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Interview: World of Warcraft Cataclysm Classic Team Talks Changes And More With Its Upcoming Expansion

Kazuma Hashimoto Updated: Posted:
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Perhaps one of the most divisive expansions in the history of World of Warcraft, Cataclysm is set to release on May 20th. While events in Azeroth are underway, laying the foundations for the return of the infamous Deathwing and subsequent Shattering, Game Producer Linny Cook-Saverline and Associate Production Director Clayton Stone sat down with the media to answer some of our most burning questions.

This interview breaks down various system changes that may please more contemporary MMORPG players, and help fill in the gaps for returning Classic players as to why certain pre-expansion events may be missing. While this was a group interview, we've included only the questions we asked and were answered.

MMORPG: World of Warcraft has had extremely memorable world events leading up to various expansions. This has included the infamous plague preceding Wrath of the Lich King — which did make its way into Wrath Classic. However, there were some events leading up to Cataclysm Classic that didn’t make an appearance, like Deathwing swooping overhead and incinerating players. We were wondering why that was, and if it was a result of the negative player response of the plague event returning for Wrath Classic.

Linny Cooke-Saverline: Thank you so much for asking, like I really, really, really appreciate this question. So part of it has been just technological challenges. So Deathwing should be flying through and burning everybody up pretty soon.

Clayton Stone: The stand in the fire achievement is achievable right now.

Cook-Saverline: I know there were a couple other quest lines that we did not end up including. There was a quest line for understanding more about what was going on at the Maelstrom. Technologically, it's kind of an interesting situation, because when Cataclysm first came out, they had a pre-patch that was only systems. And so they didn't change the world up at all, they only put the new systems in. And then they had one, which was The Shattering, where they actually shattered the world. And had all of the leveling updates. 

When we set out to build Cataclysm, we didn't have that systems pre-patch that had a functional world. So when we built it, we had The Shattered World with the system updates built in. So it didn’t make a lot of sense to go forward with having that pre-launch event outside of Deathwing coming in and roasting everybody. But we're really excited about being able to introduce other things earlier with the pre-patch; being able to include Goblins and Worgen in pre-patch, being able to include the new class race combinations, and just really give people a lot of opportunities to create a new character/ Especially if they wanted to start leveling them up and get to the expansion [Cataclysm] level, by the time the expansion rolls out.

MMORPG: Recently, Classic has implemented a cash shop which includes exclusive mounts. Players are wondering if you're going to be able to either see those mounts and get them in Modern [Retail] or if your mounts in Modern and Classic will be tied together at some point through the transmog system and have simultaneous access to each?

Stone: That's a really good question. You know, when it comes to sharing things between Modern and Classic, one of the things that we are very concerned about is allowing anything that players have earned in Classic to just be accessible by Modern characters, and vice versa. Particularly anything that has to do with some sort of achievement, or something that they've earned over time.

Because the journey has been different, and the player base has been different as it existed in 2019, is very much more advanced than it was back in 2004 and 2005. Therefore, the number of players who have achieved certain things or collected certain things is different. And we hear from players that there is a sense of achievement with those items in those separate play spaces and that it carries with it a different weight.

But that being said, we have done things in the past that have encouraged players to hop between both Modern and Classic. Like at the start of Wrath we encouraged players to hop in and play the Death Knight starting experience, and unlock a dragon mounts for their Modern character. Or different bundles that we released in the past that contain both Modern and Classic components.

I wouldn't say never say never, but for the time being we have been viewing them as separate experiences. Although I think we've looked, and this is tough, because I don't know how accurate this is.. But I think we have looked into allowing things like if you owned a past Collector's Edition of an original expansion, allowing one of those items to be unlockable within Classic. But that's a pretty far out there outlier. But it's something that we're going to continue to think about, particularly for whatever offerings might go up on the shop. So far, the items that we've put up on the shop have just been previous bundle based items for Classic. So things that we've previously offered in Classic through our Wrath bundle and so forth.

Cook-Saverline: I think the only other thing I want to call out to is there just are some pets and mounts that only exist and one of the two ecosystems. We have had some really cool Cataclysm promotional items, which for the most part, those pets and mounts have made it into Modern. But the toy and the transmog are something that's kind of cool and special to Cataclysm Classic. And we've had a couple of pets that we've made that are cool and unique, and fun and exciting for Classic that is not currently in Modern. And then there's a lot of things in Modern that just thematically don't make sense in Classic. So there would also just be a lot of sorting to figure out what makes sense in different locations. 

Stone: So there have been times in the past where something like Arfus for example, the ghostly dog from Northland, where the way you would unlock him in Classic was different than the way that the Modern team chose for him to be collectible in Modern. Which provided two separate experiences. I think we're kind of looking at it on a case by case basis, we may over time end up finding ways to do it more and more. But for now, we haven't done it too much.

MMORPG: For people that are interested in World of Warcraft, either through the announcement of The War Within, or the burgeoning popularity of Classic Era on Twitch, would you say that this “new” version of Cataclysm is accessible, if not more accessible, to newer audiences?

Cook-Saverline: Absolutely. I think it's an exciting time, because with, as I mentioned, with the  pre-patch, we have Goblins and Worgen, and we have new class and race combinations for players to come in and play. So it's a time where a lot of people are spinning up alt characters, or people who've been playing a little while, are spinning up new alts, they get the chance to play some new stuff. And there is a level of experience that is new to Classic players. It's a time where there's just going to be a lot of people out in the world doing things. As you're running through questing zones,there will be a lot of people around. And when you're grinding and doing dungeons, you can either find a group or hop into a dungeon finder, and really just have that community to level up with.

MMORPG: Have any of these systems been adjusted to make it more accessible or more appealing to new players that may not be more familiar with how World of Warcraft functioned during its Cataclysm era?

Stone: There's a couple things that we've done, which I don't think we've talked about too much. Previously for Cataclysm, I want to say you had to discover the entrances of dungeons in order to be able to queue for them. We've removed that restriction. So now, you don't have to discover the dungeon entrance, you can just go in and queue for them.

Other things like you weren't able to access Heroic Raids until you completed the Normal version of them. We've removed that restriction; you can now access Heroic Raids right from the start. I would say different things like that, that are these small quality of life changes. Those are some of the adjustments we’ve made. Which the contemporary player might think, “Oh, well, surely that was in the original,” but no, actually back then it was a little bit more restrictive than it was now. And we've opened that up to try to make it a little bit more accessible. Whether it's players jumping in for the first time or coming back to Classic or Cataclysm.

Cook-Saverline: I feel like regarding some of our UI, especially the collections UI, we’ve made things more intuitive. There was always the previous challenge of “I want to get on my mount. Where is it? I wanted some of this pet. Where is it? I want to make sure I can transmog this thing but I don't remember where I put that outfit.” So I’m hoping the UI changes bring out the intuitiveness as well.

World of Warcraft is available for PC.


kazumahashimoto

Kazuma Hashimoto