J. Allen Brack - Page 2

One of the most popular panels at BlizzCon is when they announce everything that is getting revised in the game. Does that come from internal feedback? Does it come from the forums? Is it a combination? Do you guys do your own play testing with groups?

Yes, yes, and yes. We have got some ultra-hardcore players in the company. We have got some very casual players in the company. We have got a community management department that helps us manage our community, helps us get suggestions and ideas from the forums, so they help us hear from fans. And then we have people who are just on the team who are just real excited or people who work closely with the team. So yeah. They are always feeding us ideas. The challenge is not the ideas. The challenge is what are the right ideas and how do we put them together in kind of a compelling package?

Even if you don't purchase Cataclysm, you'll see the effects it has on the entire world. Where did that come from?

Yes. The idea is not that there is the old world that is untouched and then there is the new expansion only world. We want it to be one coherent experience. We want it to be one experience for players and make it very easy for players to play with each other and their friends.

The in-game pet that you guys have included ...

Grunty the Murloc.


Grunty. That is a little meta for your guys. Is is acknowledging there is a world outside of Azeroth. Are you guys fine with doing that kind of stuff or do you kind of feel, "Well we have to walk a line. We can't be too meta because it is a little too much." Like you can't put a Mike Morhaime character in there.

Hey, that is a good idea! [laughter]

That is a really good question, actually, and it is a fine line. And it is something we talk about. In this case, we just want to do something that was really cool, and so that is how Grunty kind of came to be. It was like, "Wow. That is really cool." We have got the mini Diablo and the pet Zergling, and the Panda cub from the original collectors edition, which were also in kind of that same vein. And so we feel like for certain kind of special things we can do that and it is not really a big deal.

Now someone was telling me that in-game Grunty will fight the Zergling.

Yes, that's true. It is cosmetic obviously ...

But it is fun.

It is very much a fan kind of feature.

How far out do you guys start thinking about your next expansion? Is it every time an expansion is finished, that team will then be like, "OK. Now on to the next one?" Are there simultaneous teams working on them? How does that work?

We kind of have to know at least a little bit about what the next expansion is going to be by the time we wrap one up.

We have one team and it is over 140 people, and it is a World of Warcraft team. We have talked about splitting up into kind of expansion one team or into a live team, a patch team, and then an expansion team. But it is really important to us that we have one vision, one kind of consistent set of everything that we are doing, so it is just one team. As we start to wrap up Wrath of the Lich King, we started to have meetings with some high level folks about what it is we wanted to do for the next expansion and kind of come up with that core feature set to start kind of brainstorming and getting ideas, because not everyone finishes an expansion at the same time.

So you know, the art team is finished well before the game actually ships, because it has got to be brought to a World Master, and that has got to be replicated. Then there is a huge amount of leave time in that. So we kind of have to know at least a little bit about what the next expansion is going to be by the time we wrap one up.

So you guys must have some sort of a dry erase board or a binder filled with possible expansions that maybe were halfway developed and then like, "OK. We are not going to do this one."

We talked about that, but we ended up not ever going back and reusing anything like that. So it pretty much is a fresh discussion every time. It is like, "OK. Now it is time to start talking about the next expansion. What do we think the right ideas are?" And we will talk about two, three, four, five different ideas before we settle on, "Yeah, this one seems like the one the team is really excited about. This is the one we think is the right expansion or the right thing for World of Warcraft right now." So there are a lot of things that go into it.