Wowhead's Visions of N'Zoth Interview with Mike Bybee and Steve Danuser
Wowhead interviewed Senior Game Producer Mike Bybee and Lead Narrative Designer Steve Danuser on Patch 8.3, Visions of N'Zoth! We learned about upcoming skip options for the intro questline, more details about how keeping the Gift of N'Zoth may affect your character, the possible return of Xal'atath and more!
Who Did We Interview?
We got to interview:
, Senior Game Producer on the WoW Team and also the Primary Patch Producer for Patch 8.3.
, Lead Narrative Designer for World of Warcraft.
What are the goals of
compared to Titanforging?
One of the major goals was to try to come up with a gearing system that directly ties into the themes of the patch. Finding a replacement for Titanforging was a Tertiary goal and it was far more important that it was tied to N'Zoth and tied to the story and narrative themes of this patch. It was also an awesome way to start playing around with the concept of player choice. You get to choose which corrupted items you equip, and based on your Corruption Resistance, you can't wear every corrupted piece that you get and that really puts the choice in the player's hands rather than being some random chance drop that you get at the right item level.
Tying everything together with N'Zoth was a big goal for this patch. He's been such a figure in lore for a long time. All the systems, gameplay and questlines tie together and tell the figure's story. It's a new height in all the systems reinforcing the core narrative of the Patch.
You'll actually get your first Corrupted piece as you're going through the introductory questline. So Day 1.
Will dungeons drop
on Day 1?
That's a little more complicated. I wasn't working on the actual gearing setup but I believe that Corrupted Item gear does not start dropping until Mythic+ dungeons unlock when the new Season starts, which is not Day 1.
What was the idea behind the
Great Worm From Beyond
One of the things that we've been trying to do this patch as Steve talked about dramatically is to tie it together with N'Zoth and the feeling that these places that you've played in before, were different and under threat from N'Zoth and it really mattered. We tried a lot of different things to add an element of threat to these spaces and we ended up with the Great Worm From Beyond which was interesting. On one hand, similar to the island of Mechagon, you do have to think a little more about flying around the Island, but at the same time it does change up the gameplay mechanic. It doesn't prevent you from flying, it just makes it so that you have to think about it a little more and think about where you're going. It adds that element of threat to make it feel a little more dangerous.
One of the great traditions of MMO Gameplay is the idea that there are threats out there that are bigger than you are, that you might run into if you're not careful. This just adds a little layer of that to the experience and reinforces what N'Zoth is all about and how he's changing the world.
Patch 8.3 Intro Quest
takes about two hours for every character. Are there any plans to have a skip for alts?
Yes. Part of it. Very recently, we implemented a change that you'll see when the patch goes live where two of the scenarios in that introductory questline will be skippable for alts. The Forge of Origination and Engine of Nalak'sha scenarios with Magni will both be skippable using a dialogue option when you talk to Magni at the beginning of those. We think this will go a long way to make it less grindy on second characters. Even though it takes a couple hours, for a lot of the other parts, what you're actually doing is building on systems that you'll want to work on anyways. A lot of that time, you're in the assault for N'Zoth or some of the other threats getting currency and reputation that you'll care about even after the Intro questline is done. So we really don't feel that is too bad to have you go through again, but we did want to make it a little easier to get through some of the scenarios that you've played before.
Allied Race DK's
be available right on launch of 8.3?
If you have prepurchased Shadowlands.
There's nothing other than that gating the ability to make these Allied Race DKs. The story behind them, while it is occurring in Patch 8.3, it is really a precursor for what will be happening in Shadowlands. Bolvar as Lich King bolstering his forces because he knows that Death is coming. It makes sense to be able to do that from the get go.
Will this include the new starting experience?
The Allied race DK intro is a very brief experience that's meant to contextualize why these Allied races are now able to be Death Knights. It's meant, kinda like starting an Allied race once you've unlocked them, to get you into the world fairly quickly, leveling up and venturing out. It's not a starter zone in the same way that the original Death Knight experience was and that experience is still in place for characters of the original races. This is just a really tailored, brief but concise experience intended for these Allied races to give them the flavor.
Will PvP and Dungeon Rewards be capped on the first week of patch launch since the removal of Titanforging?
The plan is that the first week of patch launch, you will still be in the same Season reward structure that happened before Patch launch. Then, when Season 4 launches on the following Tuesday, then all the gearing updates will change. It's a little more complicated than that. The gear that you can get from previous sources (e.g. World Quests) will be a Season 3 World Quest reward at Patch, but when Season 4 hits the following week, all of these will change to the new item level associated with Season 4 and the same thing with dungeons and other sources.
What was the idea of making
open world and not scenarios?
One of the things that we think is really interesting here, again, is that N'Zoth is threatening the world. When you are in Uldum or Vale of Eternal Blossoms it should feel threatening. Therefore, we wanted to show you what happens when he wins. The Lesser Visions are visions of the future if N'Zoth wins, you get to see him completely corrupt the Shrines in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms, there's tentacles in the background and that's pretty scary. We think this is a more compelling experience than it might have been if it was a scenario.
The very nature of N'Zoth gives us an opportunity to do some different things in terms of our storytelling and showing his effect on the world. N'Zoth is a unique villain as he's so intertwined with reality and able to warp it, that he can actually show you what his ideal future is. So when you are going into these spaces, you can see reality twisted by the power of this Old God and that's a very compelling experience to get out into the world and really see what the stakes are and what it means if you're not going to be able to stop him.
I think it's really interesting and exciting that in this patch, we managed to pull together a great collection of content that scales from fully sandbox open world to hardcore story to somewhere in between. The Lesser visions are a little more structured but they're still open world, compared to the Horrific Visions which are very structured.
Will there be any catch-up mechanics for alts or late-comers for the
I know we've talked about this a lot. We're really not ready to announce anything specific with that but it's something that we've been discussing and trying to make sure that this Patch doesn't feel like punishment for people who come back and play later or for alts. Nothing really to announce right now.
Is there any reward or payoff for players who kept the Gift of N'Zoth?
Yeah. I don't want to give too much detail on that, but I can say that it's something that we've been wanting to pay off for a while and there are aspects of story and gameplay that will be adjusted based on if you kept the Gift of N'Zoth. There won't be any player power adjustments, but if you kept it, you'll notice.
Similarly to how we handled the situation if you were loyal to Sylvanas, we wanted to recognize that and give you some special and appropriate little extra layers of story and content for you. We feel like that's a good reward for someone that's kept that Eyeball on their head all this time and showing their loyalty to this being that wants to distort reality and rebuild it in his old image. It's something fun and cool that we hope players will like.
Is there more story apart from the introduction quest? After we complete Ny'alotha will this complete the "Old Gods" story arc?
The Old Gods are very interesting beings that are tied into the history of World of Warcraft and made their presence on Azeroth felt for a long period of time. N'Zoth is the last of the original Old Gods who infect the world and so this does address this storyline and bring it to what we feel is a very good conclusion. That said, the Old Gods have been likened to diseases or infestations and we know they originate from the Void and the Void is still very much a presence in reality. Who's to say if that threat is truly done, if it might manifest in new and interesting ways as we explore our cosmos in future content.
Why did Wrathion decide to come back now? Will he be continuing the story of the Dragonflights or is he just making a cameo appearance?
We viewed 8.3 as the ideal place to bring Wrathion back. We really wanted to find the right in for him and obviously as his legacy as a Black Dragon, and the fate that befell Nefarion to become Deathwing. This is something that is very personal for Wrathion. Yes, he wants to save the world. Yes, he wants to make up for the legacy of his Flight's past but this is a force that messed with his mind and the minds of his kin, so he's very keen on helping us face that and coming to terms with it. In Cataclysm, the Dragons gave up a lot of power to end Deathwing's threat and I think Wrathion is keen to delve into what the future of Dragons is. We've seen some of that in Azeroth Essence questlines and I think that's something that we will play with going forward and see that Wrathion can take more of a role in shaping this future of Azeroth and Dragons.
We see Azshara once again on the
Dark Inquisitor Xanesh
encounter, does her story end here in Ny'alotha?
That gets into spoiler territory and I wouldn't want to wreck the story until players experience the raid. That's the best way to get that storyline. What I would say is that when you face Azshara in the Eternal Palace, though you defeated her, that wasn't the end of her story and her story continues in Ny'alotha and we can see some of the repercussions of her defeat and the deals she's made and powers that she's aligned herself with and I think that once you see those play out, it'll help reinforce the themes of her character and set up some interesting things that could pay off down the road.
What happens to
and what does she think of us defeating N'Zoth (if we get to that point)?
We had a lot of fun with the Xal'atath questline, that was one of the most memorable artifacts of Legion. It had ties to the Old Gods and was voiced by the great Claudia Christian and really made that weapon have a personality that players really gravitated to. To be able to revisit her and break out the personality from the Blade in some of those earlier questlines was a lot of fun. I certainly think that Xal'atath as an entity is something that will definitely surface again. She left us and was very certain that she would see us again and that is something that we very much look forward to playing out. It was a lot of fun.
PTR Datamined Dialogue from Alleria
, it states that even though we "Defeat N'Zoth" she can still hear the whispers and they seem even stronger. Is it the Old Gods whispers or something else?
As I mentioned earlier, the Old Gods are rooted in the Void, they're an infestation sent by the Void and the Void is all about possibilities. It's what differentiates itself from all the other cosmic powers like the Light which sees one true path; the Void sees all these infinite possibilities. To the Void all of these possibilities are real. So Whispers are kind of a natural manifestation that mortals can kind of perceive because all those possibilities can take the form of different voices. So a question to ask yourself is were the Old Gods the conduits for these many voices or were the voices from something greater? That's something that Alleria will have to discover for herself as well as other inhabitants of Azeroth.
Why did you choose to modify existing zones such as Vale and Uldum, instead of creating new zones? Is it due to their ties to previous Old Gods?
Yeah, there's a few elements there that we've been hitting on. The fact that Uldum had the Forge of Origination, which was originally built as a weapon against the Old Gods, makes perfect sense. With Vale, there were ties to the Titan machinery underneath Pandaria but actually we thought that with the story that we wanted to tell, Vale made a ton of sense and also was a great opportunity for us to revisit one of our favorite zones. We think that this patch gives us a really great opportunity to highlight not another new zone but show how high the stakes are for the entirety of this world. We can't show every zone under attack but we picked ones that felt like they lined up the strongest with the themes of the patch and I'm really excited with the way we've taken older content and made them something really cool and new and current.
And when you play through the questline, you'll understand why those particular places are important for N'Zoth and his goal of making his Vision of reality come to fruition, so it made a lot of sense to choose those locations. The Vale was changed at a time before we were able to change the state of our world as well as we are now. This was a great opportunity to bring some feel of the old original Vale back but yet show "oh-oh", just because things might be prettier than having all that Sha-corruption all over the place, it doesn't' mean it's safe. Now someone else wants it for a different reason.
After the War campaign, the Horde seem to be at peace, but the Alliance seems to be in unrest, will this continue to be explored?
War has an impact on every culture, that not only takes part in it, but suffers in the wake of these two great powers of Azeroth, brutally fighting each other for the last couple of years. We wanted to show that in a character driven way. So people can't come out of a war like this, as bitter and vengeful as it was, and just go back to business as usual. We fully intend for the repercussions of Battle for Azeroth to echo through our characters, our cultures, our World for a long time to come. It's going to take a while for people to come to terms with all the repercussions of this. Even though new threats are on the horizon, even though N'Zoth is coming for the world, even though the Shadowlands are out there, this war has a very personal impact on the world and we'll see that echo through Azeroth throughout the years.
Are there any Secrets in Patch 8.3?
I don't have anything to talk about as far as secrets.
The first rule of Secrets is you don't talk about secrets.
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