BlizzCon 2016 World of Warcraft: Legion Design Retrospective Panel Transcript

World Quests

Jeremy: Thank you, Paul. So when we approached the World Quest system. There was one major question that we wanted to answer when we approached Legion’s end-game, and the big question that we wanted to answer was: “What was our favorite daily system, and how do we improve on it?

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So we looked back into the past, and especially at Mists of Pandaria. When you look at Mists of Pandaria dailies from an aggregate standpoint there was a lot of cool stuff to do there, and you were doing them for very recognizable people, going out with the Shadopan in the end-game, you knew who they were, you had already quested for them, and it felt like the continuation of an awesome story.

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So we took that as our initial prototype and set forth these design goals. First: It should tell a great story. We thought that Mists of Pandaria did a great job of this. Not only at continuing the stories of people you had already worked for, but at creating new stories for them. They continued to tell their story of how they lived in this universe. Things like the Golden Lotus and the Celestials.

However, we wanted to make sure that it didn’t feel like when you logged in, you had an overwhelming list of things to do with the beginning of the day. Twenty or more daily quests, and every time you unlocked a new faction (adding more daily quests over to the top of that) to the point where you felt a little overwhelmed.

Instead, we wanted it to feel like the world was an active participant. Like things were changing all the time, and login in at the beginning of the day, and at the end of the day could significantly change what you had to do.

We thought the variety of content in Mists of Pandaria was great. Killing elites, killing creatures and regular quests… had a great variety. However, we thought the variety of rewards could really use an improvement.

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LEVEL UP QUESTS

Doing the same thing every day, and getting the same reward for it, felt a little repetitive; and lastly, we wanted to make sure that we made better use of the entire continent the level designers made this huge gorgeous world for us to live in; and in this world are people that you have already done quests for. You know why they are there. You have heard their stories. Why don’t we continue to use all of this great content that we have already built in the end-game?

So we started discussing some of the types of content that fit into the system best, for example: levelup quests, but instead of just doing levelup quests, we did variants of levelups where sometimes we would take several quests, change up the objectives so you would have a Quest earlier where it was kill t10 things and kill the boss, and instead in the world quests: kill 5 things, kill a boss, and collect some things.

This let us vary things in the end-game, vary to your level of experience, so it still felt like new content.

 

RARE SPAWNS

Secondly, we wanted to make better use of our rare spawns. Our rare spawns are fun things to fight when you are leveling up. Let us also make them fun things to fight in the end-game by adding additional abilities to them, and giving them additional levels of difficulty.

We definitely wanted there to be max level areas, so that as you are walking through the world of the Broken Isles, you can look off on that cliff and see a powerful level 110, 111, or 112, or even in the case of Stormheim a level 113 dragon that is waiting for you to level up, and take it on; and then help (if you like) you are leveling against some piece of content rather than the entire world leveling alongside you.

 

PvEvP WARDEN TOWERS

We dipped our toes into this idea of PvEvP with the Warden Towers, giving us the opportunity to get you flagged for PvP without necessarily direct repercussions; and a part of this is allowing players that may not necessarily PvP all the time to get into the PvP system — kind of what Brian was talking about where it gives you an entry point where you can feel like it is a little bit safer.

 

FFA PvP ARENAS

At the same time, we went completely in the other direction, and added 5 FFA Arenas to the islands, the most we have ever done in that expansion pack; and this was super exciting for us. Just because of the sheer amount of things you can do in an over world FFA arena.

We could never have done an arena, a hardcore arena where you were riding on the backs of animals, or you turned into a murloc. This gave our designers a lot of freedom which has ultimately cause them to come up with the idea of brawls.

 

DUNGEONS

We also took a look at some of our systems that already fit cleanly into the daily system. Daily Dungeons felt awesome. Why can’t they be world quests? Daily pet battle quests? Of course, felt awesome, so why can’t they be world quests? — and we started thinking at this point really outside of the box.

What else could be a world quest? Can we get away from the idea of daily quests, and really add a huge amount of additional content that maybe couldn’t fit cleanly into the daily quests system before?

 

TRADESKILL BONANZA

Like our Tradeskill Bonanza where you find a tradeskill world quest that you and a bunch of your friends can get together and gather a whole bunch of materials. And we thought this is awesome.

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FIRST QUESTION

However, whenever you are designing a system, there is always one overriding philosophy, or one question that you have to ask yourself at the very beginning. So I’m going to put this back to you real quick. Let’s pretend that you are the lead designer in charge of world quests.

What is the very first design question that you have to ask yourself? Think about that for a second. Yell it out if you want to. The very first question that we had to answer (believe it or not) was: “How many icons is the right number of icons to be on the map.”

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If I was thinking that seems like something that you get to a lot later, but in fact it speaks to a lot of different values. For example: the number of icons that you have on the map directly relates to the number of things you are doing per unit time; and there is a certain amount of things that you want to do in a zone that feels right.

There is an amount of travel time between quests that just feels right, and we can change up any of the values on the other end of that spectrum. We can make the quests take longer. We can give them better rewards, but one thing that we can never change is the size of the world. So that was the first question we answered, and we decided that this felt like too many things to do in one space.

This was our first playtest instructions where we actually created content at those points. We gave all of the designers a map for what their daily adventure would be like. Sort of a slice of content. A day in the life of world quests. There were some bonus objectives here, some treasures, summonable boss and a rare spawn, a regular quest, and a pet battle quest; and we sent this out to everybody to playtest.

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The feedback we got was very positive. That this felt like a great iteration on daily quests. Everything coalesced from there into a more modern system that you see today.

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GOAL

This wouldn’t be a design retrospective if we didn’t also discuss other iterations to systems. For example, not only did we want to vary the content, we wanted to vary the rewards. We felt that things were a little too static in the past.

So we came up with this new reward scheme. We are doing a single world quest, could reward you with a wide variety of different things to do. And what fell out of this was the idea that your daily adventure, even if we gave you the exact same World Quest two days in a row, could change significantly how you are going to approach those world quests on that second day is going to be completely different based on what the rewards are.

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PROBLEM

This is just another layer of sort of randomization of the content that allows you to have a different adventure every day; but we ran into to a problem, and that was that we made about 50 world quests across the realm, and some days you didn’t feel like doing 50 world quests. And in fact, some players felt like 50 world quest today was maybe a little bit too much for them.

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They wanted to take a smaller bite. So we came up with the idea of bite-sized rewards; and you can see my terrible MS Paint here, and this is actually what we sent to other designers to convince them of things.

We took a system that we liked: Hearthstone daily system, and sent this out, and said what if we did something very similar with the end-goal of getting you to different zones on different days?

And what this does is add even a third layer of flavor to create a delicious cake of content. You have your first bite, which is your emissary quest — which will send you to a different location at the beginning of every day. Got your second bite — which is the rewards that you get; and your third bite — which is your variety of content.

The combination of these three things means that throughout the entire lifetime of the expansion pack, it will be very rarely that you will ever have the same adventure on any given day; and it is one of those great things that gives world quests longetivity.

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CUTTING ROOM FLOOR

Of course, this wouldn’t be a retrospective if we didn’t also talk about things that hit the cutting room floor. Things that we didn’t quite get to. Some of the exciting pieces of content that we really wanted to get to, but kind of ran out of time; or scenarios and wanted to do more things like the whole Highmountain adventure: where you could be taken to an entirely different space from the Broken Isles with a bunch of other people to do something fun and awesome.

We wanted to do class specific quests. We think this is a really cool idea (whether or not that’s Paladins getting together to wreck things with other paladins; or paladins getting together to help out the Warlock Order hall).

We think that’s pretty cool. We wanted to bring back Legion Invasions in the Broken Isles, we wanted to create summonable bosses similar to the Ahn’Qiraj elementals way back in the day where you would get an outfit together; and then a summonable boss that everybody could fight. The idea that you could create a world quest in the world that everybody could participate in.

Rare World Quests similar to Huolon back on Timeless Isle where Huolon would spawn, and everybody would yell at everybody in the zone. It is only up for a small period of time, better get over here.

We like the idea of region-wide world quests like Kosumoth the Hungering where one entire region like North America can unlock it for everyone else.

And I’m very excited to also announce you will be seeing all of these elements make a return in patch 7.2.

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Just the sheer fact that we can talk about that many iterations on world quests, and right now you are probably thinking of cool ideas for future world quests, tells us that this is an awesome system, and the future is bright for world quests and World of Warcraft.

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Unfortunately, that is all the time we have for today. On behalf of my fellow designers, and everybody on the World of Warcraft team, thank you for coming out today, and we will see you on the Broken Isles.

BLIZZCON 2016 WORLD OF WARCRAFT: LEGION DESIGN RETROSPECTIVE PANEL TRANSCRIPT
Early DevelopmentDemon Hunter: Behind the BlindfoldArtifact WeaponsLegion PvP Goals
Legion ProfessionsWorld Quests

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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.

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