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After the Battle for Azeroth expansion for World of Warcraft was unveiled at BlizzCon, PC Gamer sat down with a couple of developers to chat about the upcoming changes to Blizzard's flagship MMO. And apart from the expected questions that touch on PvP, leveling, and all the new features, a considerable part of the interview is devoted to the expansion's story. And by the looks of it, Azeroth is in for a Cataclysm-level shake-up. Check it out:
PC Gamer: For a long time the conflict between the Alliance and the Horde has been ignored in favor of dealing with external threats, like the Burning Legion. Why is now the right time to respark the animosity that started it all?
Alex Afrasiabi: We feel the Alliance-Horde divide is foundational and fundamental to World of Warcraft as a franchise and as a story, but we danced around it for a very long time. We've had run-ins, we've had close calls, but we've never been able to finish it—to have that resolution. We're coming out of this expansion, Legion, and the world is not in a great place—the players and the factions themselves are not in a great place because there is all of this old animosity that hasn't been resolved. It's time to resolve it.
In terms of a threat, one of the things we talk about is, in Warcraft, do you take part of what you kill and become it? When we look at WoW, we've done so much with so many big external threats. We've taken out Old Gods, Dragon Aspects, Elemental Lords, the Lich King, Illidan—at least once, and pretty soon maybe a Titan. So when we talk about what's the biggest threat in this world, is it the Titan or is it the Dwarf Paladin that put a hammer in that Titan's head? We've got tens of thousands of almost-living gods [players] now running amok on this planet with very different ideologies. That seems insane but that also seems awesome to me. And that's how this expansion was born.
As these battles begin to play out, what are the consequences for one side or the other?
Afrasiabi: The loser is deleted, they're just done [laughs]. It depends on the content type, right? Warfronts, for example, are a type of large group PVE, and maybe there's some things we can do in the Warfront maps that will reflect your side's victory or whatever. But in the world itself, we will absolutely see the outcome of the big kick-off events of this expansion. As we push forward more and more into where this expansion is going, we'll probably see more stuff happening around us as a result of this big faction war.
Ion Hazzikostas: We are willing to permanently change the world where it makes sense and where it helps push that story forward. Actions need to have consequences.
During Blizzcon, you revealed that the Undercity and Teldrassil are going to be attacked in the opening salvo of the expansion, are they permanently changed?
Hazzikostas: They're in very dire straits. If you're a level one player making a new [undead] or night elf character, you'll still see the unruined old version because the timeline hasn't gotten to that point yet. Once you play through that story to the point of entering the events of Battle for Azeroth, you'll see the results of that battle play out in the world. But yeah, once Teldrassil is burned, it's burned.
How does that change play out exactly?
Hazzikostas: I would expect it to be the intro event. The same way Broken Shore kicked off the Legion expansion, what you will do when entering Battle for Azeroth, the first place where that will begin will be, for example, playing through the events for the Battle for Lordaeron [The Undercity].
But after the almost world-ending events of Legion, won't the back-to-basics conflict of Battle for Azeroth feel less dramatic?
Hazzikostas: Uhh, did you see that intro cinematic? [laughs]. Honestly, this is war. What's even more terrifying than a single big bad is a vast army of world-destroying forces like Alex alluded to. The conflict between the Alliance and Horde is something that's really at the heart of the franchise and it's something that we're really excited to return to. We're also going to be exploring all new lands, meeting new friends and new enemies, discovering mysteries that we have to unravel, and who knows where those will lead us.