Tom Chilton, the Lead Designer of World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade, was interviewed recently by WoW WarCry Site Manager Whitney Butts. The interview looks back at the launch of the Burning Crusade and issues that face the players.
This is the first in a monthly series of Q&As we’ll be doing with the Blizzard team. Be sure to leave your suggestions for future Q&A questions in the comment thread.
Answers by Tom Chilton, Lead Designer
Questions by Whitney Butts
WarCry: There is a lot of interest in the flying mounts. How do flying mounts change the overall feel of the game? Were there any bumps along the road opening up the sky for flight?
Tom Chilton: Flying mounts give players the ability not only to fly without restrictions such as set paths and routes, but also allowed us the means to create unique areas and encounters that are only accessible to those who have them. Unlike in Azeroth, we were able to create Outland with flying mounts in mind from the start. It was something we felt very strongly about making possible, and we found a way for the technology and our plans to meet up in a very good way.
WarCry: With the addition of a large amount of new raid content, do we anticipate players “farming” raid content like they have in the past? The thought of a new expansion every year certainly limits the amount of time players are going to have to experience each raid dungeon. What is being done to insure that players have ample time to experience all of the raid content?
Tom Chilton: We’ve reduced the amount of players needed for a raid as a starting point. Our newest raid dungeons have a maximum of 25 players needed to do them. It’s made it easier for players to find enough people to get coordinated and do the encounter, as well as made individual contribution to a raid much more important. How quickly players get to that content is all dependent on how each player chooses to spend his or her time.
We’d like to think we have kept everyone in mind while creating the latest raid dungeons. However, we also feel it’s important to continue making them as challenging as possible so that the time spent learning and conquering the encounters feels worthwhile to them. Whether or not players get to the point of farming the encounters is yet to be seen. It seems as though there are always well-coordinated guilds that manage to do so.
WarCry: How did the transition between World of Warcraft and The Burning Crusade affect players and staff? Did it go as planned? Better? Worse? What are some aspects of the transition that could have been changed?
Tom Chilton: We spent a lot of time working on upgrading our server infrastructure to support the new expansion. While players had some extended downtime prior to the release, we felt that it was necessary in order to better prepare for the launch of The Burning Crusade. It was pretty much all hands on deck as we got closer to launch and everyone was preparing for any contingencies that might crop up once things went live.
It seems that despite a few small issues, things have gone much better than we had even hoped they would. Given the magnitude of this release, some people had an understandable expectation that we might stumble a little out the gate, but we didn’t and managed to have a very smooth launch.
WarCry: Can we expect to see a “heroic” type Zul’Gurub, Onyxia, Molten Core, Anh’Qiraj, Blackwing Lair, and Naxxramas, or is it likely that players aren’t going to have any need for those dungeons?
Tom Chilton: We don’t have any plans to add a heroic mode to these dungeons at this time. On the other hand, the players who feel they may have missed out on the opportunity to experience many of these encounters may find these dungeons much more accessible to them now. In fact, we’re already seeing that many players are taking the newfound power they’ve obtained through new items, talents, and abilities as they’ve leveled past 60 to Azeroth to explore the dungeons there, sometimes for the first time.
WarCry: After the original launch each class went through an individual review. Will there be reviews again post-TBC launch?
Tom Chilton: We don’t have any plans to do full class reviews like we did before. We’re focusing more on making changes to classes as they need them and as we feel they need to be made rather than putting all of our focus on any one at a time. We are constantly reading player feedback and watching how people actually play their classes to see what things we can improve upon.
WarCry: The Caverns of Time add a huge opportunity to experience more and more of what has happened in Warcraft history. Is it possible that we’ll see more Caverns of Time instances besides what is being released at launch?
Tom Chilton: The Caverns of Time opens up a lot of new opportunities for us to create content that gives players a chance to go into Warcraft history and experience it firsthand. It’s a great way for us to bring the lore of Warcraft to life in a whole new way. It’s very possible that we will add more to the Caverns of Time at some point in the future to expand upon the many experiences that players can have in them.
WarCry: What are you most proud of from The Burning Crusade? What is the new biggest challenge to players? What was the most difficult feature to implement? What is the best new feature?
Tom Chilton: With this expansion, everyone on our teams really pulled together to create something that people were excited about. We’ve added a lot of landmass with some really creative and interesting new areas to explore and expanded upon the storyline that has made World of Warcraft so captivating to so many people through hundreds of new quests.
Probably one of the best aspects of the game is the addition of flying mounts. We had to make sure the technology was done right to make it happen the way we envisioned it. We’re also excited about the new player-vs.-player arenas and look forward to the ladder season beginning. This just adds a whole new element to PvP combat, and we know that many players are looking forward to finally proving just who deserves to be at the top.
WarCry: With the arena PvP added in addition to the battlegrounds, how is the feel of PvP going to change? Will we see more of a division between strictly PvP players and strictly PvE players? Will it be possible for a player to be in a top PvE guild and maintain a high PvP status?
Tom Chilton: The addition of the arenas and the ladder system is something that the most competitive PvPers have been wanting for a long while. It gives them an outlet to really compete on a recognizable level. There’s no better way for someone to not only get some great new gear, but to prove that they and their team are the best around. Being the top of the ladder though also puts a lot of pressure on that team to remain at the top and gives everyone else a target to shoot for.
We don’t see this as being a divisive factor between those who prefer PvE and those who prefer PvP. It’s just another way for players to be able to engage in PvP in a new way. The arenas aren’t meant to be extremely time intensive. Each match is set up as last person standing and matches are limited by how many teams are participating. No one is going to be able to spend every waking moment in the arena unless they are playing the non-ranked arenas just for the fun of it. Even then, you still have to have someone to fight against.
WarCry: What will The Burning Crusade change about the game for those who do not purchase it?
Tom Chilton: Players who don’t purchase The Burning Crusade will still be able to interact with the players who do, including those Burning Crusade players who have created one of the two new races. Also, non-Burning Crusade players will be able to buy new items made via jewelcrafting or from other players selling items found in Outland. New talents, spells, and abilities were also added for everyone, and each talent tree now goes as deep as 41 talent points. And of course, all of the content that players were able to access prior to the release of The Burning Crusade is still available to them.
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