On Tuesday, August 21, senior game producer Michael Bybee and lead environment artist Ely Cannon addressed the press members privately to discuss World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth at a GamesCom venue.
Michael: Last week, we launched Battle for Azeroth at the same time in every region across the world, and obviously it was a big deal for us. Both Alliance and Horde players have been exploring the new ally nations: Kul Tiras and Zandalar, whether they have been doing quests, looting treasures, leveling up, and soaking in all the incredible storyline we have built in both regions.
They have also been taking the fight deep into the darkest dungeons, and into our new island expeditions content. Now, a lot of players unfortunately have hit our max level cap 120, and these players have been getting into some of our new end-game content, which includes world quests on both continents, as well as a whole custom storyline on the opposite continent once you hit max level.
A lot of these players have been doing all of these in War mode, our new Wolrd PvP mode that incentivizes PvP for actual rewards; and honestly, I don’t know if you guys have tried this yet, but if you have, I highly recommend it; because it is a ton of fun. Especially if everybody in the zone rallies together to take out a super aggressive player who now has a bounty on his head and shows up in the map and rewards extra stuff. Super fun.
So obviously, there is a lot to do in Battle for Azeroth, but really this is just the start of the Expansion. We have a lot more in store. Some of you might remember that in Legion we made some major changes to the way that we deliver content and we can’t always wait to get it into player’s hands. We heard a lot of feedback about that, and we are obviously very happy with the way it worked out.
So in Battle for Azeroth, we are going to build on that same foundation. As with Legion, our intent is to alternate major patches and minor patches, and we will continue the practice of some content like Raids, not necessarily coming out at the same time as the patch.
We see this game as a living, breathing world, and we want players to feel like there is always something new right around the corner. That could be a major Raid, but it could also be a micro holiday, or a new character-driven questline, perhaps a new place to visit for Island Expeditions, or even a new War Front.
We think of this cycle as the ongoing chapters in the Battle for Azeroth saga; but every single patch might touch on something newly different. The bottomline for us is that we want to deliver the right amount of content at the right time. When it makes sense for the game, we will roll a story which we will try to tell.
Before we continue on, I should probably introduce myself. My name is Michael Bybee. I am the senior game producer on the World of Warcraft team. I would put the design team and some of my features for Battle for Azeroth, including the War Fronts feature, the War Campaign, and the Battle for Lordaeron; and War-forms pre-patch content.
Ely: I am Ely Cannon, and I am the lead environment artist.
Michael: So with all that in mind, here is a look at what is coming up next in the very near future of World of Warcraft. So one of the major themes that we will see play out over the course of Battle for Azeroth is the recruiting of new Allies as war wages between the Alliance and the Horde.
In the coming weeks, players will have the opportunity to contact and recruit the Dark Iron Dwarves in Blackrock Mountain, and the Mag’har of Draenor. So those are two really cool Allied Races that we are very excited about. Each of these new Allied Races will have a Heritage armor for their race. You will be able to explore the culture and the unique history of both of these races, and really delve into what make them special and unique, and even why the Horde and Alliance recruited a bunch of them in general.
The Mag’har, we are kinda of a pivotal point in their history where they are finally uniting as an orc nation. Free of any outsiders. In response to the help that the heroes of Azeroth gave them for freeing them Legion and Gul’dan, they are gonna want to repay that debt in Battle for Azeroth.
On the Dark Iron Dwarves side, they have a long and turbulent history as they sorta fought among themselves, as well as with other dwarven clans; and after the failed coup of Iron Forge, the Firelord Ragnaros enthralled them. Now they are finally breaking free of all that, and they are trying to unite as a nation; and the Alliance will come calling on them to help with Azerite as well as fighting in support. Really fun and exciting stories to tell all.
That is really not all. As events unfold in Zandalar and Kul Tiras, eventually we will have access to Kul Tiran humans and the Zandalari trolls as additional Allied Races; and they are so awesome. They have really cool druid forms, which is kinda unique to them.
So something else is coming very very soon to Battle for Azeroth. It is called War Fronts. The first War Front… the Battle for Stromgarde will start spinning up in a couple of weeks. Now this brand-new feature continues the theme of the expansion with the Alliance and Horde vying for control of Arathi Highlands. Each faction has an opportunity to contribute War Resources until their side is ready to go into an all-out combat. Once enough resources have been turned in by a particular side, everybody in that faction will be able to queue up for War Fronts; and the War Front itself is a cooperative PvE instance where 20 players work together to gather resources, build up a base, hire and upgrade troops, and capture enemy points across the map.
Now when we started building War Fronts, it started out as a homage to classic Warcraft III gameplay. What we ended up with was something completely unique in the Warcraft game universe. So as an example, one of the things you are going to be doing in the War Front is gathering up Iron and Wood to help build your base, and hire troops; and this works very much like how you did in Warcraft III.
But in World of Warcraft, players are the heroes. So when you hire a troop, it actually follows you around and helps you accomplish goals within the War Front. It also has your name underneath that says it was hired by so and so. Similarly, every War Front ends in a fight with the enemy Commander. It feels very much like a Raid Boss fight. But in order to get to that enemy Commander, you and your whole team will need to siege the enemy base with your siege engines.
Now, as I said before, I was one of the primary producers on the War Fronts feature and I might say my favorite experience in the War Front is that moment when I am standing on the hill, and my team is about to siege the enemy base. While fighting, you can see it here, the sounds of combat all around, and then you start seeing the fireballs from the siege engines sail over your head, and crash over the gate. I think it feels super epic, and it is something completely new in World of Warcraft.
So the Warcraft experience is more than just a new instance type. It is actually a cycle which steps on different parts and it alternates for both the Horde and the Alliance. So this contributory resources phase is the beginning where players can turn in profession items, gold and War Resources to help their side build up for the assault. Contributing resources helps the War Front happen faster for your side, but it also reduces the amount of time that the enemy has access to the Arathi Highlands.
Contributing resources also awards reputation with the 7th Legion and Honorbound factions, which players would want to build up in order to unlock things like the Mag’har orcs and Dark Iron Dwarves Allied Races that Ely was just talking about.
So this phase, the contributing resources phase, is a variable phase. As you can see (in the presentation) the Battle for Stromgarde War Front starts with the Alliance owning Arathi Highlands first, so the Horde would be contributing resources. Once resources have been met up for a particular region, every body in that region (for example, everybody in Europe, on the Horde side) will be able to queue up for the Battle for Stromgarde together.
And this phase takes about– it is a set amount of time to get players plenty of opportunity to run at least one War Front before the cycle moves on. With that active, players are going to want to run. At least once, because there is a really nice piece of honestly badass gear at the end of it with unique transmogs.
The whole point of a War Front on your side is to get access to Arathi Highlands. For Battle for Azeroth, we completely updated the zone with brand-new textures, new creatures– the whole place just looks amazing; and having access to that content actually gives you access to rares that you can farm for pets, mounts, toys, and more gear; and it also gives you access to a faction-specific World Boss.
All that content is only available to the faction that most recently completed the War Front. So that is the War Fronts. It is coming soon. We really think players are going to get a big kick out of this totally epic experience.
Speaking of epic experiences, something else is coming very soon to Battle for Azeroth. It is our first Season of end-game content. So as we refine the way that we deliver gameplay to our players, we found that it makes a ton of sense for us to wind up certain types of big end-game content. So starting on September 4th, we are going to open our first Raid called Uldir, our first ever Mythic Keystone dungeon Season, and the first PvP Season for Battle for Azeroth. And incidentally, on September 4th is also the date when we will be spinning that War Front for the first time. Ely is going to talk a bit more about that Raid.
Ely: Uldir will be the first Raid in Battle for Azeroth. If you like Old gods and Titans, it is going to be really awesome. Uldir is an ancient Titan containment facility in Nazmir; and as events unfold in Zuldazar, the seals of Uldir are finally broken and all the monstruous creatures inside are trying to escape. As you get into the Raid, you will disable some Titan security measures and eventually start adventuring deep inside of Uldir; and this is where you will discover as a player that the Titan watchers inside of it were holding some really nasty experiments related to the Old gods, and those experiments– you will meet various unique encounters inside Uldir.
Michael: I will talk a little bit about what I meant by our first Mythic dungeon Season. So Mythic Keystone dungeons are one of the most popular things we had in the game in Legion. I had a ton of fun and we had a ton of positive feedback from players… and we are going to keep doing that. We are not going to make any major changes to the way that Keystone dungeons work in Battle for Azeroth. Instead, we see this as a very legitimate third option for end-game gear and progression. Alongside Raids and PvP, we do a few keystones.
So we are going to try to line up the keystones dungeon Seasons so that it now lines up with the Raid, and it also lines up with the PvP Season.
What the Keystone dungeon Season will look like is every Season we will introduce a special Season affix to the Keystones that is only available on Keystones level 10 or higher; and the affix is going to be tied around whatever the latest content is.
So for example, the first Seasonal Affix is called “Infested,” and it is associated with the Raid that Ely was talking about (Note: Uldir); and the way it works is when you are running a dungeon that has this particular Affix, you will found it along the creatures in the dungeon have been infested with this parasite from the blood god G’hunn, and makes these creatures harder to kill; but if you kill that creature, the parasite will try to escape and infest something else; and so it changes up the gameplay in these dungeons.
It forces the players to pull the creatures in different ways and try to stop the parasite before it runs. It is a lot of fun. Additionally, for every Keystone dungeon Season, we will increase the item level of the gear available in that dungeon so that it stays competitive with Raids and PvP as a method of progression.
Just briefly, I want to talk about the PvP Season. We won’t make major changes to the way PvP Seasons work, but we did add a couple of new ways for players to gear up their characters; and so one of the ways is that everybody participating in PvP will have access to upgrade tokens that can grow up from chests, and whatever PvP content that they are queueing for; and this just upgrades the gear that you have, automatically.
Separately, anybody participating in greater PvP, will have access to a weekly jackpot chest that shows up in your base, similar to the way that the Mythic keystone dungeons does. So we think that players are going to get a big kick out of all of this stuff, and it’s coming in a couple of weeks (Note: September 4th).
Blizzplanet: Handclaw asked about gear in future War Fronts.
Michael: We are definitely doing more War Fronts in the future. How are we going to handle the armor associated with that? And especially, because we are doing different things with armor sets in Battle for Azeroth where they are not Class-specific… so that’s exactly right, we like how we set up the armor for the existing War Front, and for the Raid where it is less about being Class-specific, and more about being associated with the story.
We think that Battle for Azeroth is such a strong Horde vs Alliance conflict story that having the armor sets tie into that directly, especially for the War Fronts and PvP sets makes a ton of sense. So while we are not ready to talk about the future War Fronts, I will say absolutely we are doing more armor, and absolutely we will make them worth your time. I have seen some of the sets that they are some of the ones they are doing internally. They look super awesome. Players are going to really dig it. We will probably do something similar to the way that we did Arathi Highlands in terms of how they armor sets work out; but all of that stuff is still being worked on right now– we are still talking about it, so it may change, which is part of why we aren’t ready to talk about it now.
PRESS: Someone asked if the developers expected the fans controversy over Sylvanas and Teldrassil.
Michael: I can say that some things went exactly as planned. Some things were surprising to us even. But internally, of course, we knew that as things were unfolding with the story that we wanted to tell, this part of Sylvanas’ story especificly, everybody knew people would be mad. (laughs)
It was just very clear people would get very mad; but I think the thing that carry us forward is like– if you think about good storytelling, good storytelling isn’t: “I tell you the thing you want to hear all the time.”
Good storytelling is sometimes I tell you a thing you don’t like so much, because then later I can paid that story off with something really awesome that you’d love. I can’t get to this, unless I give you the sad moment. So we are really excited about where the story is going, and we hope that players stick with us and see where it is going.