World of Warcraft fans are excitedly spitting frothy expulsions in anticipation of The Burning Crusade, Blizzard's first expansion for its world-dominating MMORPG. The massive add-on features a plethora of WoW goodness including new zones, dungeons, heaps of gear and items, flying mounts and, of course, new races, and it's guaranteed massive sales - World of Warcraft has an active subscriber base that's topped the whopping 6 million figure, after all.
The Burning Crusade should be with us November/December and Blizzard was recently poking the expansion in the eyes of thoroughly impressed games journalists here in Old Blighty. Naturally, we took the opportunity to grill the developer on its latest addition to the WoW world - answering questions, Frank Pearce, Senior VP of product development at Blizzard.
Can you explain more about the world event that's going to be opening up the Dark Portal?
Frank Pearce: No. Details are to be revealed.
What are the first things players will find themselves doing as soon as they go through the Dark Portal?
Frank Pearce: Well, there'll actually be a number of options available but I think a lot of the players, right through the gate, are going to be doing quests from the respective faction powers in the Hellfire Peninsula. I think a fair number of players are also going to want to head off to the dungeon instances right away. We want to get you right into it.
Will there be any... what I noticed is that the Alliance hub and the Horde hub are quite close together. Is the idea that it'll be one almighty scrap?
Frank Pearce: I don't know about an almighty scrap, but all the Outland zones are going to be contested territory. And there'll be outdoor PvP objectives, or goals to have outdoor PvP objectives in all those zones. Whether or not we'll hit them all up at once with PvP objectives remains to be seen. But that's our goal.
The outdoor PvP objectives in the zone of Nagrand involve the town of Halaa If you don't control that town, if your faction doesn't control that town then you'll have PvP objectives to kill the guards and whatnot and part of that will involve strafing runs over the town 'on rails' where you'll drop bombs. That should be fun.
What about flying mounts? Will they operate in the same way was ground mounts, in the way you buy them...?
Frank Pearce: Yeah, that's the plan. You buy them from vendors, there may be some prestige drops from certain instance bosses and some PvP rewards as well. And Warlocks and Paladins don't get their mounts for free anymore.
There's surely going to be a mass influx of Blood Elf and Draenei characters when the expansion launches. Have you worked out ways to handle/tackle that?
Frank Pearce: Well, we'll have to see what happens. I don't think you're going to see a big imbalance in terms of a lot of players rolling Blood Elves or Draenei and abandoning their existing avatars. People have invested a lot of time and energy into their existing avatars.
In what ways will Shaman and Paladin classes change now that you're making them available to both Alliance and Horde factions?
Frank Pearce: A lot of that will change right out the gate with the launch of The Burning Crusade because we're introducing new spells and abilities for all the classes and extending the talent trees. A lot of the homogenisation of the Paladin and Shaman occurred as a result of their roles in raids... we'll be trying to create raid experiences that hopefully will provide people with alternatives and viable alternatives in talent builds and whatnot.