World of Warcraft: Legion is releasing tonight at approximately 7PM NZST. To celebrate the occasion, we sat down with character artist Genevieve St-Michel and technical game designer Chadd Nervig to discuss just how Blizzard is reinvigorating the long-standing MMO
Hi, I’m Keith from NZGamer.com. Thanks for sitting down to talk to us about Legion!
Chadd: Absolutely, great to be here!
Can you give us a rundown of the big changes coming with Legion?
Chadd: Sure. There’s a lot of new content. The Burning Legion is returning, and there is a lot of turmoil between the Horde and Alliance, especially after some very exciting events early in the storyline.
The other key features are a new class – the Demon Hunters. You can use the demonic power of the Legion against them. The Demon Hunters – run by Illidan – have awoken. They have a very distinct fighting style. Very mobile, dashing around, and unleashing demonic fury with their warglaives.
There’s also Artifact weapons. Every class, and every specialisation of each class, gets a unique Artifact weapon which becomes a powerful source of progression and performance throughout the expansion. You get to power up and level up your Artifact, and customise it to your liking.
Genevieve: Yeah a couple of my favourite things – just because so much has been added with Legion – was we really focused on making all the classes feel super special and unique. That kinds of sprouts off our Artifacts, where all the classes have been tweaked a little bit to differentiate them from each other. So picking your spec Is very important, but you can also fluidly change specs through your gameplay as you go.
In addition, we’ve added quality of life features to the game. We’ve introduced scaling zones in the Broken Isles, where you can team up with a friend that’s a completely different level than you, and play and enjoy the experience together without one of you dragging the other down because of the level discrepancy. It’s much more enjoyable that way.
I used to be a huge WoW player back in the day. While I’ve kept a surface level interest on each expansion, what is there to get a lapsed player like me back in?
Chadd: Absolutely. There’s a few things to comment on there.
For one thing, even if you are a lapsed player, Legion comes with a free boost that brings your character up to level 100 so you can get started right away. It also fluidly teaches your abilities with a tutorial, so it’s a great kick start package there.
Additionally, from the point-of-view of someone who was really into the game, enjoyed playing extensively, but doesn’t have time for a steady commitment to something like hardcore raiding, we’ve also got our new system called Mythic Plus Dungeons. With them, you can keep cranking up the difficulty harder and harder on our dungeons – which are wonderful now, in Legion – and get rewards commensurate with that.
What were some of the biggest lessons you learnt coming out of Warlords – both from a design and artistic perspective – and how did those lessons influence Legion?
Genevieve: Yeah so another feature we’ve added is the Order Hall. People see that as a natural progression from the garrisons. We’ve all heard that garrisons did get a little stale in Draenor, and we took a lot of lessons from that. We’ve worked very hard on making the Order Halls a great experience.
You’re in there with everyone from your class – Horde and Alliance together – and a lot of your storyline quests evolve from the class hall itself.
It ties it into the world, and makes for a very fulfilling experience. The hall itself also has your followers, which is somewhat similar to garrisons. They’re very tied in to the lore. If you’ve been playing the class for a long time, you’ve probably already heard of all these followers you’re going to collect. It makes the halls very personal to you, as you play.
Chadd: We learned a lot from the garrison, which was keeping you in them. This is now quite different. The Order Hall is a launch point for you; missions, quests and other things are there, and they send you out into the world. But now, you can use followers as combat allies, so you can pick whichever one you prefer, and they assist you when you’re out questing in the world. They go on and give you rewards that are sending you back out to the world too.
Genevieve: It also helps having a follower join you out in the world. You can now go out in the world and go questing as a healer. You can pick followers that will help you tank. If healing is your jam, go out there and do it!
Chadd: We also drastically increased how much damage healers do, so that even without a combat ally – but especially with one – they’re totally fine to level and quest through the Broken Isles.
I imagine one of the hardest parts of your job is working within the bounds of what WoW is: how the art style has been built up over years of content, how classes and systems interact with each other. There’s a lot of expectations going in, not just from fans, but also from what Blizzard has set up. Legion looks to be shaking that up a bit – animations have been redone, a new class introduced. Has this expansion been a chance to stretch your legs creatively?
Genevieve: It really has. We’ve been delicately working on trying to add things that are very impactful. Like you said, a lot of animations for melee have been redone, and that was a very careful, long process to get that updated. The results are super rewarding, everything feels snappy, you can feel the impact. There’s also a lot of audio work done with that – it makes things impactful.
It’s all very necessary, and it was very rewarding. Also from my perspective as a character artist, we delicately added this system that makes it so we can build more on top of armour. So if you look at the tier 19 set that is coming out with Legion, you’ll see that there are extra bits-and-bobs on the armour set. For example, the mages have scrolls on their hips, the priests have ribbons hanging from their sleeves. These little things go a long way in establishing class look.
Just something to look a bit more detailed than the old, flat textures that armour used to be?
Yeah. It’s a very hard limitation we’ve had in the past, but new technology has made that very freeing.
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