Ion Hazzikostas Dragonflight Interview with Korean Webzine Potion - Dracthyr Origins, Exploration, and Player Agency
Korean Warcraft webzine
interviewed World of Warcraft Game Director Ion Hazzikostas about an expansion based on exploration rather than world ending threats, the origins of the Dracthyr, and increased flexibility within the upcoming talent system revamp.
The video is partially in Korean, though questions are also written and answered in English. Quotes below are minorly edited for readability.
The Story of Dragonflight
Dragonflight is a bright uplifting new journey into a world of dragons, adventure, and new stories to discover. Not just a new age of dragons, but also a new age of World of Warcraft, laying foundations for years to come.
Alexstrasza and Kalecgos are well established, but some of the other dragon fights are in turmoil - there is no current black aspect and Ysera has been through a horrific journey.
Dragonflight is a story of exploration, not stopping a single villain or world ending threat. The major bosses are still planned out, but similar to Mists of Pandaria, we'll learn about them as we explore the isles.
We'll learn who the major villains are during the first few weeks of content (presumably during the leveling process).
Within "Dragonflight", the five Dragonflights are expected to lead the story as the central characters, especially Alexstrasza and Wrathion. They were not a part of the main story for some time, what happened to them while they were away? If possible, can you tell us about the final boss or the main threats within this expansion and if it has been decided on within the Dev. team?
The story of Dragon Isles is definitely going to be very closely intertwined with the dragon flights and the aspects that once led them, and for some, we know that's Alexstrazsa or we've seen Kalecgos rise to become the blue aspect, others are in doubt. There is no black aspect, and Wrathion may aspire to hold that title one day, but there are other black dragons who might as well. Ysera was the green aspect, but she has just been through something horrific in the Shadowlands, and we'll understand more how that journey touched her. And so all of these stories are going to be a central part of what we discover over the course of our exploration.
As for the big bosses, major upgrade bosses, and final boss, we certainly have these things planned out, but this is not an expansion where there is upfront immediately a single villain who's going to destroy Azeroth who we have to stop. I think a close analogy in some ways is Mists of Pandaria, where we arrived at a new land with a culture and different problems and different threats, and over the course of those journeys, we quickly came to understand who those threats where, but the story of Pandaria was not, "oh the Mogu must be stopped because they're going to destroy Azeroth!" It was an environmental story that you discovered as you went through the place, and so our plan with Dragonflight in the Dragon Isles is similar, and our hope is that by the end of those first weeks, it will be clear who the major villains are, and where our fight will take us.
I felt as if an entirely new story was beginning when watching the Dragonflight cinematic and expansion deep dive today. Not to mention, 10 is a very special number! As the director of WoW, embarking on a new chapter, do you have anything you would like to say to Korean players?
Absolutely. On behalf of the team, we are excited and humbled to share what we've been working on, we want to invite and welcome everybody to return to Azeroth from the Shadowlands for this bright uplifting new journey into a world of dragons, adventure, new stories to explore and discover, and hopefully the beginning of not just a new age of dragons, but also a new age of World of Warcraft. We're laying the foundations with our systems for many many years to come, and we can't wait for players to join us on this journey, to hear your feedback, and to have a conversation about how we can make the game everything that you want it to be.
Dracthyr Origins & Evoker Class Fantasy
The Dracthyr were originally created by Neltharian the Earthwarder (presumably before he went insane and became Deathwing the Destroyer) as the perfect fusion of dragons and humanity, explaining why they use powers from multiple dragonflights.
The Cromatic dragonflight created by Nefarion and similar experiments were an attempt at recreating this hybrid, with somewhat mixed results.
Tanking didn't feel quite right for Evokers, due to being an up close role, while the Dracthyr theme revolves more around ranged breath weapons and winged mobility.
Although currently focused on ranged dps and healing, there could be an additional specialization in the future.
The Empowered Abilities system in which Evokers can charge up their spells into more powerful attacks allows more creative flexibility - with short casts during high movement situations and longer charge times for periods of burst.
The new race and class, Dracthyr Evokers, were announced. Just like how Death Knight was inspired by the Lich King, Monk for Pandaren Brewmaster, and Illidan for Demon Hunter, and so on. Where do the inspiration of Evokers come from? Considering their background, I think Dracthyr Evokers should also take the role of a tank. Can you explain the reasoning behind their specializations as DPS and healer?
This is the perfect creation that blends the best of humanity and the best of dragon kind that can channel all the powers of the aspects. the Dracthyr were created by Neltharion, the original black aspect long ago, and I think pursuit of that perfect experiment is what we've seen guide Nefarian and other black dragons in their experiments in creating chromatic draconids and others all trying to replicate this original superior type of dragon. In terms of the roles that made sense for them, part of it is when we think about wings, we think about the physical attributes of a dragon, that almost speaks to movements, attacking from a distance, breath weapons, things like that, and by definition tanking in World of Warcraft means being up in front of your enemy, having them strike you in the face, and that the fantasy just didn't feel quite as on point there. This class is initially only going to have two specializations, there's certainly room in the future to add a third, but for now range dps and healer is where we're focused.
Charging systems have been added. From the perspective of long-time WoW players, it is a very interesting change. On the other hand, considering the keyboard controls of current players, it may be difficult for players to utilize the system in certain situations (for example, certain raid patterns that require a lot of movement). What do you think about this?
Certainly there are challenges when introducing a new mechanism of control like this, I think if anything, high movement situations are an area where there's a lot of flexibility here, where this type of mechanic can shine. If you think about it, on a spell that empowers, it's a spell that can either have a 1 second, two second, or three second cast time, and you can choose which is best for your situation, and maybe in a high movement situation you can stop and fire off a quick one second burst of dragon breath, but after you've reached your destination, or if you can plant or you know your tank is going to pull a bunch of enemies in front of you in a couple of seconds, you can charge up a bigger attack and so I think we're really excited to see how the skilled players in wow are going to make use of this new mechanic when playing the Evoker.
Player Agency and Embracing Min-Maxing
A lesson learned from Classic is that modern players will fight against restrictions more than they did in the past, so the talent system is designed with more flexibility and less permanent choice.
The goal isn't to fight min-maxing so much as embrace it, allowing players to setup multiple talent loadouts that can be changed at will (while out of combat) for things like Single Target, AoE, PvP, and so on.
Class trainers may have a use again, as you'll need to visit them to adjust and save new talent loadouts.
Recognizing that players will always choose increased performance over utility, separating talent points into two independent trees allows one to focus on the core role (i.e. Restoration), while the other to focuses on class-level (Druid) utility, movement, and control - you shouldn't have to give up damage or throughput for utility.
A talent system revamp was also announced. I remember the problem with the existing tree system being that, through the player had a variety of options, the player was inherently limited to a specific talent tree. There were various options such as Azerite, Covenant, and Soulbind. However, it was unfortunate that only a few options were popular, considering their efficiency. What do you think is a solution to this?
Players are going to min-max, players are going to research and figure out what they think is best for a certain situation. I don't think that's a problem and I don't think that's something that we can fight - I think we have to embrace it and offer a system that allows for interesting choice within that, and so I think the problems with covenant choice for example arose from the feeling that you had to make a nearly permanent choice that meant that you felt limited in other situations. The original classic talents had an increasing repsec cost that was one of the inspirations for things like Azerite respec costs. Part of what we've learned from watching modern players play Classic is that modern players just want something different and they're going to play differently, and they're going to fight through those respec costs and enjoy the game less because of them, and so as we created the new system there are two big things that we're doing to address this. First, we have the ability to save multiple talent loadouts, as we saw briefly in the deep dive earlier today, so you can have a saved loadout template for Mythic+ for single target DPS, for AoE, for PvP. You'll have to go back to town to a trainer to change the individual loadout, but once you're in the field, you can just switch specs with no restriction and no cost. So if you want to go from Patchwerk single target to AoE, you can just do that. you can't change during combat, but otherwise you can change easily.
The second thing is having two separate trees. One that is for the class, and one that is for the specialization, because we know if we ask you to choose between more damage or more healing, being better at your core role or some utility, some hybrid function, you're going to take the damage every time and that's not an interesting choice. But now you have your Restoration Druid points that you spend in your resto tree and your druid points that you spend on things like improved shapeshifting or utility or movement or control - those can be interesting choices that players reach different results in examining.
Seasonal Instanced Content
There are no current plan for small party instanced content like Torghast, Horrific Visions, or Island Expeditions.
There is more focus on the open world, with dangerous areas that will encourage grouping up, but without requiring specific roles.
Mythic+ has helped make dungeons a major part of WoW gameplay, but running the same dungeon and farming the same gear for 18 months gets pretty old.
To mitigate this, Dragonflight will launch with 8 new dungeons, but Season 1 will only feature Mythic+ versions of four of them, alongside four dungeons from past expansions.
Those dungeons will rotate in Season 2, with Mythic+ versions of the other four Dragonflight dungeons, joined by four more past expansion dungeons.
The intent is to reduce player fatigue, while introducing new loot and challenges, for a more varied experience.
In recent expansions, developers have put in effort to establish 1-player or 3-player content such as Horrific Visions, Island Expeditions, Torghast, and so on. As of now, WoW's core endgame content revolves around large-scale raids of 20 or more people and a 5-player Mythic+ Dungeon party. What differentiates the 1~3 player content with the existing Mythic+ and raids? Will there be new 1~3 player content added in this expansion?
We don't currently have any plans for instanced 1-3 player content like Torghast or scenarios. Right now that's something we want to do more of in our outdoor world, where there are areas in the outdoor world that will really encourage and reward players for forming small parties, that aren't necessarily based on specific roles, where you don't necessarily need a tank and a healer and a specific party makeup, but where the areas are just a bit too dangerous for one player to go alone, and yet there are still rewards and reasons to want to do that. We still want to explore flexible size small group content, but there wasn't a specific fit for Dragon Isles and Dragonfight the way Torghast fit into Shadowlands.
As both the director and passionate WoW player, what content or systems are you most looking forward to from the Dragonflight?
Great question. I can say the talent system, but I've already talked about that and I want to talk about something new. Something I would like to talk about that I haven't had a chance to yet is some changes coming to Mythic+ in Dragonflight, and how we approach the Mythic+ system. I think we're really excited with this system that has made dungeons a major part of World of Warcraft gameplay, but we've definitely heard and seen and experienced ourselves that no matter what we do with affixes, running the same dungeon for 18 months, by the end of it, you're pretty tired of the dungeon. You're tired of trying to farm the same trinket up season after season, and so we want to do more there, and our plan for Shadowlands Season 4 is actually in some ways a preview of what we hope to do for Dragonflight, which is to say that Dragonflight will have eight new dungeons, but our current thinking is that Season 1 Mythic+ in Dragonflight will only have Mythic+ versions of four of those dungeons, alongside four dungeons from past expansions that will get all new Mythic+ modes. So imagine Mythic+ of some of your favorite dungeons from Pandaria, Draenor or elsewhere, alongside new Dragonflight dungeons. Then for Season 2, we can have four other Dragonflight dungeons and four other old dungeons, for a completely new pool of eight different dungeons, with new loot and new challenges to overcome, and hopefully a much fresher experience, and so we're really excited to draw upon the wealth of the hundred plus dungeons we've created over the course of World of Warcraft's history, and offer a much deeper and more varied mythic+ experience in Dragonflight.
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