BlizzCon 2017 World of Warcraft: Gameplay and Systems Panel Transcript

Heart of Azeroth

Russell: The war that seems to be brewing… the island expeditions are just the prelude to that. The planet will soon be consumed in all-out war. The discovery of Azerite, and the arms race that it has kicked off, has so completely consumed the attention of both factions they have forgotten the victor of that war is likely to inherit a dying world.

 

It is always been the mission of the Burning Legion to destroy Azeroth, and it seems that even in their defeat they finally struck the killing blow. Only Magni seems to understand how desperate the situation has truly become. He has appealed to the leaders of both factions, and has been turned away. He instead calls you — the greatest heroes that Azeroth has ever seen.

 

When you answer his summons, he will entrust you with an ancient Titan artifact: the Heart of Azeroth. Magni believes that the Heart of Azeroth holds the key to undoing the worst of the damage inflicted by the Legion. You will carry the Heart of Azeroth around your neck as you adventure on Kul’Tiras and Zandalar. It is up to you to save the world.

 

Again, a little bit more literally this time than in previous expansions. The Heart of Azeroth is the focal point of your character’s progress throughout the expansion. When it comes in close proximity to Azerite the Heart of Azeroth absorbs a fraction of its power. It grows stronger, and levels up. You will gain Azerite from familiar activities: like raids, dungeons, world quests, PvP; and new ones: like Island expeditions and Warfronts.

 

As the Heart of Azeroth gains in strength and levels up, it becomes stronger in its own right. It may gain unique new abilities, but most importantly it gains the power to awaken latent abilities in other pieces of armor that you will find. This is an in-development look at how you interact with an individual piece of Azerite armor.

 

Each piece has four rings containing powers. Each of those rings unlocks at a different part of Azeroth level. The outer rings are relatively accessible. You might loot an item, and you discover you can pick one or two powers immediately; but the inner-most powers will require you to further empower the Heart of Azeroth.

Once the Heart of Azeroth has awakened the ring, you simply choose a power, and it becomes active on your character for as long as you wear that item. Now you have seen items with powers on them before, but Azeroth armor powers are in multitudes; and it is up to you to decide how they affect your character. This is an important distinction from what has come before.

 

You might find a power that makes you think twice about using a talent that you have previously written off. You might find a power on a helm that you had previously seen on the shoulder while you were leveling up; and you will certainly find combinations that reinforce your favorite way to play your character.

 

Now you are going to be able to do this every time you find a new item. The key to all of that, and the freedom of experimentation is that the Heart of Azeroth is the source of that power. Whenever you load a new item and you awaken Azeroth powers on it your Heart of Azeroth doesn’t change.

 

Any time you load Azeroth you make your character stronger. If you try a new item on, you have no progression setback whatsoever. You will always be moving forward. Now, I know what you are thinking: “This sounds like a lot of, randomness.” That’s not true. Each of these items has a unique handcrafted layout, and it is the same every single time you see the item.

 

You will be able to open the Dungeon Journal and determine which powers affect your character the way that you prefer; and know exactly what you need to do to acquire those items; and you will always want to acquire the strongest version of the item.

The strength of an individual Azerite power is derived from the item level of the item that it belongs to — which is a very carefully worded way of saying: the Mythic dungeon version is better than the Heroic dungeon version.

You are always going to want to have the most powerful version of the item possible. This is a little confusing to think about in the abstract. So let’s walk through an example together. This is Sardina. Sardina is an orc shaman. She enjoys long walks on the beach: Congolush(sp?), Transmog runs, and she raids with her guilds two nights a week.

 

She mostly plays elemental, but every once in a while she switched to restoration to heal. Somebody can’t make the raid, or to do some Mythic dungeons; and She is going to help us walk through this example today and She is really excited to be here.

 

Sardina’s Heart of Azeroth is currently level 20. Now any of the numbers that I am going to use here are hypothetical. Don’t get mad at me when it is not like that when the game comes out. Level 20 is good enough to unlock the first two rings on her helm: the Coif of Entwined Fates.

 

The third ring requires level 21. It just so happen to be checking in with her during a dungeon run. She completes the dungeon, lifts the Azerite off the boss, and immediately her neck levels up to 21. There is no items to click. It just happens.

 

Doing that unlocks the third ring on this item. Now Sardina has been looking forward to this for a while. She knows the choice she is going to make. So she selects the power; and it immediately becomes acting on her character. But why did she make that choice? Let’s talk just a little bit about how we want the system to work.

 

The most important part of this is that we want the choices that you are going to be presented with to make sense with one another. If I give you a choice between your Lightning Bolt does 20% more damage, or you gain 20+ fishing skill — I have a pretty good idea of which one of those you are going to choose.

 

You were here this morning for Ion’s talk. You know Queen Azshara is on her way and that fishing skill is going to be really important in the raid, and you are going to be prepared for it. No! You are going to take the Lightning Bolt damage. We want these choices to be something where you look at it, and you say: “Yes. All of those things belong together, and my favorite one is this.

But we want these to be about more than just raw power. We want them to be about how you express yourself as a character, or as a player; and we want them to provide things that aren’t just bigger better more. So the choice that Sardina made was between a power that affected Ghost Wolf (and give it an extra boost of speed after taking damage); or a power that affects Astral Shift (and helps reduce the damage taken when the power is active).

 

Sardina looks at this, and she says: “This is about standing in the fire. I can take the Ghost Wolf power, and I can get out of the fire really quickly; or I can take the Astral Shift power, and maybe I don’t have to get out of the fire at all.

Those are decisions that: yes, there may be a specific correct answer for one situation; but that is also something that depends on you as a player.

If you are not very good at noticing when you are in the fire maybe you go with Astral Shift; but Sardina goes with Ghost Wolf, because when she heals, there is nothing that drives her up the wall faster than DPS who stand in the fire, and she is not going to set a bad example.

We hope that these kinds of choices will be present all throughout the expansion. One of the really exciting things about Azerite armor is that we get to introduce new powers later in the expansion that you have never seen before; and you have all new choices to make — and I hope that you choose to use these powers responsibly in the way that Magni hopes that you do: to save Azeroth.

But if you were here this morning, and you saw that cinematic, and you heard the screams of the Banshee queen, or saw the way Anduin rallied his troops — you probably want to know how you are going to be taking the fight to the other faction, and here to talk about Warfronts is Matt Goss.

[applause]

NEXT: WARFRONTS

BlizzCon 2017 World of Warcraft Gameplay and Systems panel transcript
1. Island Expeditions2. Faction Champions3. Heart of Azeroth4. Warfronts
5. Social Features

Read the BlizzCon 2017 panel transcripts

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Tomas Hernandez is owner of Blizzplanet.com since 2003. I post news about World of Warcraft, StarCraft II, Diablo III, Hearthstone, Overwatch, Heroes of the Storm, Blizzard Careers, and the Warcraft film.

Blizzplanet is a leading fansite covering news about upcoming Blizzard Entertainment licensed products. I also post previews and reviews. I have interviewed book writers and Blizzard game developers.

I was previously an employee of the OGaming Network (2003), and IncGamers (2008-2010). I was a guest newsposter for GosuGamers (World of Warcraft) a few years ago and for Diablofans.com (formerly Diablo3.com)

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