World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Preview, Interviews, and Media

Another barrage of Cataclysm coverage has made its way to the web, starting with a hands-on preview over at G4:
The last time Cataclysm information was firehosed onto us, it was at BlizzCon. But, as Blizzard is constantly refining things, a few things were dropped. No longer around are:

- Guild Money: Instead of having guild money, there are now guild achievements. Rather than having one person in charge of the guild's cash, now you can unlock achievements that allow everyone to buy new items with normal gold as the guild unlocks them.
- Guild Talents: This got tossed out because the developers thought one guild would find a perfect (formula) of talents, and then everyone else would just copy that.
- Glyphs: The Path of the Titans: They've dropped this and eliminated paths as well, although they may revisit Path of the Titans down the road. Instead, they've made glyphs (as cool as we wanted them to be.) Glyphs will now be permanent, and they come in flavors of major, medium, and minor.

Then we move to Eurogamer for an interview with lead systems designer Greg Street and lead world designer Alex Afrasiabi:
Eurogamer: Are you going for an overall change in the tone of the game?

Alex Afrasiabi: Absolutely. That's a challenge with making an MMO, right? Because if we don't do things like a Cataclysm to the old world, for the most part, the world stays static. Things don't necessarily change, NPCs don't age, events don't ever pass.

It's definitely going to be a different story, but I think in a good way. Cataclysm represents two things, the physical destruction and upheaval of the world, but also political upheaval. There's a lot of things changing.

If you step into Westfall for example, you actually see a Westfall five years after the Defias Brotherhood has been defeated. Northrend took its toll on the Alliance. They put a lot of time, effort, money and resources into winning this war against the Scourge and the Lich King, and that had an effect back home.

We actually see that a lot of the poor and the destitute and the people who came out of jobs because of that, or the haggard war veterans, ended up migrating into Westfall and there's all these homeless citizens that are uneasy about what their future holds. It actually has an interesting quest line that I think leads into some pleasant, interesting surprises for that zone and for the Defias.

Eurogamer: What kind of percentage of the old-world quests have been changed?

Alex Afrasiabi: So - here's a number for you. Wrath of the Lich King shipped with about 1000 quests, a little over. Cataclysm will ship with... we're tracking to ship with over 3000 new quests.

Before stopping by VG247 for an interview with lead designer Tom Chilton:
As someone who had a (hardcore gamer) background, do you find World of Warcraft's casual-friendly shift hard to get your head around?

Chilton: To me it's something that really makes sense. I think a lot of it is dramatized. If you look at our content when World of Warcraft was first released our most challenging content and you look at it then, and you look at our most challenging content now, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the current content is way more hardcore than the old content was.

If you look at a ["vanilla" WoW] fight like Ragnaros or Onyxia or Blackwing if you look at those encounters and you compare them to the encounters we have now you know, the Lich King encounter in heroic modes, the Algalon encounter, etc, there's absolutely no comparison in terms of the level of complexity and how challenging those encounters are tuned compared to how they used to be.

In a lot of ways, I think it's not really true to say WoW has become easier, I think what has become easier is the majority of the WoW population is now able to experience a lot of content in some way that they used to not be able to experience. And there's a smaller power gap between the hardcore players and the not-hardcore players. So while the hardcore players have content that is more challenging than ever before, they're now only one tier of gear ahead of the majority of the WoW population. Versus back in the day where if you had the Naxxramas gear in the original WoW, the average player out there would only have dungeon quality gear and didn't have epics.

So there was a four tier gap in power between the hardcore player and the non-hardcore player.

Finally, there's a video preview of the expansion's revamped cities at GameTrailers, a batch of new screenshots and a zone tour at Voodoo Extreme, and an exclusive wallpaper of Deathwing (in human and dragon form) at the World of Warcraft Official Magazine website.