A senior staffer at World of Warcraft developer Blizzard has gone on record talking about the inevitable expansion pack for the ridiculously popular MMORPG.
According to Shawn Carnes, quest and overall game designer, it should be released "in late 2006 barring unforeseen chaos". Work is already underway, according to Carnes, and the new content will be "proportional to the population of the game, so it will tip to the high end of the game (as most veteran players will be of high level)".
Carnes was speaking to GamerGod.com at the GenCon Indy 2005 event in the US recently. The game expansion hasn't been officially announced - although well-informed rumours abound that it'll be the focal point of the inaugural Blizzard Convention (BlizzCon) in October - but in the absence of a PR minder Carnes went on to talk about the expansion in a certain amount of detail.
"Any new quest arcs will fit into existing areas and arcs. Since WoW takes players on a deliberate path through the levels in specific areas, any new quests need to take advantage of these areas and pair up with existing content instead of making new areas for the same level range and moving or splitting up the player population."
That last comment is interesting because it implies that the new content has nothing to do with the various 'uncharted areas' discovered by players in the recent past. As followers of the game may know, certain players have stepped into a portal and wound up in strange places seemingly still in development and unreachable by any in-game pathing.
Whatever Blizzard is planning, however, the only way we're going to hear about it until the developer's ready is through opportunistic interviews such as this one. Indeed, a spokesperson for owner Vivendi-Universal Games, speaking to us this afternoon, was unable to confirm any of the details and had no news on when we can expect to see the expansion unveiled.
And, just in case you're worried, there's no reason to think that the creation of a boxed expansion will prevent Blizzard from releasing new free content like the recent Battlegrounds element in future.
Expect to hear more about the ongoing development of World of Warcraft later in the year.