Ion Hazzikostas Dragonflight Interview with HazelNuttyGames - Legendaries, Renown, and Accessibility
World of Warcraft Game Director Ion Hazzikostas spoke to Hazel of HazelNuttyGames about the upcoming Dragonflight expansion, with extensive discussion on topics like the new talent system replacing the legendaries and covenant choices, what improvements renown has over traditional reputation, and accessibility options for dragonriding.
Due to this being a spoken interview, quotes are paraphrased slightly for the sake of readability - please refer to the video for the full unedited content.
Dragonflight Expansion Reveal
Encrypted Dragonflight Build
Dragonflight Memes Roundup
Sign Up for Dragonflight Beta
Reveal Livestream Blog
Cinematic Trailer Analysis
Dragonflight Cinematic Reveal
Preorders Not Yet Available
Art and Visual Updates
Gray and White Transmog
Tuskarr Otter Mount
Evoker Class Color
More Dracthyr Customizations
Dracthyr Customizations and Animations
Primalist Tier Classes
Primalist Tier Set Concept Art
Dragonflight Key Art
Dragonriding Replaces Flying
Reputation from Renown
Mythic+ Dungeon Rotation
Old Dungeons in Mythic+
Dragonriding Replaces Flying
Dragonriding Flying System
Dracthyr Evoker Class/Race Combo
Dragon Isles Zones
Customizable UI/HUD Overhaul
WoD PvP Gearing Returns
Profession Systems Revamp
Talent Tree FAQ
Talent Tree Redesign
Talent System Revamp
Leveling and Chrome Time
Trasmog Common-Quality Items
Solo Shuffle Covered to Rated Solo Queue
WellPlayed Interview - Dragon Riding Customization
Hazel Interview - Renown & Accessibility
Judgehype Interview - Pre-Patch, Mythic+
AusGamers Interview - Exploration & Dragonriding
IGN Interview - Master Loot, Great Vault
Dragonflight Group Interview with Ion Hazzikostas
Less Borrowed Power
Dragonflight will feature less "borrowed power" systems, largely as a result of player feedback, with the
talent system revamp
replacing the customization and (theoretical) flexibility that players previously found in choice-based systems like Covenants.
There won't be any Dragonflight-specific activated ability used by players throughout this expansion.
The talent system is being built to last and expand into future expansions, though like in the past, it probably isn't sustainable for more than a few expansions - that's a future dev problem.
This didn't mean borrowed power will be gone forever - even gear and tier sets are a form of power that is continually replaced or left behind as players move into a new tier or expansion, and they don't want to completely shut the door on the idea of exciting or thematic patch-specific systems.
We recognized the double-edged sword of creating something awesome, empowering, and complex like artifact weapons in Legion was that we're building this thing that we can't sustain going forward, we have to take it away from you, and losing something awesome sucks. Having every expansion begin with, we just dug a hole and now we have to fill it with a new thing, and at best maybe if we can get you back to feeling like you were before - that's not success, that's not forward movement or exciting, and so one of the questions is how did we get into this and how do we get out of it?
That led us to reflect on the past dozen or so years and realize that part of what used to fill that gap every expansion was new talents, getting talent points to spend, and carry forward with you. With the original system, one of the challenges there was by the time we'd gotten into Cataclysm coming to Mists, we were looking at 70-80 point trees with tremendous depth getting deeper and deeper. They were kind of collapsing on themselves in a sense. One of the original strengths of the classic talents back in the day was the relative weighting of your spec versus the rest of your class; a build might be 30/21 or 31/20, but you still had two-thirds as many points in your offspec as in your main spec. By the time we got into Wrath and further into Cataclysm, now you were putting 51/20, continuing to go deeper and deeper was not sustainable. So when we took a step back and tried to build a system from scratch that we could imagine capturing the strengths of the original talents, with the customization and flexibility players have grown accustomed to in recent years, but also be a foundation to build upon for many expansions going forward - that is what led us to where we landed here, with separate class and spec trees, so that we can expand them both over time without shifting the ratio, recognizing that if you let players do it, they'll always put more in their spec tree, they'll always want to be better Resto Druids, better at dealing damage with their Fire Mage spells, or whatever else. That's an exciting place for us to invest our efforts and our focus, in a way that we know is going to make the game better after Dragonflight, when we're here talking about what our next expansion after that is going to be, and when you're leveling beyond 70, you're not going to be leaving this behind - you're going to be building upon it.
So you envision adding more layers and more rows of talents in the future going forward?
Absolutely. Could we sustain the system for 20 years? Probably not, but realistically there's a horizon of sorts where we want to make sure this will work for 2-3 expansions, and beyond that it's sort of a "future us" problem - so much will change between now and then, it's not really responsible for us to plant firm stakes in the ground, and if we're compromising the excitement of our designs because we're not sure how they're going to scale eight years from now, we're doing a disservice to our players today - eight years from now won't matter if we're not making an amazing game for players today.
To quickly touch back on another piece of your first question, I don't think it means necessarily the complete end of borrowed power - gear is borrowed power, gear is the
borrowed power - you have a tier set and you get your four piece set bonus, and you know what you're going to leave it behind and move on, replace it with something new. There'll always be systems like that and more self-contained things. We don't necessarily want to slam the door shut entirely there, because we think there is something exciting about patch specific systems or things that feel thematically tied to a piece of content, but in terms of expansion spanning alternate progression that is meant to be what drives your character through an expansion? That is not in the cards for the foreseeable future.
So it's fair to say there won't be a Dragonflight active ability that we're going to be using in this expansion, that our power is tied to instead?
Correct, exactly correct.
Talents Instead of Legendaries
Shadowlands/Legion-style legendaries are not planned for Dragonflight, with that customization being found in the talent system instead.
One off legendaries like the Sylvanas bow may still be featured where thematic and appropriate.
They would like to release talent trees ahead of alpha, just so players can start playing dissecting them and discussing feedback.
We can say that, the Legion/Shadowlands-style legendaries, there's dozens of them and everyone has them, we have no plans to do that again in Dragonflight. Our focus is elsewhere, carrying tier sets forward for example. We've learned there is customization is interesting, having a small collection of legendaries that you can swap among to empower your abilities in a certain ways for dungeons versus raids, those are interesting layers, and I see that as kind of filling a gap that we have created ourselves by not having an extensible talent system. The Dragonflight version of that is a talent point that you can choose to divert your build towards, that can empower your AoE, give you an extra proc, refund energy, or whatever suits your purposes. We'd rather just have that in our evergreen systems.
That's not to say we'll never see legendaries again - like the Sylvanas bow, the one off items that feel thematic and appropriate for a piece of content, where it's like you should be able to get this as a player and this really should be orange because of how special it is.
Renown Over Reputation
Reputation hasn't changed much since 2005, and there isn't much visibility in how rep is earned or what rewards are earned.
Renown solved a lot of those problems, offering a more streamlined and elegant way for measured and steady progression, laying out goals on a visible track that players can work towards at their own pace.
Earning Renown won't necessarily be the same structured weekly quest like Shadowlands, but more open ended objectives.
They will definitely award cosmetics and usable gear for outdoor players who don't do Mythic+ or raid, but no player power outside of what's available elsewhere.
Reputation hasn't really changed much since literally 2005. There's this old structure of like 3,000 points, then 6,000, then 12,000, then 21,000, if you go from Honored to Revered to Exalted, it gets progressively harder to reach the next tier. There isn't much visibility in how we give you rewards, you have to find a vendor or quartermaster somewhere and look ahead to see what's required, and I think there's aspects of how covenant renown worked in Shadowlands that solved a umber of those problems in terms of a more measured steady progression, laying out on a track what goals were ahead of you, and I think that's something that we want to adapt to some of our end game structure in Dragonflight.
So imagine instead of your Venthyr Renown or your Night Fae Renown, it's this centaur clan or the Explorer's League that you're gaining renown with, and working towards unlocking goals along the way. Not necessarily through the same structured weekly quest, where you have to do the same quest every week for your covenant, but more open-ended objectives. In terms of things that would be available through these tracks, nothing we've currently planned is that sort of auxiliary multiplicative player power that lies outside of our other systems. Of course there will be cosmetics, of course there will be gear there - if you're that outdoor world player who doesn't do Mythic+, who doesn't do progression raiding, all those players still want, deserve, and need gear progression of their own, and I think this is a more streamlined and elegant way to have those goals that you can work towards on your own pace, as you choose to help this group or that group as you log in every day.
Dragonriding, Motion Sickness, & Accessibility
Dracthyr will have access to the baseline form of dragonriding using their own wings, but the "upgraded versions that players will earn through dragonriding" will require using the dragon companion.
This also allows dracthyr to engage with a dragon companion like every other race, and all the visual customization that comes with it.
Dragonriding dracthyr will use their visage (humanoid) form, since "dragon riding dragon gets a little weird."
Dracthyr can fly outside of the Dragon Isles without a mount, though it's more like an enhanced form of gliding than actual flight.
Can the Dracthyr fly outside of the Dragon Isles without a mount?
Yes, they can, although again it's like an enhanced form of gliding, the baseline unupgraded version can get a little bit of lift, but it's like Demon Hunter++, with cool momentum and physics.
But you'll still want to have your flying mount if you're going across the continent, ok cool.
Dragonriding isn't intended to reduce the function or amount of regular mounts - Dragon Isles will still feature a lot of new mounts for players to collect.
Dragonriding doesn't fully replace regular mounts, it's mostly for covering long distances or accessing hard to reach areas, while just running around will still use the broader collection of normal mounts.
Upgrades earned over time will help you reach higher up places or quickly return to town.
Does dragonriding mean a reduce focus on mounts or mount collecting in this expansion?
No, we're still going to make a ton of awesome mounts. Dragonriding is calling your drake to traverse the environment, but it's not going to fully replace your regular mount while you're there. You'll use it with restrictions that you overcome and reduce as you improve your skill in dragonriding, whether to reach a a place high up that you couldn't otherwise, or to quickly return to town after you finish a quest, but running around areas, you'll still continue to use your broad collection of mounts, and we want to make sure that that's not something we're letting up on at all. If anything, you know with tons of new creatures and a huge new bestiary to encounter, you can rest assured that basically anything with four legs, two legs, or any number of legs, odds are that we're going to make it into a mount at some point, because we know that's what you want.
You're not wrong!
Motion sickness and accessibility are core concerns being tested internally.
Players who experience negative effects should be able to adjust the camera controls and turn off certain effects so that they can still use the system.
Dragonriding is really cool, but what's being looked at in terms of accessibility for motion sickness? It was very swoopy and some people might have some issues with that.
Yeah, that's one of the very first concerns that was brought up - what's this going to feel like, are there concerns if you are prone to motion sickness? we have a few happy guinea pigs internally who get motion sick in games. They've been testing it out and giving feedback. They've been pleasantly surprised themselves by how it felt, and we're also building in different camera controls, the option to turn off certain motion effects; we want to make sure that this can be as immersive as you want, but for those who have challenges or have that actually harm their experience, we want you to be able to dial it back and still just have the physical navigation of it, without all the effects.
Player Housing is a Massive Undertaking
Player housing is a massive project that would likely take multiple expansions to realize at the level players demand and deserve.
"It would cost you a raid tier" is kind of true; garrisons in Warlords of Draenor were limited to just Alliance and Horde versions due to the amount of time and resources to make variants.
They understand many players are passionate about it, and there's support for it within the development team, it's just a big project that's difficult to realize.
Player housing is topic that comes up a ton around the team. Tons of support for it across the community and within the team, it's something many of us would love ourselves. Putting together any of the package of features for an expansion, it's a mix of what thematically suits the expansion, what's going to appeal to different types of players, but also what would be required to deliver that feature at the level that players expect and deserve, and what would we have to give up to make that happen... and player housing is a big one. It's a big project, a big undertaking, and I would argue that if we were to do it, it would probably have to span multiple expansions - it's a large enough feature just from the art. We saw that from doing the Garrisons in Warlords; frankly due to resources, we were limited to offering only the Alliance and Horde garrisons, while people were like "I'm a Blood Elf, I want cool Silvermoon architecture in my garrison, why can't I build that?" That was the original "it would cost you a raid tier" joke, but actually it was kind of true - this is how many thousands of hours it would take to make that.
That's what player housing has to be, if and when we make it happen, and so it's something taht, you know the dream is still alive, something we want to do, but they're not something we're going to be able to do for dragon flight.
Rotating Mythic+ Dungeons Each Season
Shadowlands Season 4 is a preview for
Mythic+ in Dragonflight
, which will feature rotating dungeons each season.
Dragonflight will launch with 8 dungeons, with Season 1 Mythic+ comprised of four Dragonflight and four previous expansion dungeons (probably not Shadowlands, due to being so recent).
Season 2 would rotate to the other 4 Dragonflight dungeons, and 4 other old dungeons.
The intent is to keep things fresh between seasons, rather than refarming the same dungeons and the same items for 18 months straight.
Mythic+ is just about my favorite feature out there, but no matter what we do with affixes, running the same dungeon for 18 months straight wears a little thin before the end, and people aren't necessarily that keen on refarming the same item 26 item levels higher each tier. We also have this wealth of awesome old content that is still super fun, as we've seen with things like Legion timewalking. So what we'd like to do for Dragonflight is launch with 8 dungeons, but have season 1 of Mythic+ be comprised of four of those new Dragonflight plus a mix of four dungeons picked from older expansions that never had Mythic+ before, whether it was a Mists challenge mode, Warlords dungeon, etc. Probably not Shadowlands stuff, because that's too recent. Have that flesh out the season one pool, then have season 2 be the other four Dragonflight dungeons plus four other old ones, and basically have complete turnover from season to season in terms of what the pool looks like, and really freshen up the experience.
I think it's also a huge deal for the accessibility of that ecosystem. If you're someone trying to come along later in the expansion, pick up taking or whatever else, the burden of community knowledge can very quickly become dauntingly high. everyone figured out the boss mechanics and how everything works in the first couple of months, and the rest of the community is on super optimization of skips and which pulls you can combine, and if you're just coming along trying to get into that for the first time, that's pretty rough. I think if it's a whole new set of dungeons, it's both a new set of items and a new set of puzzles the community hasn't fully solved that you can join in figuring out together.
Exact numbers are TBD, but Dracthyr are envisioned as a mid-range class as opposed to Hunters which are more long-long range, somewhere around 25-30. Directional nukes will probably have a standard (longer) range, but things like breath attacks will probably be a little shorter. The idea is that the raid shouldn't have to adjust the entire ranged clump to accommodate them though.
Archaeology needs some work, the developers aren't happy with how it played out or ended up. Although collecting artifacts and exploring history is thematic to exploring the Dragon Isles, the excavation mini-game of Archaeology is not currently planned to return. They'd like to figure out something better to do with it in the future.
There will be a whole new array of battle pets to tame, capture, and add to collections, as well as new outdoor challenges, but nothing "special" is currently planned for pet battles in Dragonflight. Something they would like is to improve are PvP pet battles, with the idea of setting up "offline" offensive and defensive teams similar to mobile games, since one of the main challenges right now is simply getting enough players queueing for the activity at the same time. Right now, it's not very accessible to new players, akin to jumping into the deep end of a very shark-filled pool. It'd be fun to improve, but right now, other things are taking priority.
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