PAX East 2018 World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth Interview

I had the opportunity to interview lead game producer Daniel Stahl at PAX East 2018. Daniel briefly discussed dynamic content, and dynamic/seasonal vendors, and possibly something akin to the Harbingers animated-drama for Battle for Azeroth. Alpha testing is its last phases as Beta Testing will begin rolling soon.

 

VIDEO INTERVIEW

TRANSCRIPT

Daniel: My name is Daniel. I am one of the producers on Battle for Azeroth, and I am working on a feature with the developers called Island Expeditions which is on the floor here.

Medievaldragon: With Mists of Pandaria, you experimented with Valley of the Four Winds as a massive zone, but then you decided to split it into Krasarang Wilds. In Battle for Azeroth, what lessons from there did you bring to create massive zones like Tiragarde Sound and Zuldazar?

Daniel: Oh yea. So we have two massive continents, and I think we as developers have learned our craft, and we continue to learn our craft in a way that we can not only put out regular content updates (like you saw through Legion), but we can also deliver these expansions that have this massive zones and these massive continents.

So whether it is Kul Tiras, or Zandalar these zones were created over the last couple of years as-- we were doing both Legion and this at the same time. I can't speak to the lessons learned, but I can speak to the dedication that the team has in doing this type of updates. We understand how important it is to have new places to explore.

So when I think back to my first experience with Mists of Pandaria, and being able to explore this entire new zone, and all these beautiful areas, I think we really have been able to capture that same feeling of exploration as we look at Battle for Azeroth. So kudos to the team to not only being able to do things like Argus-- which was a new zone, but as well to be able to deliver these new continents and experiences; and it is not just those continents -- like what we are showing you today with Island Expeditions.

You have the whole continent, the whole World of Azeroth. Azerite is bubbling up, right? And these islands are all over the place, and so you are seeing one here today called Un'gol Ruins, but there is going to be more at launch; and you are going to be able to pull out a treasure map, and explore. So that sense of exploration that I think you are kinda getting into the nature of in that question is: it's definitely here. It's definitely part of Battle for Azeroth.


Medievaldragon: Now that players get the chance to play with Kul Tiras, are we going to see lore-related NPCs? Or easter eggs based on Warcraft II's Kul Tiras history? Like Dagran the Orcslayer, or something like that? I think I saw the statue, but I am not sure if it is him.

Daniel: You know... I wouldn't consider myself necessarily a lore-buff, but one thing that I am really excited about... you know, you mentioned Mists of Pandaria a second ago... I went back the other night, and I watched that cutscene with Lorewalker Cho (I think it's the right person), and he was talking about King Rastakhan, and he was talking about how the Prophet Zul had come to him with these prophecies about the Cataclysm; and I kept thinking to myself, I know that we are going to see King Rastakhan in Zandalar in the city of Zuldazar, and I am very curious to know what's going to happen with these characters; and so, when you ask about "Are we going to see characters that we haven't seen in a while?" I think the answer is: Yes.

I think Jaina Proudmoore and the whole Proudmoore family is a bit part of the story. How do they sort of help us understand the conflict, and the conflict that the Kul Tiran people have in joining the Alliance, for example. In Legion, when the Alliance made a pact with the Horde to fight the Burning Legion, Jaina was the first to say: "Hey, I have been here. I have seen what happens. Look at what happened to my father. I am out of here."

So I am excited to go back to see her point of view, and how does she view the events that had transpired in Legion, and as we start to look to new allies, I think "What is her journey? What is her personal story in all of this? How can she be an ally to the Alliance and the Kul Tiran people?"


Medievaldragon: In comparison with what we saw at BlizzCon, has there been any significant changes to the design of the Heart of Azeroth?

Daniel: Oh, in terms of the actual Heart of Azeroth armor, I don't know if we have had that many changes, but we are still in Alpha, right? So I think this is the time-frame when-- I think we just this last week, we put it out there for the first time, for players to see.

Beta is going to be starting up soon, and so being able to capture that feedback, and see players' reaction allows for us to look at where the design is, and what we can do with it before launch. We announced a launch date of August 14. It is coming up, but there is still a little bit of time between now and then that we'd like to see ourselves. We'd like to play it ourselves. We as a team, even, a lot of time for us to go in and play from start to finish through the whole expansion, so that we can also voice our opinion.

So I think you are going to-- you asked: "Have there being changes?" I think we iterate regularly, and that feedback loop with players is a part of that. So when you go on the forums, or when you post something that has an opinion about something, Blizzard likes to talk about "every voice matters," and we take that very seriously; and so what you say about the feature, or how you feel can influence a design, in that way.


Medievaldragon: Do you have an approximate time when Alpha testers will begin to test the Heart of Azeroth system, and will there be a character wipe to test it, for that matter?

Daniel: We are in a phase called Alpha right now, and we just started testing the Heart of Azeroth. I think there is only one-piece of armor out there right now; and we are planning to go into Beta soon, and when we go to beta, I think you will see a shift of gears, and we'll begin to test more systems, more holisticly.

Right now, you are just getting a first taste, and a first look. So for anyone that is looking at it right now in Alpha, I'd say that you should expect to see more of it. More of the feature. More of the Heart of Azeroth. More of what are the rewards. What are the items, as we get into Beta.

That is where we ourselves, as development team, will be in there with players playing through the content, and seeing how all of these rewards kinda lead us up towards end-game and beyond.


Medievaldragon: Any plans to add new dynamic content to Island Exploration in upcoming patches? Me in particular, I'd like to see some Warcraft II risen orcs and humans skeletons in sunken ships that fought during the Second War.

Daniel: Wow! That is a great call out. We haven't shown all of the islands yet, but I know one of the islands is-- I think it is called Dreadmire-- and you will see some old... it's like a ship graveyard, and you will see some of these older ships.

In addition, I think that you asked about the dynamic nature of Islands, and will we see more islands in future content updates, I think the answer is yes. When it fits the story.

At the beginnning of Battle for Azeroth, we are just starting to understand what is Azerite, and what is this power-source that fuels Azeroth herself, and what can we do with it. But the Horde and the Alliance aren't the only ones that are after this resource; and this resource does things to other people, like you will see the Mogu after it, you will see the Venture Company after it, you will see just wildlife and as we have been showing here in the demo at PAX there is a whole event where an Elemental Lords show up and they themselves are trying to hoard this powerful resource for themselves.

So when we think about where we can go next with Island Expeditions, you are going to see the story unfold, and maybe there is room for an old orc island, or something that brings back the history of what's there. Those are all great possibilities. I am being a little coy, because I have seen some things that I think will excite you, when you get there.


Medievaldragon: What's going on with the vendors at Zuldazar port and Tiragarde Sound, and their items?

Daniel: Yes, so those vendors are going to be seasonal in a way. You are going to see people come and go. There is the Shady vendor, there are Traveling vendors. Those are going to (as you play Island Expeditions)... I don't know if you have noticed, but you gather Doubloons from those islands, and those ancient currency can be used with these traveling vendors to buy fantastical objects, consumables, that can be used on those islands.

I have seen some pretty wild things in testing as to what can show up in those vendors. So every time I see one in town, like I've seen one in Zuldazar, I always run up to see what they have, because I know that it can change. In fact, I think there are even times where I have looked at the person next to me, and they seem to have a different vendor than I did. So there is definitely something dynamic going on there.


Medievaldragon: Last time that Khadgar went to the Tower of Karazhan, we got a sweet animated drama in HARBINGERS, and an audio-drama. Are we going to see some of these soon for Battle for Azeroth? And are we going to hear from Khadgar again in this expansion?

Daniel: A couple of questions there. Are we going to see some of those excellent videos that the video team did? I think they just did an amazing job with those Harbingers videos. I really do believe we are going to see something like that with Battle for Azeroth. I haven't seen the specifics yet, but you have to imagine big characters like Jaina will be a good person to cover there. So stay tuned on that one, and keep an eye out, because those were so beautiful; and I really do hope that we see more of that.


Medievaldragon: Thank you for the interview.

Daniel: Thank you very much.

Medievaldragon: For pre-orders you can go to Worldofwarcraft.com for the Standard Edition, or the Digital Deluxe edition.

Daniel: And for the first time, with Collector's Edition, if you have purchased the regular edition, and you purchased the Collector's Edition in addition, there is now a way to get a refund through Blizzard Balance so that you aren't sorta left out in the cold there. You actually have a little bit of a catch up mechanic there. So thank you.

** Medievaldragon: You can pre-order the physical World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth Collector's Edition or get an automatic email notification once future supplies are open again.

Check out a quick review of my experience playing Island Expeditions at PAX East, with images given to the press.

Daniel: Mi nombre es Daniel. Soy uno de los productores en Battalla por Azeroth, y estoy trabajando en una carasterística con los creadores llamada Expediciones Insulares.

Medievaldragon: En Mists of Pandaria, ustedes experimentaron con el Valle de los Cuatro Vientos como una zona masiva, pero luego decidieron separarla con Espesura Krasarang. En la Batalla por Azeroth, que lecciones de esa experiencia traeron para crear zonas masivas como Tiragarde Sound y Zuldazar?

Daniel: Oh sip. Tenemos dos continentes masivos, y creo que como creadores hemos aprendido nuestra artesanía, y continuamos aprendiendo nuestra artesanía en una forma tal que no solo despachamos contenido regular (como el que viste en Legion), sino que tambien podemos despachar estas expansiones que tienen zonas masivas y continentes masivos.

Ya sea Kul Tiras, o Zandalar -- estas zonas fueron creadas en los pasados par de años -- digo, estuvimos desarrollando Legion y Batalla por Azeroth simultaneamente. No se responderte acerca de las lecciones que aprendimos, pero si te puedo responder acerca de la dedicación que nuestro grupo tiene en crear este tipo de actualizaciones. Entendemos cuan importante es tener nuevos lugares que explorar.

Asi que cuando recuerdo my primera experiencia en Mists of Pandaria, y poder explorar esta zona completamente nueva, y todas sus áreas hermosas, creo que realmente hemos podido capturar ese mismo sentido de exploración en Batalla por Azeroth. Asi que kudos para el grupo no solo por ser capaz de crear cosas como Argus -- el cual fue una zona nueva, pero también el haber podido despachar estos nuevos continentes y experiencias explorativas; y no son solamente esos continentes -- como puedes descubrir hoy con las Expediciones Insulares.

Tienes el continente completo, todo el mundo de Azeroth. Azerita esta burbujeando hacia la superficie, cierto? Y estas islas se encuentran por todas partes, y de modo que hoy puedes conocer una de estas islas -- llamada Ruinas Un'gol, pero van a haber mas islas durante el lanzamiento de la expansión; y podrás usar un mapa del tesoro, y explorar. Asi que ese sentido de exploración, con esa experiencia obviamente podrás ver contestada tu pregunta. Se ve palpablemente. Es parte de la Batalla por Azeroth.


Medievaldragon: Ya que por fin los jugadores tendrán la oportunidad de jugar en Kul Tiras, acaso veremos PNJs relacionados a la mitología de Warcraft? O huevos de pascua basados en la historia de Kul Tiras en Warcraft II? Por ejemplo, Dagran the Orcslayer, o algo parecido? Creo haber visto la estatua de él en Boralus, pero no estoy seguro.

Daniel: Sabes... No me consideraría necesariamente un conocedor de la mitología Warcraft, pero algo que estoy realmente excitado es... sabes, mencionaste a Mists of Pandaria hace un rato atrás... visité ese lugar anoche, I ví la escena con Eremita Cho (creo que es la persona correcta), y él estaba hablando acerca del Rey Rastakhan, y de cómo el Profeta Zul lo visitó para revelar profecías del cataclismo; y estuve pensando en mi mente: Sé que vamos a ver al Rey Rastakhan en Zandalar en la ciudad de Zuldazar, y me da curiosidad saber que sucederá con estos personajes; así que cuando tú me preguntas: "Veremos personajes que no hemos visto hace tiempo?" Creo que la respuesta es: "Sí."

Creo que Jaina Proudmoore y la familia Proudmoore es un poco parte de la historia. Como pueden ellos ayudarnos a entender el conflicto; y por ejemplo, el conflicto que la gente Kul Tirana tiene acerca de si unirse a la Alianza. En Legion, cuando la Alianza hizo un pacto con la Horda para luchar contra la Legion Ardiente, Jaina fue la primera en decir: "Oye, ya he pasado por esta situación. Se lo que pasa cuando confias en la Horda. Mira lo que le sucedió a mi padre. Me largo de aquí."

Asi que me excita retroceder y ver su punto de vista, y como ella ve los eventos que transpiraron en Legion, y en el transcurso de buscar nuevos aliados, pienso en "Cuál será su jornada? Cuál es su historia personal? Como puede ella ser aliada de la Alianza y de la gente de Kul Tiras?"


Medievaldragon: In comparison with what we saw at BlizzCon, has there been any significant changes to the design of the Heart of Azeroth?

Daniel: Oh, in terms of the actual Heart of Azeroth armor, I don't know if we have had that many changes, but we are still in Alpha, right? So I think this is the time-frame when-- I think we just this last week, we put it out there for the first time, for players to see.

Beta is going to be starting up soon, and so being able to capture that feedback, and see players' reaction allows for us to look at where the design is, and what we can do with it before launch. We announced a launch date of August 14. It is coming up, but there is still a little bit of time between now and then that we'd like to see ourselves. We'd like to play it ourselves. We as a team, even, a lot of time for us to go in and play from start to finish through the whole expansion, so that we can also voice our opinion.

So I think you are going to-- you asked: "Have there being changes?" I think we iterate regularly, and that feedback loop with players is a part of that. So when you go on the forums, or when you post something that has an opinion about something, Blizzard likes to talk about "every voice matters," and we take that very seriously; and so what you say about the feature, or how you feel can influence a design, in that way.


Medievaldragon: Do you have an approximate time when Alpha testers will begin to test the Heart of Azeroth system, and will there be a character wipe to test it, for that matter?

Daniel: We are in a phase called Alpha right now, and we just started testing the Heart of Azeroth. I think there is only one-piece of armor out there right now; and we are planning to go into Beta soon, and when we go to beta, I think you will see a shift of gears, and we'll begin to test more systems, more holisticly.

Right now, you are just getting a first taste, and a first look. So for anyone that is looking at it right now in Alpha, I'd say that you should expect to see more of it. More of the feature. More of the Heart of Azeroth. More of what are the rewards. What are the items, as we get into Beta.

That is where we ourselves, as development team, will be in there with players playing through the content, and seeing how all of these rewards kinda lead us up towards end-game and beyond.


Medievaldragon: Any plans to add new dynamic content to Island Exploration in upcoming patches? Me in particular, I'd like to see some Warcraft II risen orcs and humans skeletons in sunken ships that fought during the Second War.

Daniel: Wow! That is a great call out. We haven't shown all of the islands yet, but I know one of the islands is-- I think it is called Dreadmire-- and you will see some old... it's like a ship graveyard, and you will see some of these older ships.

In addition, I think that you asked about the dynamic nature of Islands, and will we see more islands in future content updates, I think the answer is yes. When it fits the story.

At the beginnning of Battle for Azeroth, we are just starting to understand what is Azerite, and what is this power-source that fuels Azeroth herself, and what can we do with it. But the Horde and the Alliance aren't the only ones that are after this resource; and this resource does things to other people, like you will see the Mogu after it, you will see the Venture Company after it, you will see just wildlife and as we have been showing here in the demo at PAX there is a whole event where an Elemental Lords show up and they themselves are trying to hoard this powerful resource for themselves.

So when we think about where we can go next with Island Expeditions, you are going to see the story unfold, and maybe there is room for an old orc island, or something that brings back the history of what's there. Those are all great possibilities. I am being a little coy, because I have seen some things that I think will excite you, when you get there.


Medievaldragon: What's going on with the vendors at Zuldazar port and Tiragarde Sound, and their items?

Daniel: Yes, so those vendors are going to be seasonal in a way. You are going to see people come and go. There is the Shady vendor, there are Traveling vendors. Those are going to (as you play Island Expeditions)... I don't know if you have noticed, but you gather Doubloons from those islands, and those ancient currency can be used with these traveling vendors to buy fantastical objects, consumables, that can be used on those islands.

I have seen some pretty wild things in testing as to what can show up in those vendors. So every time I see one in town, like I've seen one in Zuldazar, I always run up to see what they have, because I know that it can change. In fact, I think there are even times where I have looked at the person next to me, and they seem to have a different vendor than I did. So there is definitely something dynamic going on there.


Medievaldragon: Last time that Khadgar went to the Tower of Karazhan, we got a sweet animated drama in HARBINGERS, and an audio-drama. Are we going to see some of these soon for Battle for Azeroth? And are we going to hear from Khadgar again in this expansion?

Daniel: A couple of questions there. Are we going to see some of those excellent videos that the video team did? I think they just did an amazing job with those Harbingers videos. I really do believe we are going to see something like that with Battle for Azeroth. I haven't seen the specifics yet, but you have to imagine big characters like Jaina will be a good person to cover there. So stay tuned on that one, and keep an eye out, because those were so beautiful; and I really do hope that we see more of that.


Medievaldragon: Thank you for the interview.

Daniel: Thank you very much.

Medievaldragon: For pre-orders you can go to Worldofwarcraft.com for the Standard Edition, or the Digital Deluxe edition.

Daniel: And for the first time, with Collector's Edition, if you have purchased the regular edition, and you purchased the Collector's Edition in addition, there is now a way to get a refund through Blizzard Balance so that you aren't sorta left out in the cold there. You actually have a little bit of a catch up mechanic there. So thank you.

** Medievaldragon: You can pre-order the physical World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth Collector's Edition or get an automatic email notification once future supplies are open again.

Check out a quick review of my experience playing Island Expeditions at PAX East, with images given to the press.

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Tomas Hernandez is owner of Blizzplanet.com since 2003. I post news about World of Warcraft, StarCraft II, Diablo III, Hearthstone, Overwatch, Heroes of the Storm, Blizzard Careers, and the Warcraft film.

Blizzplanet is a leading fansite covering news about upcoming Blizzard Entertainment licensed products. I also post previews and reviews. I have interviewed book writers and Blizzard game developers.

I was previously an employee of the OGaming Network (2003), and IncGamers (2008-2010). I was a guest newsposter for GosuGamers (World of Warcraft) a few years ago and for Diablofans.com (formerly Diablo3.com)

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