World Of Warcraft: Exclusive Interview with Lead Designer Jeffrey Kaplan

We’re back with another exclusive Q&A with the people behind World of Warcraft. Lead Designer Jeffrey Kaplan drops in for this latest Q&A where our own Whitney Butts quizzes him on the latest things from the world of Azeroth.

WarCry Q&A: World of Warcraft
Answers by Jeffrey Kaplan (Lead Designer)
Questions by Whitney Butts

WarCry: Can we expect to find a Heroic Karazhan sometime in the future?

Jeffrey Kaplan: Creating a Heroic version of Karazhan is certainly a cool idea. However, we don’t have any plans to do so at the moment.

WarCry: The complication and difficulty of getting keyed and attuned for many instances has risen quite a bit. What is the reason for increasing the complication for attunements and keys?

Jeffrey Kaplan: I’m actually a big fan of how the Heroic keying process worked out. We want there to be a sense of progression and something to look forward to, but at the same time we don’t want the process to get so complicated that it becomes too daunting. When you group with people in a Heroic instance, you know that they have a certain level of understanding when it comes to that particular dungeon because they needed to do it a few times. As time goes on, we’ll continue to tweak and balance the attunement processes in response to player feedback and our own observations.

WarCry: In many ways, Karazhan mirrors instances like Zul’Gurub or the Ruins of Ahn’Qiraj in terms of raid size compared to the 40-person raids. How did the development of Karazhan compare to the development of these previous raids? Are there any plans for future 10-person raid dungeons?

Jeffrey Kaplan: While there are definitely philosophical tuning differences between 5-, 10-, 20-, 25-, and 40-person instances, we don’t have a vastly different approach in our dungeon-creation process. The same basic elements that make a 5-person instance great — pacing, story, varied creatures, varied abilities, punctuating boss fights, good itemization, accessibility, and understandability — will also make for a great 25-person experience.

Karazhan was a lot of fun to work on, and we really took our time developing and polishing it. Karazhan, more so than Zul’Gurub or the Ruins of Ahn’Qiraj, had a very storied history in existing Warcraft lore, and we wanted to deliver on the high expectations. There are definitely plans for more 10-person content.

WarCry: Starting with Zul’farrak and the Sunken Temple of Atal’Hakkar and continuing with Zul’Gurub and the mysteriously labeled (and troll-themed) Zul’Aman instance portal in the Ghostlands, there has been a real focus on those zany trolls in terms of PVE content. Why the troll love?

Jeffrey Kaplan: Trolls are a core part of Warcraft lore and are one of the oldest races in Warcraft history. They have a lot of rich and exciting material to draw from, so naturally, this is reflected when we create dungeons and other content for the game.

WarCry: The last two big “dungeon-introducing” content patches included massive world-events that introduced their companion dungeons. Have you learned any lessons from managing and designing events on such a massive scale? Any future plans for more world events?

Jeffrey Kaplan: We’re always learning here. We definitely have plans to do more world event content, and we’ll keep evolving our philosophy on them. With each new event, we become even more comfortable with what works best, and we certainly have plenty more exciting ideas yet to be implemented.

WarCry: Other than the Netherdrakes and starting flying mounts, will any more mounts be added? Will rare flying mounts be rare drops like epic mounts could have been previously?

Jeffrey Kaplan: We’ll keep introducing more mounts — both on the ground and in the air. We’ll be considering various options for how they will be made available.

WarCry: Having leveled both a blood elf and draenei character, I’ve found the leveling process in both the new starting zones to be much smoother than in the launch starting zones. Was this a specific concern in designing them? Were there any lessons you learned after launch that you applied to these new races?

Jeffrey Kaplan: The more time you spend doing anything, the better you get at it. We’ve been continually developing World of Warcraft for a number of years now, and over that time we’ve learned quite a few lessons about how to make a better game. Since the launch of World of Warcraft, we have been able to see our theories in action. Certain elements worked well, others didn’t. We realize that we need to constantly strive to evolve as a development team. The content we make today needs to be better than the content we made five years ago.

Also, new technology and systems within the game have opened the doors for us to do new and different kinds of content. When we created quests for the first two World of Warcraft zones (Elwynn and Westfall), we only had the ability to do two types of quests: “Kill X number of monsters” or “Bring me X number of items.” Since then, our programmers have provided us with a ton of new options, such as escort quests and bombing runs, to name just a few. With each patch and expansion, we have more tools in our toolbox. More importantly, we’ve got years and years of lessons learned =).

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