BlizzCon 2008: World of Warcraft Q&A panel
Blizz devs talk swimming mounts, achievements, and siege weapons for WOW's upcoming expansion.
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ANAHEIM, Calif.--A chunk of World of Warcraft's ravenous fan base, which currently services around 11 million active worldwide subscribers, was out in force today at BlizzCon's open World of Warcraft question and answer session. It was chaired by Blizzard staff Chris Metzen, Cory Stockton, Jeff Kaplan, and J Allen Brack. Attendees had a chance to form a single orderly line and fire their concerns and observations directly at the team responsible for the cult massively multiplayer online game. Cheers and heckles were thrown from all directions as players stood up to air their grievances. Blizzard took a beating and in most cases gave answers to questions, such as why current problems with talent tree skill placement had occurred or why a particular design decision was currently under review. We've boiled the hour session down to a more manageable explanation and stripped out all the Shammy QQ'ing.
The biggest announcement to come out the session, and one that game director Jeff Kaplan suggested was exclusive to BlizzCon, was the news that the first content patch to be released after Wrath of the Lich King's November 13 retail launch would include support for mounts to now be able to swim. Granted it's not the biggest announcement the team has ever made, but for regular players it represents a significant move forward in aquatic mobility. Currently when travelling over even some shallow puddles in World of Warcraft, players are dismounted back to walking state and must resummon their horse, ram, tiger, or other mode of transport.
An audience inquiry regarding upgrading legendary (the quality level above epic) items for use past level 60 and allowing players who had worked so hard to continue to use them was met with a rather glum answer. Despite the work required to attain and in many cases craft the sought-after items, the Blizzard team believes that allowing players to upgrade old weapons for level 80 would skew current itemization rather than encourage upgrading. Likewise, it would also reduce the level playing field currently offered to new players by putting items such as Molten Core and Blackwing Lair's dropped and crafted Thunderfury: Blessed Blade of the Windseeker out of the hands of those who had more recently joined the game.
An update request on the current status of Legendary Picture's World of Warcraft movie left the panel looking a little unsure how to reply. Chris Metzen jumped in with an answer and kept it short, simply suggesting that talking about the project would put his life in jeopardy and that it was going to be "awesome."
Players also expressed concerns about the upcoming achievement system (which works similarly to the current Xbox Live gamerscore), but Blizz devs reassured punters that its inclusion will only recognize accomplishments and will not reward players with weapons or armor based on completing objectives. This is being done to avoid the devaluing of the new weapons due to be introduced in Wrath of the Lich King.
Blizzard also hinted at the possible introduction of randomized daily faction quests, unlike the static quests currently offered for Shattered Sun Offensive reputation and found on the Isle of Quel'Danas. The obvious goal of such quests would be to provide frequent players with more variety and incentive to continue.
Death knights represent the first new class to be introduced since the game launched in late 2004, and beta testers for Wrath of the Lich King have concerns about where the class will sit in the greater scheme of things. Fans were placated somewhat when the panel explained that the new class will fill one of the four intended tanking roles alongside warriors, paladins, and druids, but in a DPS role they'll still be able to keep up with fury warriors on the damage meters.
In response to a question about how long the panel envisions being able to introduce new mechanics to instances and boss encounters, they replied by reiterating that the team is limited only by development time. They also went on to outline future player-versus-environment scenarios, which will include siege weapons and destructible buildings.