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Gameplanet: So can we expect to see vehicles in raids again, as we did in Ulduar?
Stockton: You can expect to see vehicles in raids again, but only where they make sense. The lessons we learned from Malygos are huge. It’s that same thing: Players don’t like their abilities being taken away from them.
The best thing I can tell you about that is that we’re only going to do that when it makes the gameplay experience better. Sometimes it’s very difficult to navigate 3D space, so flying, even though it sounds like it can be really cool, it’s very difficult to know how far away you are from something. The discs in the Malygos fight for melee were difficult and that’s something we’re looking into, we’re looking into 3D targeting, doing outlines around characters so that you can tell how far they are from you, things like that. Similar kinds of things as to what they’re doing in StarCraft II, where they draw a line to the ground. They’re all things that we’re looking at.
So again, you’re only going to see it if it makes the gameplay experience better, otherwise, we’re going to try to avoid it.
Gameplanet: On StarCraft II - Blizzard tend to cross-pollinate games. Can fans of StarCraft II expect to see the odd reference to that game buried away in Cataclysm?
Stockton: I think they totally can. Half the team is playing StarCraft II. The guys are working very hard to hit their ship date and we’re involved in that and we’re trying to give them as much gameplay feedback as we can, so there’s no way that doesn’t rub off in places!
Gameplanet: Many players have data caps that make large downloads problematic. Can you ballpark how large the Cataclysm patch will be?
Stockton: It’ll easily be the biggest patch we’ve ever done, by far. If you think about how big patch 3.3 was – something like 1.1 gig – it’s going to be much bigger than that. I don’t have the actual data size, but that was just one zone, whereas this will be the whole world. So it’s easy to say this will be the biggest patch we’ve delivered by far, so the background downloader will be huge.
What’s cool is that we can do background downloads in increments. We can say, ‘this part of the game is done, send it out.’ We don’t have to wait until the whole game is done and then load it onto the downloader, which is great because it means we can start the downloader four months early, letting you download the content really slowly over time. So we’ve worked on that tech to a point where hopefully even though it’s going to be a large patch, our hope is that it’s not going to be super inconvenient for people.
Gameplanet: Finally, what can you tell us about the launch event for Cataclysm?
Stockton: Oh, awesome! We’re planning a huge launch event. You remember the zombie plague? Yeah, so the same team that built that is working on the Cataclysm launch event, and you’re already seeing it beginning to play out now, with the stuff going on with the gnomes in Gnomeregan, and the trolls recapturing the Echo Isles. So they’ll both have completely new starting areas, and that’s the very beginnings of the world event, and it’ll play out all the way up to launch. And what’s happening with the Cataclysm, you’re seeing the elementals – when Deathwing breaches the elemental plane, he’s bringing the elementals with him, so what we’re looking at is doing something along the lines of an elemental invasion that infects Azeroth as a whole.
So there’s a bunch of details still to be figured out, but man, you’re gonna see something spectacular. If you take the Scourge invasion, imagine that, and then multiply it by ten – possibly in major cities! – and the way we want it to work is very similar to the way the plague worked, where we’d start it up a few weeks early, and then you’ll see a build up… build up… build up, and then in those last two or three days before we flip the switch, Azeroth will be in chaos, and any player who didn’t know the cataclysm was coming will definitely know something’s going on!
Next, read our interview with Blizzard's Lead Systems Designer, Greg Street. We discuss the axing of the much-anticipated Paths system, the newly-overhauled PvP system, introducing the Mastery system – in fact, all things “System.”