The World of Warcraft MMO has had several overhauls in the past, both graphically and in terms of supported platforms. It’s one of the longest-running MMOs to date, and its codebase stretches all the way back to 2004. Yes, 2004. That was when Windows XP was cool, everyone had less than 2GB of RAM on their machines, Backstreet Boys broke up temporarily, and you spent at least one day a month cursing your graphics drivers because they were truly crap. But times have changed, and WoW is no longer the same game it was 14 years ago. And it’s about to change a whole bunch more with the Battle for Azeroth expansion. It’s probably a good idea to see if you’re ready hardware-wise.
The Battle for Azeroth update, firstly, shelves support for Windows XP and Vista, as well as some older versions of the macOS operating system. If you’re still on these old platforms, your ability to access the service will be going away this week. Along with that, the 32-bit game client also falls away. If you were using 32-bit Windows 7, 8, or 10 on a low-end system like a tablet, your ability to launch the game is also going away. I know that there are a lot of people who play WoW on a tablet for their travels because it’s convenient, and in many cases those devices were stuck with a 32-bit bootloader and operating system. Sucks to be you, friend.
With the drop in support for these operating systems, WoW’s system requirements take a big leap forward. Now you’ll need to run it on a modern system with at least four cores, because raids haven’t gotten any lighter on your CPU, and you’ll need a modern graphics card. The Battle for Azeroth update brings with it DirectX 12 support on Windows 10 systems as well as Metal support on macOS. These are both low-level graphical APIs that will bring about a big increase in the game’s ability to use all your graphical resources – complex scenes and environments like forests will be easier to render thanks to batching draw calls for the trees together, and there’ll be advanced effects that the GPU can render. The culling of older platforms means that Blizzard can chop out all this old, unused code from the game, which should shorten the development cycle for future updates.
When it comes to graphics cards, Blizzard promises support for the following GPUs:
With the update, there are also a few graphical options getting the chop. Most notably, the ability to run the game in exclusive fullscreen mode is no longer possible with the move to DirectX 12, so that means that the game will either run in windowed borderless mode or in windowed mode. For those of you who have things like an antivirus with a game mode, have a laptop, or run Windows 7 or 8, this might be a problem. Applications generally respect the user when something is being run in exclusive fullscreen mode. However, for Windows 10 users, if you enable and use the Game Mode option in Settings, all this will be handled for you and notifications should be reduced to the bare minimum.
In addition, some features like gamma, colour, and brightness settings will need to be added in manually by Blizzard, because DirectX 12 applications have to make these changes in the Windows desktop compositor, not the application itself. Basically that means that settings are made system-wise temporarily, and only while the game is running. You can switch back to the DirectX 11 renderer to bring back exclusive fullscreen mode and the other settings, but you probably won’t be missing out on much by sticking to DirectX 12 if you’re on Windows 10.
Finally, for Linux gamers these changes mean that WoW will no longer run in vanilla Wine, so you’ll have to make use of the DXVK project to run WoW after this week’s patch.