World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Interviews

With the release of Cataclysm comes a slew of new interviews that focus on the World of Warcraft expansion pack, the future of the MMORPG, and, ultimately, what's next for Blizzard Entertainment.

The first interview can be found at Gamasutra with Blizzard co-founder and EVP Frank Pearce:
(We're revamping a lot of the content from the original version of the game,) Frank Pearce, executive vice president of product development at Blizzard, tells Gamasutra.

"We call it the brown box, but a lot of the community calls it Vanilla WoW. The content was created years and years ago, before we really knew how to create the best content for the game. The level 1-60 experience really doesn't have the best content. It's not putting our best foot forward. This lets us do that for new players."

It also gives existing players an excuse to explore areas of the game they've possibly ignored for years.

(Most of the content we've revamped is the content people are playing to level up their characters,) says Pearce, who is also a co-founder at Blizzard. (This [and the two new race additions] gives players who have been part of the community for a while the chance to experience it from a new perspective.)

Next up is Eurogamer, where game designer Dave Kosak and lead systems designer Greg Street tackle the questions:
Eurogamer: Recently, I saw a supposedly leaked schedule of Blizzard releases for the next few years [via PC Gamer]. Now, I know you're not going to comment on "rumour and speculation", but I did notice that this schedule had roughly 18-month gaps between WOW expansions, whereas to date you've delivered them once every two years. Is an expansion every 18 months feasible?

Greg Street: It's certainly a goal, we would like to get expansions out very quickly because we know players respond to them very well, it keeps attention. We can't generate content fast enough for a lot of our players, so we would like to get expansions out quickly. Whether or not we can... It always comes down to the quality level, we're not willing to cut too many features or sacrifice quality to be able to come out quickly.

I think in an ideal world... We've talked before about what it would take to have an expansion come out every year, or something like that. We're not anywhere close to that now.

Dave Kosak: It would be a different idea of an expansion, it wouldn't be these giant lumps of content... if we did expansions every year. But we do think about it.

Then there's a two-parter (here and here) on CVG, also with Kosak and Street:
Why hasn't there been a big MMO on consoles yet?

GS: I think the control scheme is a part of it, the traditional MMO has always had a lot of typing and is dependent on the mouse and keyboard paradigm. A few years ago everyone said the FPS couldn't be done on consoles and clearly Microsoft has been able to pull that off with Halo and other games. Hopefully someone will be able to do the same for an MMO on a console.

DK: It's a real design challenge because you have to throw out a lot of what you've learned on a PC. On PC you're sitting right in front of a screen, you can have a lot of dense information displayed and very complex control schemes. If you're playing on a couch from a distance with a controller, it requires very different design. I'm sure someone will solve that problem. I'm amazed it hasn't been solved yet but someone has to put a lot of thought into it and it has to be the right game for that medium.

I think we'll see something in the next few years. (Laughs) I said that a few years ago but I'm pretty sure someone will solve that problem! It's tricky but someone has got to be able to find an answer to that.

Strategy Informer chats with them, too:
Strategy Informer: The previous two expansions have been non-compulsory - players can still just play the original game if they want, they'll just be limited from doing the high-end content, will Cataclysm be the same?

David Kosak: It's actually even better - the changes that we made to the old world, everybody can get those, even with the base game. If you downloaded and played WoW now, even without the expansions, you'd still get to play in the world that Deathwing wrecked, so you're going to get all of the modern content and upgraded stuff for levels 1-60. You also can't fly in the old world until you buy that expansion as well. The new races are also only for the people who buy the expansion as well.

Greg Street: Another nice thing about it being non-compulsory - we've invested a lot of effort into digital download and streaming content, so players who just want to 'try before they buy' with World of Warcraft can just download a little bit and play through one of the start zones without having to do the full install, which I think is about 25 Gigabytes at the moment. That's a lot to ask from someone who's not even sure if this is something they want to invest in.

David Kosak: Hard to just 'dip' your foot in that! The streaming client was a huge technical hurdle for us but it makes an enormous difference. You download some basic data to get started, and the rest will just stream in. You'll get it all eventually but you can have a playing experience pretty quickly.

Greg Street: We'd hate the thought of someone who was really excited to play and then had to go through a long and lengthy install process, to the point where they might even lose interest. Would be a terrible way to lost a customer who may have not even had a chance to play.

Followed by yet another Q&A with the pair on Digital Spy:
Is the tone of the story darker with the cataclysmic events of the game?

[GS] "Previous expansions with Wrath of the Lich King was pretty dark too with its undead focus. But this one is pretty dark as well. You have this fiery dragon and a lot of death and destruction in its wake. We thought it was a good time to almost bring a shock to the system and really get players attention, and that this is big and things are happening. The game has been out for six years now and now it was time to give the game that shake up."

[DK] "We really focus on conflict in this expansion. We really play out the fighting between the Alliance and the Horde. We really try and bring that to the forefront, you get a lot more of that in this expansion."

And then all the interviews get rounded off by the "Everything You Need To Know About World of Warcraft: Cataclysm" article on Kotaku, which isn't really as all-encompassing as they want you to think it is:
Deathwing the Destroyer, the antagonist upon whom the entire expansion is based, is a character that hasn't been seen in Warcraft lore since he was banished from Azeroth during the events of Warcraft II. He's now returned, and is understandably...upset.

Deathwing has ripped a dimensional tear in the very fabric of Azeroth, which is why the expansion is called "Cataclysm"; it's WoW's own apocalypse, with many of the game's regions radically transformed from what people will have been used to all these years.

Spots on the map that were once lovely are now charred wastelands. Conversely, old wastelands are now quite lovely spots! Visitors to the Barrens will also notice some rather drastic changes to the topography.

Oh, and how about these new "classic" World of Warcraft sketches to bring back some memories?