Paul Sams has been the Chief Operations Officer at Blizzard since the mid-nineties, and is probably one of the best placed people at the company to comment on World Of Warcraft and its upcoming expansion pack, Mists Of Pandaria.
While we had him on the line, we thought we'd pick his brain about Blizzard's move into console gaming and whether the developer is considering any casual core platforms too. After all, it's not everyday you get to sit down with one of the head honchos of the most bankable video games developer on planet earth...
How far back does the genesis of Mists Of Pandaria go?
We were originally thinking of including the Pandarians as far back as the Burning Crusade. We've wanted to have it as a playable race for a very long time, and today, we feel it's the right time to include it. If you were to ask our developers what race within the entirety of the Warcraft lore they'd most like to explore, it's them. This has been a long time coming for us and it's something that the developers involved in creating Warcraft at the company are just giddy about. I think that this is going to come across quite clearly when you play it.
It certainly looks like it. The presentation in there is incredibly detailed and beautiful...
We're excited about it. I think that the lore around Pandaria is pretty fun and cool. There's a lot of depth to it. Bringing in the Monk class is also pretty cool. I'm a fan of martial arts and seeing how it's been integrated into the game is amazing.
The martial arts fighting style makes MOP feel like a more physical combat oriented expansion pack than those that preceded it - especially with the new forward rolls and the flying kicks. Was that something you wanted to include in it early on?
Well, I think that our team certainly thought it would be great to put a hand-to-hand combat system into the game. The Pandarians are going to be able to teach some of those moves to some of the other classes and most of the other races. I think there are only two races that can't be a Monk and I think that those are the races from our last expansion - the Wargans and Goblins.
Mists Of Pandaria is your fourth expansion for WOW. What impact do you think it'll have on attracting players who are late to the party? Is it getting harder to get into this game as the lore continues to expand?
I don't know if the lore is what makes it challenging. I think it's more that it's been out for a long time and they make assumptions that it's hard and it might be not for them because they might not be a hardcore gamer. But we've worked really really hard to make sure that we have instituted our longstanding design principle of it being easy to learn but hard to master. We worked hard to provide an incredible experience for the core folks, but it starts really easy for the newbies to come in, so they can slowly ramp their way to a place of bigger difficulty.
I think MOP packs three punches in one. You're going to get a lot of content that will provide for a lot of wonderful new experiences on a high level of engagement. The players that are already there are going to really enjoy it. There are also a lot of players, who for whatever reason, have left and I think they'll be drawn back in by the new stuff we have in there like the new class, the new pet system, the new world, which as you alluded to, looks amazing.
Then there are the new players; historically, when we put out these expansions, it nets us new players who haven't tried it before. MOP is so beautiful and so accessible that I anticipate we'll see new players. It's a lot brighter and lighter than say, Cataclysm, which was a little darker. (laughs) Just by a smidge.