Blizzard is sitting pretty at the moment. Having just announced that the world's most popular MMO, World of Warcraft, has got even more popular, with an astonishing 9.3m subscriptions across the world, the US developer can afford to employ its famous mantra "it will be ready when it's ready" whenever it's asked about games in development. And clearly its legion of fans wouldn't want it any other way. We here at VideoGamer.com thought we'd try anyway when we sat down for a chat with executive vice-president of product development Frank Pearce to talk World of Warcraft 2, StarCraft 2 and the mystery surrounding StarCraft: Ghost.
VideoGamer.com: Let's start with World of Warcraft. How's development on Wrath of the Lich King coming along? What excites you most about it and what has been the most challenging aspect of its development?
Frank Pearce: The most exciting aspect of Wrath of the Lich King for me, and I think for most of the team, was announcing it at BlizzCon earlier this year and seeing the reaction from the players. Being able to give the community hands-on time with a whole new zone and dungeon there, and again at the Leipzig Game Convention, was a big thrill for us all.
As for development challenges, the team has set the bar pretty high for itself with the first Hero class (the death knight), siege weapons, the world PvP zone (Lake Wintergrasp), the Inscription profession, and the goal of really drawing players into Arthas' story as they explore the continent of Northrend, but we're working at a pretty good pace and taking these challenges head-on.
VideoGamer.com: Can you give us any indication of when WotLK might be released, even a round about estimation?
FP: As we've shown with The Burning Crusade, there's a massive amount of content required for what we consider a Blizzard-quality MMO expansion, and that can take some time to create. The bottom line is that we will never ship a product before it's ready. Obviously some of the elements we're introducing, such as the game's first Hero class and the world-PvP zone, are things the team will want to continue to tweak until they're just right. So at this stage we're not yet ready to talk about release dates.
VideoGamer.com: How long do you think you'll give WoW and its expansions before turning your attention to World of Warcraft 2? How high can the level cap go?
FP: We haven't even started to think about a sequel. The team still has a huge wishlist of exciting features to add on top of what's already been implemented since launch. Not to mention, we're all still playing the game pretty heavily ourselves, and there's a lot more content that we want to see as players.
VideoGamer.com: In terms of the MMO side of things, do you see any rival game ever becoming more popular than WoW or its sequels? Do you think your competition is stepping up with the likes of Warhammer Online and Age of Conan? What do you think of Tabula Rasa?
FP: I might be the wrong person to ask, as we didn't even predict that World of Warcraft would become as popular as it has. We try to stay focused on making World of Warcraft the best game that we can, rather than looking at other games as rivals. I think the games you mentioned are very promising, and are bringing some great new ideas to the MMO space, which is good for all of us. We're just as eager to play these games as anyone else, and from a design standpoint, we're always excited to see the ideas other developers come up with.
VideoGamer.com: How's Starcraft II coming along? Will it be the best RTS game ever? Any round about release date you can let us in on?
FP: It's going well - what we've shown so far has been very well-received, and getting feedback from the community is incredibly important to the team. The team's goal is to make the ultimate competitive real-time strategy game, and that's something they are hugely passionate about. The StarCraft universe means a great deal to us, as does the reputation it has for balance and depth, so we're prepared to spend as much time as required to ensure StarCraft II lives up to expectations.
VideoGamer.com: Some Blizzard fans were disappointed that there was no news on a new Diablo game at BlizzCon. How high on the Blizzard 'to do' list is Diablo 3?
FP: We definitely appreciate that the community has a lot of interest in seeing the Diablo series continue, and we certainly share that desire. For now, though, our focus remains on StarCraft II and Wrath of the Lich King.
VideoGamer.com: What do you think of the next-generation consoles and their online offerings? Do you see any opportunity there to perhaps develop a console version of an existing Blizzard game or perhaps bring a new IP to the table?
FP: There are many great experiences on consoles, but when we made the decision to put StarCraft: Ghost on hold, it was because we felt our resources were better used supporting our PC and Mac development. That's where our focus is currently, with World of Warcraft and StarCraft II, and we're not looking to restart console development in the near future.
VideoGamer.com: What about the Wii? Might Blizzard ever do a game for the Wii?
FP: As with the other consoles, it's not something we have plans for at the moment.
VideoGamer.com: On to Starcraft: Ghost. As a Blizzard fan and a console gamer, I'd love to one day see this game or perhaps something similar. Are the next-generation consoles the place for Blizzard's console game or are you guys waiting for even more powerful hardware to realise your vision?
FP: We're grateful that there's still a lot of support for and interest in StarCraft: Ghost, but we currently have no plans to continue its development on next-generation consoles.
VideoGamer.com: And finally... what's this I hear about Team 3 working on something for Blizzard? Can you give us any pointers at least?
FP: I appreciate the question, but I don't have any further details to share at this time.
VideoGamer.com: Thanks for your time Frank.