Earlier this week at Blizzcon, Gaming Instincts had the chance to attend a group Q&A meeting with WoW dev team who were able to answer a variety of questions in regards to it’s upcoming expansion World of Warcraft: The War Within. We got the chance to speak to the Lead World Artist Kristy Moret and Associate Design Director Maria Hamilton.
Question 1: Are there any safeguards put in place to not lead to a Pay-to-Win situation regarding the auction house?
Answer: I don’t know specifically about the auction house. What we have been looking at is making sure that the early access period is a leisurely time for players to start the campaign and to really enjoy their dive into the story for war within. And to that end, there will not be access to Mythic Raiding or max mythic dungeons, or any of that max level weekly/daily content, so that folks don’t feel like that they HAVE to join the early access. It’s really more of a nice perk for folks to enjoy themselves as the expansion starts. So, we hope to hit some of that off by not having some of those progression systems already available for min/maxing. (Kristy)
I would also say that philosophically we’re not looking to give advantages. That is not the intent. The intent here is to [give] people who feel like they have to rush and get to max level have a little bit more time, if they want to take more time. There is no competition to be had because nothing’s open or available yet. Just leveling up, getting through the story, understanding what’s happening, and ready to go right on the first day, starting off at max level. We know that players that are very competitive tend to level to max right away. (Maria)
Question #2: Are there any discussions happening about cross-realm play, i.e the ability to play with folks in NA or EU without having to have a separate account?
Answer: I don’t know of any talks about that yet. It is more complicated as you [can] guess. And so, I don’t know where that might stand, unfortunately. I am not a super technical person, so I can’t go into [the] why it’s harder. But I do know it’s a lot harder because it has to do with server ping and co-location. [It is] certainly something that I’m sure we would love to have everyone playing together. We heard from some folks that they would love to play with their friends, and their friends are from all over the world. We hear that. And that’s part of why the Horde/Alliance cross faction stuff came about.
My brother likes to play Horde and I like to play Alliance, and I want to play with him. We want to go do stuff together. So it’s about letting people play together. That is, philosophically, the kind of thing[s] we want to do. I just don’t know what the technical hurdles might be. I just know that they’re fairly significant. (Maria)
Question #3: In 10.2, druids are getting a ton of new customizations. There’s [also] going to be fun new critters coming in 11, 12, and 13. Are we going to continue to see a large push for more druid customization forms like that?
Answer: We have some folks that work on the team that are very strong proponents for more druid forms. They’re always pushing for more druid forms. I think as long as they continue to make themselves heard along with the fans, it’s likely. When we decide what we’re spending our art time on, we have to consider the entire playerbase. But with something like this, it was obvious we needed to do something cool for the druids here. And the moonkin in particular needed some customization. (Maria)
Question #4: It was mentioned that the saga was going to be coming in a lot quicker than we’re normally used to. Usual period is two years or roughly 24 months +/- between expansions and all the patches in between. [What time frame] are we looking at here?
Answer: We can’t speak to any specific numbers but, yes, it will be faster than two years. We’d like to make sure that folks are not finishing the World Soul Saga in 2030. We want to get a little faster clip than that. We worked on structuring our teams and development pipelines, so that we can parallelize a lot more work and make it so that we’re already working on Midnight and War Within. We are full steam ahead on building all of these expansions to create this whole saga. (Kristy)
Question #5: With dynamic flight coming in, and obviously adapting a lot of the mounts towards dynamic flight, speaking of druids, would flight form be something that would then become a dynamic flight form?
Answer: We don’t have anything to announce today on that. I wish I could, but we have nothing there. (Maria)
Question #6: What’s the idea for player engagement with delves? Are they a daily reset? Can you grind them or earn access to them? How frequent are they?
Answer: [They] are repeatable. It is not a daily or anything. You’re not locked out. There will be some ways you can improve the loot that you get and that will be more limited, but you can run them with your friends. Again, we want you to play with your friends. If you only have one friend online and you want to go run delves, run delves. Have a great time. You’ll get loot. You just may not get the best loot over and over again during the day. (Maria)
Question #7: How many characters can we put into a war band at a time?
Answer: Warbands is your entire Battle.net account. It is account-wide. Every single character. Not every single character is going to show up in that cool character select screen, but all your characters on your account are considered part of the war band. (Kristy)
Question #8: With each expansion adding complexity [to the game/talents], are we ever going to end up in a situation where it becomes too complicated and we do have to start taking parts away or consolidating them?
Answer: That is definitely something that that team is very aware and conscious of. They definitely understand that there were previous issues with the way that skills and talents worked. So, they want to learn from our past and what we’ve done there. I don’t know specifically how they’re planning to continue to either add skills or increase the skill tree going forward. But, it definitely is something that they’re very aware of and they’re thinking about. (Kristy)
I would say that with the hero talents, they’re leaning very hard into the fantasy side of it so that you feel and look different in how you execute those abilities. I think they’re less likely to be super powerful things. It’s more about following the path of some famous warrior or demon hunter in the past. It’s more like that, but both of us are not on the system side, so we probably can’t dive into more detail. I do know that with our commitment to evergreen systems, we’re not looking at taking things away. So, there is planning for what happens next. We’ve announced three expansions, so we’re planning what happens in those three. (Maria)
Question #9: With the Midnight expansion being so focused on the Void, does that mean the Ethereals will be a big focus of that expansion, and, if so, will they be more fleshed out this time around?
Answer: I don’t think we can say anything about the Ethereals specifically. There is certainly a focus on the void and shadow throughout. Midnight is when we will face significant problems with Shadow and as Chris Metzen talked about, they’re after the Sunwell. So, if you do a bit of a lore dive, you’ll find there are some obvious choices that exist there. But as for specifics, we can’t talk about that right now. (Maria)
Question #10: Obviously these three expansions are part of a trilogy. From a design perspective, what are the efforts being made so individually all the expansions still kind of feel individual and cohesive and not just a small part of an overall expansion?
Answer: Each expansion will be a full expansion. It will have the full complement of zones, dungeons, and raids that we’ve come to expect from any previous expansion that we’ve released. So, they will have a full suite of activities for players to do. While the story is going to carry over across this whole saga, the idea is that there are always so many little local stories to explore. So many side quests and little towns and villages off the beaten path that you can go and visit. Those are some of the things that our quest designers put so much love into that imagine when you’re looking at the whole of the saga, there is that thread that goes through. And where you’re going to find those unique tales are going to be in those side stories, the little hits off the beaten path that players may take as they go on these journeys. (Kristy)
I want to say that my job is to keep an eye on the world part of World of Warcraft. I’m about the zones, the world art, quests, narrative, and worldbuilding. So, it’s my job to make sure that we’re able to tell the story cohesively across three [expansions], but that each one is independently exciting, fun, and standalone. So as we’re building out, we’re already in progress on our zones in Midnight. That’s already underway and we’re already well into story details as well. So what we’ve done to be able to do this faster is, with our practice over our cadence we’ve had for Dragonflight (every two months or so, putting out a content update), we’ve gotten very good now at working on multiple things simultaneously and moving people around as needed to work on those things. So, our pipeline has gotten better as a result.
Kristy and I might be reviewing at Guardians of the Dream stuff and then looking at something in Midnight, and then we might look at Hallowfall. So, we’re bouncing around, keeping an eye on things and making sure that everything stays cohesive but also unique. The designers that are working on all of these things are very excited because they’re moving from one thing to the next thing, and getting a chance to kind of get their fingers in all of those pieces as opposed to the sort of thing where you would imagine a team moving from one expansion to another. We’re doing a bit more parallel work now where people are bouncing around, doing different things. (Maria)
Question #11: With personal dragonriding mounts and now the newly announced delve mount being customizable, is that something we might expect to see being expanded upon and be available for more mounts, old and new?
Answer: I imagine that we will continue to introduce new mounts that offer customization options. It’s something that’s really fun. The character artists love to make them, [and] players really enjoy collecting the customizations. As far as older mounts getting customization, that’s less likely. They’re doing a lot of work to get hundreds of mounts upgraded to dynamic flight rigs and being able to do all that stuff. But, I would imagine that going forward, yes, we will continue to see customizable mounts, but I don’t imagine we’re going to see too much happen to older mounts you already have. (Kristy)
Question #12: Are there any plans to add more specs to a class later down the line?
Answer: Nothing we can announce today. (Maria)
Question #13: It was announced that there will be no 10.3 patch for Dragonflight. Will there be other plans to announce how many major patches there will be for an expansion, so that players know they’re getting their bang for their buck?
Answer: I know a roadmap will come out. We did a roadmap and it was very successful this past year, so I know a roadmap will come out. But I don’t know if they will give more than a year at a time in a roadmap. So I don’t know the answer to your question unfortunately. PR might know more. (Maria)
Question #14: Are we going to be able to do trading and such in the open world? If we have a Horde and Alliance player in the exact same guild, are they going to be able to trade with each other?
Answer: Sounds likely. I think so, but, again, I am not positive. I feel as though if you’re in the same guild, that seems very likely that you would be able to trade, just as you are able to mail them things, I would expect so. (Maria)
Question #15: So the war band is tied to account-wide stuff, what about for Hunter Pets? Is that going to be spread across the war band?
Answer: I don’t know if there’s going to be a shared stable. (Kristy)
Again, we’re more on the worldbuilding, story, narrative side. I don’t know the details. (Maria)
Question #16: Outdoor content was a big push in Dragonflight. That’s fun content for the first two weeks, but the dropoff is very steep, especially on low pop servers. Is there going to be anything put in place to combat that dropoff and make it more viable longterm?
Answer: Yeah, in Guardians of the Dream, which comes out Tuesday, we do have the seed planting, but also we have the superbloom. The designer that was working on that specifically looked at some of the dropoffs and some of the reasons that people stopped playing, weren’t playing as frequently, or how difficult it was for people who wanted to play it when other people weren’t. She made an effort such that you could solo that if you wish to. So, if you’re somebody who came along who wants to do this now [but] there’s no one else, you can play that content and it’s enjoyable and fun for you. That was one thing we did, to look at that and try that. Moving forward, I can’t give specifics, but I can say that in The War Within, the content that we have planned for endgame isn’t quite as specifically that style. We have other styles of max level content that you will be able to participate in in different zones. Some are intended to be grindable. Some are intended to be soloable.
Some are intended to be group-based.We tried to spread the love a bit more and provide more types of things to do. As far as the group ones and as populations drop, another area we’ve talked about is whether we want to make those scale. We know people still enjoy playing that content. We’re able to see metrics on that and know that people are still interested and we don’t want to take that away. But we do want to keep in mind that participation will drop off especially as content is released. And with content coming as quickly as it is, every week or so, people do jump to the next thing. (Maria)
I think Delves are a great way to address this too because they can be soloable or played with a group, and they are repeatable outdoor content that you can do over and over. (Kristy)
Question #17: Do you guys plan to utilize tech from previous events towards upcoming content?
Answer: We tend to experiment with things in a small way and might [say], “Okay, that went okay. Let’s make something a little bigger.” I think it’s a safe bet we’re taking lessons from [things like] that and thinking about how we can use it going forward. But, again, nothing to announce today. (Maria)
Question #18: Have you ever had a really exciting design that you had to scale back for certain technical reasons/limitations?
Answer: We actually haven’t had to scale anything back this expansion, which has been really cool. One example of new tech that we got that is honestly super epic in my opinion is the crystal in Hollowfall Canyon. Most of the time it’s beautiful, bright, and giving warmth to this land that the Arathi have arrived at. But sometimes it flickers off and the whole zone feels dark and a little bit more spooky, a little bit more different. And this is all new tech that we had developed for this expansion.It was a really bold vision that folks originally had for this zone, the idea of the light really having an impact on the gameplay of the zone, what creatures appear when it becomes dark, and all of that stuff we really wanted to push for that.
So we were able to get the tech to support not only the light turning on/off but [also] the conditioning of the creatures that come out at the darkness and things like that. We have actually had amazing support from our engineering teams on implementing a lot of the new features that we want to have for War Within. Things like the airlock tech that allows you to go from the Isle of Dorne(?) directly down into underground spaces without a loading screen. All of that stuff has been stretch goals, but we’ve been able to get them, and it’s been really awesome. (Kristy)
I have to tell you, the light/dark stuff has been super exciting for the quest team, because this gives them the ability to be reactive in a way that they hadn’t been before. If things are scheduled, then they’re very expected, and if you don’t make them scheduled, like the crystal going out, it is not on a timer. It is fairly random. Then we can make some really interesting events and interesting things happen. So, the quest team has been experimenting with all sorts of interesting ideas of what happens. We already have some gameplay that happens. It’s really fun and allows us to really push things.
Question #19: You said Delves and Visions were soloable, but it was better to do them with [a group] for better gear. Is that going to be the same case [moving forward] or is that not going to matter? Can I still get the best gear going solo?
Answer: It’s set up and intended to address people who don’t have the time to spend doing some of the longer, time-consuming things. The intent is to let people play with however many people they have. If it’s solo, it’s solo; that’s great. As far as the treasure room at the end, there is going to be an opportunity for you [possibly pick which room you get], and we’re still talking about how that works because you can run them over and over when you’re trying to decide. So, it’s nothing to do with how many people you have. That doesn’t change the gear because it’s a personal, individual gear and you decide, “Oh, I want this one.” (Maria)
Question #20: Obviously huge buzz announcing the next three expansions all at the same time and its overarching story. Both from storycrafting standpoint and marketing standpoint, is there ever any concern regarding [drumming up] player excitement now that people know what’s coming for the next half decade for WoW?
Answer: I imagine there is still so much more to dive into for our other two expansions that will be coming up. I expect that there will be some fun surprises and other exciting things that we will get to announce; new features, improvements on features that will help drive that hype train, keep it rolling as long as we can. We have Blizz Cons, an incredible fanbase that supports us as we try all of these fun experiments. My guess would be that, because there’s so much cool stuff coming, the more that we’re able to share when those dates get closer to actually releasing, THAT is what’s going to drive the excitement, all the cool stuff that will happen. (Kristy)
We have some features coming in Midnight, for example, that I KNOW are going to blow socks off, so I’m not worried at all. (Maria)
Question #21: Is there an internal change in your workflow that allowed for the next expansions to be announced/developed this way, or is this just standard for you?
Answer: I think Dragonflight was where we [realized] we didn’t get things out fast enough in Shadowlands. We know that fans were not as happy about that. We had reasons, but we knew how important it was to find ways to streamline and be more efficient, and figure out how to make things faster. That’s why we put out a roadmap. That’s why we committed to that roadmap, and I’m very proud we hit every single one of them. Guardians of the Dream comes out Tuesday. The next thing will be on PTR a couple days later. That was a change. Dragonflight made us reassess how we build things and figure out how to do this. We are working on multiple things at once and that was not a thing we did very well previously. It was not a way we had worked previously.
Being able to do that, and being able to make sure that we had the oversight that was necessary to make sure everything was flowing into everything else and make sure all that content was flowing, we were able to take the story and puts prologues into those smaller updates, which were traditionally systems adjustments. We were able to put story in there. That’s what we plan to use to build these three [expansions] in a row. When we say they’re faster, I mean we’re faster because we know how to do this now. We know how to keep things coming and keep things rolling, and not have big gaps. We know how to make sure this is rolling along the whole way. So, yes, absolutely things changed but it was for Dragonflight where that happened. (Maria)
Question #22: How has Proletariat Studios helped church out the speed of new patches and expansions? Are they contributing to this new pacing?
Answer: Yes, they are. Personally, on the worldbuilding team, we’ve got about three or four world artists/builders that we’ve picked up from Proletariat. They integrated wonderfully. We’ve basically put them through the exact same training and all of the same processes that we had been using for many years, that we had been refining and perfecting over the course of Dragonflight. Our Proletariat partners are working on upcoming expansions. In fact, you may see some of their work in some of the videos and zone screenshots that we showed during the deep dive. We’re very excited to be working with them. They’ve been really great and I think, at least on the worldbuilding side, we’ve just had a very smooth transition because we just want to make cool games and they do too. It was a match made in heaven. I love it. (Kristy)
I would say we have a number of [Proletariat] quest designers as well and [in] narrative design. Their work has already been in Dragonflight. We call them Blizzard Boston. The Boston folks have integrated beautifully and, again, they go through all the same training, we work together, leadership is the same. We’re happy to be featuring their, in some cases, their first quests. We’re really happy to be working with them. It’s been wonderful to have these experienced and skilled folks come right on board. (Maria)
Question #23: This is more of an artistic question. I was curious, with the rise of AI, are you doing any AI training and how does the whole process of the pipeline work?
Answer: AI is exciting. It’s kind of a new thing, but we want to use it in an ethical way. In a way that isn’t going to replace any creative work that people like to do. A big project that was embarked upon that does use machine learning is refitting helmets to all character races. This was a huge project that is very tedious for an individual character artist to have to do. It’s not super fun; you’re just pulling a couple of bones here and there to get it exactly to match. You have to refine it 370 more times. That is actually a spot where we saw an opportunity to solve that problem through using some sort of machine learning.
I don’t know how it exactly works, I’m not an engineer. But I remember seeing it and talking to the character team about it and they were like, “We didn’t believe it but that machine refitted all those helmets, and we’re so grateful that it did. ”Those are the kinds of places that we are looking. Even in terms of our development pipeline, we’re not looking to develop zones with our AI. We’re looking at “Can we use large language models to scan my confluence page and make my training pages easier to search, so that my new artists can come on and hit the ground running.” Those are the spots where we see opportunities to use AI in our process. But, in general, we’re trying to stay away from [using it] to generate art. (Kristy)
I don’t think you can replace human passion. You just can’t. And trying to do that seems very, very silly to me. Anything that requires creativity, we rely on people. The boring stuff? Yeah, sure [we can use AI]. (Maria)
Question #24: With how we’re all coming together in The War Within, are we going to see a reworking of the factions of who’s aligned with whom?
Answer: If you mean people who were at odds with one another over the course of the narrative becoming friendly over a shared goal? Yes. (Maria)
Question #24 (cont.): My followup to that, would we see a possibility of a third faction being added?
Answer: That is not something we can discuss. (Maria)
Question #25: With Dragonflight, we’ve seen a lot of changes come through in regards to worldbuilding and taking a look specifically at cultures in World of Warcraft. Is that something you are continuing through with the next three expansions? Are there any discussions about getting together a “culture team” that can really take a look at some of the inspirations that are coming in from the real world to ensure there’s no issue [in clarity]?
Answer: Yes, we absolutely do. In addition to the fact that we have culture points for each particular culture that we’re going to be developing, we also have great opportunities to meet with individuals from particular real life cultures that may inspire our work. For example, we had a number of indigenous speakers come in when we were developing the art and style for the recent Tuskar update in Dragonflight. So, when there are other influences coming forward, we make sure that we know early on what cultures we want to use.So, we’re able to get speakers, culture sensitivity experts, and folks like that to come advise us on the content of what we’re actually creating.The other thing that we have is that over the years, our team has grown in terms of diverse perspectives and talent we have on the team. There are more folks from different backgrounds than ever on our teams, and some of them do represent some of those cultures that we’re developing. So, they also take a very keen interest in ensuring that we’re representing folks in a positive light, in a way that contributes to their culture and tributes it in a positive way, and not [through] stereotypes. (Kristy)
Question #26: Are you finding it easier now that you have everything out in the open for continuity reasons? Since you’re actually jumping [from thing to thing], were you able to keep everything in line?
Answer: It is very helpful to have a strong guiding vision for these three expansions coming up. (Kristy)
I would say that the game has been out for a long time and the lore has been developed for a long time. It’s been a case of people sort of handing the vision along. And while we have a lore team who are very expert and always available [where] I can send an email to them and say, “Hey, I want to use this character. Can you tell me every instance where this character was ever used so I can make sure I’m consistent?” Mistakes can still happen. We’re people and we’re passing it along. I would say that it is wonderful knowing “okay, these are the characters we’re using for the next three expansions. How are we setting them up? How are those arcs going to work across all three of the [expansions]?” That is fantastic. (Maria)
Question #27: Dragonflight introduced a lot of catchup mechanics but it became kind of overwhelming, [especially] for new players who jumped back in with so much to do at once. What are you going to do to not make them as overwhelming and dilute what the player can do?
Answer: Warbands. Some of the catchup mechanics in Dragonflight are like trying to get your Renown Track up on every single alt that you do with. In War Within, you’ll have your War Band. So, every time a new character logs in, they don’t have to play catch up with Renown tracks or things like that. It was mentioned that if you’ve been gearing up your seasonal Delve companion, Brann Bronzebeard, you won’t have to catch up to make sure that he’s geared up on all your characters. War Bands is our answer to hopefully make sure that all that stuff is already set up for you when you do start an alt or are coming back. (Kristy)
Also, maybe, just maybe, because this was the first time we were doing a cadence this fast, we weren’t sure how MUCH to put in. Maybe we went a little overboard. Maybe we won’t do that again. (Maria)
Question #27 (cont.): You said War Bands are the answer. What about for new players who are jumping into the very last patch in an expansion for the first time. Are you making sure they are not overwhelmed with content?
Answer: Again, we weren’t sure WHERE people were coming in, and we wanted to make sure there was something for them every single content release. We probably should have looked how to make sure that they at least were guided to the one that was most applicable to them based on when they joined. But, we were trying it out, and we probably went a little overboard. We were just enthusiastically trying stuff. I would say we probably did a little bit too much, but we didn’t want people to feel that we were not giving them enough content. That had been a concern previously. There were lulls [in content]. So, we probably went a bit overboard. (Maria)
Question #28: Is there any philosophy of what is shared and isn’t shared across characters (currencies, etc.)
Answer: Yeah, I believe the goal is to include currencies in war bands. While I don’t know the specifics of what types of currencies or how exactly they plan to balance those currencies, the goal is to shift away from having things that are just for your character, and that are more shared across your alts. (Kristy)
In general, the philosophy that I understand is that [we should limit what is shared] only if it really makes sense for it to be an individual character’s accomplishment. If there’s a warrior specific thing, it doesn’t make sense to make it war band specific, because it’s specific to your warriors, right? Other than that, the intent is to get away from this need to [gather everything individually]. I’m an altaholic. I have one of everything, and it drives me crazy having to do this. Lots of people on the team have been saying “can we please fix this” along with the fans. We want to make it eas[ier]. I want to be able to log in and play whoever I want to play. And have the things I’ve already accomplished count. [Simply put], if it’s specific to a class or character for a reason, no [sharing]. (Maria)
Question #29: How was the process of turning regular mounts into dynamic flying? Was there any urge to go back and tinker on some of their animations?
Answer: I do not know. (Kristy)
I know that they have to adjust the rigging in some cases. Some of the mount rigs [originally] are not capable. Part of dynamic flight is adding animations that work for your diving, and the wings fold in if they have wings, and the way that [the mounts] dive and soar. And you know the spinny move, right? All of that stuff has to be added. That is why it takes time to modify the old existing ones and make them work for dynamic flight. It’s just a very time consuming thing and there’s the question of, “ Well, do we put out a couple?” and have everyone scream [at us] that [we] didn’t do the one [they] wanted. Or, do we go, “Let’s wait a bit and then put out a bunch” and hope for the best? I think we were cautiously saying, “Let’s wait till we have some, more than just a couple” because it is time consuming for our animation team. And if our animation team is doing that, then they’re not doing something else, right? It’s always a trade off. (Maria)
Question #29 (cont.) Wouldn’t that be a good place for AI?
Answer: Probably not. Technical artists are amazing, and riggers in particular are amazing. I don’t know how they do this. There is an element of “It has to look and feel natural and right.” If you look at animations that have been done that don’t [have the same degree of polish], you can spot them right away. We want our animations to look good. That’s part of what gives you that feel of that gameplay. If your dive looked bad, that would be so bad. (Maria)
AI can’t predict the weight, the squash, and stretch [of the animation]. There’s a lot of animation principles that we actually pull from 2D animation when we are building these 3D models that are very intuitive. In the same way that AI can’t do hands, because it doesn’t understand the concept of a palm with five fingers on it, the AI doesn’t understand the concept of the “weightiness” as you hit the ground with your mount. (Kristy)
Wings are hard anyway. Wings are very complicated. (Maria)
Question #30: This is the most we’ve seen of dwarves as thematically in the game since probably Cataclysm. And it’s the first time we’ve seen Nerubians going back to Wrath. What were the goals for taking those out of the toy box and reintroducing them and putting a different spin on it? What did you want to bring forward with that stuff or accomplish for players?
Answer: Yeah, I think this ties back to the idea of having this whole saga. We’re going to go visit the dwarves in the War Within. Metzen mentioned elves for Midnight. So we are looking at these cultures that are so iconic to our game, and some of them have been a little bit more neglected than others. The idea of bringing them back and really expanding them, fleshing them out, and really digging into what makes them who they are is a really exciting prospect for us. We found that it was really successful in Dragonflight to do things like bring back the Tuskar and reimagine them for a modern audience. So, the idea of the Nerubians, the Nerubians we saw in Wrath were undead, controlled by the Lich King. It’s a very different culture [to the original Nerubians].
These are the OG Nerubians, the ones who’ve maintained their own agency. What kind of civilization would they have built? They came out of the Black Empire and they’re creating this creepy web covered city underground. What are they doing down there? It’s really fun for us to be able to expand upon cultures that either were different in some in the past or were not really expanded upon a lot. Players have that nostalgia. They look back and remember those things, and we can add something new to it and freshen it up, make it feel cool again. That’s always really fun and exciting. (Kristy)
Technically, they’re not dwarves. Technically, they’re earthen. Dwarves came from the earthen. Originally [the dwarves] developed [from the earthen]. These guys have been isolated, so they’re pretty different actually. They’re not really dwarves [in the classic sense]. I think it’ll be really fun as people start to understand the differences. What happens when somebody is isolated for a really long time and they never develop into dwarves? They stay earthen. (Maria)
Question #31: On the topic of neglected characters/races, are we going to see anything about An’she? That’s a name that’s come up but never been fully explored.
Answer: I can’t speak specifically to that character, but what I can say is that one of the things that does come up as part of the faster cadence is that in some of our patches we have opportunities to tell some of those smaller stories to follow up on some of these threads. There was the blue dragonflight quest line that happened as part of 10.1 and Bane as well. So, there have been a couple of opportunities for us to actually dig into stories like that in those smaller patches as side quests and local stories and things like that. Whenever there is a quest or content designer who gets excited about something like that, if they can find a way to build that into one of our releases, we generally will try to make it work. We will either support it on the worldbuilding side, the quest team will support it by adding extra quests or dialogue. So, whenever we have opportunities to do that stuff, we love doing that. We try to fit in as best we can. (Kristy)
Question #32: Would it be reasonable to expect when we’re revisiting older zones that they would be getting some sort of glowup?
Answer: That would be pretty reasonable. (Maria)
Question #33: With the mentions of places like the Eastern Kingdom in Midnight, Northrend, Ulduar, and the Sunwell, will the [glow-up] updates be continent-spanning or local [to the region]?
Answer: It will definitely be local. The continents are quite big and the amount of details that we put into zones in Modern is quite different. There’s no more walking into a giant orange hole, as fun as that [felt] the first you [were] playing it. So, while we would love to come back and give everything a fresh coat of paint, as we revisit spaces, we’re going to do so in a way that’s controlled and is part of the area that’s focused on for that particular expansion. And I imagine we’ll still be using things like Chromie time so that we’re not going to destroy the original Sunwell. We want to preserve that stuff. That’s important. It’s part of our history. So there will likely still be that older content for you to come back to, but we will be putting the fresh coat of paint on a few new spaces. (Kristy)
I learned just recently that [certain visual elements] in older zones, [particularly mountains in those zones], are sheer [with] textures on it to make it look rocky. [But now] we’re actually going to sculpt the whole thing and make it properly. [Very different] how we built them in the old days because nowadays they’re sculpting everything. (Maria)
Question #34: Is there going to be a chance for new players who are starting in Dragonflight to get to know about Anduin and who he is before he takes on that larger role in War Within?
Answer: Anduin is obviously involved in the War WIthin, but he’s not necessarily the central character. We will make sure that players are aware of WHO Anduin is and a little bit of his backstory, but we probably won’t focus [on him] because we really want players to enjoy Dragonflight as their leveling experience. One of the advantages of Dragonflight is we focused really hard on exploration and discovery, getting that dynamic mount and learning how to fly, exploring nooks and crannies, and dragons.Most players that are new are pretty excited about dragons.
It’s a pretty safe bet if you throw dragons in there, people will probably like it. We want to really focus on that, but as we make that transition into “Oh no, something bad’s happening in the world,” we’ll want to make sure [players] understand the stakes and [the people] who are involved. [The expansion’s conflict] is a big important problem and there’s a lot of big characters [involved]. Anduin wouldn’t necessarily be the main character. He’d be one of many important characters. You saw Thrall as well. (Maria)
Question #35: To build off that, who are some of the major players we should be expecting in The War Within?
Answer: I think Terran talked about Alleria being quite important. We saw in the cinematic with Alleria confessing she was not seeing the same visions and there are reasons for that. Alleria’s had her own issues with the light and shadow, void. So, Alleria’s quite important. I believe [Terran] talked about Anduin and Thrall a little bit. I know he talked about Magni, being able to find out what in the world is happening. There’s many more character to explore and discover in the War Within. In the demo that’s available at BlizzCon, we had encrypted a chapter of The Guardians of the Dream and in that one we’re struggling to keep Fyrakk from getting into the raid space. We have cameos of so many characters. If you have an opportunity to take a look at that, I would advise it because there are so many characters there that we have brought back, and really anyone is fair game because this is a world-changing, terribly important event. We’ve made a point of saying, everyone is getting visions. Everyone is seeing this. (Maria)
Question #36: What is something you would just want to talk about, gush about, something you really love that you’re working on right now that just got announced?
Answer: Honestly, one of the things that’s so exciting to me, and I’m really glad that we’re able to do this, is the idea that dynamic flight will be available from the beginning of the expansion, the War Within. We designed all of the zones to really take advantage of the dynamic flight. You’ll be in these caverns and you’ll dive under arches and you’ll swoop across these crazy tight corridors, and it’ll open up into Hollow Falls Canyons, and you’ll dive down into the Nerubian areas. It is such a fun, fun ride, and we were really cognizant of how that was gonna feel for the players, how the connectivity of the zones would come together, and really let you just feel like you’re in this space. I think that’s super fun and exciting. I’m really glad we were able to do that. (Kristy)
Yeah, I would say I enjoy working with Metzen. I have never worked with Metzen before. I’ve been at Blizzard for four years. I joined right after the last BlizzCon. I didn’t know to expect, didn’t know what to think. He came in and met the team, and he told us how much he really liked Dragonflight. It made a huge difference to the team that was a little unsure of [how things were going to go]. He came in and told us that the local stories, they were like a poem. They touched his heart. He’s got a good way of coming and meeting the team and bringing the team along with his vision and it’s been fantastic having someone who was here from the very beginning, it’s been so much fun working with him.He gets so energized and so excited sitting with the team and bouncing ideas around. That’s the kind of guy he is. He’s just excited. It’s just the sort of obvious thing to gush about, but he’s really fun to work with. I’ve had a long career in this industry, and he’s my favorite creative director to work with. He’s awesome, so I’m super happy to be working with him on this saga. (Maria)