On November 16, TheRedShirtGuy and I had the opportunity to ask a couple of questions each during a group interview where other outlets were invited to as well. We interviewed Steve Danuser (narrative director) and Maria Hamilton (lead quest designer) to discuss the World of Warcraft: Dragonflight story.
Among the other outlets present in our time slot were: Wowhead, MMORPG, Blizzard Watch; MMO-Champion; Wicked Good Gaming; and Dot eSports.
You can read some of the highlights of that group interview below.
Robin Baird (MMORPG): I wanted to confirm the general timeline of my understanding of the order things at the beginning of Dragonflight happens. So from what it seems like the dragons get called back to their Dragon Isles and then after that happens is when Nozdormu goes and visits Emberfall and that's where we get the Legacy shorts; and around the same time Dracthyr wake up and that's the intro scenario we play through as Dracthyr and then after that the rest of everybody else goes to the Dragon Isles. Is that the right general timeline?
Danuser: A little bit off there. The events that you saw in the original pre-render cinematic that we released with our friend Koranos, aka Stony Tony, climbing the titan building and lighting the beacon -- that is kind of the instigating incident, and so you can think of that kind of happening first.
So dragons start coming back to the Dragon Isles, they begin visiting some places that they haven't been to for a long time. Imagine some off-camera time of them just kind of coming, getting the lay of the land, that sort of thing.
In amongst that, we have Ebyssian and Wrathion who also come back to the Dragon Isles, and they get this feeling, they can sense something is going on, something related to black dragons, and that's what kind of draws them to the Forbidden Reach, and so they find that as these primalists have come back, it's started kind of an alarm that was setup by Neltharion long ago that causes the Dracthyr to start waking up.
So the Dracthyr awaken, there's all the events of the Dracthyr starting experience, and which culminates, as you can play through it now so it's not a spoiler anymore, but it culimates with Raszageth getting unleashed; and once she is, and word gets back to the Dragon Aspects, that then makes them say: "Okay. We need to do some stuff here;" and Kalecgos goes and meet with Khadgar in the tower, we've seen that cinematic, and just the sense of like: "Hey, we need to send word to our mortal allies -- that they need to come help us."
So that's kind of where we are in the timeline in terms of the events now with the pre-patch that launched this week. We get to play through that, we have this feeling of like hey we need to get ready for this expedition, and that's the staging ground for when Dragonflight launches in less than two weeks now.
I forgot to add one more detail: it's in the aftermath of the Forbidden Reach. If you played through that experience, before you get to the end and talk to Nozdormu, you see Emberthal kind of walk off and say how she's gonna linger here for a while and she doesn't go with the other Dracthyr. So the events of the Legacy Cinematics take place after the Dracthyr have left and then Nozdormu can sense that Emberthal is there and he follows her into one of the creches and that's when those stories unfold.
Elizabeth Harper (Blizzard Watch): I have what I think is the most important lore question of the expansion is why weren't we invited to Lor'themar and Thalyssra's wedding and will there be any quests where we get to see this?
Danuser: Well you did get the reference to it in-game, and we do have a short story coming that will give us some of those events and give us a peek into those moments. But we talk about stuff like that, and certainly we like to have major events happen in-game, especially when it comes to action and things that are big drivers of the story. But we wanna tell the right stories for the right mediums, and we have maybe had some wedding stuff happen in-game before and it's not super compelling gameplay. No question that RPers and stuff would love to have events play out, but the average player, that's not as great a gameplay experience for them.
But it is something nice that people can read and really get into the minds of characters and what their perspectives are at events like this, which is something the game can't do very well. So that's what made us decide to do it in a short story versus having it be this kind of an in-game thing, which honestly would just involve a lot of clicking, a lot of standing, a lot of listening, and again, we weigh what's the most compelling thing to do in gameplay versus what could be told better in another medium.
But, that said, who knows some quest designer might come up with a pitch for doing a flashback to at least part of that wedding. They're very good at coming up with ideas for that sort of thing. So who knows, down the road there might be a reason for it, but it's not currently in the cards at least.
Domenic Mahoney (Wicked Good Gaming): I've seen very different answers from different sources on this, but how many in-game years has it been since the events of Vanilla WoW to Dragonflight?
Danuser: So I made a post about the timeline a bit-- you'd have to make look up the exact number of years for each of these things. Shadowlands started in the year 35 after the Dark Portal (which obviously dates back to the events of Warcaft 1). Dragonflight starts in the year 40. So 5 years since the start of Shadowlands and the start of Dragonflight.
Michael Kelly (Dot eSports): I kind of want to follow up on Dom's question about the timeline and the post in particular you made back in August. You mentioned that about three or so years are going to pass in between the end of Shadowlands and the start of Dragonflight. Just so the people of Azeroth can, you said, have a slice of a normal life for a little bit. If you are taking WoW literally, it is hard to imagine that all of this stuff has happened in such quick succession, and I think that brief pause for normal life is very welcome for people of Azeroth. Can we expect any of that three year time period where things are quiet and normal to kinda be referenced at all in Dragonflight?
Danuser: There were the little asides that you get in some of those "Stay awhile and listen" conversations and the content that was released just this week with, whether it was Lor'themar and Thalyssra talking about the fact that they got married, or Baine reflecting on how he hasn't heard from Anduin in a while, or some discussions there between Shaw and Greymane, for example.
There's some references there, and there may be cases where some individual characters (not necessarily big franchise characters but even just smaller ones) might spend some time reflecting on that. But by and large we didn't want it to make it feel like -- people use the phrase time-skip because that gets used in a lot of media, and a lot of times shows or books might use a time-skip to hide some things, or to tuck some story away that will get revealed later, and honestly that was not our intent here at all, and that's why I never used that phrase because it's not a skip in the sense of like we're skipping over some story that we'll then drop on you later.
Iit really was just a desire to move the chronology forward, give the world a little breathing space and let some of our younger characters age up a bit so they can play a bigger role in storylines to come. So there's no subterfuge or hiding things away; and so in that regard, we really didn't want to hide a bunch of stuff that would come up later.
I'm not ruling it out that people won't have some individual takes on that time based on what happened to them, but we wanted to make clear that it wasn't a driving story thing that we were doing this in order to kinda tell some specific agenda. It really was just about letting the world breathe, letting things move on, and letting some of those younger characters become more prominent in upcoming storylines.
TheRedShirtGuy: In the new Uldaman: Legacy of Tyr dungeon, you can find a book that says the keepers used waters from Tyrhold to keep the dragons loyal to the Titans. Does that mean the dragons are literally being mind-controlled like we saw with Neltharion's gauntlet and the Dracthyr, or is it more of a figurative loyalty and how they said the waters were also inoculating them against getting them corrupted by Yogg-Saron like Galakrond did?
Danuser: The wellspring upon which Tyrhold was built was a naturally occurring phenomenon, with waters that are akin to some of those that we've seen in places like the Well of Eternity, the Vale of Eternal Blossoms, and so forth. These are waters that were kind of touched by the energies of Azeroth; and as we've seen, Azeroth's energies are a force of change, and sometimes change can be a good thing and sometimes change can be a bad thing. Change on it's own is an uncontrolled phenomenon; and the Titans and their servants don't like uncontrolled phenomenon, they like controlled outcomes, they like to put guardrails around things, and make sure that they get the outcomes that they want.
And so, part of the reasoning for building Tyrhold where it was, was to be able to say hey, these energies need to be controlled. We can't just let random outcomes happen because those can be bad sometimes; and so, by putting Tyrhold over the top of it and having the Halls of Infusion by which they could infuse order magic into those waters, and then in turn feed those waters out to the Life Pools of the Red Dragonflight, that ensures that from their point of view the proper kind of water is being fed to them. It still has the positive energies, it's good to put the eggs in, helps them grow strong, all that sort of thing; but it also has that dose of order in there, which is like putting fluoride into water, where it has an outcome that you want to have happen, which means that the eggs and so forth that would be put in that water would be more inclined to be orderly in their thought. And again, that's something that the Titans and their servants would be very interested in having happen. So you don't have to look at it as a sinister thing, you could look at it as oh they're trying to help the little whelplings. But the Titans want to serve the Titans' agenda at the end of the day. And so, to have an orderly outcome is something that they would very much be in favor of.
TheRedShirtGuy: Thank you. There was a lot of discussion when that book was first found in the PTR. People thought that it meant that the dragons were literally mind-controlled; and that was a problem.
Danuser: No. The dragons are not being directly mind-controlled. Influenced, and certainly Tyr and the other Watchers want to nudge them towards certain things, but it's not as Draconian (if you'll pardon the expression) as direct mind-control.
Jeremie Quek (Wowhead): Raszageth doesn't have much build-up in Dragonflight, particularly for players who haven't been through the Evoker starting zone, yet she's primed as kind of the first big villain of the new expansion. Why exactly are players going after the Primalists and is there any story still yet to be shared regarding her role?
Danuser: Raszageth plays a prominent role through the level-up storyline in Dragonflight, and there's a lot of scenes that haven't been datamined yet, and that haven't turned up both in terms of cinematics and some of our content that reflects on the past, and that's really where if you watch the cinematic that comes in the aftermath of the pre-patch, when the aspects gather and Alexstrasza talks about why she dreads the release of Raszageth so much, that starts giving you some of the hints about this history that they share and what a great battle it was before, long ago when they fought the Incarnates, and what they fear now when the Dragon Aspects are without the powers that they gave up to defeat Deathwing; and all that that means for them, in terms of being able to fight for their legacy, for the Dragon Isles that they love and the threat that Raszageth represents, especially if she can do what she wants -- which is to release the other three Incarnates.
So her story will build up through the course of as you're playing, and yeah if you play a Dracthyr Evoker, obviously, you get that big moment of her release; but her presence will definitely be felt elsewhere in that campaign; and no spoilers, but there's a pretty big moment in the Waking Shores, the first zone that you're adventuring through, where Raszageth and Alexstrasza have a very personal moment that is pretty thrilling to watch, so look for that.
Michael Chaudhary (MMO-Champion): As a quest designer is it difficult to find new ways to engage players that aren't the standard kill/collect/escort and delivery quests? And related to that, are there any new or exciting questing mechanics in this expansion?
Hamilton: I think bread and butter WoW questing, and really questing in most games is those things, but what you're trying to do is you're trying to tell a story through the gameplay, so you're trying to make sure that the gameplay that you're asking players to engage in compliments that story, compliments the step and makes sense, and so forth.
We have other kinds of quests that we do from time to time, and we save those, we pace them out, we save them for those cool moments where we want players to have a particular feel. So whether its firing a turret at something and you've got some extra powers, or you're doing a bombing run of some sort, or you've got some extra special powers because you've consumed something and now you have new powers and new abilities, whether you're driving a vehicle, all those kinds of things are things that we will lean into for those high moments, for those exciting pacing moments that we want to have.
As far as new things, one of the biggest things that has changed questing, or changed the feel of questing has been Dragonriding. So we knew that we were going to have Dragonriding, we knew that we were gonna have the ability to take advantage of verticality and distances in a way that we never have been able to before, because with momentum and with the ability to have our quest objectives located in difficult to reach places, or set you up for an amazing vistas so you can see something spread out ahead of you, we tried to lean into that and we have some quests as well where you will use your Dragonriding to do things, to reach places.
In particular, there's also an entire dungeon, the Nokhud Offensive, where you'll be able to use your dragonriding to move around that area, and this let us have very very big zones, very big areas to tuck content into and make quests interesting. So, for us it's all about finding a cool way to pace things out and tell the story. That's kind of our job. Collaborate with our narrative partners, figure out what the story is that we're going to tell, and then figure out what the gameplay is that complements that, and gives you those high moments. Maybe it leads you into that cool cutscene where you get that cool moment. So that's pretty much what we do.
Medievaldragon (BlizzPlanet): We saw Khadgar in the recent cinematic. In a dragon-centric story, what role does Khadgar play in the expansion and possibly in 10.1 and beyond?
Danuser: Besides just being Khadgar and being awesome and being a fun character to have in an expansion and fun to write for and fun to adventure with, he does have a pre-existing relationship with one of our dragon aspects: Kalecgos.
Kalecgos is also on the Dalaran Council -- just like Khadgar is, and so you can imagine that they've spent a lot of time together and have gotten to know each other pretty well. So when Kalecgos is facing the fact that he doesn't have many blue dragons around him anymore, what remains of his flight really dispersed throughout the world and he's feeling a little alone and isolated and he turns to a familiar face to help him.
The other great thing about Khadgar is that he's our stand-in as the audience in a way, where he gets to hear the story and he gets to experience what Kalecgos is feeling, and he gets to say: "Alright, lets go, let's do the thing;" and when Khadgar summons his staff and "Yep, we're gonna answer the call" -- that's us, getting able to say "Yep. we're answering the call with you, we're with you Aspects."
So we thought that was awesome and if you play through again the level-up campaign you'll see Khadgar in the Azure Span, he plays a big role there in helping Kalecgos out, and that's really what he and the Kirin Tor are there for, because Khadgar realizes that Kalecgos needs a hand right now, and they have mutual interests. Obviously, the blue dragons -- their love of magic, their knowledge there, the arcane power that we're dealing with, it's a natural fit. So you can look for that role for Khadgar and he can appear in other places in this expansion when he needs to fulfill a similar function of just being there for a friend of his and trying to help him restore the Blue Dragonflight to be the strongest it can be.
Robin Baird (MMORPG): There's been a lot of talk in the community about Ysera and the sacrifice she made saving Malfurion and all that, and I'm assuming you can't make any comments about what might happen with that in the future, but it got me thinking it feels like, at least from my perspective, that her sacrifice of trying to save Malfurion was kind of a wasted sacrifice because it doesn't feel like he's done anything in the interim and I was wondering if you could maybe talk on if there are things that have gone on that we haven't been aware of?
Danuser: Certainly since the Battle of Darkshore, you got to see Malfurion get some anger in that, during Battle for Azeroth, and that was cool to see. But, you're right in that a lot of the events that followed it were really focused on Tyrande and what she was doing, and some of that is just part of the economy of storytelling is that you only have so much time with so many characters and you've got so many storylines you can follow.
While it would be nice from being fans of these characters, that we would like to see everyone involved in everything, you know what is Maiev doing, what are all these characters doing? There's only so much time that we have to really focus on things, and because of the nature of their relationship, in a lot of ways Tyrande and Malfurion occupy the same kind of space, they're both leaders, they both have the love and respect of their people, and so when we do use them together it's usually because one is in a slightly situation than the other, and that just didn't work that way in terms of the pacing of the story that we've dealt with to this point.
I want to make clear that this is not us saying "Malfurion doesn't matter, we just want to get him out of the way." It's not that at all. If anything its a setup for his eventual return, because the way to think of this is that if you look back on mythology there is this story of Persephone and she was this nature Goddess who got tricked into eating some berries that caused her to have to spend part of her time in the underworld and that's why there was winter and why there was spring, and that kind of metaphor really fit the story we were telling with Ardenweald and the cycle of life and death, and how the night elves are intertwined with that.
We kind of used a version of that for in order for Ysera to come out of the Shadowlands and do some things that she needs to do, someone has to take her place, someone has to fulfill that end of the bargain.
So that's what Malfurion is doing, but there can be some benefits from that time that he spends in Ardenweald. Ardenweald is a place of restoration, of recovery and now that the anima drought was dealt with, Ardenweald is getting back to what it was supposed to be in the first place, and it has ties to the Emerald Dream. So there's every possibility that Malfurion can come out of this with not only a new perspective on some things, but perhaps some new energies that he can tap into. We look forward to continuing that storyline when it makes sense to do so.
Elizabeth Harper (Blizzard Watch): I'm wondering what kind of lessons have you taken away from Shadowlands that you're carrying into Dragonflight, as far as quest design and storytelling?
Hamilton: I think one of the big ones that we took was looking at how we could make sure that we were being as Alts-friendly as possible. Particularly with questing and having players play through the whole campaign, and so forth. We took a look at how Threads of Fate worked out and what we liked about it, and what we didn't like as much about it, and now we've got a setup where once you've played the main campaign on one of your characters on your account, then any later character can play the campaign quests in any order they want, if they want to play them.
If they don't want to play them that's fine too, they can level a different way. So we've tried to make it very very flexible and very Alts-friendly in that regard, and that's just one of the things quest design has done.
There's other things too, like tons of account-based unlocks around renown and repeatable activities with your Dragonriding progress and progression systems. We just really leaned into making it as Alts-friendly as possible because that went over so very well in Zereth Mortis. We had a chance to try things that were more account-based as well, and we learned from that, and thought, oh let's make that a bit better.
We also really liked the unlocks in Zereth Mortis again where once you had reached a certain point you could understand the Jiro, and so then you could do the Jiro stories; and we liked the idea of that and building that into the renown track, such that when you do certain things well now you've unlocked the ability to do some more content. As Steve mentioned we have managed to hold some things back, we very much liked being able to hold back the Lordaeron Forsaken story for 9.2.5 and we said: "Hey, what if we could do more of that? Let's try to do more of that and see if we can keep that stuff hidden." And so far, so good. So we'll see how that goes as well.
Danuser: And in terms of story stuff, by its very nature Dragonflight is very different story tonally than Shadowlands was. Shadowlands had been built up to for a while, and there was a lot of dark stuff happening in the world and characters who were going through some very dark things, and the story was being told in the realms of death, and that's some heavy stuff.
When conceiving of the Dragonflight expansion, obviously we started that process a while ago, we knew we wanted to tell a story that was really rooted in adventure, and optimism, and something that would feel like: hey, we're back on Azeroth, we're seeing the effects of the stuff that happened in the past, but in a positive way, because the world is moving forward and it's a time of hope and optimism. The whole fact that the Dragon Isles have come alive with energies again is a sign that the world has survived some of these traumas, like a big sword being plunged into it, big wars and invasions and all that sort of stuff, and has kinda taken a little step forward in it's growth, and some of those energies are surging as a result.
I think that spirit is reflected in both the story and the questing and the systems of Dragonflight as well. Like Maria mentioned, the fact that Dragonriding is part and parcel of the experience, we have these huge vast zones where you get to soar through and dive and really feel the world around you as this tangible thing -- all of that is about the tone of the story, and we're adventuring beside some beloved characters: the Dragon Aspects, and we get the chance to try and help them become awesome again.
Again, they gave up those powers back in Cataclysm and they've faced some dark times too in the years since, and this is a chance to kinda re-unite with them and stand together, and help them out. There's a lot of storyline stuff, obviously, that I can't spoil for you but as we've planned out the rest of the Dragonflight story into the patches, we really want it to feel like it ends on a strong note, of feeling like hopefully we have helped our allies out, we have achieved some things, and the Dragon Isles are an even better place when we're finished with the story, than when it was when we first got there.
Domenic Mahoney (Wicked Good Gaming): We've seen a lot of popular add-ons end up becoming implemented as native features into WoW, like new map tools and bag tools, stuff like that, to have a more robust interface. Are there any plans or considerations for more native tools or systems to support the roleplaying aspect of the game, maybe even character last names or a bio panel, or something like that? I feel like that's the one area of add-ons that we haven't seen be adopted fully natively by the game.
Hamilton: I think some of the intent of the UI rework was to bring us to a more modern look across the board. Experienced players know how to put in add-ons and make things look exactly how they want it, and really customize their experience, whereas newer players don't really understand how to do that as effectively.
So we wanted to get a nice baseline in place and then from that baseline, build off of it. I know that the UI team is continuing to look at options and things that they can do to continue to improve the experience for people, and looking at places where we can definitely expand. I don't know specifically about those add-ons and whether those are something they're considering or not, but it's definitely something we can pass along as an area of interest.
They're not done. They're absolutely not done and they're very committed to making improvements and continuing to make improvements. We are really interested in feedback as people get in and start playing with the UI, especially people who have never really been able to move things around or understood how to do that. That's what I know about that subject and I'm hoping we'll get lots of great feedback from players so that they can really focus in on the things that matter.
Michael Kelly (Dot eSports): My question kind of pertains between the dichotomy between Shadowlands and Dragonflight, you mentioned it before, Steve, that we're kind of getting back to these fan favorite characters and trying to make them feel more awesome. From a literal standpoint, I want to know, does the narrative team feel more in their wheelhouse when you go back to these concepts and characters that fans and players are so kidna attached to? And if so does that make the story creation process a bit easier?
Danuser: Well I don't think it's so much the particular characters involved, because we've got a big team and everybody has different characters that they're drawn to or gravitate to, and we aren't all of one mind that it's easier to write for this kind of character than another. There's just different kinds of points of view and different perspectives and that's part of building a diverse team, is having those different points of view so that you can offer lots of different kinds of content.
What I will say is that one of the challenges with Shadowlands was that we're going to a place that wasn't pre-established. It was a mystical realm and we had to guide players around and show them lots of things and kinda teach them lots of things about why things were the way they were; and when you're back on Azeroth, even going to a place that wasn't defined in the lore, we knew there was a place called the Dragon Isles, and we knew that it probably had something to do with dragons, but just the fact that you're on Azeroth, you're going and seeing things that feel familiar to you, vast mountains, vast forests, grasslands spreading out everywhere, and even some of the looks of the places that the dragons live, while being new architecture, there's still something rooted in the familiar about all of that.
So it creates less overhead for you as a storyteller, that you don't have to build up as much, and explain as much to the player to get these locations through to them, and then that in turn just frees you up to spend more time on the characters and the world and what they're experiencing as you're playing, without as much to explain. So that's certainly an advantage to having the Dragon Isles as a setting.
TheRedShirtGuy (Blizzplanet): There are many creatures classified as Dragonkin, but aren't really part of the Dragonflights or dragons themselves, like fairie dragons, cloud serpents, the veilwings from Ardenweald, the storm dragons from Legion, the new velocidrakes and wilderdrakes that we get as Dragonriding mounts. With Dragonflight being so much about dragon history, will we perhaps learn about how they fit into the dragon family tree?
Danuser: Part of what we think about is like how much of these things do we want to just reveal and explain, versus how much do we want to leave for fans to speculate about; and I think a lot of those dragon-adjacent creatures, it's more interesting to just kind of show how they might relate to other draconic characters and let players think and draw some conclusions there. It wasn't that we felt this mission to fill in the history and give like a detailed assessment, but I think that having some of those dragon-adjacent creatures in the world just makes it more interesting and more textured, and it makes you think about how they might have come to be. Maybe we touch on some of those things, maybe we leave them lingering mysteries.
Jeremie Quek (Wowhead): With the last two expansions, we had weekly story quests with the release of each patch. How do you feel like these have worked out in getting players involved with the story, and can we expect to see something similar in Dragonflight?
Hamilton: Typically in patches, we did pace out content over the last two expansions in weekly chunks as you're saying, and we did it because we wanted to control how we were unlocking other gameplay. Often the raid was part of that, and making sure that people had an opportunity to be prepared for some of those moments.
We tried something a little different when we got to Eternity's End in Zereth Mortis where we tried to make that unlock, for some of the content, something that players could choose to do. So for example, by choosing to put Cyphers of the First Ones into certain categories they unlocked some content. Not main story content, but content. It was a bit of a test to see how that felt.
We don't have that sort of unlock for content based on weeks in Dragonflight, at least for launch. I can't really talk about what we're doing for patches, but we're busy trying things, experimenting, learning lessons, and figuring out what's best. So, again, we really want to hear what you think as you get an opportunity to see how we're unlocking content. Don't want to do any spoilers, but hoping to hear that we've got some cool ideas and we should move forward with them, or maybe not. We will see. Right? A lot of game design is about trying things and iterating, and trying things and iterating. We're taking some steps along that path. There are some reasons in the past why we tried to pace content in the way we have, and we're wondering what else might be a way we can pace content. Hopefully, that's not too spoilery, but also answers your question.
Michael Chaudhary (MMO-Champion): Timewalking was a great way to make old content relevant. Are there any plans to make this a more permanent staple or extend it to world content?
Hamilton: We do talk about timewalking a fair bit, and especially in an expansion where we're dealing with dragons, especially bronze dragons, it feels like there are opportunities for timey-wimey shenanigans and things to develop, but I couldn't really speculate further.
Medievaldragon (BlizzPlanet): In Thaldraszus, we have the chance to visit different time eras as part of the zone's story, but is time-traveling limited to the level-up story or will we get the chance to timetravel in end-game quests or get to see characters from other times come to the present?
Hamilton: Timey-wimey things can happen when bronze dragons are around, and I can't really spoil, so I can't really say much on that one other than: you're right, there are timey-wimey things that happen and can happen.
Danuser: Certainly, if you looked at the pre-patch stuff that got released this week, one of the things is going to Uldaman and going to a new part of it and seeing that the Infinite Dragons are up to some no good and trying to thwart the Aspects' goal of reclaiming the powers that they lost; and knowing that the Infinites are afoot, and thinking about some of the things that they've done in the past, it's safe to assume that they're not stopping there, and that there's more to come, and you see some of that if you played level-up content on the Beta. The story definitely does not end there, but what the particulars are... you will just have to wait and see unfold. It's definitely a significant story in the Dragonflight expansion.
Robin Baird (MMORPG): One of the things that I liked, having played the alpha and beta, I noticed that in general there was more room for smaller slice of life kind of questing mixed-in with the main story questing, especially in the Ohn'ahran Plains. That seemed to happen a lot. I was just curious if you could talk more about if that was a conscious shift that you guys wanted to mix in more of that with the main storyline, or what the thinking on doing those kinds of quests are?
Maria: Yeah, it absolutely was. It was one of the areas that we felt would help us make this place feel inhabited and real, and a place where cultures have been growing and changing over time, you get that entire centaur culture hidden in Ohn'ahran Plains for example. We intentionally sat down and figured out... hey, let's devote a fair bit of effort to those smaller local stories, that talk about the place. They aren't directly related to the main story, but maybe the show a reaction to something in the main story, or maybe they're just their own little thing that's happening off on the side.
So we very much did lean into that, it was an important part of our plan for Dragonflight, and we tried to let a collaboration of quest designers and narrative designers, come up with what those things were based on their own experiences, based on their own cultural experiences, their own backgrounds, which is why you see a lot of personality and a lot of heart there, because these are coming from people's experiences or something that they care deeply about, and that's how we get such an incredible variety as well in themes, and in feels basically. So yes, that was an intentional choice that we made.
Steve: It's easy when you're dealing with such big fantasy elements: dragons, and big battles against evil dragons, and there's good dragons, and there's timetravel and all these things. Those are the broad strokes of the setting, and the story, and some of the bigger characters, but what makes a world feel real is the personal stories, and knowing what some of these characters who live in these places, what they're experience is, when they're surrounded by all this change and all these new forces of some good, and some adversarial coming into the picture and how does it affect their lives?
It's those things that make a world feel tangible and real, and so it's really awesome -- like Maria said -- to see so many people bring their personal stories to that gameplay experience, and tell some really compelling things that may not have the big spectacle of some of these bigger things that get big cinematics and stuff like that, but the amount of personal feeling and sentiment that comes through in these local stories, is on par with anything else that we tell in the game. So really proud of the designers for bringing all of that to bear in Dragonflight.
Elizabeth Harper (BlizzardWatch): Considering that the Forsaken got a questline late in Shadowlands to clean up Lordaeron, I'm wondering if there's any chance we'll be seeing something similar for the Night Elves or the Gilneans in the future?
Hamilton: I think there's always hope.
Danuser: Anything we say would be too spoilery. The important thing to remember, the fans and the community, we see your discussions, we see your talking about these things, you care about these races and characters in the world, and we care about them too. For us it's always about trying to find the right place to do some of these things, but as the story unfolds we'd love to revisit some of these things, and that's about all we can say. We definitely have some of those things in mind.
Domenic Mahoney (Wicked Good Gaming): Speaking of other cultures in the world, I can definitely respect the lore barriers that restrict class-race combos, but my best friend has been slowly dying on this since 2018. Can we expect Kul Tiran paladins in the future? They can already wield the light as priests, they look awesome in plate, can we get some righteous thickness please?
Danuser: Well as you're probably aware, in the Dragonflight pre-patch now, you can play some combinations that you couldn't play before, something like a Tauren Rogue, while kind of out of the box a little bit, is not a big stretch of the imagination when you think about how, yeah it's a little weird for big cow people to walk around stealthily, we know that players are heroes in this world and that they are connected to Azeroth in a way that makes the impossible possible. There are other race-class combinations that over time we may revisit as well, some of them take more story setup than others, again with Taurens and rogues for examples it wasn't something where we needed to tell a big story about the rogue order hall infiltrating Thunder Bluff and teaching or whatever. It just kind of worked to just introduce it into the world, but there are other storylines where we would want to spend some more time to build them up and do that. Certainly paladin is one of those classes that has a lot of history behind it, so to roll it out to others would probably take some additional work and thought, but not ruling anything out for future content.
Michael Kelly (Dot eSports): If you look at the Adventure Guide and scroll all the way to the last page of suggested content, there's a tab that says Copper Coin: there appears to be a copper coin tucked into your Adventure Guide; and that triggers this quest, and that's an auto-complete quest, and it says it's not immediately clear who put the copper coin in your guide. I gotta know. Is it eventually going to be clear? Because this is a wild goose chase that I have been scratching my head over for days now, and this is completely pointless and totally off base, but if I am picking at straws here, please, let me know.
Maria: We hope so, we hope that it becomes clear for you. You might have to wait a little while. It's a bit of a tease, a bit of a hint. That's really all I can say.
Steve: Never look a gift copper coin in the mouth. Is what I always say.
Jeremie Quek (Wowhead): Tuskarr were introduced 14 years ago in Wrath of the Lich King, but haven't really been seen very often. How did they get to the Dragon Isles, are their gods different from those in Northrend, and will they play a larger role in Dragonflight?
Danuser: Just to be clear, I know there's a lot of love for Tuskarr in the community and that same love permeates our design team. As soon as we started talking to the team about going to the Dragon Isles and the cultures that could be there, people were like "There's Tuskarr right? There can be Tuskarr, right?"
Sure enough we had a bunch of very enthused people who told some incredible stories about Tuskarr. I think in that regard we got way more Tuskarr-oriented questing. It's one of the reputations that you can pursue with them and spend a lot of time with them, and you can help them cook cool stuff, there's some very charming moments among the Tuskarr.
So, absolutely. There's some great lore you can delve into there, and you can learn about their background and how some of these Tuskarr differ from some of their Northrend counterparts, but very much in the same vein, and care about the same stuff: fishing, family, and food. The magic triad of Tuskarr life.