World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Interview

With the third World of Warcraft expansion pack less than a week away, NowGamer chatted up lead systems designer Greg Street about the changes they're making in Cataclysm, the possibility that the game will go free-to-play in the future, how they feel this year's BlizzCon went, and much more.
You've also added in new flight areas, as well as repurposing old zones to make flight possible. Does this mean we will start to see more verticality in Azeroth as the game carries on? How tricky was it to retrofit old areas with flight?

Well the big challenge was that the original continents were not designed with an aerial view in mind. So for example, if you levitated up into Stormwind; suddenly walls would disappear, and you could see that the cathedral and castle were just visual hacks. They were just hovering in mid-air as we never bothered to draw their base, because you couldn't see them from the air. So, it took us months to overwork Stormwind to make them work visually, where you were seeing the entire city from the sky.

We had a problem in a lot of zones, where the level designers knew players could never see the top of mountains so they just never drew it. You would get up to the top of a mountain and just see weird colours or flat plains. So we had to go through and just clean up all of that stuff to make sure everything looked cohesive from the sky.


The archaeology class is also new to Cataclysm. How well does that fit in with the rest of the classes to ensure it's balanced?

Archaeology is fun, and it fits really well with the Cataclysm story, because we've always had archaeological dig sites, particularly with the Dwarves. But now, with Cataclysm we have an excuse to say new ruins have been uncovered, or in these dark times, races are looking for answers from the past. It gives us a chance to introduce more lore to players who are interested in that sort of thing.

There's not a lot of power in archaeology. There are some very powerful items, but they are really rare and hard to find, so players can't just say, (oh I'm going to go and get that awesome sword), and then they go and grind archaeology until they find it. But there will be some very lucky archaeologists out there with some powerful items. Lots of the items that can be found are what we call (toy) or (flavour) items, and they do neat visual tricks.