Previews

WoW: The Burning Crusade

We join Blizzard's senior VP Frank Pearce for an in-depth look at the new races and issues from the outstanding expansion!

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Still, they're picking up the pieces (their home city, Exodar, is actually part of their huge spaceship), and are finding a home for themselves through the mastery of the paladin, shaman, warrior, hunter, priest and mage classes. They quite like this new world as it's rich in crystals, objects central to the Draenei's way of life. This dovetails nicely with the new jewel-crafting profession (in which the Draenei have a bonus). More on that later.

One of the most important aspects of the Blood Elves and the Draenei, and something that's caused huge debate in the forums, is that they give the Alliance access to the shaman class, and the Horde access to the paladin class. Previously, these two were excluded classes, which gave a marked difference to each side.

This has caused parts of the WOW community to worry that it will mean there's no real difference between the sides, save for environments and avatars. Pearce defends this decision: "Our designers were really excited about the opportunity. They felt that the shaman and the paladin had been homogenised, due to the shaman only being accessible to the Horde and the paladin only accessible to the Alliance, yet they needed to put in content that's relevant to everyone. They were keen to do more with the paladin and shaman classes." So does this mark the end of notable differences between the races?

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Pearce continues: "We're evaluating ways to make the Horde and Alliance paladins and shamans distinct from each other in the way the undead priest is distinct from the human priest. But certainly, the racial traits of the new races will add a different flavour to the classes."

SHINY THINGS
While the current professions give their masters the potential to make pretty much every kind of armour or weapon in the game, the lack of a skill to make jewellery and trinkets is noticeably absent. But no longer, for jewel-crafting is about to make its debut. Players who adopt this profession will not only be able to craft all sorts of bling, but they'll also be able to create refined gems, which have statistics attributed to them.

Another new feature which ties in with jewel-crafting is socketed items. As you'd expect from the name, this basically means items that have spaces for gems to be inserted. Socketed items will cover all kinds of items in the game, not just the high-level ones, and will drop from mobs. The designers are also going back and revisiting skills such as tailoring and leatherwork to allow these professions to create socketed items.

There are a few different elements to socketing. As well as simply putting gems into the slots (which can't be removed, although they can be replaced by other gems), some slots are coloured, which can offer extra benefits when the correspondingly-coloured gem is inserted. There will also be meta-gems in the game which afford extra benefits when combined with certain other gems.

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BRAVE NEW WORLD
The new area in the game is the Outlands, which lies beyond the Dark Portal in the Blasted Lands and is set to contain high-level content for levels 55-70. As well as new beasties to kill (and train), the Outlands will contain several brand-new zones and instances. Central to the Outlands area, and the feature that people are most excited by (and consequently Blizzard are dripfeeding info about), are flying mounts.

Blizzard haven't announced anything about what the mounts are going to look like or cost. The recently released mount demo shows a large dragon creature with a fish's tail and blue sparkles around it, as if it's in a permanent state of disco. Pearce is keen to point out this is "just a placeholder creature". Although he reveals that flying mounts will be able to move fast along the ground too, you can be attacked from the ground while on one (although they're not sure what to do should your mount vanish while you're flying it). They're also considering epic and rare mounts.

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