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Raids and Dungeons

We are going to talk a lot more about outdoor in-game in the future, but I wanted to kinda layout what we are thinking so far, and share that with you.

Now onwards to Raids and Dungeons.



First I wanted to walk everybody through some of the actual instances, some of the actual content and then we have a little systems-thing to talk at the endl but we’ll get to that in a minute.

We have 2 raid zones that we are going to be launching Legion with: The Emerald Nightmare and the Grand Palace of Suramar.


The Emerald Nightmare

The first raid zone, accessible a few weeks after launch, I think we are going to go with the same system and the same overall structure we used for Warlords of Draenor, that pacing worked pretty well. You didn’t feel obligated to rush to max level, but the raids were there when you were ready for them.

The first raid is the Emerald Nightmare. It is a 7-boss raid in Val’sharah; and this is ultimately the Emerald Dream. At long last, players get to venture into the Emerald Dream. See what it has become of it. The Emerald Dream– its origin is actually the blueprint for all life in Azeroth in a sense. It is this verdant paradise, this parallel world that mirrors Azeroth unspoiled for a while until it fell to the Nightmare, and was corrupted by the hands of Xavius; and that’s where you are going. That’s the place into where you are headed. You are going there by actually climbing the world tree: Shaladrassil, in the zone of Val’sharah — crossing over from our reality into the reality of the dream, and doing what you can to end the corruption there.



Let’s take a look at some of the enemies that you will see in the Emerald Dream. First off, one of the sad things from an encounter design perspective in Warlords of Draenor was that according to the lore there are no dragons in Draenor. We had to go a year and a half… the entire expansion without any dragons to fight. That was a tragedy. So of course, what will be your very first boss in the new expansion? Dragon. This is the first boss of the Emerald Dream raid. Once in life, a green dragon curled around the tree, guarding and defending the dream, it was now kinda at the ground zero for the corruption, and completely turned from a dragon of life into one of death and decay. This is basically corruption and plague coming from the bones of this dragon. Really cool encounter.



Next, Cenarius. Slight spoilers. Cenarius … demi-god, mentor of Malfurion, one of the most powerful druid figures out there. As closest as he is to the Nightmare, that makes him equally prone to its corruption, and equally vulnerable. Now whether he dies or not, that’s something we’ll have to see; but you will be facing him as a raid boss in the Emerald Nightmare.



Finally, Xavius. Now when he manifests himself in our world, Xavius looks like a satyr, but in the Nightmare — this is his domain. We play by his rules. He takes on any form that he chooses and he is grossly misshapen, grotesque, and he awaits at the deepest, darkest heart of the Nightmare, when you make it there.



So that is going to be the first raid zone. Second actually. Let’s watch the video.


If you have looked at that video you might have noticed a couple of familiar locations. Remember, the dream is a parallel of Azeroth, and so the Nightmare so too is a parallel.


Palace of Suramar

Next from there, later on we are moving on to the Palace of Suramar. This is a 10-boss raid. This is Gul’dan’s base of operations where the Legion are in league with (as Julian mentioned earlier) the Nightborne of Suramar. This is where it will be the final Pillar of Creation: The Eye of Aman’thul. It has been used to power and infuse the Nightwell energy that drives the nightborne civilization; and we need to go and retrieve it if we want to have any hope of success. Though this is Gul’dan’s base of operations, this isn’t a dark demon raid. This is a majestic elven city. This is the height of elven civilization. It was a really exciting zone for us to build, and a very new type of environment to set a raid in.



The way we start as we are building the raid, we start initially with a 2D layout like this .



That has a rough framework of where the bosses are going to be in the raid and how are the rooms are going to look like. What floor if there’s more than one room it’s going to be. This is a cross section of the middle floor of the Palace of Suramar.

So we take that alongside some concept art– this was a piece that was originally shown at GamesCom that shows that exact same courtyard.



The Dungeon Artist begins to execute putting the two together, and one of the great things about the palace is this is an open sprawling space with an astronomer observatory with botanical gardens, with guest quarters. It is a functional space that once stood as a monument to a civilization at the height of Azeroth, but now it’s on the hands of deep corruption, deep darkness. We need to go to root out some of the Legion that are in there, but also the Nightborne that have betrayed their own people.

Let’s look at some of the enemies. You are going to be fighting a Dreadlord ambassador. This is one of the most powerful dreadlords in Legion who is onhand to make sure everything goes according to plan. That Gul’dan doesn’t fail the Legion again, and that their uneasy allies they have in the Nightborne do not disappoint them.



The Grand Magestrix of the Nightborne herself who has basically power over time, given to her by the Eye of Aman’thul and the Nightwell. She is one of the most powerful mages in existence, and she is going to stand on our way before we can get to Gul’dan — who will be the final boss of this raid.



Level-up Dungeons

Now let’s dive into dungeons. You heard me say before that dungeons are at the heart of the Legion expansion in a way I think dungeons have been at the heart of no other previous expansion.

We have 10 dungeons coming for you in Legion. First off, let’s go over a quick look at the level-up dungeons that you are going to be experiencing, and a closer look at a few of them, and talk about some other stuff.



The Eye of Azshara is in Azsuna. This is the place where you will be continuing and finish up the storyline of that zone.

Neltharion’s lair in Highmountain was once the cavern home of the dragon Deathwing before he was Deathwing. When he was Neltharion. It is now holed out and this has now become the capital of the Trogbar civilization, and you are going to have to go in there at the conclusion of the zone’s storyline to retrieve the Pillar of Creation from the Trogbar’s hands.

Halls of Valor, and Darkheart Thicket — we will be going to talk about in a second.

Violet Hold is in Dalaran, as Dalaran moves always there are going to be some shenanigans, always there is going to be something afoot in Violet Hold. Somewhere along the way, it’s not available right away as you level up, but there is something that happens in the city that’s going to require you to go in here.

Something you might have noticed as I have talked about these dungeons is we really want to integrate them into the storyline of the zones, more than we have recently.

They are not just complementing the zones, or giving you a look at a different aspect of the zone’s ecology. Instead, many of our zones’ questlines directly culminate in dungeon experiences. We want the dungeons to feel meaningful and every bit as part of the zone as the quests you are doing outside; and of course, since the world as a whole is flexible and not linear, the dungeons can also be done in any order as you level up. Depending on which zones you choose.

At max level, we have 5 more dungeons that you will have access to once you hit 110. In Azsuna, you will be able to return to the Vault of the Wardens, which Eric mentioned earlier as part of the demon hunter start experience. Demon hunters escape from the Vault as it comes under attack by the Legion, and falls into ruin. You are going to need to go back there at max level. You uncover the secrets of why the Legion was attacking in the first place, and what Gul’dan was up to, and why in the world he wanted Illidan’s body. Hmm …

Black Rook Hold is a keep overshadowing Suramar. We will be looking at that in a second, as well as Hellheim; and then we have two dungeons actually in the city of Suramar itself.

The noble district is actually an outdoor dungeon set in the city of Suramar where you are infiltrating the hold of one of the most powerful men in Suramar, as he plays host to a party for many of the most powerful Nightborne and even the Grand Magestrix herself. This might be a rare opportunity to strike at the Grand Magestrix, and that’s something you cannot pass up.

We are looking to create some gameplay in this dungeon that is very different from anything we have done. Actually probably ever in World of Warcraft.

Suramar Catacombs beneath the city, and in fact these catacombs stretch beneath the entire zone, so the zone is riddled over this network of underground tunnels and interconnections, and we will need to go down in here to find an entrance to the Palace. Even a little bit like a mini-attunement you might say. It is basically the only way– of course you can go into the front gates of the Palace, it is all sealed up. The reason you are coming in here is to find another way in, maybe there are hidden secrets. The way the Palace is going to work actually, you are coming from underground and work your way up to the very foundations of the Nightwell to the basement of the Palace to eventually reach the highest heights.



Now let’s take a look at some dungeons more closely: Darkheart Thicket. This is a level-up dungeon in Val’sharah, and it takes place at the foot of the corrupted world tree Shaladrassil. You are going to venture in here at the heart of the forest’s corruption; and you are going to need to do this as a culmination of the zone’s storyline to rescue an ally who has been trapped in the clutches of the Nightmare.

Let’s take a look at what this looks like.


Unlike the raid which actually takes place in the Nightmare itself, the dungeon is actually at the foot of the world tree still rooted in our world and our reality, but you have seen the threat that it poses if it is allowed to seep out fully.

In Stormheim, we have a couple of dungeons that we are going to talk about more closely. The Halls of Valor is a level-up dungeon. This is heavily-inspired by the mythology of Valhalla, and it is in these golden glowing halls in the sky where the greatest heroes of the vrykul go so they can spend eternity brawling and feasting and hunting and reveling in their glory.



Odyn is on his throne overseeing these lands, and you need to go here; and you are actually going to be brought here by your race against the god king of the Vrykul in service of the Legion — who is also seeking to claim the Aegis of Aggramar. The two of you are going to come to a deadly confrontation in front of Odyn as you each seek to prove your worth, and prove that you are the one that is worthy of holding the Pillar of Creation known as the Aegis of Aggramar. Let’s look at the Halls of Valor.


Halls of Valor are one of the best-looking dungeons that our team has ever made, and I can’t wait for you guys to get your hands on it.

The counterpart to the Halls of Valor. Whereas the greatest warriors of the vrykul ascend to spend an eternity feasting in the Halls of Valor, the cursed, the fallen Vrykul … they are ferried on the ship of the damned to Hellheim. The domain of the fallen Val’kyr queen Helya; and you are going to find yourself at a fog-shrouded dock alongside the fallen souls, waiting for the ship of the damned so that you can get onboard, and retrieve and safeguard some of the most precious cargo. You will have to see what it is.



A large portion of the dungeon takes part on a ship. In a sense, while the Grimrail Depot is a train, you might think of this in regard to ships. It speaks for itself.


We went to all the motion sickness-prone designers on the team, had them play in the dungeon, everyone reports it’s good. So, fingers crossed. One last look, Black Rook Hold. As I mentioned earlier, Black Rook Hold is an elven fortress towering over Val’sharah. This was carved from basically a mountain of black stone, and it represents a militaristic side of the night elves that we haven’t really seen much before.



Atop Black Rook Hold, this was the ancestral home of Lord Ravencrest who was originally Illidan’s mentor. We are going to need to go there on the trail of Illidan as we seek to unravel and discover the secrets behind what Illidan is up to and what the Legion is up to.


Ten awesome dungeons waiting for you in Legion. Let’s talk a little bit about the role of dungeons in the end-game. Almost seems like some will be saying: “Of course dungeons are end-game.” You hit max level, you run Heroics, you are geared up. Obviously, over the years, we have made different approaches with Valor Points, or Badges to keep dungeons relevant in the central part of the expansion throughout, but really we have made that our focus more than ever before in Legion.



Our goal for Legion as we were setting out to think about the place of dungeons, we needed dungeons to remain relevant throughout the entire expansion; and relevant means both in terms of rewards but also the difficulty, and the engagement to the experience. So that you are not, as you maybe did in the past, with Valor Points and Badges stomping increasingly easy content for increasingly better rewards; but of course, if you are going to be doing dungeons throughout the entire expansion, it’s important that there is some variation to the experience.



On top of all that we want to avoid what we call internally as the Mechanar problem where given the choice you tend to pick the easiest dungeon, the most efficient one and do that repeatedly for the rewards at the expense of the others, and even if it’s not your personal favorite dungeon. So how does this all come together? We had Mythic Dungeons in 6.2, we had Challenge Mode… what if we were to combine those ideas? What if we were to take Challenge Mode and repurpose Challenge Mode as a true open-ended end-game experience for all players to make dungeons relevant from start to finish so that you can do a dungeon that is as hard as you want or need it to be, for a reward that’s commesurate in power to the challenge you just took up. That is what Legion Challenge Mode will be.



Today, to start a Challenge Mode in Warlords of Draenor, you went into a Challenge Mode, click on the pedestal at the start, and a timer pops up. In Legion, you will begin these for Challenge dungeons with a Challenger’s Keystone that you will obtain in a means still to be determined — probably through some of the world event quests that we talked about earlier, but this keystone points to a specific Legion dungeon that has a power level associated with it.

That power level determines the difficulty of the dungeon you are going to be running, but also the reward that you are going to receive from it. At higher levels, the keystone will also introduce some additional modifiers as a wrinkle to keep you on your toes. There is still a timer in Legion Challenge Modes, but instead of gold, silver and bronze, we are condensing it to a single timer that is probably going to be more lenient than what silver currently is.

We don’t want this to be about a frenetic mad dash to the zone. We want it to be about awesome core dungeon gameplay. If you beat that timer, then you upgrade your stone, you can take on a higher more powerful difficulty level and better rewards. If you fail, then your keystone is depleted but you still get loot for completing the Challenge dungeon regardless, and the quality of that loot depends on what you just completed even if you didn’t beat the timer.



Again, core philosophies here. We want to scale the dungeon up, not your skill, your gear, your preferences, not scaling you down the way Challenge Mode does in Warlords of Draenor; because that feels increasingly bad as you get stronger. We want the focus to be on the combat gameplay of the dungeons, not just go-go-go-go-go as fast as you can, and AOE pull and stun; but rather what makes dungeons the awesome experience they are as part of the MMO genre as a whole.

We want unbounded progression. As good as you are there will always be a challenge waiting for you. There will always be another step on the ladder; and finally there are new modifiers to master each week as you go further into the system.



Now what does that mean? Let’s take a look at what the UI might look like for starting a challenge. Here we see a pretty high-level keystone that has been used to start the Halls of Valor. We see some significant modifiers to health and damage of the creature, but also two additional affixes that will modify the dungeon. So this keystone has the Raging affix.



Raging affix means that when all creatures in the dungeon are below 30% health, they are going to deal double damage until killed. That’s going to change your approach a little bit. Suddenly, you can’t walk in and AOE cleave down every pack of mobs. You need to really focus fire, you really need to single target, the way you didn’t before. That’s just one example of many.

Affix power is really going to change the gameplay. So imagine extra mobs. Extra enemies in pulls. Imagine a challenge dungeon where all corpses are going to explode and leave fire on the ground after they die. Or just to keep your healers on their toes, what if everyone is taking constant damage over time while the dungeon is in progress? Think you can handle that?



Fortunately, there are awesome rewards waiting for you if you can. The system is going to start as just a small step above Heroic dungeons. So don’t hear challenge and go “Oh this isn’t for me.”

If you do Heroic dungeons, this is for you. There is a point of entry for you here; but no matter how hardcore you are, there is something in here that will break you. It is up to you to find that breaking point. The higher you go, the better the rewards; and the core of the system that we want to deliver is a genuine alternate path to complement raiding — or even replace it for you entirely if that is what you prefer as the gameplay that you choose in your dungeons.



Just to wrap up really quickly. That was just a slice of what we have in store for you this weekend. We have talked about Legion. Thank you so much for coming out and there is one question that is probably in everyone’s mind: “When do I actually get to see more of this? When do I actually get into beta?”

The place where I am in myself. Good thing you asked. The first thing that we will do after we come back from BlizzCon (probably the first thing we will do is sleep)– the second thing we will do is to get our beta servers prepared for a closed beta launch. That’s going to be coming in the weeks immediately following BlizzCon. Make sure you are opted-in. Can’t wait to get people into experience the world, to experience the game that we are building.

Finally, for those in attendance today, stay tuned for us for the weekend. We have a lot more to talk about Legion.



Thank you so much for coming out. Enjoy the rest of BlizzCon!


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Browse these pages:Backstory OverviewCinematic and StorytellingDemon Hunter IntroThe Broken Isles
SuramarEnd-Game SystemsDungeons & Raids