World of Warcraft: Shadowlands Interviews

World of Warcraft’s upcoming Shadowlands expansion aims to overhaul many of the game’s systems and in some ways, take the game back to its roots. As such, you may be interested in checking out this VentureBeat interview with WoW’s game director Ion Hazzikostas where he talks about the game’s technical limitations, the challenges of modernizing its engine, and some exciting new features the upcoming expansion is going to introduce. An excerpt:

Picking from 15 years of player abilities

New and old struggle with each other in Shadowlands’ player abilities as well. One of the design decisions Warcraft’s developers made was to “unprune” classes’ spells and abilities, giving back iconic spells that had been removed over time. That increased the number of options for buttons players can press.

On the one hand, the “unpruning” returned fun flavor spells and some in-game visuals I haven’t seen in game in some time. (Hunters’ marks are popping up on targets everywhere!) On the other, the changes make some classes with already-overflowing action bars stretch beyond their limits. The choices for what abilities to use and keep can make gameplay complicated.

“There are certainly some abilities that are there for flavor. We don’t expect them to be used regularly,” Hazzikostas said. “A Shaman is probably not going to worry about [key] binding Far Sight and where exactly it should go on their bar. But it’s a cool flavorful thing. The game isn’t any worse if someone goes a whole year never casting that ability, and they forget that it’s in their spell book. There’ll be some people that really love it.”

Then, there’s also this short Polygon interview that focuses on how the expansion’s new Covenant system will attempt to put RPG back in MMORPG. A bit on that:

“You’ll have an impact on the world and the zone — specifically on the Covenant that you choose,” says art director Ely Cannon. The Covenant’s Sanctum will evolve: New characters will show up, and new areas will reveal themselves. A once-sparse, dying area will become vibrant, activating daily quests and endgame activities. Their choice of Covenant and companion will color their view of the expansion’s greater story.

“The expansion will see the Shadowlands as a whole change as new events happen,” said Cannon. “This will be an interesting expansion because you’ll see very big changes [to the world] as we progress through patches.”

This isn’t another Legion, where every paladin walks into their Order Hall to be granted the title of Highlord and given their very own Ashbringer, only to turn around to see a whole line of Highlords equipping new Ashbringers. Instead, we’re one member of an army, and the endgame has us building our own Legendaries and making choices about who we side with, what we prioritize, and where we go. It’s all part of a concerted effort by Blizzard to make Shadowlands feel like an RPG. Previous expansions had been streamlined to the point where they felt like a theme park ride; now, the players will have more control of the reins.