Rise of Azshara is the next big update coming to World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth. While we don’t know when it will arrive, we do know a lot about it thanks to its arrival on the PTR and thanks to several articles here at MMORPG.com detailing its contents.
As a result of the widely known information about v8.2, last week’s interview during the media summit was a bit tricky. However, World of Warcraft’s Lead Encounter Designer Morgan Day and Senior Game Producer Shani Edwards had new things to offer around a few very particular portions of 8.2.
The Lore Part
I’ve always been a keen reader of the WoW official forums, in particular, the Story Forum and have always loved the lore of the game. The things that people have come up with in terms of how they interpret various in-game events and conversations are nothing short of brilliant...though in most cases, particularly with regard to Battle for Azeroth, they’ve turned out to be so much of nothing (*gives a nod to Game of Thrones Season 8) --
There are at least two topics, however, that have generated more than their fair share of conversations: Tyrande Whisperwind / Night Elves and Sylvanas vs “Tribal Horde”. I would have felt remiss had I not asked.
If you’re even a casual visitor to the WoW Story Forum, it is apparent that Night Elf fans have felt somewhat let down by the story since the burning of Teldrassil. Many feel that there remains a need for vengeance despite Tyrande’s ascension to the Night Warrior. Others believe she deserves a place in the spotlight in v8.2 with its setting in Nazjatar and the presence of Queen Azshara. After all, Tyrande knew Azshara before the Sundering and was even invited into her inner circle.
Tyrande should be there not because she wants to help the Alliance or not because she is following the Horde to end them. She should be there because she knows first hand the danger Azshara is. She has witnessed the horrors that woman can unleash and how night elves and herself are usually the targets or Azshara’s rage.
My question then became twofold: Would we be seeing more of Tyrande the Night Warrior and would she have a presence in Nazjatar? Sadly, at least for the time being, Tyrande’s story has been told.
Shani began by saying that Tides of Vengeance gave the team its chance to “tell a little bit of Tyrande’s story” but that the focus in Nazjatar is going to shift to delve into other characters and to see more of what Sylvanas and Anduin are up to.
“I think she had her moment where we told some of her story and she got her revenge for the Night Elves. I don’t think we’re exploring her story too much more in Nazjatar though.” Shani said.
Morgan picked up the conversation. “The problem is there is so much to be told. Everyone has characters they want to expand on, but we also want to introduce new ones and to find ways to weave those stories together. With Rise of Azshara, the emphasis is on Sylvanas and Azshara herself. They are the focus. There’s just so much happening.”
The two agreed that there are so many stories to tell and they want to tell those stories because players get so attached to some characters. They want to do as many of them as possible and to do them justice. Nazjatar is the venue to do just that.
Moving to Sylvanas, I wanted to hear developers speak to her fans. So much has been heard from the “tribal” Horde via the Saurfang cinematics and through the questline to rescue him. Players were even given a chance to support the warchief by not participating in his rescue and those who made that choice feel that the direction the story is moving will ultimately leave them behind in favor of the “right choice”. The question then became, “What do you say to Sylvanas fans or those players who chose her because they didn’t like the gist of the Saurfang story?”
Shani came out the gate first by saying, “I would tell Sylvanas fans that her story definitely isn’t over yet. We have a lot more to tell. She’s not Garrosh 2.0. She has a lot more going on. Don’t want to spill anything, but there is a ton more coming for Sylvanas’s story.”
Morgan added what I felt was the most interesting view I’ve heard from any developer when it comes to Sylvanas: “With the Sylvanas aspect, there are two sides here: People in the Saurfang / Baine camp and the people who are with Sylvanas.”
“Put yourself in the shoes of someone in the Horde. They’ve known nothing but conflict for over 20 years. They believe that Sylvanas is the person who will bring an end to this. She’s the one who can unite the Horde in ways it’s never been before. You can see how people would want that. They might think, “I would like to know peace, please. Sylvanas will get us there.” The people know what Baine and Saurfang and Thrall lead to -- it’s just the same conflict they’ve seen. Sylvanas is bringing something no one’s ever brought before. So it’s interesting to see different sides of that. She has a plan.”
What that means and how it will all play out remains to be seen. Whether she ultimately becomes a loot pinata or will receive some type of redemption arc is something that only time will tell.
The Other Cool Stuff
With lore out of the way, we took a bit of time to explore some other aspects of 8.2 that may not have yet been discussed. In particular, I wanted to know more about PvP in Rise of Azshara. Would we see a return of PvP vendors? The short answer is no. However, the team has plans for more player agency when it comes to the acquisition of gear in 8.2.
Morgan tackled this question at the start. “We’ve tried to give people more agency within the conquest schedule to get those items and to give them more agency in getting those items. We’re always trying to iterate on that. We’re looking at Quartermaster coins to give people more opportunities to earn trophies which give higher ilevel loot. But there are no plans for RoA to add a specific PvP vendor.”
Shani added that there are other cool things with regard to PvP including the new Robodrome arena, the addition of Ashran to the Epic Battleground queue and the new war mode PvP experience out in Nazjatar that will see factions trying to capture towers to gain a special buff and to earn a special currency (think Outland Nagrand).
Then the two exchanged a look before revealing that players will be able to pick up new Essences via PvP, including one that lets players choose an additional PvP Talent. Most interestingly, that talent will remain present even when participating in PvE content.
“There’s a ton of new options and things for players to go after including PvP essences. The rated PvP essence where if you go through rated PvP you can get an essence to give you an extra talent. We thought it would be cool, but make it for PvP. Since it’s an essence, it’s part of your character. That’s an opportunity for people to use some of those PvP talents in PvE situations. You might have PvEers looking at essences to wonder how to get that.”
So, in essence (see what I did there?), players can earn an Essence for rated PvP, but there is also one available for war mode PvP and even one for unrated PvP including battlegrounds and PvP islands.
Shani added that one of the best things about the essences is that players know up front what they want and exactly how to get it. “With the essence system, you can decide which ones you want and then go get them,” she said.
One small aside is that Tol Barad will not be joining the Epic Battlegrounds queue, at least in the short term. The team has heard that players didn’t want to see it added, but that is something that can change depending on player feedback.
Transmog, Customization & Goblin / Worgen Models
Goblin and Worgen fans will be pleased to hear that the long-awaited model update for each will be arriving in a future content patch.
“Shortly after Rise of Azshara, you’ll see that,” Morgan explained. “These are the two races that haven’t been updated. They’ll have new heritage armor with that as well.”
In addition, Morgan explained that devs are always looking at how transmog rules work and how they can tweak them to allow more player agency. In Rise of Azshara, for instance, players will be able to “hide” their chest armor. This decision came as a result of the community’s passion for the tattoos that are seen on Nightborne, Demon Hunters, Kul Tirans and Zandalari. Players wanted to be able to see them and provided tons of “awesome screens and threads of great characters with awesome tattoos on their chests.
“We took a look at the transmog rules and made the decision to transmog the chest plate off to show tattoos,” Shani said.
When asked when players might be able to wear bunny ears or fancy dresses all year (versus just during event times), the answer is a bit vaguer as is the answer to whether or not players might be able to transmog using gray items.
Morgan explained, “That’s been part of the discussion too. There are all these cool transmogs. There are small, but silly things we’re always looking at like the rolling pin or the pitchfork. We’re really looking at the base rules of transmog. We want you to have more player agency.”
Those who are looking for even more customization for older races may have a while to wait.
Shani said, There are plans for more customization, but I can’t really speak to them right now. It’s always in our mind and something we want to do. We talk about it internally and want to give players more options.”
We’re really looking forward to the arrival of Rise of Azshara into the live game with all of the new places to explore and its particular story. What are you most looking forward to?