The Starting Zone recently had a chance to interview Marco Koegler (Technical Director). You can check out more interviews on MMO-Champion's 5.4 interview page.
New Player Models
- Blizzard isn't ready to show off any of the new player models yet, but hopefully will have an announcement soon.
- One of the human models was changed six years ago and there was a large uproar over how the eye blink changed.
- Changing the player model risks causing players to no longer feel attached to their character.
- Upgrading player models has never been done successfully in an MMO.
- The engine is about 12 or 13 years old now, but has been improved constantly.
- For a long time it was mandatory to maintain the same visual look across all hardware, but recently they have diverged from that idea, allowing the team to do some nicer things at the higher end.
- The last two expansions increased the minimum requirements on the boxes, but the team still tries to support the hardware from older minimum requirements.
- Switching to another existing engine wouldn't make a lot of sense, as the WoW engine has been optimized for certain things that aren't supported well (or at all) in off the shelf engines. For example, moving to an engine that used more dynamic lighting and bump mapping would also require reauthoring most of the existing textures that have been created over the years. This would take a very long time and come at the cost of new content.
- There was a bug at the Mists of Pandaria launch that made it harder to interact with objects the longer you raided, which is something that the developers noticed during their own play time and were able to fix.
- The systems have been improved to where downleveling your character to play with a friend that is leveling is technically possible, but there aren't any announcements to make.