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Interviews: PAX Prime 2018 - On Warfronts and with Daniel Stahl & Morgan Day

By William Murphy on April 13, 2018

PAX Prime 2018 - On Warfronts and with Daniel Stahl & Morgan Day

During PAX East, the Blizzard team was there in full force promoting the next WoW expansion: Battle for Azeroth. We managed to sit down with Morgan Day and Daniel Stahl to chat about some of the new PVE content and systems being added to the game, primarily the Island Expeditions and the Warfronts. Read on for part two of our exclusive interview with Daniel and Morgan!

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Bill: So Islands is the personal conflict, where Warfronts would be the more massive battle conflict, right?

So those two aspects fit really well with this story. So when you think about where could we go from this, I think it really depends on where the story goes, and how Battle for Azeroth plays out over the expansion.

Daniel: On top of that, when we develop new technologies and things like this, as a dungeon and raid encounter designer I love to see stuff like this, right? Designers at Blizzard on World of Warcraft are very creative people, and they might see something that was made for one thing, and use it for something completely different from that.

Morgan: One of my favorite stories is during Wrath of the Lich King development we had vehicles, it was one of the new big things that we got, right.

You got in your siege tank, yeah from Wintergrasp. And you get in a turret, and there were these big vehicles that we got this huge new system to help us make cool new content. And I remember seeing the first time someone used it for something else, I was like, "wait, what is that?"

This Gnome was just like, leaping and stomping on cockroaches or something. And I was sitting in some small little POI off in the distance, I was like "how did you do that?"

And he was like "oh yeah, you know that new vehicle thing? You can totally do this completely unrelated thing with it.”

Daniel: And that's one of the awesome things about developing and seeing this new technology. You know, any time we do something like this the intent is alright, let's make it as awesome as we can for Island Expeditions, right? And not put any other constraints on it, cause you don't wanna stretch what it's supposed to do. You wanna make it as cool as it can be for the purpose we made it for, and then once we see how it plays out here, like we said, we'll explore other options and what we can do with it.

Morgan: Yeah, there could be some potential issues if you transfer that AI into dungeons or raids, where right now you know, you learn a fight, you know what you basically do, but if the AI's changing what it's doing that could become problematic.

Bill:  Problematic? It would make raids a whole lot harder.

(laughter)

Morgan: But you're imagining that where they're your, where you're fighting against them, but we could also imagine where they're fighting with you.

Bill: That's true, yeah.

Robin: Yeah but then we can't yell at Khadgar for just standing around, like, can you help us?

Daniel: "You're a powerful wizard, what are you doing?"

Bill:  "No no no, you got this."

Robin: I was gonna move on to Warfronts, cause I don't know how much time we have. So you were talking about how this applies to the Islands, this sort of technology applies to the Islands. Does any of that carry in to the Warfronts then as well?

Morgan: The engine itself, when we build the game, I mean it's all the same executable, it's all the same game you're playing. So there's little bits and pieces that just apply naturally.

Daniel: But when it comes to the features, like Morgan was saying, we develop the features very focused to what they are. And so Warfronts are designed to be this big, massive battle. And so that's a very different feel than Islands, which are these small intimate excursions.

And so the things that you're going to see in Warfronts, I don't know if you've seen the footage--

Robin: I didn't get a chance to see it, no.

Daniel: I think they're going to be coming to beta very soon, beta's going to be coming very soon. So you'll get to see the difference there. And Warfronts is really giving you that feeling of that RTS fantasy that Warcraft started with. It's more about arriving and having to build up your resources and taking the mine, taking the lumber mill--

Bill:  Old Alterac Valley.

Daniel: Yeah exactly, and it's so much fun. Luckily I've been able to play it a bunch, and it really gives you that feeling of being able to communicate with your team and say "hey, we need to go do this objective."  And there's so many different options that you have, working as a team becomes really important. And so the fact that you can also just go grab 20 Warriors out of the Warrior barracks, and say "you 20 follow me, we're going to take this thing." 

That feels really, you feel so--

Bill:  Even by yourself you could do that?

Daniel: Yeah, you can really line up a lot of units behind you, and you become that hero that you remember from Warcraft III. And you're like "we're gonna go take that hill over there," or "we're gonna go take that tower," or "we're gonna go grab the airfield."

And just doing those things unlocks new opportunities for you. So you're gonna see the same kind of challenges that you have with Islands where react, there's a lot of strategic thinking that's gonna go into these types of matches.

Morgan:  Like Daniel said, where Islands Expeditions are that land grab, we just found this deserted island feel that's very intimate that's like "okay, it's me against you buddy."

Warfronts are the other end of the spectrum, it's 20 people, this giant massive battle. But on top of that it's also keeping the war grounded in spaces that we've seen before.

The first Warfront you're gonna see in Battle for Azeroth is the battle for Stromgarde, which takes place in Arathi right?

This is a huge defensive fortress, a foothold that the Horde are gonna want, right? So we're building up towards this war effort, and then we finally launch our war effort, and then it's this massive battle that should feel, like Daniel's saying, more like this big epic scale, something like you might have seen in a Warcraft III, and you're on the ground this time, building up the barracks yourself and sieging across the field, so.

Bill: You can just queue up for them at any time, right? The Warfronts, it's just like anything else you would queue for?

Daniel: Yeah, Warfronts are gonna be different. Islands are more along those ground rules where you're gonna have an island available to you, you can go do it. Warfronts are more of this ebb and flow of, it's Stromgarde Keep, right?

When you take Stromgarde Keep, we're discussing even scene changes in the outdoor world of the zone, right? So this is an effort that we have, take it or hold it, and then if the Alliance holds it, the Horde need to gather resources to launch the assault against the fortress--

Bill:  So you can't just flipit back to each other? Like people used to do in Warhammer, you remember?

Daniel: There's gonna be a benefit to it that really plays into this story of what Battle for Azeroth is, and this is just that first front, right? And as the expansion plays out, I think you'll see how the whole war effort comes together.

Bill:  Will it always be there, or will eventually the war pick a winner for that keep and move on?

Daniel: You'll have to wait and see…

Bill:  I knew that was coming.

(laughter)

Daniel: But honestly, maybe we don't even know yet, right? Because I think that's like asking is the Horde gonna win or the Alliance? It's really cool to let your players kinda lead that.

Morgan:  It's gonna be the Horde.

(laughs)

William Murphy / Bill is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002. Be sure to follow him on Twitter for all of his pointless rambling.