Dragonflight Pre-Launch Interview on Dragonriding and End-Game Content
19/11/2022 à 16:00
Leading up to the launch of Dragonflight, Wowhead participated in a group interview to discuss Dragonriding and end-game content with Associate Game Director Jeremy Feasel and Lead Software Engineer May Flores Garcia.
The other participating sites asking quests were Polygon, Blizzard Watch, Laptop Mag, Game Rant, Tech Radar, Wicked Good Gaming, Dot eSports, Shack News, Windows Central, Twinfinite, But why though?, MMO Champion, and BlizzPlanet.
We've transcribed the interview below, which covers interesting topics such as:
Designing the capital city of Valdrakken to feel social
Encrypted hidden story chapters unlocked by Renown
How Dragonflight can appeal to returning players
How Azeroth's citizens perceive death after Shadowlands
Improvements to the Pet Battle Bonus Event
The evolution of developing the Dragonriding system
Accessibility improvements in Dragonflight
Cass from Polygon:
So something that I think has been a consistent theme throughout this conversation is having people log on and just chill instead of chasing a grind or making sure you check off your chore list. With that in mind, I'm curious about Valdrakken, the hub city. In Battle for Azeroth we split up, we went to Boralus and Zuldazar. With Shadowlands, we went to Oribos, which some folks said, well, a little bit like an airport a little sterile. Valdrakken is this civilization hub. It's a place where people are going to be hanging out in this very social community based expansion. I'd love to hear about the process of designing that hub, with past expansions in mind.
This one was an interesting one too because we had to get across a number of different things. One of them, the lore elements of this is a dragon city, so it should be where all the dragons are coming together. So you're going to see guards, a mixture of all the different dragon colors, but everybody else also has their quarter. You've got the magic key area that has the blue dragons and you've got the gardens that has the red dragons, and getting that sense across in a way that wasn't - I think the last time we had done something similar was Wyrmrest Accord, where you had one just titan structure, everybody was kind of hanging out. So we want it to feel like it was a dragon city, populated by a ton of dragon creatures. I think the spawning teams have done an awesome job there. The city feels really alive. There's a ton of character there. If you just walk around, you look at all the little story vignettes, there's a ton of little things hidden around here and there.
But similarly, we also wanted this to be a space that felt like it fluidly belonged within the Dragonriding system and with dragons. You can't have a dragon hub city without a bunch of cool ledges to land on, because that's how dragons would land and they would land and they would turn into your visage form. So all of our world builders were thinking about that as they were trying to lay out the space. There's specifically ledges that are looking down on like the profession area. Where you're expected to grab your dragon up the top and then swoop down to the bottom and then jump down to zone one from there. And that's also a part of how the whole landscape has been laid out. Really, Valdrakken is the top of the spiral landscape that spirals down to the waking shores down at the bottom, which you can see from the top of the, of the hub city. So you're always starting on the summit and then you can take off for adventure there, which is very appropriate for an exploration and adventure post gig expansion pack too. This is also where a lot of your professions work is going to be doing. This is the social hub for players working together on profession activities. So expect to see a ton of people running around the profession area there as well. We'll want that to be an active and fun hub that has learned from our past profession hubs.
Liz from Blizzard Watch:
I have a Dragonriding question. I'm wondering how Soar and Dragonriding has influenced your design of content throughout the game? Will these new features influence things like dungeons or raids or just open world content?
The over world in Dragonflight in general is pretty expansive. I think they have some of the biggest zones we've ever done, especially the Azure Span. And one of the focuses there was having a ton of negative space, so it felt like you could really swoop and dive through the trees, so the over world was in general designed around this idea of a really fast and fluid movement system. May, I think we ended up, how much faster than a flying mount do you end up going?
830%, I believe.
So over 800%. I think you were going 310 before. It's pretty crazy, but we have the space to do it and it feels awesome to swoop and dive through this space. And it was really designed with that in mind. And I think similarly, we really wanted to apply this to a dungeon. It's funny because Wrath of the Lich King is coming out right now and you get to see vehicle combat in a dungeon against Malygos is something players are experiencing there right now. So we didn't want to do that again, but we wanted to get a lot of the goodness of dragonriding, this feeling of swooping across open planes, across at least one of our dungeons. So they centered that design around the The Nokhud Offensive, the centaur dungeon that occurs in the Ohn'ahran Plains.
And you're going to have the ability to, it's an open world dungeon, where you can dragonride through the dungeon to get to a bunch of different locations. There's these wind gusts that guide you through the space, so that we can have a dungeon that actually has the same vibe that you would get from the over world.
Momo from Laptop Mag:
When we get to Dragonflight's endgame and its post-launch content, how often will we feel gated when trying to progress the main story? I remember back in BFA, the main quest line in Nazjatar could only be progressed by completing the follower missions, but those were in a daily rotation. In Shadowlands you couldn't complete the Chains of Domination questline without a certain level of renown. So I'm wondering how often, when we get to those points, will I be unable to finish those questlines?
So there's a number of different quest lines that are going to unlock as you progress into the max level renown. And I think one of the most interesting things about our particular end game system this time, is everything in that world is encrypted. It hasn't played on the beta, so players aren't, they're aware that there are chapters that unlock in the max level, and they're tied to the renown, but they're not exactly sure what those chapters are. We're looking forward to seeing how people react as the sort of in the moment storytelling where you didn't know what the next story was going to be and you get to watch the next episode as it happens. I think that we've really taken an eye towards alt friendliness and progression friendliness with just about all of the max level renowns that we've put into Dragonflight. As you progress, your main renown track, which is largely through your weekly activities, we tried to really center things around a weekly cadence this time so you can play how you want during the week, and you can pick which one of those renowns you want to increase during the week in order to get your weekly reward. You're going to be able to pick which of those you want to spend the time on and it's fairly open ended - it's not completely open ended - but you can progress each one of them at your own pace. As you progress each of those tracks, you're going to unlock progression speed-ups for your alts, and also unlocking all of those renowns unlocks a ton of stuff for your alts as well.
So if you want to play an alt, it's easier to get into each of those renown tracks, it's much faster in order to progress them out the gate. This isn't something that we're bringing out in like a 10.0.5. This is how we're going to come right out the gate and make it easy for you to progress your alts and get your alts geared up. And then on the Dragonriding side of things, we're also going for maximum alt friendliness there as you get additional unlocks, as you unlock things like races, and Dragonriding powers. The mount system already felt like a very account-wide system, so a ton of that system is also account-wide and you can progress how you want to and progress on what character you want to progress on. I think there was a lot of learnings from like 9.1.5 here in terms of taking a lot of the Covenant elements, making them significantly more alt friendly, that we've really attempted to come out the gate with in Dragonflight.
Denny from Gamerant:
So kind of a related question. It sounds like there are different optional end-game paths the players can take depending on what they think sounds the most fun from week to week. So how does that optional nature of the content impact the overarching narrative, especially in comparison to past expansions like you were talking about where the rep gated quests were often what moved the main story forward at the max level?
There's a number of different sort of side quest lines that are going to be kicked off at max level that involve a variety of different subsections. So you may find that on one particular character you unlock one of these quest lines earlier than on another character. You may find that you unlock the - I don't want to spoil anything - you unlock option one and somebody else unlocks option two and you get a slightly different experience there. I think the goal there is that we have a lot of these great factions in the world and we want to tell strong and continued stories with them. So the most effective way we can do that wasn't one overarching narrative that sort of had all of itself as a prerequisite, was splitting some of these things up and, having some end-game chapters that could all occur simultaneously depending on how you ended up progressing your character.
Denny from Game Rant:
Is there a max level system or gameplay loop that you're most proud of or most excited for players to start to experience?
I think our advancements to the endgame sandbox and renown system are pretty hefty this time. We had a whole subteam associated with it, the content team whose whole edict was take a look at the endgame sandbox and make it awesome. I think that they've done an awesome job at creating very specific sub activities that are focused around things that you would do for subgroups, things like rock climbing and taking pictures of ducks and hunting down big creatures. I think that looking to continue evolving the endgame sandbox for that outdoor player that enjoys doing those kind of activities, cuz that's the kind of player I am. That's probably the thing that I'm the most looking forward to. And then continuing to evolve into the future.
New and Returning Players
Elliot from Tech Radar:
So, I think it's fair to say, a lot of the marketing so far for Dragonflight has been targeted towards returning players who might have dropped off at Shadowlands or even prior expansions. What is it, do you think, about Dragonflight that will maybe attract these players back? Key features. I mean, there's a whole host of new features coming, but anything you think specifically will attract returning players?
Well, I think that everything about this expansion feels very classic Warcraft to me. It's a chance to tell Dragon stories, delve into their history in a way that we sort of hinted at in the past. And Dragons have this long and storied history in Azeroth too, that we've only to told a section of, really only seen glimpses that they've wanted to show us. They have some skeletons in their closets. We're going to learn a little bit more about that. We learned about that a little bit in the Dracthyr starting experience. We're going to continue learning about that in the different zones. We're also going to learn a lot about their history with the titans and the oaths that they made and how that whole process occurs. We're going to learn a lot about their future. And that's been one of those hanging story threads that I think has been sitting around for a while in Azeroth that a lot of people have been interested in pulling on, because Dragon stories are interesting and their part and parcel was sort of the, the history and future of Azeroth. So if you're a lore nerd, I think that's going to be really interesting.
I think that the Dragonriding system is just a ton of fun to bop around on the Dragon Isles with, it's got its own talent tree, it's got its own upgrade system. You can go ahead and get tons of points for that and all of the customization right out the gate. There's very little gating for any of that. Look, we were kind of mentioning earlier, we've really, out the gate, we're going with a lot of alt friendliness with a lot of our outdoor player systems. We want you to be able to play your way in terms of how you want to approach any of the renown systems. We've doubled down on focusing our max level sandbox activities around, faction feeling activities. It should feel like you're a member of the tuskarr after you're doing tuskarr things. It's all about feasts and fishing and family, and if you're out doing centaur things, then you're sort of thundering across the planes and you're hunting down big creatures. So I think there's an interesting evolution of our max level system there. And then a ton of additional max level questlines that are going to be coming out that'll give you additional little elements of story.
We've evolved the Mythic Plus system, so there's a wider variety of, mythic dungeons that occur in the rotation. We started doing that in season four and carried that over into this expansion. So I think one of the interesting things is, we continued evolving a ton of systems all throughout Shadowlands. We got to an awesome space by the end of the expansion, by season four. And we had had a ton of systems evolution. We just carried that all forward, all while also revamping the whole UI and the whole talent system. There's a lot for players to dig into here. It's a great time to join World Warcraft.
Dom from Wicked Good Gaming:
I have a two-perter and they kind of feed into one another. It seems like Dragonflight, and I know this has been kind of touched on briefly already, but it seems like Dragonflight's goal is to recapture this heroic high fantasy, classic fantasy and adventure essence. Are there any new types of quests or activities that support that feeling and that vibe? Because I think the last couple of expansions, if you've played them, then you know there's a couple of little quests and then one big one, and then we move on to the next set piece. And then there's a couple little ones and then one big one. Anything that's shaking that structure up? And then, leading into that, would you say that Dragonflight is intentionally being designed to be an inviting and accessible entry point into WoW for new players?
For sure. And I think everything from the fluidity in which you can get onboarded, the expansion pack, from it all the way to the quest line that gets you onto the boat, which is only a matter of moments until you're shipped off to the Dragon Isles. We tried to make it very easy for players to get into this expansion and then quickly get into the cool parts of the expansion too. It's halfway through the first zone, you're picking up Dragonriding, and you're getting your first Dragonriding Drake, and you're starting to pick up customizations there, and you're starting to swoop across the landscape. So we want to make sure that everybody is able to experience the cool and fun parts of the expansion really quickly and easily.
So following on from what Jeremy said, I think one of the things that we also want to make to do for this expansion, for example, once you get Dragonriding, is within that period of time where you're traveling between like, Hey, I'm doing this quest but I'm actually going to go and I need to go to this other place in the map to continue with my main quest. You may actually notice that there is a lot of Treasures or flight quiz that you are going to be finding during that trajectory. And I know for example, for me, when I've been playing a little bit of this, I'm like, oh wait a minute, I actually want to go and explore this. Like I want to go back and explore these other quest or there's a treasure here. I feel like a lot of the systems are very designed and just the maps to let you explore and discover things and you're actually a person in the world.
Yeah, Dragonflight actually has a huge number of different side quests to find. So I think that to your point we've really made an effort to have the world feel full of life and activity and outside of the main chapter quest you're doing through a zone, we expect you to wander off into the wilderness, especially on your dragon and find cool new things to do. You're going to find rock climbing, you're going to find creature catalog. the activities being really centered around each of the individual factions helps each of them have flavor, and we've tried to add a ton of new flavor in there and new game play elements for players to experience.
Michael Dot eSports:
When you guys look at all of these systems and compile them into one, how well do you expect or how long should players expect to get accustomed to playing the new WoW, especially new or returning players who maybe used to how the game might have looked in the past and log into the new expansion and go, oh my God, this game looks so much different. How long do you think that adjustment period might take for some players, and what obstacles do you think they might have to overcome during the transitional time frame?
I think it's difficult to say. I think we'll be listening to where player feedback is there and trying to find opportunities to make things as easy and smooth as possible. That's the overall goal of making sure of doing any updates to any evergreen systems is it should feel like, hey, well this is just an advancement to an existing system. And similarly, on the talent side of things, we know that having a ton of talent points all of a sudden can be overwhelming. So providing default talent load outs that help players make choices there, I think, is a first step towards helping people ease into the system. And we're looking for player feedback about ways that we can improve that into the future as well.
Shadowlands and Death
Greg at Shack News:
Jeremy talked about lore, so I have to have to ask a question now. So I kind of fell off through the end of Shadowlands with the new patch. I just got busy with life, that kind of stuff. But is Ysera, like dead-dead because death works weird in this world. Can she fly through the portal and come back to Earth and join the aspects? What's going on with her from a lore standpoint?
That's a really good question. You're going to have to play the game and see.
Jez Windows Central:
This is kind of an extension of the question, sorry, I can't remember who asked, but it's about Ysera and the lore revolving around death as a result of Shadowlands. Hasn't death in world of Warcraft's narrative lost its gravitas now that people know exactly what happens when they die, and there's basically no consequences. How do the citizens of Azeroth now feel about death given that they just know they go to Bastion or wherever and they just chill, you know?
There's a couple of interesting, I think, RP conversations that occur around the world, that you could find too. But I think the TLDR there is that death, to the majority of the citizens of Azeroth, is still an uncertainty. Everybody didn't come into the Shadowlands with us, and we haven't found all of the afterlives necessarily. So I think there's still also an aspect of, you have to go to the arbiter, right? And you have to be judged still, and you can still be placed in a place like Revendreth where your pride is ultimately pulled out of you. And there are still other after lives that we're not sure about. So there's still quite a bit of uncertainty there. And if I was a random person in Goldshire, I think I would still be terrified about the idea of an unknown that, some people came back from, but not everybody, and definitely not my grandmother. So I would probably still be freaked out.
Zachary from Twinfinite:
I wanted to talk about, since we're on the topic of more lore stuff, there's a phenomenon I see in a lot of MMOs, TV shows, stuff like that, that I call Dragon Ball Z syndrome, where we're constantly stepping up the enemy's power level constantly, constantly, constantly. And now that we've been to the afterlife, we've battled gods, we've done all this crazy stuff, there's a giant sword stuck in Azeroth, how do you keep players invested in the smaller stories? This player has fought Argus and now he's helping out a tuskarr pick his herb garden. What's a challenge to keep players invested in the little story still?
I think the interesting villains, most interesting villains and most interesting characters, in general, aren't necessarily the most powerful, and I think that's the... building up the future driving forces of World of Warcraft. A big part of that is, is crafting interesting villains and giving them nuance.
I don't think Arthas was interesting because he was powerful. He was interesting because he went through a really meaningful character transformation and he became a tragic hero. same thing with Illidan. He wasn't interesting because he was super powerful. He was pretty powerful, but he was interesting because of that nuance. I think that, to me is the fun part about crafting future elements, crafting everything from the tuskarr that you meet by the side of the road, all the way to the duck that you meet up at the beginning of the expansion, to major villains like the headlining villain of this expansion, the incarnates, one of which I think, you only briefly have heard about Iridikron, and you may have seen a slight wince from Alexstrasza when she heard that. But starting to build up those characters as themselves, interesting to follow. And because it makes them make interesting choices and do interesting things that you wouldn't necessarily expect is, oftentimes I think, more satisfying than just straight up destroying the world. So it'll be interesting to see what the future of the Dragonflights is once all is said and done at the end of the Vault of the Incarnates raid.
Battle Pet Improvements
Adrian from But why though?:
With how fresh the Dragonriding system feels in terms of the physics and the talent trees and the customizations, are there any talks of implementing a rework or an update for the pet battle system to bring a new dynamic to that, either in Dragonflight or or beyond?
Pet battles is one of those awesome evergreen systems that we would like to, definitely make it easier for players to onboard into. I think we have some plans for looking into that and I'd like to announce today, but we would definitely like to make pet battles continue to be an ongoing evergreen system, that is easy for players to get into and play with. One of the advancements that we did make to the pet battle I know for hardcore pet battlers, in Dragonflight is that the pet battle bonus event is no longer exactly tied with the week that it was. It's now a bonus to other bonus events so that you can have a Super Squirt Day more often. It will no longer be a Super Squirt Day in like two and a half years. It'll come up more frequently.
Michael MMO Champion:
Hey, another one from the community, will changes be made to legacy raids to make them easier to farm, such as giving skip options to older raids and reducing the difficulty of Battle for Azeroth raids?
I don't think we have anything particular to announce about that today, but we're always looking for options there to, especially for older raids that are at least a couple of expansions in the past and are really difficult to solo yet. Please let us know if there's anything that comes up that is really feeling like, this is extra awkward, or etc.
Greg from Shack News:
I want to talk about Dragonriding from an engineering standpoint, what were some of the challenges? I've read that simulating physics in an MMO game as large as Warcraft is very, very difficult, and this seems like either if it's simulated, it feels really good. Talk about some of the challenges when you were creating this hyper realistic type physics flying, in your game for the first time.
So the movement system was architected a long time ago, and when it was first created, it was definitely not with this kind of physics and math in mind.
So when I first started prototyping, okay, can we actually add momentum? Can get, can we get some kind of physics into, into our system? one of the things that was a little bit clear from the beginning was that the typical way in which you would go and implement physics, it was not like we could not just take the same techniques and bring that into WoW very easily. We needed to like get a little bit creative into how we were going to implement that. So really a lot of the focus was like, okay, can we actually get this physics into the system without heavily having to refactor our movement system? One of the strengths of the movement system is how responsive it is, and in order for us to achieve that, we need to implement the math in a very specific way.
So how to figure out to get that math, with the new physics that we have in math, it was basically the main difficulty that we had when we were trying to see how we were going to make this work. I mean, at the end of the day, I think as we progress, as we actually got a lot of this physics in, which by the way, is actually real physics, but what we did discover is that at the end of the day, we did a few changes in our movement system here and there to be able to support it properly. We were very careful though about not changing, no, not making, very future factors in the movement system that would ultimately compromise the actual feeling of how response that it can feel.
Jeremy from Wowhead:
I wanted to ask, what can we expect from Dragonriding in the future? I know it's been a pretty big hit. Id it something we can see more races, or maybe even custom races where players can set up their own courses and stuff?
I think the future is always TBD, but we're excited to see how players like the system and especially the races. Yeah, it's been a while since we've done, sort of outdoor sandbox big, large scale multiplayer activities. So, it's great to see that there. We'll be able to see how many players are able to hit gold in all of our dragon races together. But yeah, really super excited to see. Like we were talking about earlier, these very thematic activities and really going deep on each individual theme I think is the fun and interesting way to think about the outdoor world. I'll be looking forward to, see how everybody feels about it and what you would like to see in the future. Cause we're always looking to continue evolving there.
Liz from Blizzard Watch:
When you were developing Dragonriding, I saw it go through a lot of iterations on the beta as to how soaring worked and how all the mechanics worked. How long did you feel it took to get Dragonriding feeling right, because it's gone through a lot to get to where it is right now?
So I think we started. And you can correct me, Jeremy, but I think we started working on Dragonriding last year, maybe somewhere in April. And ever since then, we've been doing a whole bunch of iteration from the very beginning. One of the things that I used to do when I started like implementing some of these of these physics was even though the math was not complete at multiple points, many people in the team internally were the Dragonriding team. But then we like started showing this to many other people within the World Craft team. We want to know how this is feeling, for you guys. Are we going into the right direction? It was very interesting because one of the things that I cared a lot, especially from the engineering side, because I knew, well, the math is not complete, which means that some of this may actually feel a little bit weird. But a lot of what of the input that we're getting is like, okay, I see what you're going with this. Like, yes, there's some openness here and there, but I understand where you guys are going with this and it start like, it is really cool. It's a really cool idea.
So there was a lot of iteration, not just in Alpha/Beta, but also internally we're starting testing these very, very early on and listening to a lot of the feedback that we we're getting. And obviously when we actually went into Alpha, Public Alpha and Beta, and be paying a whole bunch of attention to what all players were saying. Like if the system felt natural, like whenever, like there was a little bit some up tuning, like are players actually responding to this. But yeah, it was definitely a lot of iterations. I think it's one of the systems that potentially we may have iterated the most so far.
Elliot from Tech Radar:
So, around dragon riding, I guess it's a bit of an evolution of the questions already asked. I was interested in the ideation of that system in Alpha and Beta. I think the players first got their hands on it they thought, oh my God, this looks really similar to the system that was in Guild Wars two, for example. I was just asking about how did that idea come about? What research did you do? What other systems did you see in other games to really get a feel of what could work in WoW?
The initial idea for Dragonriding, came out of a discussion with our lead animator, who was really looking into making flying feel a little bit different. The very first thing we had implemented was, banking , because you could apply that to just a drake that we had and see kind of how it felt, and that felt great. Oh, it felt really cool to be able to go left and right and have your thing do this a little bit. And that required a small amount of additional animations for. This is when the team there was very small and just doing some initial prototyping. And I think that really started helping drive the feature in a direction of exactly what is the important thing. What are the chasing pillars. One of the pillars being that this needs to feel like a fast, fluid, very visceral system. And that ended up being the core of the system. It does feel like you're flying, you're swooping and you're diving, and you can point to a whole bunch of different movies that have done that effectively. So we're out there, we're taking examples from everywhere that has that. Everything from the wings need to come out and then come back, and it needs to be in a moment where I'm changing speed so that I get a feeling of that speed. That's when we're asking for a request for things like the VFX are on the outside. So it feels like you're gaining multiple different levels of speed. The field of view changes, the fact that your Drake has a little bit of drag to it. All those little nuanced elements that come out of that one driving pillar. It should feel like a heavily controllable, highly gameplay first, but also fluid and fun and awesomely animated system. And that sort of ended up driving the result.
I think there's a lot of different places you could have probably taken a dragon buddy system. It could have been a summon that comes with you all the time. I know that combat is exactly, the direction you would want to take that, but it could have been a bunch of different things. but I think ultimately focusing down on making it a fun way to traverse the world and to make the world feel like more of a three dimensional aspect where you care about jumping off of cliffs and you care about going into ravines. And it ended up being the major pillar that we followed, that took us to where we got to in the end.
Elliot from Tech Radar:
You mentioned that the world, for example, was designed with Dragon riding in mind. I was wondering what stage of the process of the expansion development that Dragonriding was decided as one of the core parts of the expansion.
I think we knew it was going to be one of the major elements of the expansion, as May was saying, as early as early last year. Because that's around about the same time when you're making core decisions about percentage of negative space and stuff like that. So pretty early on in the development process. It takes a long time to dial in elements. There were so many things that came in at the end. Everything from the summon animation and the little dust poofs that hit when you hit the ground, that help take it from, okay, I can see what this is and it's pretty cool and it kind of gets me from A to B pretty quick, and we can design a world around that, to this really feels like a V2 of mounting in our game. And we've taken a look at every single of those little aspects and things like talking to the environment team about bringing the cloud layers down so it feels like you can fly through some of the cloud layers and stuff like that. As with anything there's multiple different stages there of dialing things in, but it was from relatively the very beginning that we knew we wanted this to be a gigantic space because we knew you were going to be flying a dragon through it. Whatever that ended up looking like, we knew we wanted you to be flying a dragon through it.
Tomas from BlizzPlanet:
Once players unlock dragonriding around the third chapter of the Broken Shores, can they stop questing to go collect all the dragon glyphs around the Dragon Isles within two hours? Or will there be time gates? By the way, once you unlock the entire planetary dragon riding is a whole different experience; I loved it in Beta.
No, you can actually go and basically fully upgrade Dragonriding from the very beginning. There is nothing that's stopping you from doing that.
Zachary from Twinfinate:
I just wanted to preface this by saying I really, really love the new Dragonriding system. I like to be in the role play community and after testing my Dracthyr playing around with Soar and how the new physics feels, it's not the same going back to my Pureblood firehawk. Going forward, do you think that you're going to have mounts all be on this new physics system or do you think it might be more of a half and half where some could, some may not, or maybe a toggle of some sport?
Not quite sure yet. We're looking forward to the Dragonriding system hitting in a couple weeks and getting massive player feedback on it. Really happy with the response so far as we hope everybody digs it and we'll see what the future lies there. I'll tell you that engineering has given us an awesome suite of cool physics related toys to play with there, so if you have any future ideas for additional, other locomotion types that you'd like to see that are similar, we'd love to hear them.
Jeremy from Wowhead:
I just wanted to ask a quick question about professions. Cooking and fishing don't have any specializations. Was there any particular reason these were left out?
I think they just ended up going down a particularly different path of how they wanted to the systems to play out. They're pretty deeply entwined with all the tuskarr stuff and so they ended up, the quest lines and how they're integrated, ended up playing out a little bit differently. And they have a lot of tuskarr specific activities, like group scenarios where everybody gets together and makes a feast, and group fishing activities where you all pull on fishing lines and pull against each other, and play a little tug of war and stuff. So it just ended up being different implementation that's a lot more focused on the activities themselves.
Momo at Laptop Mag:
How far can I get an item level with crafted gear, especially with the new profession system. Will I find that the armor I'm making through leatherworking is enough to take my rogue into mythic raids? Is this a situation where I can focus super hard on my professions and find that it's good enough to keep me up with everyone else?
We can get you the exact item levels, probably offline. I don't have them offhand, but the idea is yeah, for professions at the very highest level to be competitive, at least as far into the Mythic Plus ecosystem as feels appropriate. But yeah, we'll make sure to get back to you with sort of the exact numbers that we have dialed in.
Michael from MMO Champion:
People wanted to know, are there still plans to add the ability to transmog white and gray quality items?
This is still something that we'd like to pursue. It requires a little bit of tech work, but it's still on our list of future improvements we'd like to make for sure.
Jez from Windows Central:
I'm curious about controller support, because with the rise of the steam deck and a bigger emphasis on accessibility and stuff like that, increasingly I'm seeing, requests for add-ons that support controllers and there's controllers with paddles and all that kind of stuff, but traditionally World Warcraft has been a mouse and keyboard kind of game. With renewed emphasis on the UI and improving some of the core aspects of the game, does official controller support ever come up within the engineering team? And, if so, what are your thoughts on that?
We've, we've been actually working on supporting player control, for a little bit now. I think the first time we introduced that was 9.2? I think maybe getting that a little bit wrong, but it is something that we're actually working. For us, a lot of this comes from wanting to make the game much more accessible. So accessibility is our main goal when it comes to control support, and this is an ongoing effort from the engineering team trying to make sure that we are actually supporting controllers. That is working currently correctly with a lot of our different inputs.
I know that engineering has been working very closely with our UI team too, to actually make sure that everything that we're doing, it actually feels very natural for people. They've been working out how the UI is going to be displaying some of these controllers. For Dragonriding, for example, we've actually been trying our best to actually be tested and making sure that it just feels good to play, but it is definitely an ongoing effort and something that we're very excited about to be able to provide to people.
We have some awesome accessibility experts on the team. Huge thanks to them for constantly pushing us in this direction. We've made some great accessibility improvements in Dragonflight. We put out a whole blog post about it. Very happy with all of those improvements. They include improved support for our players that find it easier to use controllers, but also we've gone through the UI with an eye towards things like what font we're using and what colors are we using, and making sure that all those are accessible or at least provide the maximum number of options to players that we can. Also on the Dragonriding side of things, we recognize that Dragonriding isn't for everybody and it's relatively difficult to control your way through in some ways for some players. So we've provided a way for players to turn themselves into a whelp and ride along with other players in that way. They can still get to places and experience the follow experience that they were used to without having to do the swooping diving and Dragonriding. So something that we're always thinking about. And again, huge shout out to the accessibility team that has really been headlining this effort. They've been doing an awesome job and it's great to be able to bring these improvements to the players.
Liz from Blizzard Watch:
I was curious about Dragonriding and accessibility. We talked about earlier about the ability to follow another player on a whelp, but one of the good things about normal flying is you can just kind of click a button and you fly, and this is a much more interactive system. So I was wondering how you felt about people who had disabilities, people who maybe had slower reaction times, or people on even laggy connections? Do you feel the system is something accessible to all players of all abilities?
We've endeavored to make the baseline Dragonriding experience, if you fly up and you press your make me go higher button a couple of times and you aim yourself forward, you should be able to get just about anywhere you want to go, and it should be a fast and, and still fast and fluid and fun experience. And if you want to do a lot of sweeping diving, that's great, but we're always looking for everybody to enjoy our systems as much as possible, so it's going to hit all of masses pretty soon. We'll be looking forward to your feedback there. And we're intending for Dragonriding to be a system we continue adding to in the future. So as everything that we want to be an evergreen system, we would love to, at the same time continue, to make it as accessible as possible to players. I don't think we would be looking for a whelp ride along system to be our long term solution there. I think we'll be looking for more robust long term solutions for sure.
Tomas from Blizzplanet:
What was your role in Dragonflight and what features were you both involved with?
So my main role, I work on the Dragonriding feature. Specifically, I'm a gameplay engineer, so my main role was to actually go and implement basically all the physics in our movement system, to be able to have this new Dragonriding mechanic that players seems to be really liking so far. And in part of that, it's also working very closely with design to figure out, okay, so how it is that we're going to be using this new tech that we have, what it is that you guys need to actually be able to use this so you can give all the fantasy of you have these really cool dragons with you that you can now ride through the world.
I help oversee the quest content and world building groups. They each have their own specific sub leads, but they sort of help direct things.
Michael from Dot eSports:
My biggest question comes in the form of more of a holistic approach because it feels like Dragonflight has introduced more new features and updated game systems than many other past expansions have, especially in recent times between professions being updated, talents revamp, Dragonriding, you name it, it's a whole new ballgame. I want to know how you guys have managed to keep WoW grounded during this development period while keeping the game fresh and making it still feel like WoW. What have those challenges been like for you?
I think that, part and parcel, the great majority of the discussions about both talents and the UI side of things is these are evergreen systems within them, last for a really long time when we were able to continue adding to the talent system in the future. And of course we want to continue revamping different elements of the UI into the future as well.
So what was the way to really keep the heart and soul of WoW, while also revamping things in a way that felt new and fresh and provided more options for players and provided some of those many years of functionality that we've been looking at, especially on the UI side of things. And then on the talent side of things with retaining class identity while also allowing players to branch out in sort of that Classic WoW or Wrath of the Lich King style way, where you could have a little bit of your own uniqueness and identity. Getting to an earlier question, there's another way that players can really, express themselves in this particular expansion. I think that was probably one of the driving forces behind splitting the talent tree into really two halves where you have the class half and then the spec half. It lets you have one part that feels really classic core of that fantasy of that original class. And that felt like it hearkened back to really the sentiment of originally Classic talent trees where you had a lot of the lower points where everybody would put all their points kind of broadly on everything, you almost felt like you had like a class specific talent tree for that.
And then on the world design side of things, I think that getting back to a really Azerothian space, getting back to dragon stories, and tuskarr stories, and giant otters, and fire giants flinging giant arrows at you, that's just a classic World of Warcraft story. You really focus on exploration this expansion from the moment that you step off the boat. You're going to be attacked by protodragons. Members of your exploration carried off to various different precarious locations, you're going to find your first baby duck. The whole thing needs, should feel like a whimsical world of Warcraft space. And I think the art and design teams have really done a fantastic job of getting that across. And then, like May was saying earlier, really one of the bylines for Dragonriding was this needed to feel like a World of Warcraft system, it shouldn't feel like a different mount system. It should feel like an evolution of our existing systems. Control is king, really. Game play first needs to be a core element of that.
Yeah. And I think also, one of the pillars for World Warcraft has always been, the world is one of our main characters and I see Dragonriding, which actually makes you pay so much attention about the design of the world. I know what one of the things that I think Dragonriding, even though it's the new system, it actually makes you feel like you're more connected, like you're interacting with the world a lot, much more.
Dom from Wicked Good Gaming:
Really pumped for Dragonflight. I already spent my prerequisite 20,000 hours in the character creator, getting the Dracthyr all set. With customization comes identity and I think player identity has always been for me, in all my time playing WoW, has been huge. I think Legion was probably the pinnacle of that for the game for me. Class identity had never been stronger, and just kind of feeling like you were in the boots, or robes, or plate of your character never felt more grounded. I do think that we kind of got away from that with BFA and with Shadowlands, where it seemed like everybody had their different things to do, but the identity of the player wasn't as strong. With the new focus on customization and giving players so many options to distinguish themselves, but also fighting for a common cause, and with all the unified Alliance and Horde stuff now, how has Player Identity evolved as we go into Dragonflight?
It's an interesting question, because I think we've had a couple of different minor directions that I think get to a little bit of your point. The refocus on class design sets on the grade side of things, I think has been interesting. Allowing us to really focus in on making individual class armor sets that make you feel like that class again, has been a lot of fun. And, sort of similarly on the profession side of things, I think one of the major focuses we had there was, I really wanted it to make you feel like you were that profession. Like when you were doing that profession's activities, you should be decked out in a cool hat, in a mining pick and etc. and you should feel like you're a member of that profession. That was really a large focus of our profession revamp. And then outside of that, I think the focus on this being a really exploration based expansion pack will allow players to really carve out a unique identity for themselves. How you want to spend every day, what you want to do, if you want to go off on centaur hunts, if you want to do tuskarr feasts, and how you want to specialize your character, is really up to the player. And because the weekly bonus that you're going to be doing that just wrapped around all of these things, allows you to do really any of these things as a way to accomplish that.
So you may have some players that focus specifically on tuskarr activities and end up becoming the best cooks or the best feasters, or some specifically focus on the Valdrakken Accord or specifically focus on mountain climbing. And that's awesome to see. Preventing that opportunity for people to play the sandbox that they want to play it, I think provides, one of those, like you're saying like unique opportunities for players to express themselves in particular direction and really stand out amongst everybody else's, "Hey, I'm the guy that unlocked his Otter Mountain first," or "I'm the person that got this cool Dragonriding skin first."
Cass from Polygon:
In Shadowlands we saw some more player customization options and Dragonflight also has not only the Dracthyr Evoker and all of their forms, but the Dragonflight or the Dragon Riding you can customize. I'm curious about how you see customization moving forward throughout Dragonflight and if we'll see perhaps more Dracthyr, such as more visage forms or anything else that you think might be in the cards.
You know, I think customization is one of those things where, as we started adding it to some of our existing races and classes, players just really responded positively to it, and that's awesome. That's awesome to see people love individual customizations. We went completely crazy with the Dracthyr, the number of options for both the Dracthyr and the evoker up, up into the multiple levels of trillions. and I think players respond to really possibly that already few people who spent a good chunk of time in the dressing room making really cool looking Dracthyr and posting them all over social media and everything. That's been awesome to see. And the same thing with the, like you were mentioning, with the Dragonriding dragons, like there's, there's four different body types that you get to choose from, and then within each of those, there's over 80 different customizations. You can customize your horns and your, saddle and your, stripes, and all kinds of other stuff there. It's the most customizable amount we've ever done. So we've really doubled down on customization, understanding that this is something that everybody is really excited about. Really happy to see what the response has been there.
We're looking forward to what additional things in the future players want to see. I think that, we're definitely going to be looking into adding future additional customizations for a lot of our existing, races in the future. TBD on a lot of that, but we know players are really excited about it, so be able to talk about that more in the future. And all the boomkin players, we haven't forgotten you.
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