It's no secret that Blizzard is working on a "next-gen MMO," as evidenced by job listings on their website.
But during BlizzCon this past weekend, "World of Warcraft" game director Jeffrey Kaplan confirmed to MTV Multiplayer that he's "definitely involved" in the project.
"I think the great part about a new MMO from Blizzard is that it doesn't have to be 'WoW'," he said. "There are a lot of lessons we learned in making 'World of Warcraft,' and some of those you can take and do things better than you ever did before."
I asked if he was concerned about the new MMO potentially cannibalizing "WoW" subscribers. Kaplan said he wasn't worried at all, and that the company was going to great lengths to make sure that the new game doesn't directly cannibalize "WoW."
But with the huge success of "WoW," and now "Warhammer Online," I wondered if there was any room for MMOs that weren't inspired by high fantasy. "Oh yeah," Kaplan said. "I only think [non-high fantasy MMOs] have a harder time because of the past games that have tried and the game design decisions that they made, not because of the [intellectual property] or the setting that they chose."
"I'm shocked we haven't seen more MMOs... beyond the traditional high fantasy ones."
He thought the secret to success was making a game that was both tailored to hardcore players and accessible to a broad audience. "Once people figure that out, your game world is going to attract a lot of people," he explained. "But a lot of it has to do with art style, too. Are you going for realism or an inviting world? And once you learn those lessons, I think any type of [intellectual property] can survive. I'm shocked we haven't seen more sci-fi, near-future, post-apocalyptic, historical MMOs; there's all these completely different fantasy settings beyond the traditional high fantasy ones."
So is Blizzard's new MMO going to be sci-fi, near-future, post-apocalyptic or historical? "All of those combined!" he said, laughing.
I also mentioned to Kaplan that I recently spoke with Sony Online Entertainment president John Smedley, who said that he hopes that the company will become number one in the console MMO space. I asked if he thought Blizzard was behind by not making console MMOs.
"Well, we definitely aren't adapting 'World of Warcraft' to the console at this time," Kaplan replied. He explained that people think Blizzard developers only play and like PC games, but that's not the case; the games they chose to make just happened to work better for the PC.
"We have a pretty savvy group of console developers... so we might have a few tricks up our sleeves in that regard."
"So I don't think 'World of Warcraft' would really work that well on the console," he continued, "but that's not to say that other MMOs couldn't. And we have a pretty savvy group of console developers -- a lot of the guys we inherited from Swingin' Ape really know what they're doing on next-gen consoles. So we might have a few tricks up our sleeves in that regard."
Kaplan also added that the next-gen MMO is very early in development and, like all Blizzard titles, it's "going to be a while" before we see it.
MTV Multiplayer's BlizzCon 2008 Coverage
MTV Muliplayer's "World of Warcraft" Coverage
Sony Online: 'DC Universe' To Be Female-Friendly, 'EverQuest' Returning, Console MMOs On The Rise, More