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World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria launch interview

Monday, 24 September 2012 21:50 GMT By Dave Cook

World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria is launching worldwide this week, so VG247′s Dave Cook spoke with Blizzard about why its latest expansion has been worth the wait.

Yeah, yeah OK, let’s get this out of the way, it’s got giant Pandas in it, Jack Black and so on. Now that’s done, and your rib cage has been suitably tickled let’s get to the nitty gritty of Blizzard’s fourth expansion, World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria.

It’s big, and it caters to such a huge spread of players that even newcomers entering at such a late stage will find something to hold their interest. Plus, the Starter Edition free-to-play segment lets WoW virgins play all the way up to level 20 for no charge.

However, it’s no secret that Blizzard’s MMO has lost a lot of players over the last few years, and as such, the studio has opted for the ‘please everyone’ approach in Mists of Pandaria. Dungeons and starting areas are easier for one, but to bemoan the developer for widening the game’s appeal a little is perhaps a little premature.

“No matter what you want to do in the game, there is something for you – be it, pet battles, raids or scenarios – so it’ll be great to see how players respond.”

So why should you get excited about Mists of Pandaria? Read on to find out as we chat with Blizzard’s Senior Game Designer Scott Mercer and Senior Software Engineer Darren Williams.

VG247: So here we are guys, it’s the Mists of Pandaria launch. How are you guys feeling to finally be here?

Scott Mercer: Yeah we’re really excited to launch Pandaria as it’s been an amazing piece of work over the last couple of years, and there have been a lot of interesting thing that we’ve added to it such as the Pandaren race, the Monk class and a lot of new content that we haven’t had before.

It’s not just dungeons, quests or raids, but adding quick challenge modes, scenarios and pet battles. I think players are really going to get a lot of excitement out of it just because of the huge amount of things we’ve given them.

Darren Williams: Just in terms of the expansion I think that it gives so many things for different players to do. It’s going to be awesome.


This official Mists of Pandaria trailer reveals just some of the expansions new features.

That decision to add new features is one that has to be planned so thoroughly each time an MMO updates, and of course, it’s important to keep the game interesting. What was your thought process going into Mists of Pandaria?

Scott Mercer: I don’t think we felt like we really had to, it’s just that we’re always looking to make the game as good as it can be, so expanding out the types of gameplay was a very natural process for us.

We’ve added different things over time you know, like the raid system we tweaked from one of the patches from our last expansion, and now we’re expanding raiding all the time. I think it’s just a natural thing that we look at all the time to give our players the most epic experience.

You guys must have had a lot of feedback from Cataclysm that has helped form your approach to Mists of Pandaria. Was there anything in Cataclysm that players perhaps didn’t like, or that they wanted to see you fix in this expansion?

Scott Mercer: Well we’re always very self-critical of our work. and whenever we do expansions there’s always things we can look at. Some people didn’t like Cataclysm’s initial difficulty and some of the dungeons, so we fixed those things over time.

In Pandaria we have an awesome dungeon experience and it won’t be as difficult this time, and there’s other things. But yeah, we’re always looking at ways to improve our game, and we’ll just keep on doing that in future.

Darren Williams: Yeah one of the things is that, no matter what you want to do in the game, there is something for you – be it, pet battles, raids or scenarios – so it’ll be great to see how players respond.

It’s good to see that you haven’t run out of ideas so late in the series, and that is where many long-running games fall down. But what would you say to newcomers who are only now just considering the series?

Darren Williams: I think our starter edition is really good. You can start and play up to level 20 for free, and one of the things that we’ve done is you can even start with the new Pandaren race, and play through their starting area which is really tailored to new players as well.

Scott Mercer: It’s so much more about experiencing much of the game, and it helps that the starting area on the Wandering Isle is much more friendly for players. The guys have done a wonderful job in giving players a lot of stuff that helps them understand the game’s core concepts. We’ve also given a lot more gameplay choices to people, so I think there’s never been a better time to get involved and learn to play World of Warcraft online.


The oriental vibe really hits home.

Giving newcomers a chance to ease themselves into the game is admirable, when so many MMO expansions simply raise level caps and difficulty for players lingering around in the endgame.

Darren Williams: Yeah, we definitely tried not to concentrate on that 1% of our player population, and something we’ve learned over time is that people will play World of Warcraft for a lot of different reasons, so that’s why we to divide our expansions across many different types of content as possible.

How much content can free-to-play Mists of Pandaria players experience? Is it simply everything up to level 20 as with the rest of the game?

Darren Williams: Yeah, so if you play as a Panda, and you can tackle the starting area, or you can start as a Blood Elf, Goblin or Worgen and tackle their starting areas as well since Cataclysm.

Those starting areas are more recent so they are some of the best content we’ve done. Many of the systems were just implemented in our last update, so those new, Starter Edition players will be able to check out the new class balance, and a enjoy a lot of the benefits of Mists of Pandaria.

“The new skill system breaks it down into a clear choice between three different options. We tried to make all three of those options different and provide an interesting choice for you.”

One of those biggest new additions is your pet battle system. Do you think that might grow significantly over time?

Scott Mercer: Yeah and coming into this launch we’re planning new content for it. We have trainers in the world, like master pet trainers that you can take your team to battle them or get quests from them, and we’re looking to expand that too. at the moment there are so many pets you can collect in the world, and that really is now such a big part of the game, and there’s still a lot of room for expansion there.

You also have a new skill system that we’ve spoken with Blizzard about briefly before. It really is all about giving people skills that feel diverse and impactful, rather than boosting an existing skill by say, 1.5% or something small like that, isn’t it?

Scott Mercer: The original design of that system was to give a balance between gameplay choices, but it became very difficult over time to actually provide balance between 1% of one thing and then say 1% of tanking or whatever.

The new skill system breaks it down into a clear choice between three different options. We tried to make all three of those options different and provide an interesting choice for you.

So you might have a particular row that’s all about movement, and you get to choose a particular type of movement ability. Some of the choices we tried to make hard so it definitely makes creating your class a lot more interesting.

Darren Williams: You can also change a lot more customisation as well – a lot more fun stuff – right down to customising your warrior so that when he charges, he leaves a trail of fire. So it’s really just stuff that adds a lot more personality to your character.

You have added a lot to the game with the last update and in Mists of Pandaria. Where could you go next?

Scott Mercer: Well with every expansion we examine what players really liked and what content did we provide. We really benefit from the feedback from our players, and although I can’t say too much about the future, we’ll figure something out.

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2 Comments

  1. Erthazus

    Let the games begin in LAGS.

    Server is down…

    #1 3 years ago
  2. GwynbleiddiuM

    Yeah, couldn’t play my main on Auchindoun at all. mainly because there were thousands of players aboard the Skyfire, had to go and play another one of my character’s on Skullcrusher. Being part of a dead realm actually paid off this time around.

    Apart from that madness, the expansion is actually quite good, feels a lot better than cataclysm and has more content and attractions. I quite enjoyed it so far.

    And dungeons are too easy. Played one and it was as short and as easy as Theramore’s Fall. :| Aside from standing out of stuff it didn’t offer any challenge. Well I hope it gets a bit more challenging once you hit 90.

    The new zones are beautiful and alive. Jade Forest reminded me a lot about Zangarmarsh, which is a good thing, the only zone I loved in TBC.

    Had to stay up all night, I barely can keep my eyes open, and I’m at work atm. This is a torture I want my bed.

    @Dave, thanks for the interview, although I’d have liked it if you asked a few hard questions about that horrendous CRZ feature. I’m glad it’s not up on pandaren zones yet.

    #2 3 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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    The Western release of Dragon Quest Heroes has been given the most absurd subtitle. Square Enix announced a while back that Dragon Quest Heroes will come to North America and Europe this year. Unlike in Japan, it will launch only on PlayStation 4. Earlier today, the Japanese publisher revealed what the game’s logo will look […]

  • Minecraft vulnerability allows users to crash servers remotely [UPDATE]

    A security flaw discovered in Minecraft’s code that could give perpetrators the ability to crash servers remotely has been fixed via a patch by Mojang. Update: Mojang has released an update to Minecraft patch 1.8, listed as version 1.8.4, and it is available now. It fixes reported security issues, in addition to some other minor […]

  • Official Bloodborne merchandise now available, including a limited edition statue

    The PlayStation gear store has added a new section dedicated to Bloodborne merchandise. The first set of items is as good as you’d expect. If you’re a fan of Bloodborne and want to make sure everyone around you knows it, you’ll be happy to know that Sony has added a few pieces of Bloodborne-branded gear […]

  • Destiny Xur update: should you buy The Last Word?

    Xur is selling one of Destiny’s top hand cannons today: The Last Word. Is it worth grinding the coins for? The answer is a resounding YES. The Last Word is one of Destiny’s best Exotics, and one of the best Hand Cannons in the game. Our Destiny expert Alex notes that it’s one of the […]

  • Destiny: Xur location and inventory for April 17, 18 – The Last Word edition

    What did our good buddy Xur bring for us this week? Xur: Agent of the Nine, Destiny’s weekend vendor is back with more Exotic offers. Xur is your guy if you’re after Exotic weapons or armour, provided you have the Strange Coins for them. Head over to the lounge in the Tower Hangar, you’ll find […]

  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt discounted for Gold members, pre-load now live

    The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt files are now live on the Xbox Store. Xbox One owners with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt pre-orders can start downloading the full game to be ready for launch. The file size was confirmed earlier to be just over 25GB. Those who have yet to pre-order can do so at […]

  • GTA 5 files accessed by modders, reveal horses, zombies, more

    Modders have managed to pry GTA 5′s file lock open and expose many of its interesting innards. GTA community modders have gained access to several of GTA 5′s archives on PC. These files were previously believed to be inaccessible. Popular modding tool OpenIV, which was used in editing files in GTA 4 (hence the name), […]

  • Bethesda’s E3 invite features Dishonored, Doom, Wolfenstein… but no Fallout

    Bethesda is going first at E3 this year with a showcase of games on Sunday night. What clues can we see in the press invite? Skyrim publisher Bethesda has sent out confirmation of its E3 showcase, taking place Sunday June 14. The invite includes a number of Bethesda game characters including Wolfenstein’s BJ Blazcowicz, a […]

  • Here’s Crytek’s VR demo, because dinosaurs

    Dinosaurs! This is precisely what virtual reality is for. VR demos are all over the place and CryEngine developer Crytek has produced one of its own, showing off how the engine is flexible enough t- Look, let me level with you: I don’t care. I only care about dinosaurs. Hush now and watch the dinosaurs. […]

  • StreetPass update adds birthday collecting, VIP Miis and more

    StreetPass collecters should take advantage of an optional update. It’s International StreetPass Week, so now’s the time to break out the 3DS and go hunting. Don’t leave your home network without first checking out a new optional update, though. Kotaku reports the update prompt is available from the leftmost icon in your StreetPass Mii Plaza. […]

  • Massive Uplay sale offers cheap games in time for the weekend

    PC gamers can grab a sweet saving or two in Uplay’s Spring Sale. Assassin’s Creed: Unity, Far Cry 4, South Park: The Stick of Truth, Dragon Age: Inquisition and Alien: Isolation are all on sale as part of Uplay’s Spring Sale, among many other titles. The sale offers discounts of up to 85% off digital […]

  • Fix for GTA 5 PC Windows install bug releasing today

    Rockstar is set to release a patch today that will fix a bug preventing players from installing the game. The bug is tied to Windows usernames that use certain characters not supported by Rockstar. There’s already a workaround available on the Rockstar Support site, but those waiting for an official update will be able to […]

  • Prey 2 dev’s new mobile horror Lost Within out now on iOS and Fire

    Remember Lost Within, that mobile survival horror erstwhile Prey 2 developer Human Head Studios was making with Amazon Game Studios? It’s now available on iOS and for Amazon’s Fire devices, through the appropriate App Stores. There’s a little bit of extra info on it on the AGS blog, if you’re keen; unfortunately the blog doesn’t […]

  • Let’s take a look at Blood Bowl 2′s Chaos faction

    Blood Bowl 2: The Chaos Theory is only the latest in a much loved series of games based on a game based on two other games. Blood Bowl is a popular Games Workshop tabletop game which blends the fantasy universe of Warhammer with a fantasy sport drawing inspiration from American football and related games. It’s […]

  • “Second-person” shooter Screencheat coming to PS4 and Xbox One

    Goldeneye players should be familiar with the concept of screencheating, which is what this new indie is all about. Screencheat has been on our radars for a while but has now been confirmed for PS4, sparking a new wave of interest with a trailer and PS Blog post. However, it was one of a number […]

  • World of Warcraft Timewalking will make old dungeons fun again

    World of Warcraft will soon introduce a feature called Timewalking, designed to make you feel young again. When WoW players participate in a Timewalking event, they’ll be transported to a randomly selected classic dungeon. Upon entering, their level and gear will be scaled way, way down to the Dungeon’s Heroic level – so they won’t […]

  • Bloodborne and Dark Souls messaging – in real life

    Soapstone is a cool little app that mimics the messaging system found in Bloodborne, Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls. Bloodborne and Dark Souls fans will surely agree that the asynchronous multiplayer side of things, with players leaving anonymous tips, encouragement and jokes for each other, is one of the cooler aspects of the From Software […]

  • Mass Effect fans, get a load of this My Talking Elcor plushie

    I have been waiting to write about this all day because oh my god. Mass Effect attracted a devoted fanbase and Bioware has found tons of clever ways to satisfy that fanbase’s desire for clothes, collectibles, books, comics and toys related to the future world of Commander Shepard and company. The company has been so […]

  • Homeworld Remastered Collection headed to retail

    Homeworld fans can purchase a neat little package of gloriously remastered nostalgia soon. The Homeworld Remastered Collection has been available online since the end of February, but is now on its way to retail thanks to a deal between new rights holder Gearbox and Ubisoft. The PC exclusive will launch in physical form from May […]

  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt download size lower than predicted

    The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has a hefty install footprint, but it’s not as bad as we expected. The Witcher 3 was expected to be a 50GB download after a note to this effect was added to the PlayStation Store. It looks like that might have been a placeholder figure, as DualShockers noted today that […]

  • Bloodborne, beaten with a Guitar Hero controller

    Come on now, you didn’t expect anything less from the Souls community, did you? Bloodborne has been vanquished with a Guitar Hero controller, just a few weeks after its release. Kotaku reports Bearzly took nine hours to finish the game, which is probably less than many players using a Dual Shock. You can watch a […]

  • Vendors? New social space? Your House of Wolves questions will be answered

    Destiny players learned more about House of Wolves in this week’s Bungie update than you might realise at first glance. Resident Destiny expert Arekkz cast his eagle eye over this week’s Bungie Weekly Update, which announced next week’s Reef tour livestream. I personally am most excited to learn about gear upgrade paths, but Arekkz points […]

  • GTA 5 playable with Virtuix Omni VR treadmill

    You’ve seen GTA 5 with Oculus Rift, Now see GTA 5 with the Virtuix Omni. GTA 5 PC has unlocked a number of exciting possibilities. Modders and hackers are still working on making the game’s files accessible to third-party creation tools, but several cool things have been produced even with this barrier still in place. […]

  • Mortal Kombat X: play as Rain and other locked characters on PC

    Mortal Kombat X players comfortable with tinkering with the game’s files can unlock unplayable characters. Mortal Kombat X includes a number of familiar fighters available only as opponents, not playable characters. if you’re super keen to try out Rain, Baraka and co, you can – with a bit of fiddling. Redditor XVermillion figured out that […]

  • Madden 16 release date set for August, of course

    Madden NFL 16 has a deeply unsurprising release date. Madden’s release date always falls at the end of US summer, and Madden 16 is no exception. EA Sports has announced that the NFL sim will release on PlayStation 3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One on August 26. We have absolutely no further information at […]

  • Star Wars Battlefront won’t have Battlelog support

    Star Wars Battlefront is not just Battlefield in a Hallowe’en costume, so don’t expect the same suite of features. Star Wars Battlefront is the subject of intense anticipation and curiosity, so it’s not surprising a bunch of rumours have turned up. One of these rumours suggests that Battlefront will have its own version of Battlelog, […]

  • Battlefield Hardline beats Bloodborne to top March NPD chart

    PS4 had a good month but it was EA’s multi-platform Battlefield Hardline that was the best-selling game. March 2015 NPD at a glance Total spend down 6% YoY. Hardware and software both down. Console hardware blamed for significant hardware dip. Accessories up. Battlefield Hardline tops software chart. PS4 outsells other consoles. Wii U, 3DS and […]

  • Destiny: House of Wolves gear upgrade paths will be revealed next week

    Destiny developer Bungie will reveal new equipment upgrade paths during a livestream next week. Destiny: House of Wolves will release on May 19, the developer announced last week, promising a full schedule of reveals over the next few weeks. It also gave a broad outline of some of the things it will be discussing in […]

  • Don’t forget: the Elder Scrolls Online Welcome Back Weekend kicks off tomorrow

    Just a quick heads up to remind you that The Elder Scrolls Online Welcome Back Weekend kicks off tomorrow, April 17 at 10am EDT. The free weekend is an incentive to bring back beta players which tried the game, but decided not to pursue a purchase. You can play the MMO until 10am EDT on […]