It's the biggest MMORPG in terms of worldwide subscribers ever made and tomorrow (or late tonight if you got to the midnight launches) Blizzard releases their first commercial expansion pack to World of Warcraft, titled Burning Crusade. Could this be the biggest PC game of the year? FiringSquad got a chance to ask questions to one of the game designers at Blizzard, Jeff Kaplan, to get the last work on Burning Crusade before its launch.
FiringSquad: The Burning Crusade is an expansion pack, but it has taken longer to develop than most full games. What was the main reason for the lengthy development time?
Jeff Kaplan: When we launched World of Warcraft, we still had plans for free content updates as well as a number of other features we wanted to provide. Much of our time after release was focused on carrying out those plans and getting them into the game as we had envisioned them. We also needed to examine our development processes and figure out what we could improve upon as far as streamlining the next phase of development so that we could not only do it quickly, but carry it out while keeping our high standard of quality in mind as well.
Many would say that the amount of content that we have released through free content updates since the initial launch of the World of Warcraft would add up to another expansion already. The Burning Crusade expands upon that content yet again, and arguably includes as much content as a lot of full games, so we wanted to take the time to ensure that the quality of all that content met our high standards.
FiringSquad: What new aspects of gameplay do the Blood Elves and Draenei playable races add to the game?
Jeff Kaplan: The blood elves and draenei add many new opportunities to explore the world and to expand upon the history of Azeroth and the events that shaped it. For example, we've also made it possible to play a Paladin as a blood elf or a Shaman as a draenei, opening up these classes to their respective factions for the first time.
Each of these races will also have their own starting zones complete with quests, as well as new capital cities, and mount types. Blood elves and draenei also offer their own unique racial bonuses. Examples include arcane torrent for the blood elves, which is an area effect silencing ability, and gift of the Naaru (a healing ability) for the draenei.
FiringSquad: The Burning Crusade seems to have some sci-fi elements added to World of Warcraft's fantasy mix. What does this aspect mean for gameplay?
Jeff Kaplan: Some have misconstrued a science-fiction aspect with the draenei, but what people tend to miss is that there has always been an otherworldly leaning in the storyline from the very beginning. The Titans themselves traveled through the Twisting Nether and shaped worlds. The orcs come from the very same planet as the draenei and were brought in via an inter-dimensional portal. These are elements of the story that haven't changed.
I don't think this does anything to change the current gameplay so much as continues to advance the storyline and expand upon the idea that Azeroth is just one world of many that has been affected by the Burning Legion. We now have the opportunity to explore one of those worlds with the addition of Outland.