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Joystiq interview: World of Warcraft's Tom Chilton

Jem Alexander

We were given the opportunity to sit down with the Lead Game Designer for the upcoming World of Warcraft expansion, Wrath Of The Lich King, whilst attending the Leipzig Game Convention in Germany. Check out what Tom Chilton had to say about the rationale behind level 55 Dark Knights -- and why Warcraft III fans will love Lich King -- in our brief chat below.

What will you be putting in Wrath Of The Lich King to keep current World of Warcraft players coming back for more?

Lich King is more orientated towards existing players, than new ones. We've raised the level cap from 70 to 80, added a new class, new battlerounds, new arenas, etc. Most of these features are for existing players of World of Warcraft.

Is there anything in the expansion that is targeted towards new players?

For new players, we introduced the "Refer A Friend" program, to help people get their friends in the game. We deliberately did this before we released Wrath Of The Lich King, so that they had time to level up and access all the new higher-level content. Achievements are also an incentive for new players, mostly because they're not retroactive. That's not something we did deliberately, it's just that we haven't previously been tracking the necessary stats. Achievements allow new players to measure their progress through the game. One of our core philosophies with the game is that you're constantly progressing. These achievements are now an important part of that.

Do achievements give in-game rewards of any kind?

No, they don't give any rewards. They're just an evolved high-score system.

Why are you letting players make Death Knights that start at level 55?

With the Death Knights we wanted to do more than we've done with any other class. We want to create a very tailored experience, which we can do thanks to players' familiarity with the game. Also, the Death Knights themselves are beyond ordinary -- why would we start them at level 1? A lot of players spend a lot of time with one character and are tempted to reroll a new one, but there's always that barrier of entry of going back to level 1. By starting Death Knights at level 55, they can bypass that and it gives them an excuse to create a new character.

What will Warcraft III players enjoy about the expansion? How will you weave that game's lore into this new content?

Wrath Of The Lich King is a continuation of the storyline that started in Warcraft III and continued through The Frozen Throne. Warcraft III players will feel very rewarded by playing through Lich King, especially if they followed and enjoyed the story. The Death Knights in Lich King are very much inspired by the Warcraft III Death Knights. They'll also love the new Lich King trailer, that we're showing here at Leipzig.

Finally, when is Lich King going to be released? Do you have a release date for the release date, yet?

I'm afraid you've heard this before, but the company line is that it'll be out whenever it's ready.

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