With a reported 6 million subscribers and counting, World of Warcraft is easily the most popular online role-playing game on the planet. Now the developers at Blizzard are working on World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade, the first major expansion for the game. The Burning Crusade will introduce a lot of new content to the World of Warcraft experience, including new races, new areas of the world to explore, new quests, and much, much more. We're big fans of the game ourselves, so we jumped at the chance to get some questions regarding the expansion answered by the lead game designer of World of Warcraft himself. The Burning Crusade is due out later this year.
GameSpot: Will The Burning Crusade be primarily aimed at World of Warcraft veterans who have hit level 60, or will new players or less-advanced players find value in it as well? In other words, will you need to be a high-level character to enjoy the content in the expansion?
Jeffrey Kaplan: The Burning Crusade will draw in completely new players as well as less-advanced players, in addition to appealing to the World of Warcraft veterans. We'll be adding two new races to the game, complete with a new starting experience for both of those races. For example, the blood elves (our new Horde race) will be able to adventure through Eversong Forest and the Ghostlands. Eversong is the equivalent to a zone such as Elwynn or Tirisfal Glades, and Ghostlands is roughly the same level range as Westfall or Loch Modan. So, as you can see, there will be brand new content for people starting right at level one.
GS: You've given the Horde a "pretty" race with the blood elves; can we assume that the new Alliance race will conversely be considered the "ugly" members of that faction?
JK: With the Alliance race, our goal wasn't to make an "ugly" race. Our goal was to make a "cool" race. We thought of races that fit into the Warcraft lore and complemented the Alliance. We also thought of races that fit this particular expansion, The Burning Crusade, and the Outland and started from there. But from the beginning, we wanted to pick something cool. At the end of the day, we needed to approach it as a player and ask ourselves, "Would I want to play that race?" Personally, I am very excited about our choice.
GS: Will The Burning Crusade add much content to Azeroth's existing territories, or will it all be on the new continent? If new quests and such are going to appear in Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms, will players without the expansion be able to undertake them?
JK: We're adding content to both existing continents as well as to the zones specific to The Burning Crusade. We'll also be opening some dungeons in the old continents such as Karazhan in Azeroth and Caverns of Time in Kalimdor. Many new quests will be integrated to the existing cities that pertain to the expansion. Because this content is part of the expansion, players will need to purchase The Burning Crusade to engage in it.
GS: What sort of system will The Burning Crusade have for socketed items, and how does it compare to the item-socketing system in Diablo II: Lord of Destruction?
JK: The system will be fairly similar to that of Diablo II, along with some nuances that will make it unique to World of Warcraft. For example, we plan to introduce a new type of gem that grants bonuses that depend on the other types of gems your character is using. In addition, players will be able to overwrite gems, but at the cost of the gem they are replacing.
GS: When creating new content in The Burning Crusade, do you prioritize the needs of large guilds and raiding parties, or do you place equal importance on players who prefer to quest alone or with small groups of friends?
JK: We realize that we need to cater to many needs. Our hope is to create quality content for people of various play styles. No one play style is prioritized over any other. We've really learned a lot from providing live content since the release of World of Warcraft. We're hoping to take what we've learned since release and do a better job when it comes to providing content in The Burning Crusade and after.
GS: What details can you tell us about the new jewelcrafting profession? Will craftable trinkets, rings, and necklaces require the jewelcrafting skill to equip, or will you be able to give them to anyone?
JK: Not only will jewelcrafters be able to interact with the socketed-items system, they'll also be able to create various wearable items such as rings, necklaces, and trinkets. Most of the items jewelcrafters create can be sold to other players, with some being reserved for jewelcrafters themselves.
GS: Tell us more about epic flying mounts. Will these be purchasable, or are they obtained only through questing? Will it require a large raid group? Do the mounts vary depending on player race, or are there only a couple types?
JK: Flying mounts will be obtained through a quest chain with some cost involved. For the basic flying mount, a raid group will not be required. We're hoping to have some variety in our flying-mount models so players can distinguish themselves.
GS: How will it affect the game if you don't have the expansion? Will you be locked out of certain areas? Will you not have access to certain types of new content unless you get the expansion? What happens if you join a group that's going into an expansion area, but you don't have it?
JK: If you do not have the expansion, you'll still be able to go to all of the zones you currently can, as well as access the content there. You won't, however, be able to get expansion quests or travel to expansion zones.
GS: Finally, could you share a very cool experience or story that you've had while playing The Burning Crusade? We want to give our readers an idea of just what's going to be cool and different about the expansion.
JK: So far, the coolest experience I've had was boarding a flying mount in a zone called Nagrand and flying out over the plains. I think anyone who has ridden a gryphon or wyvern in World of Warcraft has fantasized about being able to steer it in any direction they want. The freedom and beauty of flying over the expansion lands was really exhilarating.
GS: Thank you, Jeff.