Let me ask you some questions about Cataclysm, the next expansion that will be out next year hopefully. When did you guys had the idea to release the expansion in this rhythm and to rebuild Azeroth? Is it in idea from former times, years ago, or did you say “We have to do a redesign of the old world, because we are running out of new worlds”?

Tom Chilton: [laughing] The redesign of the old world is something we talked about for a long time now. You know, when Burning Crusade came out there was a lot of talk, if we had the time to go back and make a lot of different zone improvements. But as we continued to move forward, we knew that with Burning Crusade, we made the game a lot better and with Wrath of the Lich King, we even surpassed that. We got to the point where we knew, that we weren’t doing the entire game justice, if we didn’t go back and improve the 1 to 60 experience. You know, it’s kind of weird to see all these players come into the game and have to say “Yeah – this first steps, they’re okay. But when you move on, especially when you get to Northrend, the game gets much better”. It felt really odd to keep telling people that. We continued to develop the game, we developed new techniques, we got new tools, our content developers got better and better – it gets to a point, where have to get back. It does not only have value for new people come into the game, but also for existing players, because over the years, we’ve been amazed how often players create new characters. When we think back at old classic times, the first thing that comes into our minds are the 40-player raids like Molten Core. Do you think those times are begone forever or is it possible that these 40-player-raids will see their revival?

Tom Chilton: I don’t imagine that we’re going to see 40-player-raids anymore. It was part of the debate, when we developed the first stages of Ulduar. It was clear for us that the raid experience has to be truly epic, because it’s that what players want. But what we realized is: it’s not really the number of players that makes it epic, it’s the quality of the content and what you do with this content and what you do, to make players be part of this content. 10 and 25 players raids still feel epic. You just revamped Onyxia. Are there plans to do the same for Cataclysm with other old instanced like Blackwing Lair?

Tom Chilton: We have some ideas for revisiting those instances, except with probably much more substantial changes. We had the revamped versions of Naxxramas and Onyxia, but they we’re pretty much the same encounters with the exception of a few changes. But we have future plans for raiding in Cataclysm, for example: we’ll use Blackrock Mountain to create a new raid instance within the Blackrock that’s an extension to Blackwing Lair. This area is a completely new area where players have never been before, with a lot of new bosses. It’s not like bringing Broodlord Lashlayer back. Lorewise, there are a lot of connections between the two instances, but all the encounters are new. Will this be the case for the 5-player instances as well? All the old dungeons should still exist in Azeroth, for example for all the players who decide to level up a new character.

Tom Chilton: We don’t plan to rebuild the old dungeons but we are going to add and include new ones for Level 80 and 85. There are some exceptions like Shadowfang Keep which will be redesigned for Level 85. There are plenty of places in the world where we can create new dungeons! Will we see some cool not-yet-seen areas like Old Ironforge in Cataclysm or did you forget that these are even existing?

Tom Chilton: There are a lot of those places, that finally have been mentioned again since we announced Cataclysm earlier this year. You know, places like Grim Batol, Gilneas, stuff like that. So, we are getting these old areas in the world, although we don’t necessarily feel to bring every single corner of Azeroth in the game. You should not expect to see Old Ironforge in the game but we do some changes to Stormwind. Any chance to see a new hero class in Cataclysm?

Tom Chilton: No, we will not see another Hero Class in Cataclysm. Maybe that’s something for future expansions, but nothing for the next one. Tom, we are pretty sure that you have always have a close look into the market – when you think of a upcoming game like Star Wars The Old Republic and their idea to voice-over the entire game: do you like this idea? What we saw in Patch 3.3 is, that there is a lot of speech in it. Do you think this is a good idea or do you think this will disrupt game experience in some way?

Tom Chilton: There is a certain element of it, that’s really cool. It’s cool to hear voice-overs, it’s cool to hear what the characters are saying. At the same time, it makes questing a lot harder. It doesn’t allow you to change the quest that you want to make. It also determines a limit of how much content you can create, because you will need voice actors over and over again. So there are definitely some problems coming with it. I think, the decision to get it in the game is very interesting and I’m curious to see, how it plays out in the end.

Darnassus today: First Cataclysm precursors for big world events that are still to come Will there be another patch before Cataclysm or do you even plan to release a new raid boss?

Tom Chilton: We do expect that there will be a new patch before the new expansion, although we don’t expect it to be like a typical numbered patch like 3.4 or 3.5. This could include balance changes, it could potentially include new features, depending on once the BattleNet-Features come online, maybe it could implement some of these. There’s even the possibility for a new raid boss, but it’s too early to say for sure.

But something we do know is, that there will be world events that lead to the Cataclysm!

Thunder Bluff today: First Cataclysm precursors for big world events that are still to come Cool! Something like the Ahn Qiray opening ceremony?

Tom Chilton: (hearty laughing) Haha, no not like AQ. More like the Zombie play which was kind of introduction to the Wrath of the Lich King. The new World Events will stay in context to the story of Cataclysm. Thanks for the interview, Tom.

Interview by Garry Leusch, Dec11th 2009.