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From the Mount's Mouth - Blizzard's Alex Afrasiabi Talks Warlords of Draenor
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 01:41pm 12/03/14 | Comments
AusGamers caught up with Blizzard's Alex Afrasiabi who ran us through a short hands-on demo of the new World of Warcraft expansion, Warlords of Draenor, and gave us his two cents on the new content and WoW as a whole. Read on for what he had to say...


Alex Afrasiabi: So, this expansion… here’s how we’re gonna start this thing: what we really want to do, what we set out to do with [Warlords of Draenor] is bring Warcraft back to Warcraft. Bring it back to its roots of Orcs vs Humans -- big, mighty themes that are understandable. And that’s exactly what we do from the get-go.

So if you’re a person that’s perhaps stopped playing, like, during some era or if you’re someone that’s been playing up to the very last second, we’re going to get you into the game immediately with a boost -- so we have that with every single package; every single box that we sell will come with a boost. So if you’re the guy who’s level 65 in Burning Crusade and that was the last time you played WoW but you’re, like, “man, this expansion looks really cool”, boom -- solved. We really wanted to make sure you’re able to play the expansion out of the gate.



So the way we’re setting this up right now is that our pre-launch events are going to involve the Iron Horde -- this is an army of orcs that, we don’t know this yet, the Warlords have effectively established that are marching into Azeroth through the Dark Portal. So the Dark Portal has turned red and things are coming out that are really bad, and so those events are effectively us attempting to stop this -- you know, try to blow up the portal: it doesn’t work. Try to kill the orcs: they just keep coming -- there’s no stopping them. So, Day One ship, right, what are we doing? Well, last ditch effort right! The greatest hero of Azeroth -- you, your character -- as always goes on a suicide mission, basically.

You’re gonna get an army… here’s an army of people [who] also volunteered and you’ll have guys like Thrall in there with you… Khadgar is going to join the cause. [It’s] just an army of people who know that the only way we can stop this is going to the other side and stopping it [from there]. And we don’t even know if that will stop it.

So this Hail-Mary attempt happens and you rush headlong in. So Day One, you can just imagine: Boom, you go through the Dark Portal… if you played Burning Crusade we immediately hit you with just this sense of overwhelming nostalgia where, if you played and you remember you marched through the Dark Portal and the Pit Commander was rolling up with the Fel army behind him -- this will have a similar sense except what you’ll see is not a shadowed land, but a lush, dark [and] foreboding jungle -- which is what Hellfire used to be. And 10,000 really, really angry orcs.

So from the get-go what we’re doing is, it’s going to be a 45 to an hour-long [intro] experience, similar to the Death Knight; the starting experience is going to be a very tailored, linear story type of thing. Similarly here, we’re taking this opportunity for both new and returning players to go “this is what this expansion’s about” -- this is the imperative laid before you: you’re the last hero of Azeroth at this point; you’re rolling in and you do end up stopping the portal, but temporarily at best. What you’ve now seen though, is the face of your enemy, so we introduce you to each and every one of those Warlords through this experience.

AusGamers: I’m curious about the concept of getting the boost and being able to play at such a high level, right off the mark. If you’ve never really played WoW before, or scratched the height of that level, what’s that introduction like? Because, to me, it’s massively daunting...



Alex: It is daunting. It’s absolutely daunting. I feel like it’s one of those things that as we’re building it out, the problems are coming up and we’re solving them. And I think one of them is an overall solve for the combat system in general which is… we’re simplifying. You know, if you think about WoW it’s an old game and as the years have progressed we’ve just kept adding, right. So it’s interesting because we never take away class abilities -- we generally just keep adding class abilities and you get to this point where you’re, like, “wow, we’ve really built a lot of complexity into the game, you know.

For better or worse, right?

And so one of the things we’re actively doing right now is simplifying. So we’re going through and we’re making it so there are certain abilities… do you really need to cast that buff?! Every five minutes?! You know, things like that, that aren’t really interesting things to do. [We] just cut it, you know, just making smart decisions to the combat system where it’s better. And that makes our jobs explaining a class that’s boosted, easier. Yeah you may have 20 buttons as a ret paladin or whatever, but you’re going to be effective enough by the time you finish that intro experience I was talking about, to be able to succeed. And the hope is that it grips you, that we get you in and that you love it.

AusGamers: Have you had much feedback from regular, consistent players who worked hard to reach their high levels? Are they upset with the idea of the boost at all?

Alex: No, no. Well I don’t want to understate this saying “not at all” but for the most part no. If you think about it WoW is also a game of achievements and accomplishments and I feel like me as a level 90 player and those 100s of hours I spent in WoW or whatever that number might be, I have the achievements and the titles; the rare mounts and rare titles, the rare armour and all this other stuff and you’re not getting that in the boost -- we’ll give you the gear you need to succeed, we’ll get you to the level you need to succeed, but now it’s your turn to become the hero. Now you [need to] become that guy you saw: the guy with the crazy shoulder pads and the insane sword and the flaming horse, right. We’re not giving you that, you need to earn that.

AusGamers: Is the idea, where Garrisons are concerned, to be able to take them into Azeroth at some point after the expansion is released?

Alex: You know, anything is possible. Right now that’s not necessarily the idea, but [we’ve] gotta feel this stuff out, right. We’ve gotta see how it does… we think it’ll be amazing and we want to leave ourselves open to that, but it’s… who know, you know… who knows what the future holds. We can do that, if we feel like it’s the right decision to make based off what we learn after [Warlords].



AusGamers: Was the decision, overall, to put all this content together with the background that it has, in response to how many people continue to ask for Warcraft 4?

Alex: No (laughs). I don’t think so. Our creative process is very interesting, it’s very freeform. And our ideas come from a lot of different people and I think this is one of those ideas where we really wanted… in the history of this game, you know, in the RPS Warcraft days these villains all existed but our [World of Warcraft] fans have never seen them! And we felt like that was kind of a shame, so “how do we get that to them?” We started to [come up with] crazy ideas, you know, this and that, and then it was “what if all the warlords didn’t bicker and fight between themselves?” What if they united and came out as just a front -- how scary would that be?! And so that’s when we started going down that [road].

AusGamers: Are there any new Mounts with the expansion?

Alex: Oh yeah. We have, I wanna say at least 10 new mounts. At least. It may change, but right now we’re shooting at about 10, but they can come through any number of ways, right. You know, they’re bought or sometimes they’re earnt through some achievement. Sometimes they’re factioned… there’s different ways to get those mounts, but there’s probably around 10, right now.

AusGamers: What’s the purpose of Followers in Garrisons besides a reflection of the type of player you are?

Alex: Oh Followers do all kinds of things. You can equip them, level them up, send them out on quests and they’ll bring back rewards for you. For certain [battles] your Followers will join you. They’re way more than just props, you know. They’re a big part of the game.

AusGamers: Is there a limit to how many you can have?

Alex: There certainly will be, I just don’t have those numbers right now. It’s one of those moving targets… we’ll see and base [the number] of any number of factors, like, per-building or anything else.

AusGamers: I’m assuming also that other players can come and visit your Garrison?



Alex: Yep, you can have your friends come and visit your Garrison, and we’re talking about ways that there’s maybe a benefit to doing that, like, if they have more Followers than you and their Followers are giving out a quest: “hey dude come over here my Follower’s giving out a quest, go do this quest with me”.

AusGamers: Do you have a quantifiable or ‘compared to’ size of the new zones?

Alex: They’re as big as you’d expect. We generally stick to very similar sizing for zones.

AusGamers: Obviously reaching end-game content, regardless of whether you’re here from a boost or you came in as an established level 90, is going to be hard to reach. Can you talk at all about what players can expect?

Alex: You mean raids and dungeons? Sure. We have two big raids, one is the High Mall Citadel -- that’s not the name, but it’s a High Maul Citadel Overraid. The ogres in Draenor are being used by the Iron Horde as the magic arm as it were. So they’re highly magical creatures and the Iron Horde’s making use of those guys for various things. So you’re going to be sent in there to stop them.

Then there’s the Black Rock Foundry which is a massive -- I wanna say 16, 14-boss… a lot of bosses. And it’s the weapons factory of the Iron Horde. It’s the munitions factory, weapons factory -- this is where they build most of their crazy stuff: most of their weapons of war. This is where you fight Blackhand, that’s who the boss is, and once you take that thing down you’ve taken down the magical arm of the Iron Horde and of weapons manufacturing, so you’re kind of systematically taking [it all] apart.

From a dungeons-perspective we’ve got Iron Horde dungeons, so a couple of those, an Arakkoa dungeon in the Spires of Ara in which the Arakkoa reside. A dungeon with Ner’Zhul in Shadow Moon, an overdungeon in Frostfire and then Auchindoun itself in its pristine state, and a few others I’m missing. So from a dungeon-perspective and raid-perspective there’s quite a lot of content. There’s a couple of dungeons we’re also adding like an Upper Spires -- that’s the Garrison foothold of the Iron Horde in Azeroth, so that’ll be interesting thing to throwback, or go back to. And a whole bunch of scenarios, so we’re shooting at maybe 10 of those.

AusGamers: Thanks for that Alex.

Alex: Sure, absolutely.





Latest Comments
series6
Posted 09:08pm 16/3/14
Guess it makes it easier and cost effective to recycle Outland and call it an expansion. Bit piss poor in my opinion with so much other lore to choose from. Sounds like the decision was a cost one, and yet they still wont be releasing all new character models despite such massive profits. Oh ActiBli$$....
Khel
Posted 10:01pm 16/3/14
Actually, they are releasing all new character models, thats part of this expansion. And its not recycled Outlands, its Draenor, its built entirely new from the ground up. Its not like Cata where they took existing zones and changed them or upgraded them, this is Draenor before it was ripped apart into Outlands, while it bears some general similarities as far as geography goes, its entirely new content and doesn't reuse or build on any Outlands stuff.

For a few examples, the zone that becomes Hellfire Peninsula is the Tanaan Jungle in WoD, a tropical rainforest. The Blades Edge Mountains don't exist, because they were formed by two areas of Draenor, a snowy place where the Ogres live and a rock desert type place that looks a bit reminiscent of original 1k needles, smashing into each other. Zangarmarsh is an ocean, the Sea of Zangar. Shadowmoon Valley is a tranquil, moonlit forest and the Black Temple is still the Temple of Karabor and hasn't been corrupted or destroyed and is still inhabited by the Draenai. Shattrath is still the capital city of the Draenai and hasn't been destroyed, and is actually a coastal city because it sits on the Sea of Zangar. The Bone Wastes don't exist because Auchindoun hasn't blown up yet and is still a massive Draenai mausoleum, and beyond it is an entirely new zone, the Spires of Arakk, which is the homeland of the Arakoa, which didn't even have any analogue in post-shattering Outlands because the entire homeland of the Arakoa was wiped off the map. Oh and what became Netherstorm is a chain of coastal islands.

Thats the cliff notes anyway, theres so many more changes its barely the same place, while if you look at an overhead map you can probably pick out geographical similarities, thats about where it starts and ends. If you want to hate on WoW though, by all means, hate on WoW, but at least come up with some legitimate reasons and don't just spew back someone else's opinion that you saw on Reddit in an attempt to make some kind of weird anti-corporate point. I mean, wtf even is ActiBliss anyway?
Shay
Posted 10:52am 18/3/14
Thank you Khel for summing my thoughts up for me :P You guys at Ausgamers get some really cool interviews with the Blizzard team, they're a joy to read!
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