15Nov

BlizzCon 2019 World of Warcraft: Shadowlands Deep Dive Panel Transcript

NEW LEVELING FLOW

Kevin: Hey, everybody. It’s great to be here. I hope you are having a great time. So 15 years of World of Warcraft now, and it is quite a privilege to be working on a game like this, announcing our 8th expansion.

Azeroth and all the worlds we have attached are such a huge awesome canvas to tell stories on; but along the way, we have had some issues that we wanted to solve. Things have come up as we put a 120 different levels in the game.

A bunch of things have happened, and we have tuned them over the years, as you have seen. I want to talk about what comes next for that.

So first and foremost, this is the main thing that we hear from everybody: “The leveling takes too long” — and I will dive into that. We have some pretty serious fixes for that.

Levels are supposed to be meaningful in roleplaying games. That is the core stat for most people is that. Like that is your base level. What Level are you, is the first question that you are asked when someone is playing a roleplaying game.

Because of the 120, and the speed at which we level or sometimes it is too slow, it has lost some of that meaning. We want to capture that to get it back again; and then weaving in and out of 7 or 8 storylines as you level up can get confusing pretty fast as well.

So we have made a major push for this in that patch leading into Battle for Azeroth. Paul actually lead this effort — the guy was just up here — to re-scale the world; and that allowed us to fix some of the problems we had at the time.

There are so many areas and levels to go through that each of the zones have such narrow level bands that you would typically outlevel the story of any given zone before you were anywhere near to finish the story, and then all of the quests would turn green, or even gray in the roleplaying game where you wanted to move on and making progress.

So that largely fixed it leading to this current Live state. These are roughly the level bands, and it was roughly in the order that the expansions came out — with some options like: it is 60-80, you can choose to go to Outland or Northrend, and so forth.

So we have some pretty huge overhauls about all this. This is supposed to be faster as well. I think it still is. When you are starting a fresh character, and that big whole world ahead of you, and there are so many adventures out there, that does and can feel special; but when most of the community — when you are starting an alt, and your friends are all: wait further along; or no one wants to start with you because it takes too long, it is understandable.

As a new player, it really feels like the party has left you. Like you are at the end of the parade, and all you can see is a single plastic bag rolling by in the breeze, some times. We would love to fix that. (laughs) I like that graphic.

So not every level is rewarding. With a 120 levels, we have two problems, basically. So either we give you a reasonable leveling time, and you run through the level so quickly that you get one every 15 minutes, and then none of them really feel special — you take for granted every level — it doesn’t feel like an RPG at that point.

Or we try to do like a reasonable amount of time for each level, so that each level has time to breath, and if you have got a power you have some time to use it before you get another one.

In either case, that is not the compelling balance that we are looking for.

I probably don’t need to explain this if you have Alt-ed like basically all in the last 10 years, your question as a Horde player might be:

Who is my Warchief?

We refer to this as the Warchief-shuffle; and again, this is all part of that privilege to be able to have characters that can live lives are over decades, like 25 years of the Warcraft IP, to bring them back in and out, have their lives have real meaning, most games, most properties don’t have the chance to do that.

So it is a real privilege, but we think we can do better at this part as well.

Pandaria is a great example. Since Pandaria was the current Live expansion, you have not being able to play through that level up story, start to finish in a way that was relevant for your character.

At this point, and I checked the data on this, most of you who chose Pandaria to level in the 20 level band it has, will get through the Jade Forest — which is a very big starting zone, and then half of the next zone, before you have outleveled that band, you have already moved on; and I don’t think that does justice to all of these expansions we have released before.

So from those problems come these goals: Streamlining leveling — I will get into how that works, but it is going to be a lot faster, and I hope a lot better.

Along the way, we would like to capture those expansion levels’ stories again, and give you and opportunity to complete one of those; and we want every level to feel special again; and Brian is also going to touch on this in his Class section, about some of the ways that we will specificly do that.

While we are doing this excercise, it also occurred to us that this would be a great time for us to modernize the introduction to World of Warcraft; and we didn’t want to lose any existing stories we have, so we are adding a brand-new starter zone — which I will run through for you, as well; but we are keeping all the existing ones so that you get to choose which ones you prefer to do.

So what’s new: The new level range is 1-60. Primarily, it is not about balance. This is about having the numbers match the fantasy; and having good pacing for leveling. So the levels come at the right pace to match what is best for what is coming new with each level; and along those lines, every level should unlock access to new content: new talents, or powers, or abilities, or new places to go. Something special every level.

You probably want to know what “significantly” means, and it is — depending on your playstyle, 60-70% faster to level from 1-50.

I will show you a graphic on how this works exactly, and explain the function; but essentially, you can take any of the previous expansions — including Battle for Azeroth, and you can start your story to that state, and you can level from 10-50 through an entire expansion story; as opposed to weaving in and out.

And then lastly, our new starting zone is an island called Exile’s Reach, and I have a lot to show you there, in just a moment.

For your current Live characters, what this means is basically that you will scale to match the new range. Simply put, level 120s will become 50; and any level between those numbers will have some symbol formula to match it to its new appropriate level; and you will level from 50-60 in the Shadowlands. I think Ian went over all this, yesterday in his panel, as well, if you happened to see that; and once again, not about balance. You shouldn’t feel any different. You should be able to do whatever you are doing now.

Many of us probably have characters that we are using to solo all content, or to collect mounts, or to transmog, or something. That should feel the same. This isn’t like a number squish or anything like that. It is just about, again, having the level number match the fantasy of playing the game, and feel more like an RPG in that aspect, again.

So one more glance at what it is right now in Live, and when we had done this pretty big job, it is going to play out like this.

All starting zones, including our brand-new one, are going to be scaled from 1-10. This means Death Knight and Demon Hunter as well; and I will talk about Allied Races a bit later.

You can then choose any expansion’s story to level through — including Battle for Azeroth; and when you get around level 50, you will go to Shadowlands, you will be questing naturally there and enter that storyline.

So put yourself back in the shoes of someone who has never played before, and this will feel a lot different. Our plastic bag rolling by will not be there anymore.

From Character Creation, your only option as a brand-new player for your first time through is Exile’s Reach. Here is our first shot at the zone.

So the story here is that your faction has learned that this previously uncharted island — they sent an expedition there a couple of weeks ago, and it has not reported back.

So you as a new recruit are part of a second expeditionary force — a bigger, and stronger force, to try and find what happened to the first one. This zone has a lot of our favorite things about World of Warcraft. Like the level designers and the artists did a really good job. It has got a big mountains and a waterfalls. It has got the deep dark forests, vistas, a lot of our favorite monsters are in here.

We have got Murlocs. We have got Harpies. We have got Ogres. In fact, the story of this zone is essentially that there is an Ogre who has captured all of your forces, and many of the ones you have brought with you, as well.

And he intends to sacrifice them in a big ritual to bring a dragon back from the dead; and the reason I mention that is… one of my favorite parts of the island is that we are ending it in sort of a mini 2-boss dungeon.

So it doesn’t have all of the trappings and limitations of a fully-fledged dungeon– like you don’t need to have roles. It will scale to match the party that you have. You can play alone, you can play it with friends. There are NPCs in there to help you out. You can queue or not queue. As you prefer.

So it is not meant to be a blocker. But it is supposed to introduce people to the concept of things to come. To show them the promise of some of our favorite features as long time players; and it will end on that big hook. You get to kill an ogre, and kill a dragon; and that really captures the attention of your faction leaders.

So from there, from being a new recruit leveling up to 10 in here, you will be questing naturally into the Capital Cities.

You get the lay of the land, a little bit, before then moving right into Battle for Azeroth.

So again, for the first time, players only they have to level up in Battle for Azeroth the first time. The reason we selected this is not just because it is our most recent expansion, but I think because shared history and shared stories help build community; and one of the things we have heard from new players is that they are left behind. Like they are not part of the existing community.

Coming into Shadowlands with these most recent events in mind, with everything that happened to our big cast of characters, coming with the same stories and the same events entering Shadowlands — I think that they are going to feel a lot closer to where everyone else or the rest of us are at when they get there.

So for existing players, you can also choose to go to Exile’s Reach if you want, and I think this has some benefits. You know it is new. So the first time, it will certainly be fresh; but also, if you play two different races in a given faction, you don’t have to spend that time walking across the world having one of you to meet somewhere. We can level up together. You can start in Exile’s Reach. That should be nice, as well.

Or you can choose any of our existing Starting Zones as you have always have. This is part of the legacy of the game. I think we all have a lot of memories to share, and we didn’t want to get rid of them just to add something new.

We would rather add a new thing as an option, in this case.

So you have all seen the Capital Cities, but here is where things get a little more different. Chromie reaches out.

So she can see that you have done all this before, and she is going to help choose one of these expansions.

You can think of this as analogous to our Timewalking essentially. So you will choose a setting, we will aim you at the correct story, and you can do all of your leveling all the way up to 50 — in which of these stories you want to?

Those of you who still want to play Warchief-shuffle can go ahead and just wander around in the world. You are not forced to do this; but we think that this is going to be a much better experience and give justice to the stories that have been lost in terms of relevance over the years.

Around level 50, you will leave Chromie Time and that altered-timewalking mode, and you enter the Shadowlands with everyone else.

So a little summary of all this before I pass it on to Brian. New players will start in Exile’s Reach. They will level their first character through Battle for Azeroth, and then 50-60 in the Shadowlands.

Existing players, similar flow, including Death Knights and Demon Hunters can choose any of the Starting Zones they want. They will then choose which expansion they would like to level in from there; and Chromie will help you with that, and then you also enter into the Shadowlands.

ALLIED RACES

And then, for Allied Races, simply put they start at level 10 and they can pretty much go directly to the Chromie trials, and then again 50-60 in the Shadowlands.

That is all from me. I want to pass it off to Brian Holinka to tell you about Classes. Thank you so much.

NEXT: CLASS PHILOSOPHY

BLIZZCON 2019 WORLD OF WARCRAFT: SHADOWLANDS DEEP DIVE PANEL TRANSCRIPT
1. Covenants2. New Leveling Flow3. Class Philosophy4. Torghast and The Maw
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BlizzCon 2019 Panel Transcripts

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