Blizzard talks about closing a chapter and changing philosophies.
Update 9.2, also known as Eternity's End, will be arriving on February 22, essentially marking the end of the Shadowlands expansion, and closing a chapter that has been building up for a long time. Players will be able to explore a new zone, Zereth Mortis, and confront both the dominated Anduin, and the all-mighty Jailer, in the Sepulcher of the First Ones raid. It's a big deal for World of Warcraft, and Blizzard even had invited us for a group interview with lead-designer Morgan Day and lead narrative designer Steve Danuser.
But before we got into what's coming with Eternity's End, we had to ask about the name, as this was also the name of the Night Elves campaign in Warcraft III.
Steve Danuser"We certainly put a lot of thought and attention on the names of our content updates, and Shadowlands story as a whole has brought together threads from very early on Warcraft history, all the way through many of the expansions, and culminating in this epic battle against the Jailer. When we were looking back on names we thought there was a lot of resonance here for Eternity's End, as an echo of a final campaign in the past, and this is a final campaign against the Jailer. And we're dealing with the afterlives, that represents eternity for the souls of Azeroth. The threat the Jailer poses is literally a threat to eternity itself. It's a name that serves both the current events, as well as having echoes that go back to the foundations of Warcraft history. We really liked the way it kind of pulled everything together."
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Morgan Day"One of the most exciting and fun parts about developing the story for World of Warcraft, is not only about older characters - like the Night Elves Steven mentioned, we get to tell stories with Tyrande in the Shadowlands -, but here's also characters that have been fully developed within World of Warcraft, like Anduin, who is going to play a huge part in this update. In the Sepulcher of the First Ones raid, Anduin will actually be the final boss for the first week the raid is available. We're doing something very unique this time around... I don't want to spoil anything, but Anduin will play a pivotal role in answering the question of how do we resist the Jailer's domination magic. We've seen how powerful that is and what he can do with that, and we've seen the influence he's had on Anduin. On the week after, the final three bosses will become available, and you'll come face-to-face with the Jailer.
Blizzard has been removing barriers and limitations on the World of Warcraft structure basically since Cataclysm launched, and that's not stopping now. In fact, Blizzard is even going to take that further, as the studio prepares to challenge some of the game's fundamentals and philosophies.
Morgan Day"One of the major things we're focusing on with the Eternity's End update is allowing players to feel like there's fewer barriers when creating a second character. Alts is something we know players love to engage with, but we know players don't want to repeat some of the content. Philosophically we always thought of 'your character' as the thing that drives you through the world, and just because this character might be exalted with a faction, doesn't mean your alt should be. We made a shift to better understand the effort of the player behind the keyboard has put into that. Not to say that we're gonna make reputations spread across your entire account, but we're being very deliberate when designing systems and progression elements to increase your player power, and allowing you to unlock them more easily in your other characters."
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"Another thing that we're doing with Eternity's End is the set bonuses that we're reintroducing. This is something they have asked for, they love set bonuses, and we haven't really explored that since Legion, so we're reintroducing that with the Eternity's End update. We're actually adding a feature, that won't be turned on until a couple of weeks in, a system called the Creation Catalyst, where you can take an item that you've earned in Eternity's End and turn that item into a set item, so that a player that is coming in and feels that he needs to get his full set bonus to feel like he's viable or go do those Mythic+ dungeons, they will have an opportunity to catch up there, and that's something we're building in from the start. That's just one of many examples of changes we made based on player feedback, and it's representative of a larger philosophy shift on the team."
A key player during all of Shadowlands, and the main reason players even went to Azeroth's afterlife, is the Banshee Queen Sylvannas. While her narrative arc seemed to be walking towards a path of no redemption, that changed when a part of her soul was restored. Sylvannas is now as much the Banshee Queen resurrected by Arthas, as she is the Ranger General that was consumed by Frostmourne all those years ago, as we saw in an emotional cinematic.
Steve Danuser"That cinematic those show two parts of Sylvannas soul - the part that has been with her ever since being killed and resurrected by Arthas, and the part that was pulled in to Frostmourne and that ultimately ended up in the Jailer's hands. Those two parts have been put back together in that cinematic, and there's a warfare between them, but in the end they will have to reconcile with one another. Through Eternity's End we will see a lot more of that story, and we will work up to a resolution of the Sylvannas arc. We know that it is something that has been building up for a long time, and we know Sylvannas was pivotal to the events that led us into Shadowlands."
"But the Banshee Queen is not gone, the Ranger General has not taken over, it's that those two pieces have to find a way to move forward. They will have to become one entity, one soul, but the road to that is not an easy one, and what form that takes is something you will need to see as you play through the content. We're very excited about how that story culminates, and it will play out in a chapter of the campaign that we didn't put out on the test realm because we wanted to hold back that piece of the story for players to find out."
Eternity's End is also introducing some new systems and mechanics, including the new Cosmic Flux currency and the a six player brawl for the arena, both detailed by Morgan Day.
Morgan Day"We're actually introducing a new universal currency called Cosmic Flux, that you'll get from doing a large number of activities. Previously, if you wanted to craft your legendary you had to engage with Torghast. With the Cosmic Flux we want to appeal to all player types, and not only can that Cosmic Flux be used to craft legendary items, it will also be the currency you'll use in the Creation Catalyst I mention previously. We think this is something players will be very happy about."
"Morgan Day The goal with the Brawl is very much to think about what solo queuing looks like in World of Warcraft. This Brawl system allows us to experiment with before coming up with a huge new feature, but there was a ton of work and new technology that we had to build to allow that queuing system. The way it works is that six people will be thrown into an arena, and all potential matches that can be made one on one, will happen. In other words, you'll play multiple matches, not just one, and the player with the best record wins. We thought that having everyone play with everyone was a really interesting approach to solving some of the unique problems with group composition and queues."
While Eternity's End will certainly keep players occupied for quite some time, the future is right around the corner, and we talked with Blizzard about what's coming next, including an approximation between Horde and Alliance.