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Sunday, September 2, 2007

Jeff Kaplan from Blizzard: about WotLK is talking with Jeff Kaplan, Lead Designer World of Warcraft (Blizzard Entertainment)

On the first day of the Leipzig Games Convention 2007, the team had the opportunity to talk about World of Warcraft's second expansion with Blizzard's Lead Designer. In this exciting interview, Jeff gives away some details about the upcoming instance "The Caverns of Time: Stratholme", in which you, together with an old acquaintance, fight against the Scourge - and more.

Jeff: Your magazine cover looks really cool.
buffed: You have seen it already? We are very proud of it.
Jeff: Well you can be!

buffed: Did you have the opportunity to read out magazine already?
Jeff: Unfortunately no. Someone was walking around with the magazine and I only read "buffed", saw the cover and thought "Sweet"!

buffed: We have a pretty comprehensive section about BlizzCon in our magazine.
Jeff: Yes, you also have a picture of Sammy (Sam Didier, Senior Creative Director, Blizzard Entertainment). Have you seen Sammy already? He is around here somewhere. He is the front man of the Level 70 Elite Tauren Chieftains.

buffed: Ah, you mean the picture in which he is on stage, with Mike Morhaime playing the bass right next to him. A cool photo.
Jeff: Yeah, a really good photo!

buffed: Now, to the topic: We heard a lot of things about Wrath of the Lich King at BlizzCon. Have there been any news since?
Jeff: There are a few things that we did not talk about at BlizzCon. The most important thing is the new Caverns of Time instance Stratholme. We wanted to return to the Caverns of Time concept because it is one of the coolest things we released for World of Warcraft: and we wanted to persue what the Bronze Dragon is up to. We want to show you some of the coolest moments of Warcraft. And now we chose Stratholme. Players of World of Warcraft already know Stratholme and many hardcore players are great fans of the old Stratholme instance. Warcraft 3 players however know Stratholme from a singleplayer mission, in which Arthas travels to the city and sets all buildings on fire, kills the citizens and fights Mal'Ganis. In Wrath of the Lich King you fight at Prince Arthas' side, by travelling through the Caverns of Time. We are giving you the opportunity of meeting Arthas at a time at which he was not a great villain yet. You are "cleaning" Stratholme and igniting buildings!

buffed: Awesome! For how many players is this instance designed?
Jeff: It will be a five player instance, but for level 80 characters. We think that players will not enter the Caverns of Time while they are levelling, but return to them at level 80.

buffed: Have you already decided which race the Death Knight will base on? If one plays a Gnome, will the Death Knight be a Gnome too?
Jeff: Yes, we have already made a decision. But do not be surprised if we decide to change our minds. You know, game design is a very flexible job. Right now, every race can become a Death Knight, even Gnomes. We have thought about some things since BlizzCon. Characters most likely will not have to be level 80 to unlock the Death Knight, it will probably be earlier. Levelling to level 80 like a maniac to unlock the Death Knight simply is not fun. It makes people rush through the game. That is why we will make it differently. We have many ideas, but we have not decided on one yet. Maybe the Death Knight will be unlocked between level 55 and 60. Then you create your Death Knight and face some challenges. If you have mastered them, you will get your Death Knight.

buffed: But the newly created level 55 to 60 character will not become a Death Knight, or will it?
Jeff: No, the old character stays. You just get an additional one. You know, many players give their characters names related to their class. There are many names specific to Druids...

buffed: You mean names like "ilove2spooch" in the World of Warcraft Southpark episode?
Jeff: (laughs) Yes, exactly. There are many names like that. And many just would not fit and that is why we are giving the players the chance to give their Death Knights a new, suitable name.

buffed: Can you give us some details about the Death Knight's abilities?
Jeff: Sure. The resourcing system is completely different and is based on runes. At Blizzard we are concentrating on making the characters differ from each other as much as possible. The best example are Rogue and Warrior. The Rogue uses combo points and the Warrior rage - quite a difference. When we started developing the Death Knight, we wanted it to feel distinct. That is why we gave him runes, which can be ingraved to his weapon, an axe or sword. There are three different types of runes: blood, unholy and frost. Depending on how you combine them, you get different abilities. The maximum you can have is six, and you can combine them in any way you want. For example: you could use two of each type of rune, or you could use four unholy runes and two blood runes, because you want to tank with your Death Knight. Or you could change your rune configuration for PVP battles. If you use your abilities you consume those runes, however. We have one skill called "Army of Dead", which summons Ghouls. Right now you need unholy and blood runes for that ability, I believe. If you only had frost runes ingraved on your weapon, you could not use that ability. We have developed a pretty cool system that makes the runes on your weapon glow if you change the combination.

buffed: Last question: the Death Knight is only the first of many hero classes. Which hero class would you like to introduce next?
Jeff: My favority? That is hard to say. I think the Demon Hunter would be extremely cool. The Arch Mage would be cool too...
buffed: (whispers) Blade Master!
Jeff: (laughs) There are many options, among them, of course, the fantastic Blase Master. We did a lot of brain storming and also thought about classes that were not present in Warcraft 3. But we wanted to advance slowly and introduce the Death Knight first in Wrath of the Lich King. And then we will see what is next.