'World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria' almost never was

World of Warcraft designers talk about how Mists of Pandaria nearly wasn't made.

World of Warcraft's upcoming expansion, Mists of Pandaria, almost never was, according to the massively multiplayer game's senior producer, John Lagrave.

The team at Blizzard were in the process of designing an entirely different expansion before they turned their focus toward the Pandaren race, first seen in Blizzard's Warcraft real-time strategy series.

"We actually had pitched an entirely different expansion to the team," Lagrave told Polygon during this year's Gamescom conference in Cologne, Germany.

"We got them all to say this idea was cool and this was interesting, just when we decided not to do it."

Lagrave stated the team were as far as "initial planning and background lore" before they changed direction. He would not detail what the undeveloped title comprised of, explaining:

"I'm going to hold that one, put it in that bucket where I might pull it out for expansion eight or something."

Detailing why the team chose to move on to Pandaria as opposed to their original plan, he said Mists of Pandaria simply resonated with the team more.

"Pandaria resonated with us, and that had a gripping appeal so when we were like 'well we could explore this' and we could feel that vibe roll through the team saying 'I like this a lot.' We love that sense of adventure."

Lagrave added that despite the controversy over the apparent casual and cute flavor of Mists of Pandaria, the package goes back to World of Warcraft's roots more so than any expansion before it, thanks to a sense of exploring an entirely new area.

"We want [players] to have a sense of wonder where you are coming into this new land that is very different from Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms. Wrath of the Lich King sat there and took a story we were telling in Warcraft 3, or further than that, Death Wing pull back to Warcraft 2, maybe we are just pulling back from the deep bucket. The notion of pure exploration if the classic version of WoW, that's what you did from levels 1 through 60. That is it."

Lead encounter designer Ion Hazzikostas added that previous expansions carried with them areas that users would be familiar with as often they were referenced in earlier installments of the series, whereas Mists of Pandaria offers something outside of the original lore.

"I think with Vanilla people still had their preconceptions that they were visiting from the Warcraft series," he said. "'Oh I'm in Hillsbrad, I remember these places.' Whereas in Pandaria there is more of a sense of discovery."

World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria is scheduled to release September 25th.

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