Summary: JCal has some last-minute questions answered by Blizzard before they launch their epic MMO expansion!
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.
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.
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.
Jeff Kaplan: We've introduced many new creatures with the expansion and I don't think anyone would agree on the same one as a favorite. Each new region of Outland has some creature or other that stands out.
FiringSquad: After the expansion's release in January, what can you tell us about future updates to World of Warcraft in terms of new free downloadable content?
Jeff Kaplan: We do intend to continue producing free content updates for World of Warcraft. Blizzard recognizes how important it is to keep the game fresh; there is a lot more that we would like to do and we have no shortage of ideas. A lot of those ideas will be realized in content updates, while others may find their way into new expansions in the future.
FiringSquad: World of Warcraft now has over 8 million subscribers and it looks like it will continue to grow. How hard is it to keep up support for all those customers?
Jeff Kaplan: It's been a learning experience for all of us. We didn't quite anticipate the degree of popularity the game has reached. We've had our growing pains and learned a lot about how we needed to build our infrastructure to support our growth. We've been very busy upgrading our hardware over the period leading up to the release of the expansion in order to anticipate the growing populace and prepare for the launch.
FiringSquad: Finally there has been a lot of speculation about future Blizzard products. Will Blizzard concentrate on developing more MMORPG titles?
Jeff Kaplan: We do have some unannounced projects that we're working on, but we're not quite ready to divulge any details on these just yet. With The Burning Crusade just about ready to release, we're wholly focused on that game right now.
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