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Gameplanet: Can we expect other classic instances to get that kind of treatment as well, for example Stratholme?
Stockton: Yeah, we’re looking at that. We actually have a list of old dungeons that are the highest candidates to actually do revamps for. Stratholme’s on that list, Scholomance and Diremaul are there – there are a couple of others that players also really, really liked. So [revamping] those instances are things for when there’s a patch, a gap, and there’s time for us to do it, that’s what we’d fill it with, rather than making entirely new content. We’d probably take something like Stratholme, make it into a level 85 dungeon, give it all new boss fights – not just tuning up the stats on existing bosses – we want it to make sense, because otherwise that’s not very different for the player. Even if you’re going through there with your new class or whatever, it has to feel different or else there’s no reason for us to do it.
Gameplanet: I’m a new player. Playing levels 1 to 58, I’m experiencing the Cataclysm. Then, I go to Outlands and need to deal with Illidan. Then, I move on to Northrend where Arthas (whose death has dramatically shaped events in the new 1 to 58 experience) is the main threat. How do you ensure that Outlands and Northrend are relevant narratives?
Stockton: That’s always a problem. Typically what we say is that we have time continuums, because if you look at Northrend, the entire game is built around Arthas – if you’re a new Death Knight, Arthas actually trains you, he gives you all your quests. But clearly, Arthas has been killed many times over now.
So for us, we just had to make the decision that the content lives in that space. Say in a future expansion we decided we wanted to revamp Burning Crusade to make [narrative] sense. It’s a very difficult thing to do, because what do you do with Illidan? Illidan’s already gone, Lady Vashj is gone – is the Burning Legion still a threat?
So for us we just have to say that that is it’s own contained space, we want it to have its own storyline - and those storylines are still strong, especially if you’re a new player: You don’t know who Illidan is, or what’s going on, so he’s still a threat to you, and you’re probably never going to do Black Temple and see that raid anyway. So as long as the dungeons make sense, the naga are still a threat, all that kind of stuff, we feel good with it.
I think the gameplay experience is still strong. As soon as it starts to make the gameplay experience feel weird, or broken, or somehow strange, that would be one of the first things we would look at fixing.
Gameplanet: So Outlands now will be the only zone that doesn’t include any phasing tech – are there any plans to introduce phasing tech to Outlands at a later date?
Stockton: Not currently. Outlands is something that we’re going to look at probably very closely over the course of Cataclysm because we’re going to see how people transition. We already know what they do now, most people go to Outlands at 55 – they don’t even wait until 58 – and a lot of people end up going to Northrend some time around Nagrand, they don’t even get to Blade’s Edge Mountains anymore because we’ve increased the experience gain. So your time there is very short.
So it’s something we’re going to be looking at very closely, it’s something we’ve talked about – you’re not the only person to have asked that question! On the development team we’ve definitely had those concerns, so it’s something we’re going to keep an eye on and se how it goes. It’s something we could make time for, we just need to know how it’s going to play out.
Gameplanet: What’s in store for the Caverns of Time?
Stockton: We have a number of things in store! We haven’t announced what we’re actually going to be doing for Caverns of Time, but I can tell you that we’re definitely going to do something in Cataclysm, a dungeon or a raid will be available in the patch content, somewhere between [patches] 4.1 and 4.3. We haven’t done much design work on it yet, but we are going to be doing something there for sure, so you can definitely expect to be going there.
Stockton: Yeah, that’s what’s great about it, you know? We can use it any time we want. If we don’t use it, it’s always there. But I think the players love that stuff, the idea that they get to go back and experience some crazy piece of Warcraft lore, so we definitely want to keep doing that.
Gameplanet: What lessons have you learned from Wintergrasp, and how will they affect Tol Barad?
Stockton: Oh, numerous, numerous lessons! I was in charge of design for Wintergrasp; that was my project. Probably the biggest thing we learned from Wintergrasp was how to deal with such a large number of players in a gigantic open space. You’ve seen us make a large number of changes just over the patch cycles to where we are now. So the biggest thing now is queuing for Wintergrasp and limiting the number of players per side so that you don’t get terrible lag. Probably the biggest problem overall was the lag situation.
From a gameplay standpoint, we learned a lot about destructibles and how people react to them. We also learned that people don’t necessarily like being in vehicles and having all their abilities taken away from them. You go from having your 40 abilities on your action bars to like, four – and you have to be in the vehicle because it’s the only way to break down a wall. So a lot of lessons learned there, and you’ll see all the outtakes in Tol Barad.
Tol Barad is going to be very smart about the way we queue, smart about the way it affects the other zones around it, it’s not going to slow down the rest of the world. You’ll see much less vehicle combat in Tol Barad – there’s still vehicles, but to a much lesser extent to what we saw in Wintergrasp.
We’re also trying to make something that’s a lot more balanced between offense and defense. You’ll see some unified buffs. We had Tenacity. Tenacity worked for the most part but it fell apart in certain places – it never affected vehicles, which didn’t really help the situation. So you’ll see some evolution of Tenacity and the way it works in Tol Barad.
And finally, the biggest thing is that Tol Barad is actually our daily quest hub for all of Cataclysm, so you’ll see that [Isle of] Quel’Danas thing – and that’s something we really want – we really want players to conglomerate in one spot. And on PvP servers, it’s gonna be nuts!
Gameplanet: Chaos, yeah, that was great.
Stockton: Yeah, that’s what we’re looking for. A lot of people really liked that from [patch] 2.4, they remember that, so it’ll be cool to bring that back.
Gameplanet: So can we expect to see vehicles in raids again, as we did in Ulduar?