Yesterday, World of Warcraft Game Director Ion Hazzikostas spoke to the world about the upcoming WoW Shadowlands expansion and what the team has most recently been working on as it progresses towards the release date this fall. As the game prepares to move into beta testing next week, Hazzikostas wanted players to be aware of the things they would find when it launches. If you missed the stream, you can check it out here.
Later, press members were invited to take a firsthand look at the newly added Revendreth zone with max-level characters including all of the endgame systems that will be in place to keep players engaged in the expansion long after the main campaign has slowed. Check out our hands-on preview here!
Lastly, Hazzikostas sat down for a round table interview with several media outlets to answer some of their burning questions about Hunters & Horde & Hairstyles….OH MY!
- The Horde is in flux and is rebuilding. As was seen at the end of BfA, the leadership is moving away from a warchief — a position that literally means a constant and unending state of war — and moving to a council.
- Shadowlands is all-encompassing and both Alliance and Horde will have their full attention on what is happening there.
- How relationships will evolve or change after Shadowlands remains to be seen. Hazzikostas said that they “definitely have stories to tell” but that Shadowlands won’t be the place at least at the start.
- Since WoW began, devs have had “an encyclopedia of established lore characters to fight” but now they’re moving in a new direction with a villain that has to be introduced and built up, a character that no one knows anything about. Players will be discovering how he fits into the overall cosmology of the Warcraft universe.
- Survival as a melee spec was meant to provide a differentiation between Marksmanship and the old, ranged Survival spec after the rotations had become very similar.
- Melee will be a part of survival always but moving forward, the dev team will be paying attention to what classes will look like in the future. To that end, Hunters will be provided some type of universal base of abilities that make a Hunter a Hunter.
- Survival Hunters can specialize in melee without losing the universal skillset that all Hunters had at early levels.
Here’s our exact question and Ion’s words to fill in the gaps above:
Question: The Hunter community is still split on the issue of the melee spec even two expansions after its introduction. With your new stance of “class over spec” and more ranged abilities returning to the class, what does it mean for Survival in the long term?
That’s a good question. I think part of what led Survival to a melee space to begin with was trying to differentiate Survival from Marksmanship. The rotations over the years had become very very similar — OK you might have a couple more magical-seeming shots in the Survival space. Beast Mastery was very clearly its own thing with its clear niche as the pet-based spec. But then you had these two ranged specs that basically did a lot of ranged shots in their rotation.
Some of that is actually fallout from the shift that we did in Cataclysm going into Mists. We moved from the old-school talent trees that could probably better support types of play styles and utility without having to build a whole spec around them. Having a tree like Survival that was about traps and utility and a little bit of melee stuff in there — that worked when it was something that you could put points into as a broader class initiative. But then turning it into its own spec ultimately led us down a path of duplicating a lot of Mark’s abilities.
We want to keep melee as part of the unique identity of Survival but in Shadowlands and beyond, as we start to think about what classes should look like in future expansions, it’s important that there will be this sort of universal base of what defines a Hunter. All Hunters should have access to ranged attacks and Survival Hunters can be ones that specialize in melee but not necessarily at the expense of the universal skillset that everyone had as a level 5 or level 10 Hunter because that’s what being the class means.
Itemization & Endgame Systems
- Players will be able to craft multiple legendaries that can be used across an array of situations. Some will be great DPS or skill boosts while others will be more utility-based. Players will be able to interchange them depending on the situation they’re in.
- Players will have to make choices at any given time which legendary to equip since only one at a time can be used.
- The rate of acquisition hasn’t been totally figured out yet but “the idea is that it’s faster acquisition than Legion legendaries were”, at least when Legion began.
- Utility legendaries will be powerful enough that when players are in a particular situation, they’re worth equipping.
- Soulbinds are straightforward modifications to class abilities. They can enhance abilities like, for instance, Healing Rain (Shaman) healing more if Healing Tide is active and so forth.
- Soulbinds will not be competing with other drops on drop tables. They’ll be some type of bonus reward on top of an item that drops in the content players are engaging with.
- Soulbinds are physically put into items and, when replacing them with another one or a better one, the original one will be destroyed.
- Players will need to be in their covenant sanctum to switch out Soulbinds but that freely being able to do so is the current plan.
- The anima cost to replace a soulbind will be minimal, not something that increases.
- Unlocking soulbind trees will require increasing amounts of renown.
- Once the covenant sanctum is unlocked, opening up endgame systems will come down to a matter of pacing. “The goal here is for all of those to be accessible within the first week or so.” Hazzikostas said. But unlocking them all immediately would be overwhelming.
- The goal is not to delay or time-gate things but to provide enough information about each of the different systems and currencies so players will know where to go, how to collect resources, etc. But this should be an accelerated process once information is conveyed.
- There are no plans to “explain” customization options in the game lore-wise. There will, however, be some “retcons” of NPCs in the game world. While named and important NPCs will remain as-is, players will start to see guards, random civilians, etc. starting to look different as if they’ve been that way all along. “We see this as correcting an oversight on our part over the years and trying to improve representation more broadly.” Ion stated.
- More customization options will be added over time since the way that character models are put together has been improved. The team loves to read feedback and suggestions about what they’d love to see. It will be an ongoing process beyond Shadowlands.
- The Glyph System is something that is almost infinitely expandable and is something the team wants to do more of beyond Shadowlands. This expansion had a lot of work to do with the covenant system so there simply weren’t the resources.
- Devs actively listen to players of all types, both hardcore and casual and everything in between. The goal is to accommodate as many of them as possible so that players don’t feel obligated to make certain choices. If a player likes a covenant because it’s cool, they shouldn’t feel bad for choosing it. “It’s our job to minimize the likelihood of that happening.” Ion stated.
- Devs want players to feel invested in their characters rather than having to simply choose “the best” or “the right thing”. They want decisions of how a player customizes their character to mean something because a player’s character has its own identity that makes it different than any other player’s. It’s something they want to hold onto and defend as much as possible.
- The dev team wants all covenants to be valid choices.
- In the weekly chest, players will find an array of items to choose from. While they can only pick one, they will have the agency to select the one that most suits their current needs. This eliminates the randomness of hoping to get the item wanted. It’s a reliable way to gear up characters.\
The New Player Experience, End Bosses, & Regional Realm Splits
- Hopefully in the future and with improvements to technology, WoW will be able to move away from region-locked realms. “There are a number of hurdles we need to clear before that point.” Ion said.
- Exile’s Reach, the new starting area, is an attempt to show new players how WoW is played in 2020. It’s driven by a desire to put the best foot forward both as a game and as a franchise.
- Exile’s Reach is designed to introduce new players to thing that make WoW what it is like interacting with others, loot, powerful enemies, and even a mini-dungeon to complete.
- Once finished with Exile’s Reach, players move on to BfA or pick an expansion they want to experience the way it was intended when it was released. This includes the pacing that hasn’t been possible with those expansions since they debuted.
- Going into Shadowlands, players already know that the Jailer is the endgame “big bad”. It makes telling the story and setting up the expansion much simpler in the long run.
- Players will be going on a journey to discover the nature of the Jailer’s plan and to put together all the forces needed to take him down.
- This story will move through all of Shadowlands and all of the content updates until the final confrontation.