The Escapist: Can you talk a little bit why you removed the requirement to go back to the class trainer?
Greg Street: It had always been kind of a little bit of RPG tradition that you're out adventuring and then ding, you get your level, and you go back to your trainer and learn your new abilities but I think a combination of us streamlining the questing experience and just the focus on the endgame, the players wanted to get there soon as possible. If you skipped visiting your class trainer for a few levels, that was okay, which meant that you were just delaying getting these fun abilities. We'd rather players did get the abilities right away and have the instant gratification rather than it being a choice of "Should I take time out of leveling to go get this ability which may improve my leveling or not?"
The Escapist: Do you find that player behavior is that they go back to town whenever they want to?
Greg Street: Overall, they try not to go back to town and we didn't think it was a fun choice of is it more efficient to go back to town frequently or to never go back to town. You still need to go back to town sometimes to sell the stuff in your bags or get a new flight path or things like that, but the leveling could be so quick particularly when you stacked on things like guild benefits or refer a friend benefits or heirlooms or something like that. It just got to be a little silly that you would gain five ten levels without having gotten the new abilities that go along with those levels.
The Escapist: You guys have a lot of content that you're bringing with Mists of Pandaria: the new class, a new race and the whole new continent. How did you balance the workload of getting those all done in the same timeframe as you did all the other ones?
Greg Street: [Laughs] I'm not sure we did in the long run if you look at the current patch 4.3. It lasted a lot longer than I think was ideal for the player base. It would have been great if we had had the expansion out soon and it's just, it's always a hard call of, "Do you want to put so much content in an expansion, because then the expansion's really exciting or do you want to do smaller expansions so the players get them more frequently?" We've said for years that we need to get expansions out more frequently and we've just not been able to pull it off yet.
The Escapist: So was there a lot of corners cut that you needed to do that for? For example, a lot of the choices seem to be ways that would cut down on development time. You have one new race that can be either Horde or Alliance instead of two new races. Also, the starting zones for previous expansions typically had a Level 1 to 10 zone and then a ten to twenty zone whereas new Pandarens only have one zone and then you put them back in the world.
Greg Street: I would say that we find that players finish up the Pandaren starting area experience in between level 10 to 15 so it's not super different. It's probably a little shorter than the goblin one [from Cataclysm] which was quite long. The choice to only have one race was really just that we knew if we only gave the Pandaren to one side in a game like the this - with Pandaren [mystique] building for so long - that we would just really piss off half our players. So in that case we knew we had to give Pandaren to both sides.