World of Warcraft just launched its latest expansion, Legion, but that didn’t stop Blizzard from securing a huge booth at Seattle’s PAX West and drawing in everyone with the promise of Illidan-themed Pinny Arcade pins. As the internet (and us too) is touting Legion as WoW’s best expansion since Wrath of the Lich King, we sat down with Blizzard’s Luis Barriga, Eric Maloof, and Cory Stockton to chat about the upcoming 7.1 patch, the WoW Legion companion app, and more.
MMORPG: Let’s talk a bit about the revamped Karazhan. You showed of some of it in the panel. Could you tell us about why we’re headed back there and what’s going on?
CORY STOCKTON: Sure, in the pre-expansion content players get to go back to Karazhan with Khadgar. They’re going back to get a very important tome. While they’re in there, the Burning Legion comes knocking. Khadgar tries hurriedly to throw up some defenses, and you can tell that one by one they’re falling. He sends you away back to Dalaran and he stays behind to shore up the defenses. But we know he can’t stay. He has to go to the Broken Isles because he’s needed there for the war against the Legion. So, in 7.1 we’re picking the story up about Karazhan and why the Legion is still interested.
ERIC MALOOF: It’s a little bit different from our other revamps. Where we took something like Blackrock Spire and we pretty much left it mostly intact. We touched up some fights but was mostly the same stuff. In Karazhan, I think players are going to see about a third that’s kind of the same, a third that’s sort of remixed, and then… there’s this area that’s kind of going to blow people’s mind. It’s like the trippiest experience I’ve seen in our game.
MMORPG: No more hints?
ERIC: No, but if you see the video you can see parts of it, but what comes after is what’s going to blow people’s minds. It’s awesome.
MMORPG: There are a bunch of new bosses, right? Any information about some of them you can share?
LUIS BARRIGA: One of the encounters that’s kind of a boss fight is the Chess Match. They really enjoyed the mix-up of combat and gameplay there. We did it a little bit different this time. Chess fights back, basically.
ERIC: Sure, and some of the returning ones you see in the video are Attumen the Huntsman and the Maiden of Virtue. But we really want to keep some of the newer ones close to the vest for now.
MMORPG: Fair enough! Moving right along, you also briefly teased some of the outdoor stuff in Suramar. Expand!
ERIC: Sure, sure. In the expansion, once you get to 110, Suramar unlocks along with a bunch of other content. Story there is that you’re working with a bunch of rebels if you will – they’re called the Nightfallen. Basically nightborn elves that have been separated from the Nightwell. And so that starts to have a deleterious effect on their bodies. Because they’re just not tapped directly into a source of their power. And so, you quest with them, and you rocked back on your heels by the Nightborn and their leader Grand Magistrix Elisande. So in the patch, in 7.1, what we’re doing is turning it around. You’re going on the offensive. Against, really against the rest of Suramar City. So that you can stop Elisande and Legion from achieving their goals.
CORY: The zone itself is very different than all the other zones, even what’s shipping in Legion. It plays through in like a series of chapters, and people who’ve gone through it are sort of left on this cliffhanger. And when 7.1 lands, it unlocks a new chapter and you continue that story and wrap it up.
MMORPG: Is that done via phasing, sort of you need to do what’s pre 7.1 in terms of story before you unlock the content?
LUIS: There’s a little bit of phasing, but there’s also quite a bit of world quest unlocking. One of the things that’s rad, is that it’s a way to give players that want that solo end-game story-based gameplay that maybe with other expansions didn’t get that sort of content in the past. Most of our patches have been “here’s a new raid, here’s a new dungeon.” So I think, I feel, that this is the first time we’ve done a lot of solo-able episodic content.
ERIC: Yeah, we’re rolling it out when 7.1 lands on a weekly basis. Similar to the Khadgar stuff in the pre-Legion patch. Each of those weeks is really meaty, and it really goes towards finishing off that story.
MMORPG: That brings up the next point, a question I have to ask because there’s always an argument in our staff and on our forums – will this be the expansion that you guys have tons of content packed to take us through until the next expansion? It already seems like you’re on a mission to do so, with 7.1 being announced at Gamescom and already getting details on it now.
LUIS: We have the most aggressive patch schedule I’ve seen. And any time people ask us “Well, how many patches are you going to have? Is it a one patch expansion, a two patch…” We don’t answer, and it’s not because we’re being dodgy. We don’t want to put out a number and then end up having to do more or less. We felt like this announcement was our way of saying “Hey, trust us. We mean it.”
CORY: It’ll be on PTR in just a couple weeks.
ERIC: We listen, we do. And the team’s never been bigger than it is right now on WoW.
MMORPG: And we know you’re already working on the next expansion, way after any patches, because that’s just the way things work on a game like this, right?
LUIS: Well, without confirming anything, we have people working on things that are, whether it’s a patch. So there’s definitely things in the works that are not scheduled for at least a while.
We wrapped up our discussion talking about the Legion Companion App, which has already proven to be a fantastic way for players to stay engaged with the game even when they can’t log in. Something I can totally attest to, as I’ve been too busy with work to level past 104 this past week.
We also talked about how Legion feels like one of the most bold and addictive expansions since Wrath of the Lich King. Cory told us how it really all started to click for the team towards the beta. There were a lot of unknowns, new things like scaling zones, the class revamps, and how does the team make sure it all works right? So it wasn’t really until the end when they got a holistic view of it that they started to see “Yeah, this is going to be really good.” As Legion is one of the most system and feature-heavy patches for WoW since its launch, it really needed the time to gel and we’re personally glad it was given that time.
Lastly, I asked the three guys what their favorite new specs are and favorite classes to play. Eric went with the Havoc Demon Hunter – the movement is something he really loves, and he’s finding it hard to go back to his old classes now. Luis loves the Vengeance DH, because of its reactive role in tanking. And Cory, chose a spec near and dear to Robert Lashley’s own heart – the true Marksman Hunter. Without a pet, it’s finally the real archery type class WoW has needed and its ability to kite around is just fun to play.
With that, our brief time with the guys was over as they had about nine million more interviews to run through. Me? I’ve got to finally get out of Stormheim and on to Aszuna, so I’ll bid you guys farewell. Outlaw Rogue for the win.