World of Warcraft: Cataclysm might not be the most glamourous game in the world, especially given the mostly-incorrect stereotype of WoW players being red-shirt wearing young men with squeaky voices and a nervous disposition. Despite that though, you can be sure that it’ll be the most successful release of the next 12 months – not bad for a game released on a supposedly dying platform.
Earlier this week we caught up with Blizzard’s Greg ‘Ghostcrawler’ Street and Dave Kosak, to see what they had to say about working on the biggest game of next year. Of course, since Games Editor Joe hasn’t ever actually played World of Warcraft, he elected to ask them your questions instead…
Bit-Gamer: I’m going to launch straight into the difficult questions then, though these are all pretty hard since they came from our community of World of Warcraft players. In fact, the first is from our site developer, Jamie Cuthill. He wanted to know what your long-term plans for World of Warcraft were – will you just keep making expansions, for example, or is this the last one?
Greg ‘Ghostcrawler’ Street: No, I think we’ll keep making expansions. Our business model has fallen into the rhythm of releasing a big expansion and then two or three big content patches which add new content without changing the landscape or level cap.
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I mean, neither Dave or I were at Blizzard when World of Warcraft originally launched, but the developers at the time had no idea what they were really getting themselves into. They thought they were making a game that would get a couple of hundred thousand subscribers and last no more than a couple of years. It’s been going for six years now, so we’re always having to ask ourselves how things will fit in with expansion six or expansion ten. We’re always thinking on expandability. Whenever we update a class we have to think ‘OK, we’re committing to this for years to come…’
Dave Kosak: Plus, World of Warcraft is a live game. It’s an ongoing story. We’re always going to keep building on to that and extending that story.
BG: ‘Always’? That’s a long time.
Greg: <laughs> Well, for the foreseeable future then.
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BG: So, when did you both start at Blizzard then?
Dave: I came on about two years ago, just as development of Cataclysm began.
Greg: And I’ve been at Blizzard a year longer, for all of Wrath of the Lich King.
BG: In that time has there been any design decisions that you’ve regretted making? Things you wish you’d done differently. (Question from AshT)
Greg: Oh, there’s a million. Part of being a games designer is looking back and thinking ‘I wish I’d done that differently, how can I fix it?’
One example would be badges. Loot drops in World of Warcraft are random, so some players might be really unlucky and just not get the item they want even after killing the same boss over and over. We added a system where the bosses also drop tokens and those tokens can be traded in for items. We have changed that design in every single patch. It has been through six or seven different versions and we still haven’t found one we’re all happy with. I regret not only that we couldn’t get it right, but also that we’ve had to keep changing it and that players have had to keep adapting.