Interview: Rob Pardo

The Saga Continues

Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos was a great game with a fascinating storyline, some inspiring cinematics and balanced gameplay. But while the story was great, there were a few obvious plot lines that were left open. Blizzard officially announced the new expansion, Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne today. Rob Pardo, senior designer and lead on the expansion, walks us through the story, some of the new units and what fans can expect from Blizzard’s latest project, expected to be released in the summer of this year.

GameSpy: So Ner’zhul rears his ugly head again. Give us some of the story between defeat of Archimonde and the Burning Legion and Ner’zhul’s imprisonment in the Icecrown glacier.

Rob Pardo: Many months have passed since Archimonde and the Burning Legion were defeated at the battle of Mount Hyjal, but now a new evil threatens Azeroth. The evil Lich King Ner’zhul is once again plotting within the depths inside the Icecrown glacier, deep within the arctic continent of Northrend. Although Ner’zhul is without physical form, his soul lives on. As the story develops, players soon learn that both the Night Elf renegade, Illidan, and the evil Death Knight, Arthas are racing to find Ner’zhul and the Icecrown glacier (the Frozen Throne), releasing the mysterious powers found inside.

GameSpy: The Night Elf Demon Hunter Illidan and Death Knight Arthas really did not play much of a role in the final Night Elf chapter of Warcraft 3. As a matter of fact, their fates were pretty much left open-ended. I assume that was intentional for the purposes of the expansion?

Rob Pardo: Yes, it was; and the title for the expansion set is the focus of the new single-player campaigns. We already know that Arthas is not to be trusted, and it is soon revealed that Illidan is also a force of evil. It is uncertain as to what exactly is being sought inside the frozen throne, but as the campaign progresses, players uncover the schemes of these villains and their dark intentions for the world of Azeroth.

GameSpy: How many missions will be in the single-player game and will they be race focused as the original game was?

Rob Pardo: The exact number of missions is still being determined at this point, but I can tell you that they will be race focused similar to Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos. The campaign starts with the Night Elves, progresses to the Human Alliance, and ends with the Undead Scourge. The Orcs will have their own unique Orc-specific campaign that serves a stand-alone story. Their story is also being designed to showcase many of the new campaign features of the enhanced world editor.

GameSpy: What was the idea behind adding new heroes and how will they be integrated into the single-player story?

Rob Pardo: With Warcraft III, adding new Heroes just felt like a natural evolution. The game is all about Heroes, so adding more felt like the right thing to do. Furthermore, adding new Heroes for each side, each with their own unique set of abilities, allowed us to expand the range of strategies available to players.

As for how the new Heroes will be integrated into the single-player story, it’s a little too early to get into the details, but it’s safe to say that like the campaign in Reign of Chaos, Frozen Throne‘s campaign will center around the actions of the new Heroes, and as the story progresses, players will learn the many intricacies of using these Heroes to their full potential.

GameSpy: Will the hero be from the existing races or a new race (like the Tauren Chieftain)?

Rob Pardo: The new Human, Orc, Night Elf and Undead Heroes come from the races that make up their respective alliances. For instance, the new Human Hero is the Blood Mage, a Blood Elven spellcaster. The Blood Elves, formerly knows as the High Elves, have long been members of the Human Alliance, so it was only natural that we take this opportunity to give this noble race its due and create a Hero from among its ranks.

GameSpy:What are some of the abilities you are looking at?

Rob Pardo: The Blood Mage is a good example of the approach we’re taking with the new Heroes. Being a spellcaster, the new abilities that the Blood Mage brings to the table are of the powerful spell variety. Rather than replace the Human Archmage, the Blood Mage was designed to complement that Hero’s abilities.

One of the Blood Mage’s spells is called Flame Strike, an area affect fire spell that can deal several hundred points of damage to all foes caught in the spread, with the greatest damage concentrated in the center. Unlike the Archmage’s blizzard, flame strike isn’t interruptible. Another ability is Banish, a spell that essentially turns the target unit into a ghost, effectively removing it from play – whether to render it useless or to protect it – for a brief amount of time.

GameSpy: Every expansion has new units. What are a few of the new units and how will they enhance the ability of their side?

Rob Pardo: Our plan with the expansion set is to add new units to all four races. These new units are being specifically designed to enhance each race. All of the units will be equipped with additional spells and abilities, giving players the chance to create new gameplay strategies and more tactical forms of combat.

In terms of specifics, one of the new Human units is the Blood Elf Spell Breaker. The Spell Breaker is a sort of magical thief: his innate ability is spell immunity, and his learned spell is spell steal – an autocast spell that removes positive buffs from enemy units (such as bloodlust and inner fire) and transfers them to friendly units.

GameSpy: The expansion features three new tilesets. What new locations and worlds will players visit?

Rob Pardo: Players will visit many new lands in the expansion. The first new tileset, the Sunken Ruins, is a lush, rain-forest setting. This island map is filled with lots of pools, rivers and expansive shoreline. The traditional trees found in Warcraft: III have been replaced with palm trees and Mayan-like ruins cover this tropical landscape.

GameSpy: I suspect there will be new creeps guarding some of the neutral buildings. What are a few of them?

Rob Pardo: Many new creeps and critters will be introduced in the expansion set. Each tileset features creeps that are native to the environments created by these tilesets. For example, the “Sunken Ruins” tileset contains amphibious creeps ranging from giant sea turtles to an ancient tribe of sea giants, all of which can move freely in and out of the water. In addition to the lush setting of the Sunken Ruins environments, these amphibious creeps go a long way in giving the tileset a unique feel for players, unlike anything they’ve seen thus far in the Warcraft universe.

GameSpy: How is the world editor being upgraded?

Rob Pardo: We’re enhancing the World Editor in lots of ways. One of the main features that we’re introducing is the Custom Campaign feature. This feature allows map designers to string maps together that directly affect each other. That is, map designers can now create a series of connected missions, and in these missions, what a player does in one map can be “remembered” and carried over to other maps. For example, a campaign creator can create triggers that may require a player to return to a previous map and fulfill an objective with newly found quest items before being able to continue in the current map. Map designers will also be able to create cut scenes and voiceovers to make their campaigns transition seamlessly from one mission to the next.

(Originally published on GameSpy, January 2003)

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