World of Warcraft Keynote Report & Video Interview

GameFront penned a report of Tom Chilton's presentation of World of Warcraft's design philosophy at the recent GDC. The Blizzard designer discusses zones and talents in a presentation entitled "remaking the World of Warcraft through Cataclysm". Following the keynote report is an 11-minute video interview with Tom Chilton.
The final topic of the shaven-headed designer's talk was the talent system. It was conceived initially, he said, to provide players with (a set of choices a character would make that would make that character seem different from another character in the same class.) This kind of choice adds to the longevity of the game (it was important for players to be able to experiment with their characters while leveling, and also at max level,) Chilton explained.

Though initially successful, after two expansions and their accompanying level-cap hikes, the talent system had gotten out of control. (The game has a tendency to become more and more complicated over time,) the designer pointed out, somewhat obviously. (We really didn't have an end-game when we were designing this.) Most worrying was the fact that, although more talents meant more complexity, they didn't necessarily offer more choice. The number of viable character builds remained relatively static.

Chilton and his team decided that Cataclysm was their opportunity to reverse this trend, and they dramatically pared down the talent options. In doing so, they were influenced by games like Modern Warfare 2 that had simple customization systems that nevertheless provided for a lot of player choice. At the end of the day, World of Warcraft players are still in control. (I assure you,) Chilton assured us, (that there are not fewer viable builds today than there were when we shipped Lich King.)