World of Warcraft game director Tom Chilton has spoken at length with about the possibilities for the next expansion to the mammoth Blizzard MMO.

Chilton was speaking during the Warcraft Regional Finals 2009 tournament in Cologne, Germany, where 64 pro gamers battled it out for places at this August's BlizzCon event.

He was also promoting the upcoming Call of the Crusade update (Patch 3.2), which will bring class changes, a new battleground and the ability to turn experience gain off.

Topics discussed included when the next expansion will release; new classes and races; and where it might be set.

Chilton said it's "not likely" that the next expansion will be out 12 months after Wrath of the Lich King, which was released in May 2009; that there is room left in Azeroth for the expansion to be set; that because Blizzard doesn't feel that it can support the pace of adding a new class with every single expansion, a new class in the next expansion is "less likely"; and that it wants to "introduce and pre-seed" new races before they're used as player races in order to avoid a repeat situation experienced with the draenei, an alien race that was "harder for players to get" because "nobody had really ever seen or dealt with them" before they arrived with first expansion The Burning Crusade.

Here's what he said on each topic:

On when the next expansion might be released: "We'd like to hit each calendar year somehow. Whether or not that actually happens in the near term I don't know yet. It's safe to say there will be more expansions for WoW. And it's safe to say that we have long term things that we're working on right now. They get players excited and give players a lot of new stuff to do all at once so it's really cool. Whether or not that actually happens a year from when Wrath of the Lich King came out, not likely! But we'll see. We're still trying to get it to the point where we're able to deliver them more quickly than we were before."

On where the next expansion will be set: "I don't think it has to be anywhere completely foreign yet. There are parts of the map that we have left ambiguous and unexplored. There are parts of Eastern Kingdoms and Azeroth that haven't been filled out yet. Out there in the South Seas there are islands, there's out where the Maelstrom is. There's still quite a bit of land mass. We keep referring to the Emerald Dream, which is maybe not exactly in Azeroth but is sort of tied to it in some way or another. But there are definitely places in Azeroth itself that are close to home that haven't been filled out yet so there's more room for that sort of thing."

On new classes: "It's a design driven approach as to whether or not we do a new class, because we don't feel that we can support the pace of adding a new class with every single expansion. We feel like we will dilute the classes too much if we do that. It will only be a couple of expansions before, I would say three, four expansions down the road, I would worry that our classes would become less distinct and interesting and the new stuff may not feel as cool. Or the classes would start to become more and more alike as we start to hybridise things more and more. I do think there are a limited number of classes the game can support with its level complexity. So we want to make sure that we choose wisely what the class is going to be and when it's introduced, and not kid ourselves into thinking that we can just keep shoving them into the game without making a mess of the game."

Tom_chilton_2.jpg We saw the implementation of a new class with Wrath of the Lich King. Given what you've said that would make it unlikely that we'll see a new class in the next expansion?

Chilton: "I would say that it makes it less likely. Not impossible - there may be a time that we do two classes back to back and maybe we'll do that. Maybe we won't. We'll just have to wait and see."

On the possibility of making playable races that currently exist in Azeroth:

"There are a lot of them we already know about that are creatures that are out there. I don't want to give away too many of the things that we have going on in our minds for different possibilities. But there are certainly possibilities that don't necessarily limit us to coming with completely new things that players will never have seen before. In fact one of the things that we learned from doing the draenei is that it's important to seed the race in the world. It was harder for players to get the draenei thing because they kind of came out of nowhere. They'd been referred to in previous Warcraft games, but nobody had really ever seen or dealt with them. So it was a little harder to do, whereas with Blood Elves it was a lot easier.

"What we learned from that is we do, wherever possible, want to seed that potential, even if it's in a small way. An example I could throw out there would be, in Blackwing Lair we had the drakonid race. We always looked at those and said, oh that would be a pretty cool player race, it would be cool to play as one of those guys. There's not a lot there as far as, where did they come from and what are they? But they are in the world and it wouldn't be completely inconceivable that a player would end up being able to play that, and we could continue to expand on the depth of that race." So it would be fair to say that there won't be any more aliens arriving in a spaceship?

Chilton: "Yeah! It certainly could happen, but wherever possible we're going to try to make sure we introduce and pre-seed the races before we actually use them as player races."

Be sure to check out our interview with Tom Chilton, where he explains the changes Call of the Crusade will bring.

What do you think about Tom's comments on the next World of Warcraft expansion? Let us know in the comments section below.