World of WarCraft producer Mark Kern was interviewed by GamesDomain recently. Read about what Mark does, what he thinks about WoW, preview of the Hunter and more! Full story at more link below or you can read it here.
World of Warcraft
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Release Date: 12/07/2004 Genre: Role-Playing
In Depth Look
By GD Staff, Special to Yahoo! Games
No massively multiplayer game has garnered the success of Sony's EverQuest, but if anyone can steal the crown, it's Blizzard. Producing hit after hit, the company's last major title, Warcraft 3, shipped four million units worldwide on pre-orders alone. We cornered Mark Kern, team lead for World of Warcraft, to fill us in on the latest developments.
Games Domain: Hi Mark -- please give us a little background on what you do and what you've worked on in the past.
Mark Kern: I basically facilitate the development of the game by helping set goals and priorities, while at the same time, serving as a bridge between the development team and all the other departments that must work together to launch this game.
In the past, I've worked on a number of Blizzard games, such as Diablo II and StarCraft. Diablo II probably prepared me the best for World of Warcraft, since it was our first game that required a game server. We learned a lot from the issues that we had to solve on Diablo II.
GD: Which area of the gameworld are you most pleased with? Which needs the most work?
MK: I'd have to say that I'm really happy with the way the world feels alive and full of things to do. Our quest system is very prevalent throughout our game and really drives players forward into exploring new lands and features. Our zones are also very richly populated with characters, little creatures, camps, and other things which help ground the monsters and encounters of our game. It makes it feel as if these creatures have been here all along, and that they belong and have purpose in the world. Still, screenshots don't do the game justice. You really have to stroll through the world to appreciate how it feels.
Our biggest task now is to get our player vs player interaction going. We recently launched a PvP server where players are free to attack each other in certain zones. While this is not our ultimate goal for PvP, we wanted to get some early feedback on the balance of the classes as they fought with each other on the server. We'll use this information to help create the PvP zones where players can fight over Warcraft-style towns, almost as if they were in Warcraft III, but directly on the ground, swinging a sword and casting spells.
GD: How do you propose to address the "mudflation" problem? [This is a common scenario in massively multiplayer games when oversupply of powerful items devalue too quickly. -Ed]
MK: We are currently in the middle of our big "economy-pass" on the gameplay. We've done several things already, such as making quest items and certain rare items bind to you when you acquire them. A bound item cannot be traded to other players, which helps keep the quest rewards meaningful while reducing inflation. Also, various money sinks are starting to become available in the beta. Mounts are very expensive, for example, and the mail system has some nominal postage attached to sending a letter or item to another player. Given how popular the mail system is becoming, those postage stamps will add up! As the beta progresses, we'll continue to refine the economy.
GD: Do you expect World of Warcraft to predominantly acquire subscribers from other MMORPGs, or to attract new players to the genre?
I think the most exciting thing we are seeing with the beta is how we are attracting people who normally don't play MMORPGs, or even video games, very much. It has always been one of our goals to expand the genre to more gamers by making the game easier to use, with a faster pace of action and rewards. We've actually had to expand upon our plans for launch based on the positive feedback we've been getting from these players.
GD: Will you be allowing players to have both Horde and Alliance characters on the same server?
MK: Currently, there are no restrictions. Depending on the results of the beta, that could always change. Right now, we're leaning towards allowing you to have either.
GD: What plans do you have for the game after its release?
MK: Live updates. We've got the whole team planning out our first couple of updates to make sure they are really stellar. Support and new content is really the key to growing an online game. We want to make sure that there are lots of little events, tournaments, and other things to keep the game lively and interesting.
GD: Have you been surprised at the desirability of beta accounts?
MK: We got around the same number of beta signups as for our other games, so the numbers didn't seem very surprising. What is interesting is the amount of interest that is being shown by fans in our forums. I think that is largely due to the fact that we have a community manager for the first time, and as a result, we are interacting more with the forums and actually building a community.
GD: What new content or features do you have lined up for the next update in the beta test?
MK: We are trying very hard to get the hunter class online for the next push, but it is a very complicated class and it might take a push or two to complete. His specialty is taming pets that he can keep and name, while specializing in ranged weapons like muskets. The pet system we have planned is pretty extensive, so that's what is taking so much time. It's our last class and one that I, and many other players, are really looking forward to.
GD: Your "rest state" feature was controversial at first. [Blizzard imposed experience penalties on players who leveled up their characters for long periods of time without logging off. -Ed] The complaining seems to have settled down now -- do you plan to make any more changes to it?
MK: Rest state was a hot topic, but as players started playing with it and realizing that we were going to be make changes to it, the fervor died down. By tweaking the rate of recovery and allowing you to rest to some degree anywhere in the world, we addressed some of the real issues that players were having. It is an example of why we have the beta: so we can try out new, even controversial ideas, and get player feedback. This is not something we could do as freely during or after launch.
GD: Do you see the beta primarily as a chance to receive player feedback on features like these or more as a "bug hunt?"
It's definitely been for player feedback as we balance the game. We've never done a player wipe during beta, and we hope that we never have to do so. We want to have people play the content nearly all the way through, because you can't just artificially test gameplay at the higher levels by "bumping" players up to the max level.
Our thanks to Mark for his time. World of Warcraft is planned to release this holiday season -- in the meantime, be sure to check out our exclusive new trailer and other great content.