Matt: Welcome to the World of Warcraft Gameplay and Systems Deep Dive panel.

Matt: Hey Everybody. Welcome to the World of Warcraft battle for Azeroth Systems Deep Dive. My name is Matt Goss. I am one of the designers on the World of Warcraft team. Today on stage, I am joined by two of my fellow designers Jeremy Feasel and Russ Petersen.


So what we are going to run you through today– so Russ is going to run you through the Heart of Azeroth, and the effects that it has on armor that you are going to find in Zandala and Kul’Tiras. Then I will take us to the frontlines of Warfronts — where we all get to see how the big war is taking place on the homeland. Then I will talk a little bit about some social features that we are adding that we haven’t quite talked about at all yet. But first helping us navigate the waters of island expeditions: Jeremy Feasel.


Island Expeditions

Jeremy: Alright, Island Expeditions, or as we have just been calling them: Islands. This is a new piece of small group content in Battle for Azeroth. We weren’t going to send you across the sea to find new allies without stopping every once in a while to do some good old-fashioned looting and plundering of uncharted lands.


But before we start talking about Island Expeditions or the Heart of Azeroth, or even Warfronts, we should start by talking a little bit more about the substance: Azerite.


The assault from the Legion has grievously wounded our planet, and cracks are occurring all across her surface. She is hemorrhaging her life-blood, and it looks like this sort of gold-blue substance that you see behind me. As it emerges, it crystallizes into these thrumming Spires filled with power that reach towards the sky.


There is incredible power inherent with the blood of Azeroth, which we are calling Azerite. But for the Alliance and the Horde, this is a little bit like being the first group to discover plutonium. While incredibly powerful, we are not entirely sure what all it can do, and some of those mysteries you will be exploring in Battle for Azeroth.

But what both sides do know is that it has the power to be incredibly destructive, and whichever faction has the most of this stuff in their coffers when Warfronts break out is definitely going to have the upper hand.

Now the gnomes and the goblins aren’t just going to let this awesome new source of power show up without immediately developing some technology that will allow us to pinpoint where these hemorrhages are locating or showing up all across Azeroth. So they are going to give you some maps showing uncharted islands off in the great sea that are filled with Azerite.


As luck would have it, we have just made friends with the two groups that have the most powerful navys in the world: The Kul’Tirans and the Zandalari. So you are going to login, and head down to the docks of your brand-new hub city of Boralis (for the Alliance), Zuldazar (for the Horde), and there you will be conscripted by the Alliance to head off on an adventure. You are going to take one of their fastest ships, and try to gather as much of that Azerite as you can.


Of course, once you arrive on the island you won’t find that it is necessarily undefended. The Giant Crab, that you see here, is not a friendly crab. The denizens of the island will fight hard for the Azerite that they have already collected, because really every creature is drawn to this magical substance — even though they don’t quite know why.


So that was a little bit of the story behind your Island Expedition. Let’s get down into some of the details. Island Expeditions are 3-player scenarios, and they are role agnostic. This is something that we want to really play with this time around. If you want to bring in three tanks, or three healers — we definitely want to support that; and we have learned a lot about individual class-based gameplay, and rare spawn gameplay and world quest gameplay throughout the last couple of expansions.

All of that knowledge we are applying here to give you an awesome experience, no matter what group you come in with. They are intended to take about 15 to 20 minutes, and being role agnostic, you also have a relatively rapid queue. That means that just about any time of the day you can hop in, queue up, and knock one of these out and grab some Azerite.

And last, but not least, the major goal here of course is to obtain Azerite to fill up the whole of your ship and leave victorious with Azerite for your faction; but also some for yourself.


Gaining Azerite comes in a wide variety of different sources. You can find it on Azerite nodes or scenes. Creatures have been collecting it and gathering it up into chests, baskets, and bags.

Like I said, everything is kind of drawn to it a little bit, and they don’t want to let it go. It has this inherent power. You will fight creatures infused with Azerite, you will save Questgivers who have been collecting Azerite.

And of course, you will be fighting powerful bosses and taking their huge hordes of Azerite; and also much, much more — which we are going to get into in a little bit.


Really one of the prevailing design philosophies behind Island Expeditions is something that we are calling Dynamic Replayability; and I could describe that in a whole bunch of words, but it is going to be way more fun if I show you with pictures.


Alright. So imagine you and your friends queue out for an Island expedition, and you arrive on a sort of idyllic tropical landscape. It is nice (you know), looks kind of like what you would expect an island to look like.


It’s the middle of the day… a pretty day, and today you find the Island is inhabited by a couple of hozen sitting next to a chest filled with Azerite. To the left of them, you see a giant Azerite-encrusted starfish.

Of course, you can pick up the starfish and fling it at any enemy to disorient them, and let you do extra damage to them for a little while. There is a couple of ambient crabs wandering around on the shoreline, and in the back right there you see a creepy looking hozen shrine.


If you click on that shrine, it will give you a powerful buff, but every shrine buff also comes with a detriment; and you can’t remove it until its duration expires. So you have to be sure that you want to really opt-in to that gameplay — that extra difficulty. And in this particular case, this shrine makes you do extra damage, but reduces your Armor. In the back left, you see a very large crab that we saw earlier who is guarding a huge spire of Azerite; and as you can imagine, he’s going to be one of the more powerful foes in the sort of scene that we created here.

So what if we just crafted? Really what we have created is a puzzle. There is an optimal way to play through the scenario. So what do you think you would do? You would probably kill the hozen, you would take their chest, grab the starfish, maybe go to the shrine at that point… you would starfish the crab — which is a weird phrase to say — and then, while he is disoriented, do a bunch of extra damage to him. Maybe even killing him before he can hit you.

So the debuff sort of portion of that shrine never even gets realized, and then you take his big chunk of Azerite. Super cool right? We solved this puzzle. We tactically worked our way through the game, and we found the most efficient path through this particular chunk of the island.

Now imagine that you and your friends finish this island. You did great. You are victorious, and you queue up again. The second time you come to the island… it looks like this.


Okay. Same island and a different time of day. It is pretty. It is dusk, and this time a Saurok rare spawn, and their band of Saurok have taken over the camp, slain the hozen, taken their chest, and that particular rare spawn is worth a huge amount Azerite.


You will notice that the starfish is now giant clams (of which there are two). You can pick up one of those clams, and fling it at an enemy to stun them. The shrine is in a different location, and it is a different shrine, and the turtles– or sorry: the crab rather– are a family of turtles now, in the very back right over there — who were crafted with some turtle eggs that you can click on to get an instantaneous heal.

You can probably see where I am going with this. Imagine that the third time that you queue up for the day, it is instead a dark and stormy night. Mogu necromancers have arrived on the back of powerful thundering cloud serpents, have taken over the entire island.


All of the shrines are now cursed shrines, they actually do additional damage, but with a significant additional detriment. The mogu have also opened up this portal that you see in the back right there to a mogu necro-lord’s crypt a thousand yards beneath the surface of Azeroth; and if you go walk into that portal, you will port down into that crypt, and one of the passages through will be open for you to defeat the boss at the end, and gain their Azerite.

So what did we really just show you here? Every time you come to this space, the puzzle is different, the creatures are in different locations, and the Azerite is in different quantities, and in different spots. There are additional gameplay elements scattered throughout the world, and it is always a little bit different.

All of these things are what you might call Procedurally-generated on the island space, so that every time you come here you will find different creatures in different organizations with different amounts of Azerite. You might find capture points that allow you to take over some long abandoned cannons on the side of a ship that give you a powerful extra ability on this particular island.


You will find chests and Azerite nodes of all kinds of different quantities scattered everywhere; but always in a different combination, and different quest-givers, consumables, shrines… every island has at least four start locations, every time we make a cave it can be a different cave of a huge number of different possible caves.

Pirates can show up in the middle of the island on great giant ships that you can then board and go down into, and take their Azerite. But we don’t necessarily want to call this procedural-generation. That harkens back to a world where maybe we would have a hozen, next to a Saurok, next to a mogu, and it wouldn’t tell a cohesive story.

In all of those pictures we just showed you, really what we started with was telling a story, and then we generated the world afterwards. It is a little bit like going on an adventure, and just filling in the blanks. We landed on a tropical island… in the middle of the night… and it was inhabited by Mogu necromancers.

We define what that story is for your island, and then we generate it for you in a way that always feels different. You are never sure where the next tactical location of Azerite is going to be located at. That means that every time you come to this space, it is going to really get to that feeling of exploring uncharted lands, and new territories that we want to get for the battle for Azeroth.


However, something Ion mentioned earlier. Both the gnomes and the goblins have developed the technology to pinpoint these major sources of Azerite. So shortly after you arrive on this island, so will the other faction. you will be facing off against three champions of the other team who are going after all of the same resources you are.

And they just might defeat one of those bosses, or snag one of those chunks of Azerite right out from under your nose. This provides a real-time pressure to make those tactical decisions, and play that puzzle efficiently that we think adds the icing to the cake of the system.



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

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BlizzCon 2019 Panel Transcripts