World of Warcraft's latest expansion Legion released late last year, bringing players to the Broken Isles. Patch 7.2: The Tomb of Sargeras is the latest content addition to the MMO juggernaut, and it adds some pretty big features -- like new quest lines, cosmetics, and dungeons.
We managed to shoot some questions towards senior producer Travis Day, and dungeon/raid designer Morgan about some of the changes and additions.
Can you give our readers a brief run-down of what Patch 7.2 delivers?
Travis Day: Patch 7.2: The Tomb of Sargeras is one of WoW’s largest content updates ever, so there is a lot to cover!
In our previous update, Patch 7.1.5, players were able to defeat Gul’dan at the Nighthold and in the process, bring Illidan back. In Patch 7.2, players join forces with Illidan to put an end to the Legion’s invasion in the place where it all began: the Broken Shore—and this time, they have the combined might of their empowered Artifact, unified Class Orders, and the new faction they are a part of, the Armies of Legionfall.
The Broken Shore contains a variety of new content including new World Quests, the Legionfall campaign that unlocks over 11 weeks, new Class Order campaign quests, the Sentinax command ship, and world bosses. There are also cross-faction, region-wide buildings to construct, which open up additional content and bonuses, plus a new dungeon: the Cathedral of Eternal Night.
Beyond Broken Shore, we’ve also added Demon Assaults to the other Broken Isles zones which culminate in a 3-man scenario to take down Legion command ships. Additionally, we’ve added a ton of dungeon updates, such as adding Court of Stars, Arcway, and Upper and Lower Karazhan dungeons to the Dungeon Finder system, and rebaselined the difficulty and rewards of Heroic, Mythic, and Mythic Keystone difficulties. We’ve also got our first-ever Pet Battle Dungeon.
We’ve also added PvP Brawls, which introduce fun twists on Battlegrounds; profession updates and crafted legendary items; new tiers of power to Artifact weapons; and the final achievements for players to unlock flying in the Broken Isles. As I said, there is a lot of great content in this patch!
So this is the second major update arriving for Legion. How has it been building on that expansion’s already solid foundation? Do you find yourself really working hard to figure out what to do next, or is feature creep a real problem when you’re planning updates – that you just don’t know when to stop adding stuff?
Travis: The story and lore are important foundational elements in all our work. With Legion, we’re telling one of the most ambitious stories that we’ve told in World of Warcraft and we’ve had a strong vision for how we want that to play out over the course of Legion’s post-launch updates.
In game development, you always have more good ideas than you have time to implement. Throughout the development process, we are always focused on making the most epic content possible, but remain cognisant of scope and schedule to make sure we deliver that epic content to players in a timely manner.
One of the major complaints with the last expansion Warlords of Draenor was a drought of content. But with Legion you seem to be flipping that on its head, with some huge additions. Were the size and scale of these updates a response to that, or have these patches been significant milestones for Legion since the get-go?
Travis: From the beginning of developing Legion, we recognized that we had a big story to tell and that our post-launch updates would play a huge role in telling that story. We also made a commitment to players with Legion that we are going to continue to provide more regular, meaningful content updates at a satisfying pace, and we hope that Patch 7.2 further demonstrates that commitment.
Raids and dungeons have changed significantly in World of Warcraft in the last decade. The last time I was super serious about WoW’s end-game content was back during Burning Crusade, and back then most encounters were “pull the mobs, tank, and don’t die,” or “don’t move during Flame Wreath.” As new systems are added and player expectations change, has it become more challenging to design PvE content within WoW’s framework?
Morgan Day: I don’t feel it’s become more challenging to design the content over time. If anything, it has become easier as players have gotten more tools in their tool belts, and so have we. Two of the big things that have driven the evolution of encounter design in WoW over the last few years have been the introduction of new classes or class mechanics, like with the Demon Hunter in Legion, and integrating the dungeon’s environment into the encounters themselves. These things don’t necessarily make designing an encounter more difficult, but they’ve opened up additional options and avenues to provide challenges to players in fun and interesting ways, which hopefully translates into more fun and engaging encounters.
For instance, in the Cathedral of Eternal Night dungeon, we integrated the Aegis of Aggramar, one of the Pillars of Creation that the players collected during their adventures on the Broken Isles, as a key story moment of the dungeon experience.
So when you gather to design a dungeon, what are some of the questions you ask yourself at the outset? What do you want to accomplish with each new one?
Morgan: When we set out to create a dungeon, the questions we need to answer right away are ones that set the tone and serve as our guiding light moving forward: Where is this dungeon taking place, and what is the story of the dungeon? Is it a spooky haunted castle, a zany wizard’s tower with a mind of its own, or a tomb that needs to be resealed in order to stop the Legion invasion?
Our goal with dungeons is to create fun and compelling group content that also serves and progresses the story in a meaningful way. With the Cathedral of Eternal Night, we really wanted to showcase two things: you’re climbing this huge tower that is just the tip of the iceberg of the Tomb of Sargeras, and that you’re in there to finally use the first of your hard-earned Pillars of Creation to reseal the Tomb.
On the same note, when I reviewed Legion the game felt like it was harkening back to some of the older days – I found myself dying way more while questing than I did in previous expansions. Has trying to re-capture the danger and wildness of Azeroth also been a big push in Legion, and do you think this patch is building on that?
Travis: Introducing elements of real danger throughout the Broken Isles was a conscious decision during the development of Legion. Carrying that philosophy through in Patch 7.2, the demons on Broken Shore are some of the toughest players will have faced and, in some areas, far tougher. Along these lines we’ve also rebaselined the difficulty and rewards of Heroic, Mythic, and Mythic Keystone dungeons so they continue to be both challenging and rewarding throughout the patch.
Flight is making its way back too, at least, at the end of a lengthy quest line. Has this made you re-think the dynamics of certain zones, like Stormheim’s grappling hook and stuff like that?
Travis: Legion has been designed from the beginning with flight in mind. In the case of Stormheim, the grappling hook was a fun and unique traversal mechanic that added a unique flavour to the zones questing and level design. When players unlock flying, they will have demonstrated a deep mastery of the outdoor world—and grappling hooks—so flying just presents another option for traversing the zone.
With the cadence of patches and content additions, things are changing at a rapid clip. Where do you want World of Warcraft and its next expansion to be by the time you close the book on Legion?
Travis: Our goal for Legion has been to tell a huge story over the course of the expansion. We can’t really speak to the future, but as we continue to tell the story of Legion, there will definitely be more to come. Right now the Tomb of Sargeras patch and the Broken Shore are our primary focus.
I would describe myself as a fair-weather MMO fan – I play vigorously when new expansions launch, and then I usually walk away from them. Are you cognisant of that type of player when you’re designing updates? Or do you design more for the hardcore crowd?
Travis: World of Warcraft has a lot of different kinds of players, and players engage with different content at different levels. Our goal is to provide meaningful content for players all across that broad spectrum. With the wide variety of content in Patch 7.2, we hope everyone will find something to enjoy.
World of Warcraft's latest patch, The Tomb of Sargeras, is available now.