"The biggest change in the gameplay of Warcraft III is in the traditional real-time strategy mode. Blizzard emphasized repeatedly that this is not a real-time strategy game, but a new genre it calls the role-playing strategy game.
Rob Pardo, producer and senior designer on Warcraft III, emphasized that Warcraft III will not be a real-time strategy game. He called it a "role-playing strategy game." Resource management, huge armies, and base building are being scaled back in favor of questing, hero recruitment, and interactive environments. Rather than lead huge armies around the map, you'll command heroes and smaller squads of units. Although some might worry that Blizzard has abandoned the strategy genre to create a role-playing game, that isn't the case. Many role-playing elements have been added, but this is still, at its core, a strategy game.
The most notable new features are the six races instead of two, a more integrated story and environments, the 3D engine, and of course, the addition of many role-playing elements.
In Warcraft III, you can play six races, not just the orcs and humans of its predecessors. New evils have descended on the land of Azeroth that make the squabble between orcs and humans look like little more than a schoolyard scrap. Extradimensional demons called the Burning Legion - the fiery creatures who were the driving force behind the orcs of previous games - have fallen from the sky. They have now manifested in the world of Warcraft III, and they should be monstrous, powerful, and thoroughly evil. The one demon unit we saw, an Infernal, was a hulking brute that was perpetually on fire.
Blizzard says there will be about six heroes per side. They will gain experience, advancing in level and power. Heroes will be vital because you won't be able to group or control units without them. You won't even be able to scroll around the map anymore. Instead, you will only be able to jump views between towns and heroes. These heroes will gain extra abilities as they go up in level, and, as in Diablo II, they will be able to choose from a variety of skills as they advance in level.
During combat, there will be more options open to you, and - thanks to the emphasis on smaller numbers of units - less micromanagement. Each unit will have a special skill, so the grunt will be able to go berserk, the minotaur will have a bull rush, the wolf rider will be able to throw nets, and so on. There will still be traditional spellcasters with even more abilities, but Pardo says, "We want every unit to have skills."
There will be unit producing buildings, a tech-tree and some base defenses. The only real difference is that we want to make it easier to manage, but taking out the need to build a huge sprawling base. Instead of building 30 structures to enable the tech-tree the player will only need to upgrade his/her existing structures."
he world map will be populated with villages, camps, full-fledged towns, temples, and quest areas. Not only will you gain extra troops and quests by exploring the environment, you'll also find magic items with which to equip your heroes. NPCs will await you with information and help, and wandering monsters will guard areas and provide all players with extra challenges.
The only resource Blizzard has definitely settled on is gold. Although Blizzard is still unsure of the exact economic model, right now, the design calls for you to acquire gold from the map by raiding enemy towns, solving quests, and stealing from wandering monsters and areas. Later on, you'll be able to boost your gold with additional regular income by building special buildings, like pastures on a special patch of green grassland or a dock on the water.
In relation to resources, Pardo says: "The current resource model is this: In the early game the player will be able to get started much faster by using his/her hero and recruiting a small number of troops and exploring in the game map. The player will attack/kill neutral creatures to gain gold (much like an RPG). This allows the player to be exploring/adventuring at the same time as [resource gathering], rather than popping back and forth between town and hero. Later in the game, the players will find building nodes on the game map where they may build different structures including docks, farms, lumber mill and towers. These buildings will cost gold to build and will be maintained automatically. Many of the buildings will produce gold for the player."