World of Warcraft is still going strong, but a decade of constant tweaks, revisions, and expansions has made Blizzard especially attuned to how small changes impact the experience. Greg Street, lead systems designer for the game, says that Cataclysm altered combat in a way that hurt the game, which the team tried to fix in the subsequent Mists of Pandaria expansion.
"We felt like since [Cataclysm], we'd lost our way a little bit," Street told IGN. "We had some really epic quests and we've told some great stories, but the second-to-second combat out in the field wasn't as interesting.
"So we made an effort with the launch of Pandaria and we redoubled it with this most recent patch to make a lot of cool stuff for players to do out in the world. We still have great dungeons and other instance content, but we also just have fun things to do out in the world with your friends."
The patch he's referring to, the 5.2 or Thunder King patch, was released last week. It added a new raid, new bosses, and a daily quest hub.
Street also mentioned that the widespread use of flying mounts made it too easy to fly over areas completely. In the new areas, flying is disabled. "Somewhere along the way, we'd lost the sense that being outdoors in the world was kind of a dangerous thing," he said. "Walking around and fighting mobs is basically the heart of World of Warcraft, and we had lost a little bit of that and wanted to make it fun again."