Interviews

Interviews
World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Interview: Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street

John Funk | 20 Aug 2010 20:00
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Editor's Note: This is the full transcript of an interview between WoW Lead Systems Designer Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street and The Escapist. For the neat and concise writeup of the interview, check out this week's issue, all about Cataclysm!

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John Funk, The Escapist: [JF]
So, what I've been wondering since the announcement was: How did the idea come up? Was it in a meeting and it slowly dawned on people, or did Rob Pardo come marching out of his office one day and go "Right, we're blowing it all up!"?

Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street, World of Warcraft: [GS]
[Laughs] No, actually. You know...we start off an expansion with a series of brainstorming meetings. "What's cool, what can we do next?" And this one originally started - we identified Deathwing early on, and we knew we wanted some kind of explosive thing coming out of the ground, but originally it was a whole new continent we were going to do. We had a couple of ideas for new zones and then we said "Well, let's take this opportunity to fix some of the older zones, because they just weren't holding up anymore artistically," and the style of the quests was very different from the quests we do today.

So we said, "OK, we'll have this Northrend-style new continent and then we will have a couple of old zones we'll just kind of touch up." As we started making a list of zones we wanted to touch up we realized, "Wow, that list is getting really long." The more we looked at it, we realized the story we really wanted to tell took place in the old continents, and we could take our ideas for new zones and just work them in there, and have the whole thing take place in the old world instead of making a new one.

JF:
So, the idea to reintroduce this classic villain from Warcraft II came before the intent to remake the world?

GS:
Yeah, that came really early. We had so much luck with the Lich King [in Wrath of the Lich King] being the main bad guy in the end that players could identify with and kinda knew that he was coming. We knew we needed a very charismatic villain again to introduce early. We kind of thought with Burning Crusade having Illidan [Stormrage], that he was a really cool character but we just didn't sell him enough early on, so that people didn't really associate the whole story with him like they did with Arthas - and hopefully will with Deathwing.

JF:
So, the problem - well, not a problem necessarily - is after Cataclysm, you guys are pretty much out of villains from past Warcraft titles. So, do we just start moving forward into brave, new worlds from here?

GS:
Well, there are a couple of villains we haven't tapped yet, but we've also had pretty good success with introducing major characters quickly. Like the whole King of Stormwind - he came almost out of nowhere, and now it seems he's been around for awhile. It's the same thing with [Garrosh] Hellscream for the Horde, so we think we can get characters introduced pretty quickly when the need arises.

JF:
OK, so going back to what you said about the quests. One of the major things about Cataclysm is that you're re-tuning the entire 1-60 experience ... [the leveling experience] in BC and Wrath is generally thought of as much better than the other stuff in "vanilla" WoW. What sort of things did you learn from the expansions that you didn't know then, and that you want to bring back for Cataclysm?

GS:
Wow, there's a lot. One of them is to kind of tell a story throughout the zone. I think the closest we got to this in the original game was something like the zone of Westfall, that built through the story of the Defias and then finally Van Cleef in the Deadmines. That zone did a really good job of that. Some of the other zones? Look at Redridge; there was this orc invasion coming on and some gnolls, but you really weren't sure what the story was or where it was going.

I think what we got much better at - especially in Northrend - is saying, "OK, this is the story of the zone, this is what you're going to be doing in the zone and we're going to build toward that." It can't feel too linear because it still needs to be an RPG, but there's definitely a sense that the player is kind of advancing along a plotline rather than just scooping up quests here and there and kind of doing them overall.

JF:
So, is it more that every zone is going to have its own story, or...? One example I thought did work well in classic WoW was the whole Silithid thing, which was introduced to Horde characters really early on in the Barrens - and then you had the Silithid hives and Ahn'Qiraj 40 levels later. Are there going to be more overarching stories like that, or will they usually be self-contained experiences?

GS:
No, they're very overarching. We have a lot of major themes returning in Cataclysm. One, of course, is the return of Deathwing, and the prominence of the Twilight Hammer - this kind of cult organization that sort of follows him and the Old Gods. They're kind of cropping up everywhere. They've been around for awhile, but they're really coming to prominence now.

There's also the escalation of the conflict between the Horde and the Alliance. They have joined forces a couple of times recently to defeat the bad guys, but now both the Horde and the Alliance are led by leaders that really hate the other faction, so there's a lot of conflict going on. Players will see places like Ashenvale, which have just become open battlegrounds - the same thing with the Barrens, where the Horde and Alliance are in open conflict. That's another theme.

Then there are some ripples of things that have happened before - the fact that the Lich King has been defeated, and we kind of acknowledge that that fact does some interesting things to the world. For example, the Western and Eastern Plaguelands are becoming de-plague-ified because the Scourge is pulling back, while the Forsaken Underlady Sylvanas has gained an enormous amount of power because of what they were able to do in Northrend. Now Sylvanas is eager to expand her empire on the Eastern Kingdoms, and there's also a kind of tension between the Undead and Orc parts of the Horde.

JF:
Oh yeah, like you have in Orgrimmar, Garrosh is pretty much kicking all non-orcs out of the city.

GS:
Yeah, he's decided to align himself with the major powers, which he thinks are - you know, the Tauren are good for muscle but the Trolls, he's not sure if they can contribute that much. The Trolls and the Goblins have kind of been moved to a ghetto on the side of Orgrimmar [laughs].

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