Last evening we caught our pet cat playing World of Warcraft. As the most evil character in the game - Night Elf Rogue - he was fairing okay at level five although was getting a little confused when we kept telling him we'd assigned auto-run to the pause key (they're ALL paws keys to a cat see - geddit?). But it's testament to the massive, wide-spread penetration (yes, in our increasing effort to get slightly more risqué, we actually said 'PENETRATION') that Blizzard's MMORPG has achieved, with player numbers rocketing into the stratosphere.
Seriously though, millions have signed up to adventure in Blizzard Entertainment's world turning it into hugely, hugely successful game. Great, and we doubt the player influx is about to grind to a complete halt any time soon but enticing players to dip a toe in the WoW waters is only half the battle; once they're there, you have to keep them there and Blizzard has been pumping out content updates and game balances in an effort to ensure the MMORPG's player base is kept happy and entertained.
Battlegrounds (WoW's dedicated PvP system), in Blizzard's own words, represented "the single biggest update to the game yet" but what other like major content is Blizzard cooking up for the months to come? What does the future hold for the MMORPG? And what about that World of Warcraft expansion we've all read about? We recently caught up with WoW lead producer Shane Dabiri in an effort to get answers to these and other burning questions.
How are things going for you guys generally in terms of World of Warcraft?
Shane Dabiri: World of Warcraft is going great. We're continuing to release the game in different regions across the world with amazing success. Our most recent launch was in China, and we've been stunned by the immense popularity of the game there. China has already become our single largest market, despite being the newest of the four, with the others being North America, Korea, and of course Europe. We're also busy creating new content for the millions of fans that have been playing World of Warcraft for many months now. Battlegrounds and the PvP Honor System are now a few months old, but we're still supporting them with lots of new content.
We're getting ready to release a third Battleground in the coming weeks - Arathi Basin - and it will showcase a new type of gameplay and a whole new set of rewards for PvP players. We're also rolling out a new 20-man raid dungeon, Zul'Gurub, which is meant for smaller raid groups. However, don't think that the smaller size means easier encounters. The raid bosses are very, very tough and we think players will have a blast trying to figure out how to overcome these challenges. Of course these are only some of the things we are working on for the near future, so you can see we're still as busy as ever.
WoW is a massive success. Is there a downside to popularity? If so, what is it (outside of server issues)?
Shane Dabiri: Well, expectations keep growing as more and more people play the game. We also have to satisfy those gamers who have played through many of the classes and seen much of the world and are itching for new content to explore. As World of Warcraft continues to succeed, I think we see that fans expect more and better content, and it is a challenge to meet that demand on a timely basis. We're not complaining of course; we love that so many people are playing our game and clamouring for even more to do. But at the same time, it's been very challenging to deliver new content for our voracious audience, who can't seem to get enough WoW.