you liked it, and we'll meet again next time!