Pondering the Cataclysm with Blizzard's J. Allen Brack

PCG: Is 4.0.3a going to be the final step in the road to Cataclysm? Because it's right around the corner at this point. Will more things happen after that big shattering?

Brack: No, the shattering will be the big thing, and we'll let that stand on its own. The world has changed and there will be plenty of things to do right up until the box hits the shelf. We want to keep the time between when we did the actual shattering and when the box went on the shelf, to kind of be pretty close. We have like, a couple weeks between them, and then players will be off to the races with whatever they want to do.

PCG: So when the shattering happens is that when Deathwing is going to start burninating zones? Or is that going to happen after the box?

Brack: That will happen right after we release 4.0.3a.

PCG: I love it, because as soon as it was announced that Deathwing would insta-kill random zones, players didn't say, “Hey, I don't want to get killed, how do I avoid this?” It's always, “How do I rush in there so I can get this one feat of strength! I want to die!”

Brack: Yeah, exactly. It's a really interesting player psychology, on achievements and how those things work. In the old days, when you had the world bosses that would sometimes get dragged across the zone to the capital, people were very annoyed. “Why are you ruining my game time?” But now you've got achievement system, and there's stuff like that, and when it happens it's pretty cool.

PCG: Do you even try to predict what players reaction will be to things like that? I mean, half the time it seems so off the wall. It's like, “Wait, you want to be killed? You want this to happen to you?”

Brack: We do try, because we need to think about the outcomes we want to have happen. But, like you said, there's always players aberrant behavior, that's really hard to predict. Certainly the most famous one in my time with Warcraft is, how players are willing to do things that are not fun in order to achieve something great. “It doesn't matter that I had to bash my head against rocks for weeks and weeks and weeks because I got this thing at the end and it was totally worth it.”

I think about the old titles from the old battleground system. That honor grind was just insanely brutal, and yet people did it. Thinking about the way people got epics in Burning Crusade with the arena system, that's very strange. That constantly surprises me. Players are willing to not have fun for such a long time in order to reach some objective.

PCG: Oh yeah, I'm currently farming for the Firefly out in Zangarmarsh, so I know that feeling.

Brack: There you go--that's what I mean. Amazing. So, yeah, I understand that completely. I have a character that I decided I was going to go out and get all of the off reputations for Burning Crusade, and get the…

PCG: Insane in the Membrane?

Brack: *laughter* No, no, I didn't go that far. Getting the factions for the Sporeggar factions and everything you need to do for that, which is not super challenging by any stretch of the imagination, but it's definitely something you do just to get a box to light up. “What did you get for that?” “I got my box to light up!” “Ok, great, congratulations… me.”