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Eternity’s End Interview - Inside the World of Warcraft: Shadowlands Finale
Post by KostaAndreadis @ 03:25pm 18/11/21 | Comments
We sit down with the WoW team to talk about the conclusion to the Shadowlands story with the upcoming release of Eternity’s End.


Eternity’s End, or Patch 9.2, is set to close out the story that began in World of Warcraft: Shadowlands - the most recent expansion to the long-running online role-player from Blizzard. Although traditionally we’ve seen major content drops with .3 at the end of the patch number, this time around Eternity’s End falls under the original plan for Shadowlands presenting a three-part tale.

One that leads to a strange new location, Zereth Mortis. The cosmic birthplace of, well, everything afterlife.

The new Zone brings with it new quests, story, activities, and rewards. Throughout exploration players will also be teaming up with a cute little automa sidekick to learn about Zereth Mortis and the lost language of the Progenitors. Of course the big finale happens in the new 11-boss raid that takes place in the Sepulcher of the First Ones.

The update is a big one, and follows on from the recent quality-of-life packed 9.1.5 update with more welcome stuff for returning players. Class armor sets are making a comeback too, and you’ll be able to earn pieces outside of raiding. Also, PVP will allow those that have always been interested to dip their digital toes in via the new solo-queue system.

With Eternity’s End coming soon we had the chance to sit down with Blizzard to talk about all of the above, and more.

The New Zone - Zereth Mortis




“It's challenging to go to the place where all the afterlives are made, where the Progenitors originated whole areas of our cosmos,” Maria Hamilton, Lead Quest Designer on Eternity’s End explains. “We had to really think about what that place might be like, and how it would reflect their somewhat unknowable desires and plans for us all. We knew the Jailer’s goal was to get to the Sepulcher, and we needed to think about what the place was like before he got here, then what his impact would be. It was exciting to stretch our imagination in that way, and at the same time challenging.”


“It's challenging to go to the place where all the afterlives are made, where the Progenitors originated whole areas of our cosmos. We had to really think about what that place might be like, and how it would reflect their somewhat unknowable desires and plans for us all."



And that’s because there’s an unknowable quality to Zereth Mortis, a place where familiarity and strange cosmic beauty come together. In order to bridge that gap, the team came up with a ‘Cypher of the First Ones’ system tied to the story and overall player progression.

“As you start to play the automa will be speaking with one another and you won't understand what they're saying, but as you progress, you'll begin to understand a bit more,” Maria says. “You may not know what it all means, but you’ll begin to see what they're saying. It’s a nice progression system built around the Cypher of The First Ones.”


“It feels like you’re peeling back more and more as you explore and progress through the zone,” Patrick Dawson, Production Director on Eternity’s End adds. “That’s something I've always enjoyed when exploring a new zone in World of Warcraft, and WoW players in general are big into exploration. People like to go out and seek and discover new things and find new things, and that's something you absolutely can do in Zereth Mortis.”

“The zone is continuing to build afterlives,” Maria Hamilton adds. “In the very centre of the zone, visible from virtually everywhere is The Forge of the Afterlives, a centrepiece. All of the automa in the zone are working toward their primary purpose, which is to make afterlives. For us it was building quests around that, and working out what that means. It's a very strange place and now it has invaders, it all makes for good storytelling for quests.”

Zereth Mortis will also see the return of dangerous group content, outdoor areas that might require teaming up.

Beyond the Afterlife




As Shadowlands took players to the afterlife, introduced them to the Covenant, and even brought back a few familiar faces, Eternity’s End goes even further. And with that created a new look and feel, but keeping it all grounded and within the WoW universe. “The artists did a fantastic job in giving us objects to play with that look like things we recognise,” Maria Hamilton says. “The creatures look like creatures. You don't know what they are exactly, some of them map pretty closely to things that you have seen in Azeroth, others less so.”


“Shadowlands was always intended to be a three-part story. That initial buildup of discovering what's wrong and bringing the Covenants together, taking the fight to the Jailer in the Maw, and then eventually chasing him here.”



As the conclusion to the story that began in Shadowlands, Eternity’s End is something the team has been working towards for quite a while. “Shadowlands was always intended to be a three-part story,” Maria adds. “That initial buildup of discovering what's wrong and bringing the Covenants together, taking the fight to the Jailer in the Maw, and then eventually chasing him here.”


That said it’s hard to shake sentiment, especially with Shadowlands’ initial delay and the ongoing effects of COVID, working from home, and the well publicised troubles within Blizzard as a studio. For the team focusing on delivering new experiences to players, the focus it seems has been on that. “We're always working to get content out more quickly, I know players want that, and we want to deliver,” Patrick Dawson responds. “We've always chosen this pace to deliver a story. And then what you see is other updates along the way arrive to kind of reinvigorate people, to provide some new goals and new things. And in fact, this latest Patch, 9.1.5, seems to have been pretty well received. It's very alt-friendly. It lets you get in and start exploring World of Warcraft through different lenses of characters. That's the kind of stuff we want to keep doing, to deliver more content to people. And we're always looking for ways to improve.”

For those wondering if 9.2 will then lead to a drought between the next expansion proper, more updates are on the way.

Of Class Sets and Raiding




“We're all playing the game so we're all asking for stuff -- can we put this into, we put that in,” Maria Hamilton says. Echoing a sentiment that many have been wanting to see, the return of Class Sets -- that gear with bonuses that play into specific class abilities and roles. “This has been a request not just from the community, but our team,” Patrick Dawson confirms. “People on the team are very passionate about returning to that Class Set fantasy. This is us jumping back in to see what it feels like to give it a shot again. You'll be able to acquire Class Sets not just by Raiding but also Mythic Plus and even PVP, so you'll also have more ways to acquire them.”


“People on the team are very passionate about returning to that Class Set fantasy. This is us jumping back in to see what it feels like to give it a shot again."



For many out there a big content drop in WoW, especially one tied to story, will see the arrival of new zones, dungeons, and raids. As a finale the Sepulcher of the First Ones raid has been designed as an 11-boss epic, a battle to remember.

“All Raids have to be epic,” Patrick says. “But if you're fighting the Jailer, the big bad of the expansion, it has to be next level. There are people on the team dedicated solely to Raids, but there's a whole team of people that worked on this. It's not just encounter designers, you have effects artists, dungeon artists, gameplay engineers. There's a significant collaborative group that came up with the themes and how we wanted this fight to play out. There's brainstorming, ideas that go back and forth, there’s critique. All done to try to craft this into an epic final battle.”

Interview’s End - A Robotic Compantion and the New Community Council




As seen in Blizzard’s deep dive into Eternity’s End, as part of exploration and learning the ins and outs of a place beyond the afterlife, players will befriend a cute little automa to help them in their journey. And with that it should come as no surprise that customising the look of your ancient little robo buddy is definitely on the cards.

“It’s so cute, it’s a little automa pet that you end up with as part of the cypher of the First Ones,” Maria Hamilton explains. “As you become more knowledgeable and work with the cypher system and Progenitor magic and cypher it's able to do more and more things with you. Eventually you end up with this crazy three-person mount. It’s your interface with the First Ones.”

On the question of cosmetic changes, Blizzard was a little coy but did strongly hint that a top-hat version of the automa exists somewhere.


If robotic customisation wasn’t on the cards you can be sure that players would ask for it. Bringing things back to updating World of Warcraft and listening to feedback, recently Blizzard announced that it was creating a WoW Community Council that it would involve and engage with when it comes to development. Although the team is still collecting and reviewing applications it hopes to get the Community Council up and running prior to the release of Eternity’s End.


“Hopefully we get feedback and make some changes based on what the group is suggesting. It's an evergreen effort and not targeting any specific content update. We’re super excited about it.”



“Hopefully we get feedback and make some changes based on what the group is suggesting,” Patrick Dawson says. “It's an evergreen effort and not targeting any specific content update. We’re super excited about it. I have lots of friends who play the game, but they all have a certain perspective just like other members on the team have friends that have a certain perspective. We look online, we see videos, we see everything, but those are often just the loudest voices. What we want to do, and really what the goal is, is to have everyone represented that plays our game. Players that have that passion and desire to give us feedback that we can take and make the game a great place for everybody.”
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