THE ROAD AHEAD

It’s a super desolate place, but inspiring in a terrible way. So those are some of the specifics that we have covered. I also want to lay out a bit more of what lies ahead as Beta unfolds across the Summer.

Later this month, we will be kicking off formal raid testing of our Castle Nathria raid. This is a 10-boss raid in the zone of Revendreth. You are ultimately going to face off against the Venthyr Lord Denathrius who is one of the major power players in the Shadowlands.

It is just an incredible gothic-fantasy. Our encounter team and our dungeon art team had a blast making this. We can’t wait to get people in there. As always, we will have focus testing windows for normal Heroic, Mythic and Raid Finder difficulties; and as we get on in the Beta we will be looking to specifically have some targeted invites for experienced raiders who can give us the feedback that we need to get the tuning right on difficulties like Mythic.

Also, later this month, we will be kicking off Shadowlands Mythic Keystone Dungeons. We want to get these in your hands as quickly as possible. As soon as max level content is unlocked, you want to enable Mythic Keystones. We will probably have a vendor that just sells Keystones directly just to facilitate testing.

Early on, we just want to get initial feedback on how our dungeons are playing with the core Mythic+ affixes, so we can hear quickly where things like bolstering or necrotic or bursting are extra frustrating and make sure that we’re making any tweaks early on to make the experience that you have ultimately when Shadowlands comes out the best one possible.

Later on, and Beta will also be revealing for focus testing our first Shadowlands Seasonal affix, as well as some potential other tweaks to the system.

Legendary Runecrafting is something we are really excited to let people get their hands on. This is something we talked about way back at BlizzCon, and this is the expression of Legendary items in Shadowlands.

So for those of you who remember Legion, what I really throughout the history of World of Warcraft, some of the coolest loot we have ever made has had that orange color, orange border. When you see a Legendary item, it is usually something that is going to transform your gameplay and unlock an all new level of power within you; and one of the big points of feedback that we got that was frustrating in Legion was centered around how these items were obtained and the lack of control over obtaining them.

A Legendary item that was tremendously powerful, you had seen videos featuring it, you were really excited to get it, but there was nothing you could do to earn it — you felt — unless you got lucky.

Shadowlands is really aiming from the outset to address those concerns, and to give you a ton of agency and control over how you seek out and earn Legendaries.

So early on, as you venture into Torghast, Tower of the Damned, you are going to encounter this mysterious runesmith who is chained up shackled in a Hannibal-Lecter style cell in the bowels of Torghast; and what you will learn pretty early on is that this runesmith wields some of the same power of domination that was once used to craft incredible artifacts like Frostmourne or the now shattered Helm of of the Lich King; and by recovering essence from Torghast, as well as scraps of this ancient runic knowledge that you can bring back to the smith and awaken locked away memories, the runesmith will be able to make for you to imbue an item with power that you get from a tailor, blacksmith, leatherworker, or depending on your armor type, the runesmith can make a Legendary of your choice for you.

That way you can look at those amazing bracers, or gloves, or boots, or whatever you are seeking; and work towards it, earn it, and then begin your next project.

A lot of these Legendary powers are throwbacks to some fan favorites from across really the past dozen years. Everything from Legion Legendaries to old set bonuses, to powers that are brand-new: Torghast powers, that you will be able to use temporarily within Torghast, but sometimes permanently imbue a Legendary item with.

Part of the idea is really this ancient runic art is the source of many of those powers. Items from the Shadowlands that have found their way out into the world over the years; and finally, they can be yours.

Covenant Campaigns. So I didn’t touch on this when we talked about Covenants earlier, but each Covenant, once you join them has a max level narrative quest arc associated with it.

This is similar to the War Campaign that we had in Battle for Azeroth where there was an Alliance Campaign and a Horde Campaign.

This time around, there are four distinct campaigns of roughly that size and scope, depending on your Covenant; and through playing through this, you will earn cosmetic rewards for your Covenant, unlock additional Soulbinds and really experience the full extent of your Covenants perspective on the world, and the events of the Shadowlands.

Also, before too long in Beta, we want to kick off some focused PvP testing. You want to set up an environment where we can unlock all of these systems. We are not trying to test the progression and the rate at which you earn them here, but we want to just let you have access to Soulbinds, Conduits, Legendaries, all the rest; and get early and rapid iteration on Arena Battlegrounds. Just general PvP combat testing at max level, so we can make sure that we are both reigning in any outliers; but also just dialing in the overall pacing of combat.

No one likes those matches that go into super high dampening (the other end of the spectrum). No one wants matches that are over in 20 seconds in some crazy burst or proc window.

So the earlier we can get that in front of you, the earlier sooner we can start really diving it into what it needs to be.

As part of that also, it is kind of the opposite end of the spectrum, we do want to test the pacing of progression and rewards; and the way at which the rate at which things are earned, and to make that as organic as possible, we will be probably wiping the existing characters that people have had in the Alpha environment.

Probably by the end of this month, and enabling character copies which will set up end to end testing as you can come in with your characters from Battle for Azeroth, level up through Shadowlands, replace your gear organically, or earn the rewards you are going to earn, and start giving us feeback on how all of that feels.

So I think one of the things we have learned over the years, and making these expansions is there is a whole lot that goes into them. There is a ton of moving parts, a ton of systems, and we can make our best guesses as to how players are going to interact with them; but there is no real substitute for having the whole thing stood up end-to-end having people go through it; and rather than having those regrets that we have sometimes a month or two into an expansion, where we realized we missed the mark on aspect of that progression, we want to really do as much of it as possible during Beta, so that when the game comes out for real, it’s everything that it needs to be; and that’s really the theme of the month ahead.

We have some work to do to finish fleshing out the structures that we have just described, but most of the rest is going to be polish, respond to feedback, iteration, and finally tuning.

Let me talk a little bit about tuning, because I know it is a hot topic. Balance is always the most controversial one of the most central topics in community discussion, and has been forever in WoW.

Tuning is the last thing that we do in the early parts of Alpha, and Beta. We are basically just looking for extreme outliers where things might be so far out of whack they disrupt the feedback that we get.

If something is so overpowered that it trivializes its content, well we have to fix that. Otherwise, all of our feeback on let’s say Torghast is going to be tainted, because someone is walking through one-shotting things, or if something is so weak that it doesn’t matter if it is theoretically fun, it feels terrible to use, or no one wants to use it. We don’t get feedback on it, we need to fix that; but beyond that, we really want to focus first on shoring up the conceptual foundations of what we are building.

We want to make sure the abilties, the systems, and everything else feel fun. That they sound exciting as ideas, and then once we have got into a place where we are confident in those foundations, the natural next step is to dial them in so they are well-tuned; and so if you are looking at the way things are in Alpha now, and saying to yourself that hypothetically speaking the best choices are 40% better than what you might pick if you were just trying to go after what looks fun, that is because there is a key part of the stuff the process here that just hasn’t happened yet.

Now I don’t want to say yep, just wait until after Beta. It is only data we sent we sometimes get that wrong too, but there is a deliberate process that we approach for a reason.

If you want to make sure that we are using the majority of our bandwith to fix bad ideas, rather than potentially trying to polish something that ultimately is fundamentally flawed. So for example, we have heard a lot of feedback recently on the Ardenweald’s Paladin ability of Covenant ability Blessing of Seasons; and try to different a couple different versions of that. Ultimately, we are at this point going to go back to the drawing board and fundamentally redesign the way that ability works because it has some fundamental flaws that make it very challenging to balance; but also not even necessarily as fun as we had hoped it would be; and so having put a lot of effort into tuning that would have potentially masked an underlying problem or at best it has been a distraction from the more important work that we could have been doing in the mean time; and so as the sort of original creative work of Shadowlands comes to close as we move out of that phase, the phase that lies ahead of us is going to have lots and lots of tuning and polish that will continue all the way up to the launch of the expansion later this year.

So I just want to say thank you. Thank you for joining us today, and I also want to thank you all for your patience. We originally planned on doing this stream a month ago. Then we would have had somewhat different material, but we postponed it then to avoid distracting from a more important conversation.

But of course, that conversation is still happening. Injustice doesn’t cease just because we look away. Black Lives mattered a month ago. Black Lives matter today; and if that phrase is difficult to hear, know that I and others who speak those words aren’t saying that your life has any less worth. We are only calling attention to the ways in which our societies seem to need a reminder that Black Lives matter.

Now as John said earlier, these are extraordinarily difficult times. We all have our own struggles, and we can often help by simply listening with open hearts.

So be kind to one another. Stay safe, and we will see you in Azeroth and in the Shadowlands beyond. Thank you.

SHADOWLANDS DEVELOPER UPDATE TRANSCRIPT
1. Shadowlands Collector's Edition2. Shadowlands Alpha Recap3. Shadowlands Beta4. Covenants
5. Soulbinds6. Conduits7. Renown8. Upgrade Sanctum
9. Anima Conductor10. Scouting Map Missions11. Covenant Sanctums12. Theater of Pain
13. Return to the Maw14. The Road Ahead

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BlizzCon 2019 Panel Transcripts