World of Warcraft is the MMORPG juggernaut that just keeps on rolling, and with a consistent stream. Ahead of Battle for Azeroth, the seventh major expansion for World of Warcraft, Blizzard has unveiled an elaborate pre-purchase plot that lets players embark on their journey with four Allied Races from level 20 to 110 ahead of the expansion and we got an opportunity to chat with production director John Hight and senior game designer Ryan Shwayder about these plans and the state of the game.
What do you think of the current state of World of Warcraft coming into Battle for Azeroth?
John Hight: I think that we [on the team] are extremely happy with the reception that we've gotten with Legion. We did a pretty thoughtful analysis at the end of Warlords of Draenor. We tried to address any concerns that players had in terms of content, in terms of being able to get out in the world and play together. And also behind the scenes look at the overall stability of the game and our ability to handle millions of people hitting the game all at once. All those things are addressed. And importantly for the content, I think we told a really interesting story with Legion. I think this is one of the best integrations we've had of story into gameplay. And so we're feeling pretty good about it. We feel like the game is really healthy, we like a lot of the ways in which we were able to accomplish things, the cadence by which we were able to do content updates on a regular basis and we feel pretty confident about our ability to do this moving forward.
Ryan Shwayder: As far as I'm concerned Legion is the best story we've ever told. And we have more tools available to us and we have more breadth of content and depth of content that we can address now. I feel like we're in the best place we've ever been as far as the content and telling stories is concerned. I think we want to take that, the lessons we've learned from previous expansio (including Legion) and take those forward, and we're constantly trying to even improve on what we've done before. So, Battle for Azeroth I think is going to be a real treat for people who are interested in the story.
Following up on that, it feels as if there has been a conscious effort on your part to cater to players with multiple (alt) characters, making sure that there is more lore to take in?
Ryan Shwayder: That's an interesting question because I think a lot of us do play multiple characters and we have put more of a focus on ensuring it is fun to play more than one character. Because the classes are incredibly enjoyable to play, so we want to make the content very enjoyable as well. I think that the scaling world that we did with Legion was one of our first real efforts in trying to make it more fun to more than one. Where you could choose which zones you wanted to play through on different characters and you didn't necessarily play through all of them all the way on any given character. In addition, we tried to ease things like [for Legion], using that as an example, making it so that levelling up your second artifact weapon was maybe a little easier with things like Knowledge, we changed that over time to try to make that better and better. As well as different patches, places like Suramar. Suramar was initially one of those zones that we wanted to make pretty challenging and make it so you did want to dedicate yourself to it for a while in order to finish the entire campaign. But over time we knew that you were going to go through that with more than one character so we eased some of the difficulty or really we kind of relaxed the time required to do so.
But definitely, we are very conscious of players playing alts, and carrying that forward actually to contextualise this into Battle for Azeroth with Allied Races, the requirements for recruiting those are account wide. So for instance if you're a main Alliance player, but you really want to play a Highmountain Tauren and your Alliance character has exhalted reputation with the Highmountain tribe and has finished the entire storyline for the Highmountain, you can actually play a Horde character go to the Orgrimmar embassy at level 110, which if you don't already have a Horde character at 110 you'll get a free boost to 110 with the pre-purchase of Battle for Azeroth, you can go to the Orgrimmar embassy and begin the questline to actually recruit the Highmountain Tauren to the Horde. So while fictionally it doesn't make as much sense to allow the account-wide requirements we felt like the gameplay was much better, much more fun for players to be able to do that.
We suppose you want to cater to both sort of players, those who want to go through the entire game again and relive the content and those who want the shortcut?
Ryan Shwayder: Yeah, and I guess again with Allied Races, so when you create a new Allied Race, once you've recruited them to your side you start at level 20 and from there you have a bunch of different choices to level now with the scaling world and the old world, and if you do level from 20 to 110 you do unlock a really awesome looking Heritage armour set and the only way to unlock that is to level up, so that's one of those... If you are that kind of player you can absolutely do that, if you prefer to just kind of immediately jump up to the end game and you don't care too much about the armour appearance you can use that 110 boost to go immediately to the content.