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Interviews

WoW: Wrath of the Lich King

The senior producer of Wrath of the Lich King on keeping his team happy

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There are a couple of other MMO games coming out, like Age of Conan and Warhammer Online. Do you see any systems or ideas within them that could make WoW better?

JAB: I don't really do a whole lot of playing of games before they come out, and when they do come out, it represents years of technology. The idea we had for siege weapons and destructible buildings has been done in games before, but it's taken us a year just to get to this point, and it's not even ready to show.

By the time you see an idea in a game, it's far too late for you to beat them to market. Those games are going to come out, they're going to be first to market with that idea, and if there's some neat idea that really seems like it fits within WoW, we'll talk about. Certainly, I think WoW took a lot of great ideas from EverQuest. EverQuest is the big foundation for WoW.

Player versus Player... [pause]

JAB: I'm for it.

That's all right then. I think the development of PvP in WoW has been fascinating. You started off with spectacular ambition - a 40-man battleground with internal quests - but then players seem to reject it. You've constantly reduced the complexity of PvP scenarios until the essence of PvP in WoW is the Arena system, which is five men beating the snot out of each other. What happened?

JAB: I think of PvP as having a lot of disparate parts. In the Arena system, we've tried to capture a very strategic type of gameplay that is very much orientated on very small groups competing successfully together. It's very strategic, very fast, very rock-paper-scissors thing.

Then there is the various battlegrounds - in the case of Arathi Basin or Warsong Gulch, they tend to be for smaller groups. Then Alterac Valley is for your 40-player chaos fests. I think there are different places for all those ideas - I think most players have at least tried all of those things.

Arena is very, very competitive. You'll have players who go in there and don't know what they're doing, but really, the very best PvPers in the game are going to be hanging out in there.

We'll add at least one battleground for the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, and we'll add at least one arena, possibly more. The big thing is that we're committed to these mass chaos fests - we're going to create a zone with destructible buildings and siege weapons in Lake Wintergrasp. We've done a little bit of that with the mini-games that exist in each of the Outland zones but this will be taking that a step further.

Excuse my scepticism, but every world PvP objective in Wrath of the Lich King has been ignored, except, maybe, the spirit towers in Auchindoun. And Tarren Mill.

JAB: That's true. Why was Auchindoun successful? One of the biggest reasons is that it was timed. The spirit towers unlocked at a certain interval that everyone knew, then once the interval was over, there was a time when the winning faction reaped the reward. That's the model we're going to follow with Lake Wintergrasp. It won't be "hey, I want to PvP, I'm going to Lake Wintergrasp". It will be locked for a certain amount of time, there will be an interval where players will enjoy the reward, and the reward will be significant. But there will be a forced 'come together', when the fight begins for everyone.

Is there anything in the game that you look at as your baby - that you're uniquely proud of?

JAB: For me, my job is very much about solving problems, to make sure that the team is in a good, healthy place. The thing I'm most proud of is the fact that the people who worked on Burning Crusade are also the people who worked on Wrath of the Lich King. When games ship in other companies, the people leave. That doesn't happen here: it's a testament to Blizzard culture, the success of the game, and the environment we've created.

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