Eurogamer: Which aspect of the game is going to be moved furthest forward by Lich King?
J. Allen Brack: [Mimes pumping shotgun] Chk-chk, loaded question. Questing I think is going to be advanced greatly by the vehicle technology and the different ideas that the designers come up with. They've come up with some insane quest things that are absolutely amazing. No-one would have predicted that the bombing missions would be as popular as they were in Burning Crusade, and they've outdone themselves.
I think PVP is going to be hugely advanced. Dungeons? I think we have a pretty good idea about how to make dungeons. It's more honing the focus of dungeons to be a one-hour experience.
Eurogamer: The Death Knight is the first new class in the game since launch. That must be a little bit...
Tom Chilton: Scary? Definitely. One thing we know for sure is that balance at level 80 will be very different from balance at level 70. Hopefully the game will feel balanced, but certainly the classes and the environment in general will feel very different.
Eurogamer: And then there's Inscription [the new profession, which allows modification to spells and abilities themselves].
Tom Chilton: Right. But even just with all the new talents, new spells and abilities... all that stuff is going to change the environment so much that, whenever we create something new for Lich King, we can't think of it in terms of what it will do to today's balance. We have to realise that, we'll put a bunch of new stuff into the game and balance what the environment's like at 80. Inscription is almost like adding another layer of talents to the game; it's just kind of on a more tactical level than a class level.
Eurogamer: When it comes to building a new play mechanic for the Death Knight - one that's even more different to other classes than, say, the warrior, or rogue - is there still a basic kind of rhythm that you think is essential to WOW that you don't want to move away from?
Tom Chilton: Yeah, we think a lot in terms of how many buttons you push in a ten-second or thirty-second period. We want to make sure that that feels relatively consistent with other classes, warrior and rogue being pretty good examples - they have different pacing, but they still feel pretty good in their own ways. Certainly the Death Knight's resource mechanic is a little more complex, we felt like we could bump it up just about one notch in complexity, because we don't have to worry about level 1 players that have never played the game having no idea what's going on.
Eurogamer: Why has it been so long before adding a new class to the game?
Tom Chilton: Well, we have to be very careful. One of our core values is that we want the classes to be very distinct from each other. We didn't want to set the expectation that every expansion will feature a new character class, because that won't necessarily be the case, just like we aren't necessarily going to add a new race with every expansion. Part of it is expectation management, and we know that we can't add a new class every year without diluting the classes themselves, and also introducing balance problems far more quickly than we can solve them.
Eurogamer: When you're taking an existing class from 70 to 80, would you say you're trying to add more to it, or take it in a different direction?
Tom Chilton: Definitely some of both. We do feel like we have pretty well defined kits - here's what this class is about, here's what it does and doesn't do. We try to adhere to that, otherwise we risk hybridising the classes too much and they turn into this mess of sameness. At the same time, we need to make sure that you feel like you're doing new things with your class - 'wow, I've never been able to approach this problem this way before'.
Eurogamer: Is it fair to say that, since Burning Crusade, the balance of power at the top of the game has moved away from raiding and towards PVP?
Tom Chilton: I think - accidentally, yes, in a way. I certainly think from a reward perspective that's accurate, even though it wasn't really deliberate. The tuning of how quickly you can gear up through PVP at how much risk was easier than intended, relative to PVE. We've kept that in mind right from the outset with Lich King, and we do intend to better balance the two of them so they feel more equivalent in terms of effort and time investment versus reward.
Eurogamer: So far, you've struggled to get world PVP happening in WOW. Why do you think that is?
Tom Chilton: A combination of a lot of things. It requires the right reward - people have to be motivated to do it - and it requires critical mass. And the more different things you have for people to do, the more it tends to split them apart. What we can do is try to focus what players are doing, essentially move them around from spot to spot - we do that with the battleground daily quests, and we'll do that for [new outdoor PVP area] Lake Wintergrasp, award a meaningful amount of honour and that kind of thing.
J. Allen Brack: I think we've had a lot of world PVP, but it hasn't really felt like it had a lot of meaning. You know, it's felt like a lot of gankage.
Tom Chilton: The outdoor PVP that we've had, a lot of the mechanics have been pretty simple, there hasn't been very much depth to them, and that's one of the reasons why we haven't had as many people doing it. Another thing I would mention would be that, when we have the objectives scattered through the world, we have to be careful of how we involve people because some people might be unwittingly passing through. Wintergrasp concentrates the world PVP into one area - we know that if you're going there, you're going there with the intent to PVP, so we can build all the mechanics with that assumption in mind.