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Interviews: Mists of Pandaria Interview

By William Murphy on October 27, 2011

Mists of Pandaria Interview

During BlizzCon this year, we had the chance to sit down with Rob Foote, Senior Game Producer on World of Warcraft. Rob deals mostly with the art team, but as all producers can tell you, he knows quite a bit about the design as a whole surrounding Blizzard’s latest expansion: Mists of Pandaria. We set out a few difficult questions to Rob, but he was pretty apt to answer them, and we think you’ll like the outcome.

The very first thing we asked? Pandaria… Pandarens… why?

Rob Foote:

They’ve been something we’ve wanted to do for a long time, especially artistically. Ever since Warcraft III, people were drawn to them. We started on the model five years ago, and it just sat there in the archives. Cataclysm was over and we wanted something different, and Pandaria made a lot of sense because the Pandas are so “big” thematically that they overshadowed the “big bad”. And we really wanted to get into a sort of Asian-influenced theme.


Was there a conscious decision to go with an Asian slant, considering the massive Asian market that WoW has?

Rob Foote:

The simple fact that everyone’s on the same version now, from a technological standpoint is really incredible. Having to support all those regions, and just, get everything working like that has been a milestone. I don’t think however that we went at Pandaren for any other reason that saying, “We like these guys, they’re cool.” Plus with an Asian-themed expansion, there’s just so much to draw from and bring into WoW from all of Asia. Early Nightelf stuff sort of hinted at that kind of tone, but we really see Pandaria as a chance to really dive into it. I do think Asian cultures will dig it, but we fully expect every region to really be down with it. It’s iconic, you know?

For the art team, how did you approach designing the Monk? I think everyone has their own ideas on what that class should be like, so how do you sit down and put it to work?

Rob Foote:

The Monk made the most sense once we really settled on designing the Pandaren. It’s very funny, because first was just using Pandaria. Then it was, can we make them a playable race? And then we asked, how about making a new class? Once we realized that we could pull it off in one expansion, we looked at a lot of references, like Kung Fu movies for one. It’s a very distinct feel. The Brew Master has the Drunken Stance, and it opens up a whole slew of new animations. In fact, the entire class is new animations. In other classes, you may have about ten spells all using the same basic character animation with just a different effect. With the monk, everything looks different and every move has its own unique animation. We want the Monk to feel distinct from every other class, and the fighting class style is how we do this. No auto-attack and all of that really play into making them unique.

Will the art team have free will with the new Pet System? Can you just go nuts designing new pets now, or is it more restrained?

Rob Foote:

Well, we’re trying really hard to make sure every single pet in the game already is able to fight come launch day. They all share the same animation rig, so we’ll be able to animate them all really easily. Plus the combat is turn-based so we can focus on making all of these cool skills for different pets. Some may share a lot of them, but expect the ones that come post-launch to have their own unique skills. Oh, and that Murkablo all BlizzCon attendees got? He’ll be fighting too.

How does the Talent System 2.0 impact the art side of the team?

Rob Foote:

Oh man… there’s so much work created for us. There’s a whole new UI to the thing, plus all of these new icons, new spells and effects. But really, since we have a lot of it in place already, we’re now just polishing it, and we’ll adjust it based on feedback from the beta whenever it gets rolling.

Do you think it may be simplifying the Talents too much though?

Rob Foote:

That’s a fair question and I can see why people are worried. But we think of it as though it’s taking away the meaningless 1%, 2%, 3% stat boosts and giving players some truly interesting choices to make. You won’t have these cookie-cutter builds based on the min-maxer’s idea of what’s best for what dungeon. Like Diablo III, we think that the new talent system may scare people at first as it seems like there are less choices to make, but really it’s now about making sure those choices matter. It will add a lot more character customization, and I’m not talking just stats, but how your entire character plays. That’s a good thing.

The PR guy is wrapping us up, so I guess that’s it for us, Rob. Thanks for taking the time out of the insanely busy show to chat with us.

Rob Foote:

My pleasure guys! Thanks for the good questions.

William Murphy / Bill is the Managing Editor of, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002. Be sure to follow him on Twitter for all of his pointless rambling.