Pandaria began as a lark. For April Fools' Day in 2002, one of the artists from Blizzard, Samwise Didier, created an anthropomorphic race of panda-men as a fake fifth race for the RTS Warcraft 3. Fans latched onto the idea though, and since then Warcraft lore has hinted at a mysterious continent, shrouded in mist, where the Pandarens live. Level-capped World of Warcraft characters will get the chance to adventure in those lands when Mists of Pandaria comes out on September 25th, but others will jump at the chance to play a brand new Pandaren character and try out a completely new class of martial artist - the Monk.
You can check out my video preview of the Pandaren starting area and the Monk, but I also got a chance to sit down with Greg Street the Lead Systems Designer for World of Warcraft - known as Ghostcrawler on the WoW forums -to pick his brain about Mists of Pandaria. You might be surprised to learn exactly why they introduced the new Pokemon-like minipet battle system, and some other neat additions to the continent of Pandaria that have flown under the radar by the WoW-press.
The Escapist: This was the first expansion you guys had developed a new class for levels one through 90. What was that like, going back to the drawing board, so to speak?
Greg Street: It was interesting, with the Death Knight [- the "hero class" from Wrath of the Lich King -] we knew we could throw a bunch of abilities to players right away but with the Monk we really had to think about, 'Okay what does a level nine Monk have to do? And do we give them the ability slowly or quickly?' I think for a long time players felt like they didn't have enough abilities at low levels but anyone who jumped in and tried them at high level felt overwhelmed because they had to learn everything. It's definitely a bit of a different process.
The Escapist: What did you think was the iconic abilities that said martial artist, or Monk, to you?
Greg Street: We looked a lot at the Brewmaster from the Warcraft RTS and then we also watched a lot of cheesy martial arts movies. Because we really felt like that was what we were going for, that was the kind of, we didn't have a class that quite felt like that yet so we wanted to have a lot of animations of hands and fists, but also mystical almost Wushu style energy that they would have to do, things that felt magical but were done without using mana.
The Escapist: To me, the Roll ability, just being able to instantly roll forward is the thing that really set apart the Monk. That made the class feel really different.
Greg Street: Yeah, they have a lot of mobility. They have that higher level ability, Flying Serpent Kick, where they can go a long way and land when they want to and combining those two abilities together you really feel mobile.
The Escapist: How do you think those abilities will impact things like PvP?
Greg Street: So far, Monks had some abilities earlier on in PvP that were just too good. Their disarm was pretty radical and some of their crowd control. I think that we're really trying to center around movement being a big thing for them. They can get into combat and get away pretty quickly as well.