Now that some of the dust has settled since the BlizzCon announcement of World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, we wanted to dig deeper into the mysteries that encompass the next expansion.
Now that some of the dust has settled since the BlizzCon announcement of World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, we wanted to dig a little deeper into the mysteries that encompass the next expansion. Unfortunately, we didn't get much, but at this point, we take what we can get. Enjoy!
ZAM: Will the Wrath of the Lich King and Northrend story arcs continue into the upcoming Cataclysm expansion, or will they begin and end separately?
Liam Knapp: The Northrend and Wrath of the Lich King stuff will be complete when Cataclysm goes [live]—the story and progression have moved forward. We're still working on the final patch for Wrath of the Lich King, where Icecrown Citadel and Arthas will come to a head. So we're still working on that and players are going to be able to sink their teeth into it in the near future. Once that storyline completes, that battle has just ended but a new terror comes and hits the world. So even though people thought they may have a [lull in the action], the Horde is already breathing down the Alliance's neck, and vice-versa. Then something new comes into the world and they have to take it on while [neither faction] is being very friendly toward [the other].
ZAM: Ever since WoW came out, Maelstrom has been in the middle of the map. I've always thought one of the expansions would focus on the Maelstrom, with an underwater zone, raid or something...is that in the works? Anything underwater?
Knapp: Absolutely! We're adding about five new zones to the game, and one of them is going to be... set underwater. The whole thing with Cataclysm is that the Elements are in an uproar now, with Deathwing returning. One of the places you'll be going is an elemental plane of water. We're going to try to make it so that you're not swimming slowly through the whole thing, either...
ZAM: By using underwater mounts?
Knapp: Well, we already have the Sea Turtle in the game; the one you get in Northrend that walks slowly on land and goes at a faster speed in the water. And there's quite a possibility we'll see more of those, especially since we're adding a lot more water to the game.
ZAM: Are the non-Undead races going to have to find "air bubbles" or something like that to breathe? How will they be able to stay underwater for long periods of time?
Knapp: It hasn't really been figured out, entirely. But we're not going to put the other races at a disadvantage just because we're putting them under water. It won't be like, 'Hey, Warlocks and Shamans have water-breathing, so they're the best classes for this zone!' We're going to keep the playing field pretty even.
ZAM: While playing the Cataclysm demo, I noticed you don't have the Death Knight class available to the Goblins and Worgen. Is that just something that didn't make it into this demo, or will it be like that in the expansion for lore reasons?
Knapp: For the demo that we're doing here, we wanted to show the starting areas. If you were a Death Knight, starting at level 55, it wouldn't really work in these areas. But we do plan to have both the Worgen and Goblins be Death Knights, but more than likely, they'll start in the Death Knight zone.
ZAM: A big addition to Cataclysm is the ability to use flying mounts in Azeroth, which people have been looking forward to since flying mounts came out. In the past, developers have said it's a mapping issue. What are the sorts of things you've done to make Azeroth accessible to flying mounts now, opposed to the past?
Knapp: Because we're spending a lot of time in Azeroth, we're able to go through and clean up a lot of things. In the past, it was kind of like, 'We haven't had a chance to work on that [yet], but it's also blocked off, so we can work on it later.' Now that we're able to go and spend time in Azeroth—making new zones there—we're re-working a lot of the existing zones. For example, Darkshore is being hit by the Cataclysm, and Auberdine—where there used to be an Alliance quest hub—is destroyed and abandoned. The Alliance encampment has moved north, and the zone is going to be flooded.
Because we're spending time in these zones that people know, and changing them, we're able to go back and fix a lot of the things, which will allow the flying mounts to work there. It takes a lot of work...it wasn't something that was really easy, like, 'Just toss in a patch and clean up all the zones to let flying mounts in there.' We're spending a lot of time there to make it all happen.
ZAM: When will all the events leading up to the Cataclysm start? I imagine the whole world won't be transformed in one week...when is that all going to start?
Knapp: We don't really have a date for that. Right now, we're still working on Icecrown Citadel and everything happening there. Once we feel like we've reached a point when the current game has hit its peak and climaxed, sometime after that we'll start introducing the events. It's just as we did for Wrath of the Lich King; the Frost Wyrms attacking the cities and everything—I don't know how long that happened afterwards, but it takes a similar amount of time.
ZAM: For Wrath of the Lich King, it was like a week or two before launch...Considering Cataclysm is such a massive, world-transforming expansion, do you think it will be a month or longer? Will you gradually ramp up to it, or will it just be one, big, massive event that players will want to make sure they're online to experience?
Knapp: Well, if it's something that happens in the course of five minutes, it would obviously be hard for players to experience. [They could] be away for the weekend and miss the whole thing. So we always keep that in mind when making these events. But a lot of them are still heavily in development, so I really can't give out any hints or anything on that. We still have a ways to go.
ZAM: What kind of new community tools are you guys working on right now, to keep players engaged and socially connected?
Knapp: There are a lot of things we want to work on; they all take a fair amount of time. One of the things we have in mind is the 'Looking For Group' tool; it's taken a lot of work in the past and it's still not quite where we want it, so we're looking at revamping it in the near future. We're also trying to update many of the guild [mechanics], to make them more important. In Cataclysm, we're planning to have a 'guild leveling system.' Players in the guild will be able to contribute to the level of the [overall] guild, and [earn] 'guild talent points' that will benefit [everyone] in the guild. We think that will add a lot more camaraderie among people in the guild; it will feel more meaningful to be together and work together towards something.
ZAM: Since the new expansion's storyline plays around Deathwing, does it also involve any of the other dragon aspects? Are we going to see more of the dragon aspect storyline play out, or new dragon raids?
Knapp: I can't really say anything about that right now. There's a lot of story left on that we want to play out; I doubt the dragons will be sitting back when Deathwing comes back, just sleeping. We'll see how it all works out through the story; there's a lot of exciting stuff we're working on right now.
ZAM: The new Archeology profession has to play into this storyline too, doesn't it? Is Archeology going to play a central role in moving the story forward? How is it going to tie into the game?
Knapp: It's hard to say right now. We haven't really had a lot of time to do a lot of development on [Archeology]. It's a secondary skill that everyone can get, so it's probably not going to be a big, main thing that we're going to require people to do, because it is still a new profession and everything. But we do want it to be fun, so there could easily be some story woven into it. We still have to take some time to figure it out.
ZAM: You're going to go back in revisit some of the old parts of Azeroth that were blocked off, where it was obvious you were planning a dungeon there. Can you tell us a little bit about which ones we're going to see?
Knapp: One of the big ones that people have talked about is Uldum, down in the south end of Tanaris. The doors will be opened, and Uldum will be a leveling zone—not just a dungeon, but a whole zone. We're planning to have two five-person dungeons down there as well. People will finally get the chance to see everything that's been happening since the doors were closed. The Titan story; we still have some more things to tell about that.
ZAM: And you're also adding Heroic modes for some of the low-level dungeons. How is that going to work? Is it made for lower-level players, or can you actually go back at level 85 and run them?
Knapp: The plan right now is that they are going to be level 85 Heroic dungeons; Deadmines and Shadowfang Keep. The dungeons themselves probably won't change very much, if at all—they're pretty much going to be the same dungeons you know.
We really just wanted to bring some of those dungeons back. People talk about loving them so much, and after they [run through them] at level 20, there's no reason to go back. So now at level 85, you can finally revisit that place you remember and run through it again, and it will give you something meaningful because it will be [re-tuned] to max level.
ZAM: Any more plans for Caverns of Time? Any new dungeons in there planned for Cataclysm?
Knapp: We always have ideas for it, but there's nothing really set in stone yet.
ZAM: The two new races-the Goblins and Worgen-have always been kind of secluded from the rest of the world we've played in, and now they're being brought into it. Can you talk about what's happening to them, and why they're being introduced in this expansion?
Knapp: That's something that people will see in the future, so I'm not going to go into too many details on it. They're looking for a home; you can see in the demo that the Goblins are kind of lost, and trying to find their way again. They find the Horde and are able to befriend them, and join up together. The exact details will be fleshed out in the future, and hopefully they enjoy it.
ZAM: You can play almost every class in any race now; which one are you looking forward to most?
Knapp: The ones I've been hearing a lot about—people being really excited about—are Gnome Priests; Priests finally being able to heal, and not just destroy is pretty exciting for people. It raises some questions, too, like the Tauren Paladins...
ZAM: And what would you say to players who are upset about the role-playing aspect of a Tauren Paladin?
Knapp: It's a story as it develops. There are some people who may have an idea about what's supposed to happen, or what they want to happen, but the story is going to keep progressing...
ZAM: So there will be lore behind it, to explain it?
Knapp: Absolutely. We already have some of those breadcrumbs in the game that explain what's going on and why things are changing. If we stayed the exact same way, things wouldn't have changed since Warcraft I. World of Warcraft is the same way; as the games and patches progress, the story is going to progress as well. It may not be the way some people predicted, but it's our game and we're making it...and we're going to keep developing the story in the best way we feel possible.
ZAM: Thank you so much for all your time
Knapp: You're welcome.
Andrew "Tamat" Beegle