Brian: Hello, BlizzCon. How are you? I have gotta tell you. I really missed this. For those of you who don’t know, I have just spent a little time away from World of Warcraft, working on another project, and it kinda made me sad. I miss you all. I miss everyone in World of Warcraft, and I felt like I had lost something. Ever felt like you have lost something?

A lot of you look like you have lost weight. You look good. I gotta tell you; but I mean like… something you all had. Something that was really a core to your being. I know it’s been taken away, and you didn’t know why, and you felt bad about it.

Well, your Lost story must always have a happy ending, and we will get to that; but I want to talk a little bit about the beginning of that story.

Has anyone here played World of Warcraft Classic? Anyone? Well, you tell your friends about it.

World of Warcraft Classic is a great leveling experience. You saw a clean slate at level 1. Every level you earned you are a little bit stronger. You started earning abilities and different spell ranks every other level. You got talent points past level 10. You build up this tree. It is a great experience. Your character is more powerful. We love it.

And that worked out really well to expand on that system, through Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm; and then in Mists of Pandaria, we are starting to see some issues.

We are getting feedback that “My actionbars are full, please.” Spellbooks are confusing; and also we have power creeping a lot of gameplay to dangerous places.

So we did our best to change that, we took a look at the talent system, and we said: Hey, this is something we want every choice to be interesting and compelling — and then in Warlords of Draenor, I swear to you, very best of intentions.

We started to surgically remove some abilities that we thought would not be too problematic; and then came Legion and the Artifact system. Anybody liked the Artifact system?

(Audience cheers)

So the Artifact system was great because it was this awesome iconic weapon that every spec got to use. 36 different weapons that spec got to use; and as a part of that, we wanted to deliver like every spec being super cool, super distinct, and playing to the fantasy of these weapons.

So we started doing some things. We said: Ok, this spec is going to be about poisons, this spec is going to be about pirates, and this spec is going to be about shadows and of stealth; and… to some degree we kinda got lost a little bit on what being a class meant, and what being a spec meant.

We really pushed things away. We actually pushed a lot of these specs further away from being a member of their class than we had ever done before.

So moving forward, in Shadowlands, we have these Covenants; and the Covenants they are about being a part of these four groups that are fighting in this plane of death in the Shadowlands.

And we want to give you cool Class abilities, we want to give you those Racials, and the Soulbind system that Paul talked about is here to tap into everything it.

Through the Artifact system, and Azerite Traits, we learned… we started enough hooks, like we want to give you cool compelling rewards for our progression system, but like we are putting heel on blank in stuff like that.

So we are on a dangerous spot. So what we want to do is kinda recalibrate everything. With this opportunity we are doing to improve the leveling experience, we have an opportunity to really listen to everything you have been saying through Legion, through Battle for Azeroth, and take action in, allowed by your feedback.

And always the most kind of heard feedback is: “Hey, just fix it.” Right? Fix the problem. I will be honest: “Fix it?” is a great piece of feedback. It is you saying: “I’m not happy. I want something better.

Not everyone can really say what it is that is bothering them, there is just this idea that I want something fixed; but we have to gauge how destructive we want to be, because when you go into the Shadowlands, and you are warmed up for launch date, and you are going with your friends, we want you going into the Shadowlands.

We don’t want you to go like: “I don’t remember how to ride this bycycle.

We want you to get in there, and (inaudible) we want to fix problems, but we really want to make sure that the things we are doing are worth the disruption to the players; because someone is playing that spec and is pretty happy right now.

So we only want to hit homerun as much as we possible– we want to say: “Is this more fun for the player? Or are we doing it just to fix kind of a problem that bother us as designers?

So I don’t think you will see extensive Class changes, as we say something like in Legion; but we are going to be mostly additive; because as Kevin mentioned, we want to make sure that every Level is rewarding.

So from Level 1-60 you are going to get a new spell, or a piece of content, a dungeon, maybe you get access to your mount, or one of your spells is going to get bigger and stronger. That is a lot of abilities that we give you, and part of that is this idea of returning to Class, from spec.

So let’s say you are going to make a priest in Battle for Azeroth. So you make a level 1 priest. Well, actually, you make a level 1 Discipline priest, and you play from level 1-10, and you are a Discipline priest and you hit level 10, and you go: “Now I want to be Shadow.

So you select Shadow, and like have your buttons fly away, and all these new buttons appear. A lot of things changed, and it is not even like you changed specs and you got additional things. It is actually like you just changed Classes completely.

So in Shadowlands, when you start at Level 1, you are going to be an unspec priest. You are going to learn all these different abilities, about all your different specs, and then you pick a spec at Level 10, new things are going to come to you, and you are going to become a Shadow priest, or Discipline priest, or whatnot.

A part of that is because what I think is pretty fundational is that Classes are made up of elements — each in different specs — and that spec doubles down on it.

All paladins can embrace the Light to help their friends. All paladins protect their allies, and all paladins execute their enemies with divine judgement; but when you pick a spec, you really do that in a particular way.

So one of the things we want to do is make sure we can do this, and give you a lot of abilities; and so this is where the story of loss [inaudible] the tide.

Let’s talk about some of the abilities that are coming back and why.

So the first category of them are Class Defining Mechanics. This are spells that kinda have a unique hook. They kinda share a unique hook, and they help deliver Class fantasy in a particular way.

Like, does anyone know a paladin here? Right? Paladins… they have got a certain air about them, right? In a way that was kinda expressed through the game was through Auras.

Whenever you look at your tooltip, whenever you used to look at your buff bar, and it showed a little shield, you knew that Paladin was with you; and that was important. That’s the thing that when you are in an RPG, and you are playing with a Paladin, he is always telling you how to greet the Light and some stuff… that’s just kinda the way he expresses it.

Another idea is the idea of Totems. Shamans still have some Totems. Maybe they will thrown a Capacitor Totem to assail a bunch of enemies, maybe they would throw a Tremor Totem to– it’s nice to have kinda these occasional Totems going down, but it has always been kinda a fact that Totems were there all the time. So just getting back some persistent Totems like Healing Stream Totems to the whole class, or Searing Totem. Just to give them a little of additional presence that… everybody will see these totems laying on there– you know there is a Shaman in your group.

Are there any Rogues here? (Audience cheers) Lie more. You failed the first test to being a Rogue. Just shouting out: “I’m here!

So Rogues– when we were making Assassination Rogues, in Legion, we said: “They are going to be a Poison spec.” So we just put all the poisons toward them. Well, no more. Poisons are going to be a Rogue class-wide thing, because Rogues are the only class that put poison in their weapons; and he is really sneaky in that way. Really sneaky; and we think that it is an important part of being in their class.

And at last long is Warlocks and Curses. So it used to be the case that every Warlock could put one curse on one target, and they would make an important choice there: Do I put Curse of Doom out there, and then later it is going to explode, and a Doomguard would appear, and I would be able to enslave it and have him join me? Or do I put Curse of Recklessness on there and make sure these guys don’t run away?

And we thought that was a fun and cool choice, and we want to bring it back. Now as I had mentioned before about Classes leveling up, part of that is starting from level 1-10, starting on spec.

Part of that is getting a little taste of every part of your class; and for some classes, they have different roles; and let’s say Mage for example, they are a damage dealing spec.

So we feel like it is important that you tap into the different schools that you have as a mage; and then you specialize into a particular one. So let’s say, you start off learning Frostbolt, Fireblast, and Arcane Explosion.

This are all ways dealing damage, and all done through different schools; but it still gives you that sense of like: “I am a mage, I am a master of these elements.

These elements: Arcane, Fire, and Frost. But still, when you pick Frost, you are mostly using Frostbolt in your rotation.

Another idea is how those spell schools lean into a particular role. So let’s give an example of Priests. All priests can tap into the Light to heal their friends; and they can harness the Shadow to destroy their enemies.

Now a lot of you probably tap into the Light to Leap-of-Faith your friends and destroy your allies–

(Audience laughs)

–and you can still do that, because it is beautiful… but the idea that a Holy priest can cast Shadow Word: Death to kill and finish off a mob; or Shadow Priest rather than using Shadow Mend is using Flash Heal… it just kinda leans into that class fantasy of — what am I doing now? What is my role? — and the spell school supports that.

And it is kind of a minor point, is the idea of the weapons you get as part of your class. Let’s say you are a Shaman and you start with a mace and a shield. But if you are an elemental shaman, you never get the experience of smacking anybody with that mace; and we think that’s pretty important.

So at like level 1-10, you get primal strike and you will be going around hitting people with maces; or if you are a warrior, and you have a shield you will get a little taste of what it is to be protection with shield block; and those are things that will go with you for a long time.

So another category is these Iconic Class Abilities. So you made it clear. You want some abilities that hold a special place in your heart, and you want to see them back; and even while some of these are spells that even in their original incarnation were class-wide, or for whatever reason you just always had them, and we took them away — here are some examples of those spells that are coming class-wide.

Another category of spells is a lot of abilities that became talents or honor talents. We have this really cool system with Talents, but it really relies on having compelling choices to make; and so for us we thought while we are trying to clean actionbars, we want talents about interesting choices.

Let’s take some of these core abilities and we would put them in the Talent Tree, and that would be great; and it is great RIGHT!!! (says in a playful way).

(Audience yells: NO!)

Alright, it wasn’t so great. So it wasn’t so right, and a lot of the feedback was like: “Hey, this doesn’t feel like a choice in this role. This is something that is so core iconic to me. I want it all the time. So please, give it to me.

So these are more examples of things that were Talents that are coming back.

And the last category is just like me, and you guys… Long Lost Friends. Back together. These are abilities that are coming back, and they have been long for a while, and maybe they went away for different reasons. Maybe we can finally find an application for them, maybe we felt like they stomped on the niche of another spec, maybe they were used to kill your friends in ritualistic ways…

(Audience goes wild)

Or maybe we just didn’t appreciate how much you love mind controlling your pet and exploring the world. It is just a taste of things. They are coming back. I’m sure we will hear from you, and we would love to hear from you on the forums, on twitter, in person here at BlizzCon about anything that is listed here; and all these spells — the best part about World of Warcraft is taking these tools and using them in combat.

In classes, we like to say that we bring hammer and nails, and content they bring the problems. So up next, we will talk about the new kind of problems that you are going to deal with. New content. For that, Paul is going to be back on the stage. Thanks, everybody.


1. Covenants2. New Leveling Flow3. Class Philosophy4. Torghast and The Maw
Buy the BlizzCon Virtual Ticket while it lasts.

Hope you enjoyed this article. Please, support Blizzplanet on Patreon, and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch for daily Blizzard games news updates.

BlizzCon 2019 Panel Transcripts