World of Warcraft: Shadowlands - Ion Hazzikostas Interview

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands launched earlier this week, and all things considered, it was a pretty smooth launch, given the game’s massive scale. And with that in mind, you might want to read this recent VentureBeat interview with Blizzard’s game director Ion Hazzikostas where he talks about his team’s efforts to avoid any launch-related disasters, Shadowlands’ more linear story, and more.

Here’s an excerpt:

GamesBeat: Why go back to a linear story, after several successful expansions where Warcraft players had different choices of where to begin, lightening that pressure?

Hazzikostas: I think there are strengths to storytelling in that form. It’s something that WoW had, for the most part, up until Legion. [In Mists of Pandaria,] you start in Jade Forest, and you meet these new characters, and your relationship with them develops over the course of Pandaria. And you’re introduced to the concept of the Sha, which then manifests itself in horrible ways by the end of your journey.

That’s a story that we could only tell because it was linear. In Legion and BfA, we gained a lot of flexibility by letting players choose their path. But we also didn’t know whether you were going to do Vol’dun first or Drustvar first, or are you going to do those zones third, which meant they each had to be self-contained stories. And that limits our ability to craft a cohesive narrative.

So Shadowlands is trying to really capture the best of both worlds. The linear strong backbone narrative that we had back in expansions like Mists, but then when you’re jumping in as an alt and trying to replay it, you have the Threads of Fate mode that lets players level through any of the zones in any order they choose, as well as accessing some other end game activities like world quests along the way. So they have max flexibility.