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Alex Afrasiabi Interview

World of Warcraft Interviews - By Guest Writer on October 26, 2010

Alex Afrasiabi Interview
MMORPG.com:

I looked through the FAQ. I haven't played the beta. It seems like there's a couple of things in the FAQ that are a bit "wooly" and not quite defined, I guess because it was written a while back. Can you talk a little bit about the changes to Tailoring and Leatherworking, and any other profession changes there are in Cataclysm.

Alex:

So, trade skills are not my deal. But, I can tell you a little bit. Basically what you get with all the professions is we bring them up to max level. Furthermore, one of the big things we want to do is make sure that the professions from 1- 60 all have something useful because of the huge push we're doing for the old-world revamp. We want to make sure that players rerolling, or new players coming in, don't find the professions to be totally useless. So we did put some effort into doing that. Of course, with your profession, you get your perks as well. I think Leatherworking has bracers, and I think that's still the same. And you can put something on your bracers, but like I said, Greg Street (Ghostcrawler) is the guy you want to talk to when it comes to trade-skill systems.

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MMORPG.com:

We'll get back to more "content-ey" stuff then. From my experience, historically, the WoW PvE experience was generally just a gating mechanism to get the players up to the end game where they could take part in raids. What Cataclysm features are there that address the "casual" versus "hardcore" divide?

Alex:

I think we're really at the point on the game right now where we *do* service everybody. We do service the hardcore. We do service the casual. When you talk about that and what the game offers, I think this is *that* expansion for the more casual player. Again, with the 1-60, the new races, I love rolling alts and rerolling, and I know a lot of people do, and I know one of the big things we wanted to do was embrace that. So, with the old world being six years old at this point, we really wanted to make sure that we had something for players beyond just "go out and collect me twelve bear asses" or whatever it was. We wanted to bring what we learned from Wrath, from Burning Crusade, and apply it to your level 1-10 zone or your level 10-20 zone, so that, when you enter Westfall you don't just get the Westfall Stew and a little inkling of the Brotherhood story, you actually get this full unfolding storyline that will take you from start to finish in the zone.

Redridge: Same thing. And all these zones that you go through -- Silverpine is another huge example. It's funny. When I do my playthroughs of these zones, I get so lost just playing through, having such a good time and following the storyline and what's going on -- really *immersed* -- that the only thing that reminds me that this isn't a max-level zone is when I get an item reward. And "Oh! The stats are terrible on this!" and I go "Oh! I'm level 12". You know what I mean? It's this amazing thing that's happened with the game and that's one of the big things. It used to be that all the cool content was at the end, and I think that all the really cool content is really spread out now. "Yeah, did you see that quest line, or that series, in so-an-so zone?" Well, that's a level 12 zone. Yeah, that's an *amazing* zone now. It's on par with your Icecrowns, and Dragonblights, and Cataclysm zones. So that's one of the themes.

The guild system is another one. And, again, not my system, but one I'm very excited about. I'm a huge guild player myself, and of the things with these games, and MMOs in general, is to bring people together. And the guild system had always been just a list. It just kept a list of people that you tagged.

MMORPG.com:

It's just a chat channel.

Alex:

Yeah, there was no real gameplay system, or systems, behind it. And it's one of those things that all the designers on the team are really excited about. We play other games and see various systems that come about there, and we'd always wanted a system that promoted guild activity ... for casuals and hardcore. And I think what we have with the guild system is "if you're a newbie guild or a newbie player and you join a guild, your contributions matter". Because of the way that we have the experience setup, and the caps and things like that, even if you're doing your newbie quest, at the appropriate level, it will give guild experience ... and guild reputation for you. So I think these themes in conjunction with the flexible raid system -- I think , Scott talked about that. He's our Lead Encounter Designer -- I think this will revolutionize the game to be honest with you. We had that feeling when we were building Dungeon Finder, that this thing's awesome. It's gonna take off. And everyone knew it. And this is one of those where I feel the same way about it. You'd been doing something the same way for so long. You know, I can't tell you how many PUGs I've been in that had fallen apart, and my guild had already gone through whatever raid zone (I needed), so I joined this PUG and it was terrible, and it fell apart, and guess what? I can't do anything for the rest of the week.

MMORPG.com:

When you are looking to make the guild experience better, what other games did you look at and say "You know what, they do this in a really interesting way. We'll take a look at that"?

Alex:

We looked at a lot of current MMOs that are out there. You name it, we probably looked at it. Everything. Because we play everything too. We play every game that exists, so it was kind of a combination of things like your Warhammers and LoTROs, and even things like Modern Warfare. You know like, the perk systems and things like that. We really wanted to study it almost. Just see what we liked as players. Like, when we go and play these games, what's fun for us? What's cool? And then of course, we'll go in and revise things and iterate, and iterate, and iterate, until we feel like "OK, this is awesome. This is something that is just going to be huge".

MMORPG.com:

The FAQ mentioned a handful of the classic zones that have been given a big revamp. How pervasive has the overall revamp of the content been? Is it a case of, you've taken a few zones that you thought were maybe suboptimal and given them a massive facelift, or is it a massive facelift across the board? Am I going to start playing again and get involved in quest lines that I've played through before or is *everything* new?

Alex:

I would say 90% of the world has been completely changed. It's kinda funny. When we first started in alpha and we hadn't quite got everything out the door yet, players were kinda skittish and they were like "I don't know. This is a crazy idea. Are you guys really going to do this?" They were afraid of anything that was nostalgic to them being removed, even though the quests were terrible or whatever, or some of them *really* terrible. And as we started implementing more and more, what ends up happening now is anytime they run into a zone that hasn't been completely revamped, they're like "What the hell is this?"

A zone that sticks out for me is Arathi Highlands. So players go through Tirisfal as undead (which has been about 80% redone) and Deathknell, which is the starting one for the Forsaken (which has been completely redone), and then they get into Silverpine (which is completely *completely* redone), and then they get into Hilsbrad (again, completely redone), and then they get into Arathi, which has gotten very light hits ... and they are just irate. And I can't blame them. You know, it's one of those things that's just like "there's only so much time in the day".

One of the comparisons that we throw out a lot is that Lich King shipped with about a thousand quests, maybe a little less actually. This one's shipping with over 3500. So, it's a *lot* of stuff. And there is a lot of triage that has to happen. What do we spend our "design dollars on"? And believe me, if we had more time, and another five years, we'd really really ... . We do wanna get this game out to you, the fans, before they are "old and grey".

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