When Blizzard announced and launched Starcraft Remastered, the fan and critical response was excellent. People were pleased with the product and quality of the remaster and Blizzard was commended for the work it did. When the company announced Warcraft 3: Reforged, it gave fans plenty to look forward to, including more dynamic cutscenes, significant art upgrades, and some lore tweaks to bring WC3 and TFT more into line with later lore established by World of Warcraft.
It was, in short, a very different type of project than what Blizzard had announced with Starcraft, but it seemed like the team had some really good ideas for how to modernize an 18-year-old game.
But Blizzard ultimately didn’t go that route. Instead, the company opted for a minimal facelift on the original game. To see the difference, check out the original trailer released for The Culling, a critical scene in Warcraft 3:
Now, check out the video that’s actually in the game.
The dynamism of the camera is a fraction of what it was, and the overall level of improvement in the scene seems lower. The visual updates aren’t bad, Kotaku reports, tbut they really don’t matter much when you’re practically zoomed out the way you need to be to play the game. Unit animations also still apparently run at 30fps, regardless of game frame rate.
The lack of any real “update” to what was originally billed as a more dramatic overhaul is only part of the problem. With Reforged, Blizzard decided to fuse the clients for Reforged and Warcraft 3 Classic. As a result, a heck of a lot of fundamental functionality just got removed from WC3, even for players who don’t even own Reforged. You can switch between Classic and Reforged graphics in the options menu, but since they use the same client, WC3 owners can’t access the other functions they used to have.
This is a bit like a WoW expansion in reverse. When Blizzard updates WoW for another expansion, everyone gets the same changes, including people who don’t buy the new content. Warcraft 3 Classic had competitive ladders. Reforged doesn’t. So now, WC3 doesn’t have ladders, either.
If you want to submit a map to Battle.net, you’re now required to give all rights to Blizzard in order to do so. The company’s new rights policy regarding custom games states:
Custom Games are and shall remain the sole and exclusive property of Blizzard. Without limiting the foregoing, you hereby assign to Blizzard all of your rights, title, and interest in and to all Custom Games, including but not limited to any copyrights in the content of any Custom Games.
This is to prevent another DOTA 2 from slipping out from under its grasp. Both League of Legends and DOTA 2 descend from Warcraft 3 and its Defense of the Ancients map. Imagine if that custom map had automatically been Blizzard IP from the beginning. (Blizzard certainly has). Blizzard can’t copyright the general concept of a game, but they can claim ownership over all characters, art, lore, and the name of the title. This is entirely different from how the Warcraft 3 Classic community worked.
There are a lot of things people are currently unhappy about, and various people are unhappy about all of them. I don’t blame them. Neither Kotaku nor PC Gamer was overly thrilled with the title as a whole: Kotaku says it “isn’t much of an upgrade,” and PC Gamer notes that in WC3: Reforged, “it’s still 2002.”
I think the difference in fan response comes down to three things: The removal of capabilities in WC3 Classic, effectively breaking that game for a bunch of people who hadn’t decided whether they wanted Reforged, the modding copyright grab, and anger over the changes Blizzard has made to graphics design. There’s a feeling that Blizzard really phoned in the upgrade work after showing off something far more impressive with The Culling back at the beginning of the process. Having established fan expectations that WC3: Reforged would be something new, Blizzard has to deal with having shipped a game that fails to meet expectations in multiple ways while penalizing people who didn’t even buy it. That last point is hard to ignore — a commercially purchased game isn’t supposed to lose major functionality just because a company launches a new iteration of the title.
As for the Battle.net upload policies, I don’t agree with them and never have. I don’t think Blizzard ought to have the legal right to claim complete ownership over a product created with their worldbuilder, any more than I think the authors of rendering and music-authoring software ought to be allowed to claim ownership of the music or 3D art composed inside their product.
I love modding. I’ve written about it on this website more than once. It’s why I’m a PC gamer, first and foremost, and I’ve worked on and led a multi-person modding project that significantly overhauled the balance and difficulty curve of Diablo II early in its life cycle (pre-LoD) in a way I would argue was true to the spirit and design of the title while offering a much more balanced endgame experience.
I am a modder and a Blizzard gamer. When I say I hope the Warcraft III modding scene dies as a result of this land grab, I am being completely and 100 percent sincere. Blizzard can’t assert copyright over the general gameplay/concept of a title, but they can assert copyright claims over the art, name, characters, lore, and art created for a custom mod. They’ve now asserted a unilateral right to do so. The proper response from the modding community, in my personal view, is to completely refuse to engage with Blizzard’s landgrab and to take their talents elsewhere. I’d rather see WC3 modding die than see its IP forcefully “granted” to Blizzard like this.
I don’t like the company Blizzard is becoming. I don’t like it at all.