WoW: The Burning Crusade
12th Dec 2005 | 16:09
October this year saw Blizzard Entertainment announce the first full expansion for its MMORPG success story World of Warcraft. Called The Burning Crusade, it's had fans - reportedly - waggling wands in excited anticipation at the prospect of a new continent, new player races, new starting zones, new instances, an increase in the level cap and lots and lots of other stuff bursting out the role-playing seams, rolling down a mountain, boshing WoW addicts on the head and making them gaze around in stunned wonder.
As for the plot backing up The Burning Crusade, well, Blizzard has had this to say: "Several years have passed since the Burning Legion's defeat at Mount Hyjal and the races of Azeroth have continued to rebuild their once shattered lives. With renewed strength, the heroes of the Horde and Alliance have begun to explore new lands and broken through the Dark Portal to investigate the realms beyond the known world. Will these heroes find friends or foes? What dangers and rewards lie in wait beyond the Dark Portal? And what will they do when they discover that the demons they thought vanquished have returned to renew their terrible Burning Crusade?"
We can't wait to get our dirty Horde hands on The Burning Crusade but it's likely to be a good few months before the expansion swaggers into the retail space. In the meantime, we reckoned it'd be great to quiz Blizzard on the add-on so we nabbed WoW lead producer Shane Dabiri and stuck him under the spotlight...
What are you currently working on at the moment in the expansion?
Shane Dabiri: As lead producer on the World of Warcraft team, I'm currently undertaking the exciting task of dividing and focusing our resources on the development of both the expansion set and on the continuing content development for the current game. This should help us streamline our efforts for 2006.
What percentage of the content is geared toward players of all levels, and what percentage to only level 60 (and above with the level cap increase) characters?
Shane Dabiri: As is traditional with MMO expansions, a large portion of the content will be geared toward characters in the range between the current maximum and new maximum levels, starting at around level 55. However, we do also plan to add content to better tie in the new races to the world, so players who choose to start as one of the new races will experience a great deal of new content up to about level 20.
At this stage, can you give us any details on new talents planned with the level cap increase from 60 to 70 and also in general how talents up to level 60 will be changed, if at all?
Shane Dabiri: Talent progression between levels 60 and 70 will work the same way it works now, with one talent point gained every level. It's a little too early to discuss the specific makeup of the new talents that will appear in the expansion, but we can say that we expect each discipline to receive two additional tiers. That's a total of six new tiers per class to choose from, which should go a long way toward helping players further differentiate their characters.
Why did you choose to concentrate on the Outland for this expansion? What is it about the zone and its lore that makes it ripe for development?
Shane Dabiri: Outland just made the most sense to us for a number of reasons. Because of the recent events of the world as depicted in Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, Outland worked well as an expansive new region that would be familiar to a large portion of our player base. Also, thanks to the adventures of Prince Kael'thas in the RTS game, the blood elves, one of the new races we're introducing in the expansion set, already have a connection to Outland. Furthermore, it's important to us to maintain as much continuity with our lore as possible, and sending players to Outland allows us to reintroduce an extremely infamous villain to the game world: the night elf demon hunter Illidan. In addition to all this, Outland gives us an opportunity to illustrate that the Warcraft universe is huge, comprising multiple worlds. The central threat of this universe is the Burning Legion, which will of course play a large part in the expansion.
You're adding a new continent in the Outland of course, but how will the world as it exists today change with the arrival of the expansion?
Shane Dabiri: Most prominently, the current world will gain two new playable races, which should be a welcome addition for both Horde and Alliance players. With these new races will come new starting zones, such as the blood elf homeland of Quel'Thalas, which players will be able to explore. We'll also be adding the the Zul'Aman and Karazhan dungeons, located respectively near Quel'Thalas and in Deadwind Pass, and the Caverns of Time in Tanaris, which contains a variety of instances, likely including a battleground.
Will new starting zones be only for the new races, or are you including new starting zones for existing ones too? If so, can you give us any details on new starting zones for existing races?
Shane Dabiri: The new starting zones will be for the new races. However, players who create new characters using any of the existing races will be able to journey to the starting zone for their faction's new ally and level up there. This means that players can still enjoy some new starting-zone content even though they might be playing as one of the original World of Warcraft races.
Why introduce the blood elves as the new Horde race? Is it, for example, to attract more players to the Horde faction to achieve a better balance between Horde and Alliance player numbers?
Shane Dabiri: We wouldn't add something to the game unless we thought it was cool and something that players would really enjoy. We're definitely happy to be offering Horde players an attractive new option, though we're admittedly pretty fond of the orcs, trolls, tauren, and Forsaken as it is. From a lore perspective, the blood elves were betrayed by the humans and rejected by the Alliance; they have a bond with Sylvanas Windrunner, the leader of the Forsaken, who in her former life was a high elf and who still has strong feelings for the lands of Quel'Thalas; and ultimately, they see their allegiance to the Horde as a means to providing them with the best opportunity to reach Outland, a hub of demonic energy. Also, with their obsession with magic and their defiant nature, they just fit into the world on the Horde side really well.
When do you plan to announce the new Alliance race?
Shane Dabiri: We haven't set a date yet.
We've read that there're plans to allow the more casual gamers that don't grind in Molten Core and the like to get hold of equipment via quests that are on a par with the items that drop in current end-game instances. Could you tell us more about your designs here and how this will impact current end-game epic gear?
Shane Dabiri: I don't recall that we've said this exactly. However, as regards the expansion, there are certainly some considerations going in for the casual gamer, such as the design of some of the new dungeons being tailored around a more casual play style. We're definitely keeping the needs of casual gamers in mind as we move forward. In general, one of the goals that we try to maintain is to link the quality of the reward to the level of the challenge, not necessarily the amount of time invested.
What types of buffs/powers will jewels created in Jewelcrafting offer, and will powers from jewels put in sockets be on top of base buffs given by these items?
Shane Dabiri: We're still examining how buffs offered by jewels will work with regard to those given by the socketed items themselves. Also, we're not quite ready to get into the types of buffs that jewels will offer; however, it's important to note that jewelcrafters will use jewels to create rings, trinkets, and necklaces, so you can begin to imagine some of the ways in which they'll be very important to their fellow players.
We know that the much-discussed Caverns of Time will finally be opened with the arrival of the expansion - will the Caverns contain only high level dungeons and instances etc. or will players of all levels be able to explore Azeroth illustrious past?
Shane Dabiri: Because the Caverns of Time will feature content that's available through the expansion set, it will by necessity be geared toward players at the current level cap and above. Also, because of the truly epic nature of this content-aiding Thrall's escape from Durnholde Keep, helping Medivh open the Dark Portal, participating in the world-defining battle at Mount Hyjal-we felt that it would be most appropriate for some of the most powerful characters in Azeroth. However, this does not mean that all of the Caverns of Time content will require the organization and mass participation of areas such as Molten Core and Blackwing Lair. In fact, we're designing a good portion of the Caverns of Time content to be accessible by much smaller groups than what has traditionally been required by high-end content, which should help casual players enjoy some of the great things that the Caverns of Time have to offer.
What's a cool expansion feature you can tell us about that's not yet been revealed?
Shane Dabiri: You mean in addition to jewelcrafting and socketed items, Outland, Quel'Thalas, flying mounts in Outland, the blood elves and another brand-new race (and their unique racial abilities), new items, new dungeons, new battlegrounds, and a new level cap (plus all the quests, spells, and abilities that come with reaching that level cap)? We're looking forward to sharing further details about the expansion, but the time's not quite right for that yet. Stay tuned to our community Web site at www.wow-europe.com, where we'll definitely be getting into some of those additional details in the months ahead.