Gameplanet: How do you balance redesigning Azeroth and Kalimdor without compromising nostalgia?
Cory Stockton: We think nostalgia plays the smallest part. The biggest thing for us is creating something that’s as fun as possible and is going to fit the story.
Nostalgia does come into it in a small way based on each individual designer. You’ll see that there are individual quests that are very beloved by players that we’ve taken extra care with, and you’ll see that all throughout the game. What we have changed, we’ve tried to change it in a way that made sense, so that when you see it, you’ll be like, ‘Oh! I remember that! That’s really cool!’ But the majority of the ‘Kill X number of Y’ stuff we’ve gone and changed to feel more like the Northrend quest lines. So you’ll see actual storylines developing, you’ll get to use vehicles, you’ll see phasing tech, stuff like that.
Gameplanet: Speaking of phasing tech, the Worgen and Goblins have phasing starting zones, are you planning to add phasing tech to the other starter zones?
Stockton: You’ll see some, in some of the starter zones. It’s not in every one. The big thing about the phasing tech is that we can now do it on an individual basis. It doesn’t have to require a building or something to change, we can now take a player and just throw them into a phase.
For example, on a quest we might send you to go kill a specific quest mob. When we do that now, we can phase you and have that mob act like you’re the only person there – no other players are visible. It creates a much more customised experience, we can do a cinematic, you’ll get more of an individual set up. So you’ll see a lot of that happening, as well as what you saw in the [new] starter zones where the whole world actually changes.
Gameplanet: And obviously that’ll cut down on crowding on quest mobs.
Stockton: Well that’s the biggest thing! We have a population control system already that says ‘Spawn X mobs based on the number of players in the area,’ but sometimes that’s just not enough – like on the day when the game goes live – so that’s when that individual phasing will be really useful.
Gameplanet: What steps – if any – have you taken to increase the relevance of the more remote cities in Kalimdor and Azeroth, for example Exodar and Silvermoon?
Stockton: We’ve done a couple of things: Exodar has a direct port to Stormwind now so that you can get back and forth between the two. It’s something we feel we probably always should have had and it made sense to add it now. Darnassus is going to get a small Worgen district because Worgen are the new Druid-like race for the Alliance, so it makes perfect sense that they would have a spot there. We have a whole new art style we’ve created: It’s these buildings that look like they’re built out of trees but they’re Worgen-style, so they’re dark and spooky – they fit the Gilneas style. And those will go into a section of Darnassus.
Gameplanet: Ragnaros is back and he’s moved from the Molten Core to Mount Hyjal. What other plans are there to revisit the raids of “vanilla” World of Warcraft?
Stockton: One of our new raids is called Blackwing Descent and that takes place inside of Blackrock Mountain. It’s very derivative of Blackwing Lair – the bosses and creatures you see in there, there’s a chance some of those might be things you’ve actually seen in Blackwing Lair, so that’s a very nostalgia-driven raid.
For the old raids themselves, you’ll see guild achievements added for them. Take the raid meta achievement that we have now, we’ll have a new achievement that is a ‘Classic Raid’ achievement – but it’s a guild achievement and that’ll have a very specific reward attached to it, so even if you’ve completed it in the past, you may want to go back with your guild to get the reward.
Gameplanet: And those raids will still be tuned to their traditional levels?
Stockton: Exactly, so Molten Core will still be a level 60, 40-man raid – we’re not going to change that, even though you could probably do it with ten!
Gameplanet: You’re overhauling the classic dungeons Shadowfang Keep and the Deadmines –
Stockton: Actually, now we’re planning those for a patch, they won’t ship with Cataclysm. So one of the big things we’re doing, like what you saw today, you saw Silverpine?
Stockton: The whole new storyline through there really builds up the change that has happened in Shadowfang Keep.
And a zone that you didn’t see today, but a zone that has had a 95% revamp would be Westfall. Westfall is completely different, huge changes. Almost no quest line is intact because the Defias don’t make sense any more as a threat. Now the Cataclysm is a threat, so things have really changed and all of that will play into the new Deadmines, the boss there and the way that experience is going to happen.
So you’re going to see the set up when Cataclysm ships for both those zones and right now we’re targeting patch 4.1 for those revamped instances, and they’ll also be level 85 heroics.
Gameplanet: Can we expect other classic instances to get that kind of treatment as well, for example Stratholme?