Faction Champions

We also really want to play around with the concept of those faction champions. If you are the Alliance, you want to face off against a real group of Horde that feel like fun characters from that faction. You might be facing off against this group: the Spirits of Vengeance. A group of Darkspear loyalists who are out for vengeance for Vol’jin. They have a shadow hunter, a witch doctor, and a berserker. Exactly as you would expect from a group of powerful trolls.


For the horde, you might be fighting off against the Wolf Pack. A group of worgen out for vengeance for Genn Greymane… “We are really good at… sniffing you out.” I know. Terrible! (Laughs)


But you might be thinking of me… “OK I’ve been playing this game for like a decade at this point. If I fireball this big Magnaron right here, I know exactly what he’s going to do. He’s going to run right up to me, and he’s going to punch me in the face, and then if I run really far away from him, he might run back to his spawn point. So you (game designer)… I am going to beat you at your own game, and I am going to drag all of these NPCs off into a corner, while the rest of my allies go and take over the island.


That’s an interesting problem, and spawning up a world where different resources can show up just about anywhere presents a lot of interesting problems for World of Warcraft AI. So what are the problems that we want to solve here? Well, first we want to face off against foes that really had tactical ability usage. You want foes that would be able to get into a defensive formation sometimes.

Maybe polymorph you, maybe sap your healer, and steal one of those Azerite nodes right out from under you. If you are approaching an enemy rogue that is already in combat with a boss, it will be really cool if sometimes he blinded the boss and attacked you. Sometimes he blinded you, and attacked the boss; and sometimes he vanishes to reconvene with his allies, and come back later.

Secondly, it would be awesome if all three of these had an intrinsic sense of the map objectives. If they would understand where the powerful creatures were, the major risk reward moments where the big chunks of Azerite were.

That provides really an extra tension that you want when the creature is also going after the really important things while you are going after it. The end result of both of these… is AI that can make strategic decisions. They can decide whether or not they want to stick in combat or leave combat. You will finally face off against an AI that every once in a while will polymorph you, mount up, and just leave because he’s got better things to do.

That is also one of the really fun parts of messing with the system is that you can create AI personalities. We could (for example) make an undead rogue named Sneaky Pete who every once in a while when he sees that you are getting in a little over your heads with one of those powerful creatures might vanish, sprint over, sap your healer, and jump you. It’d be mean, but we could do it.

And it would be unlike any creature that you have already seen in World of Warcraft, and WHY?! … because ultimately, there is a huge amount of unpredictability there. We have programmed a creature that we are calling Advanced NPCs — that can play their way through a procedurally-generated space intelligently, and can go into various different modes of combat that aren’t just run up and punch you in the face.


One of the other things that Islands allow us to do is to take you to a wide variety of different locations. You saw a tropical island earlier. That was our first island, and this is the second one we are showing off today.


It is an abandoned village. Well… almost abandoned. The walls of the city upon the Hill have been closed tight for years. This is a 2-part Island where you will be facing off against your foe in the lower portion (in the abandoned lighthouse); and then halfway through the map the gates to the abandoned city open up, and you get to see what happens to all of the denizens inside there. I won’t spoil it for you, but it is generally spooky stuff.

Going to the Thousand Islands of the Great Sea really gives us this awesome opportunity to take you to a wide variety of different visual locations. We have put together a quick video showing the first two of our islands.





We can’t wait to get Island Expeditions into your hands. At the same time, we realize that Sneaky Pete isn’t for everybody. Some people are really going to enjoy facing off against really powerful AI that makes smart tactical decisions, and some people aren’t. So we are happy to announce that we are planning on shipping this feature with 4 different difficulty settings: Normal, Heroic, Mythic (and Mythic Sneaky Pete is really good… He’s rude. He’s really rude), and PvP.


We think that absolutely one of the most fun ways to play this particular piece of content is facing off against three other players, and really harkening back to that sense of racing off against another player towards a mineral node, and getting it right before them and getting to laugh.

We think you are going to love this piece of content. We talked a whole lot about how you are going to gain Azerite, one of the main sources of it. Now here to talk to you about what you are going to do with it: Russell Petersen.


NEXT: Heart of Azeroth

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