As Lorekeeper team, we had the opportunity to participate in a press interview about World of Warcraft’s newest patch, 8.3 – Visions of N’Zoth with Production Director Patrick Dawson on 8th January 2020.
As production director of World of Warcraft, Patrick Dawson oversees the efforts of the game’s development team as it creates new content, helping them keep the experience fresh and exciting. This involves overseeing all aspects of the game and managing the production of content updates and expansions from initial conception through release. Patrick joined Blizzard in 2005, and has supported every World of Warcraft expansion thus far, along with writing backend code for Diablo III. His most notable contributions have been in World of Warcraft, including architecting the achievement system, scenario technology, and leading the server team that launched Legion and reduced patch time to fewer than 2 hours on average. (Source: Patrick Dawson – Bio)
We’d like to mention that although the main subject of the interview was Visions of N’Zoth, there were still some questions about Shadowlands.
(Röportajın Türkçe çevirisine ulaşmak için lütfen buraya tıklayın.)
WORLD OF WARCRAFT – INTERVIEW WITH PATRICK DAWSON [8.3 – VISIONS OF N’ZOTH]
[Can] The Black Empire is a huge part of the Warcraft universe, and especially lore geeks like us were looking forward to seeing it in all of its glory for years. Are you worried that you might be wrapping this particular story thread a bit too quickly in just a patch, or can we look forward to more in the future?
You never know where we’re going to end up going in the future. There is a chance we can revisit the Black Empire in more depth. We don’t have any plans to make it today. But I think if you look back at World of Warcraft’s history and lore, any content update we do tends to be pretty heavy. We did the entirety of Argus in a content update and that’s a whole planet that had tremendous depth to it. The Black Empire… We are not going there as much as we are focusing just on N’Zoth and Ny’alotha itself. So we’re definitely leaving that door open for the future. But I think we’re all pretty happy and proud of the offering we have, of what you get to explore in Ny’alotha, the ability to take down the final Old God of Azeroth. It’s going to be exciting.
Will there be a cross-character reputation merge?
Character progression is something that’s really important to us. I know we do a few things at the account level like mounts, pets, and even achievements to some extent. But it’s really important that your Rogue feels different than your Mage, feels different than your Warrior; and your progression on these characters is different as well. Like we’d never consider doing something like sharing gear.
Reputation is a little bit in that murky area. We feel like they should be earned so we don’t really have a plan to do the full sharing at this point, but we’ve done some catch-up mechanics in the past, and that might be something that we’d consider looking back into, seeing what worked there and how maybe we can accelerate all progression rather than just doing a full sharing solution.
[Miraç] Will there be catch-up mechanics for alts or for returning players throughout 8.3 patch when we are progressing through our Legendary Cloak?
With returning players that come back for 8.3, it’s a brand new technology and thing so there is nothing to catch up to. You log in, you go, you get it, and you can start immediately. So there is nothing that would prevent a returning player from jumping right into that experience. In terms of catch-up mechanics, I don’t think we have any plans right now to accelerate that progression for alts or for someone who misses a week or two. But I do think that the Cloak itself is so powerful that even just that first week of progression, just starting on that tech tree is really going to make you feel a lot more powerful. And then every week that you get to increase it a little bit more is just going to help you more with the Horrific Visions and Horrific Visions’ progressions.
I don’t think the goal is for people to come in on an alt three months later and be able to do some of the higher level progressions right away. They should -kind of- go through that reward loop too and feel good about their progression. As I mentioned before, each character should feel like its own different entity and its own different unique experience, and we want to design a game that has you go through that.
As a Horde main player, I’d like to play with some allied races of the Alliance but it is quite challenging to unlock some of them. Are you going to add some catch-up mechanics?
As a Horde player myself, I have the same experience. I actually just got my Kul Tiran allied race about two weeks ago. It is quite challenging than getting the ones like Zandalari trolls; that one I almost just got by logging in because I was as progressed as I could be with my Horde characters.
We’ve gone back and loosened restrictions on previous allied races in the past. I think that’s something that we feel good about and we’ll probably continue to do as time goes on. I think what the core concepts of allied races that have really resonated with the fans is that it is a story, it is how you recruit these people as allies. Learning that story, going through that process… There is a meaning behind it. So as a Horde player, not knowing much about the Kul Tiran culture or race at all, it seems like you’ll probably want to know a little bit about that before you get the ability to recruit them into your Alliance. So going back and doing that is important.
In terms of the restrictions we have on it today, I don’t think we have any plans to lower it right now but we’ve done that in the past, and I think it’s something we can consider doing in the future.
[Ezgi] My question is not strictly 8.3 related but it has some kind of relation to it. As we know, from a lore point of view, that Horde and Alliance decided to “break the cycle.” But as we know from BlizzCon, there will be no faction merge or “Let’s be friends and play together!” situation. Do you have any plans to address this or maybe even ease the faction restrictions? Will we see any progress towards “breaking the cycle” in 8.3?
In terms of breaking the cycle, that was definitely a really powerful story moment for us. It doesn’t come with any gameplay changes as of now. In the future, you never know what is going to happen, where the story is going to take us, and what makes sense for the game.
To me as a Horde player, I actually still enjoy going out in the world PvP and smashing Alliance. That feels good! And I think there is a large part of our player base that still needs that, and we want to serve that too.
In terms of cross-faction though, we’ve experimented with that a little bit internally to see what it’d feel like. We don’t have anything to announce today but it’s a cool idea.
I want to ask about the content on the PTR right now. Will that be time-gated like we saw as the time-gating in Nazjatar?
I am not aware of any time-gating. Obviously progression is an important thing, you are not going to hit mythic Ny’alotha end boss on the first day. Other than that, I don’t think we have any hard gates that are coming out with this. We’ve heard feedback from players and that’s not something that people enjoy a lot. But we do want to let you guys get to experience the content.
I know just from some of my playtests, within a couple of hours, I could get into the Horrific Visions, which is something that is very high-end progression thing which feels really good just to be able to, on day one, get in there and start to experience some of that high-end endgame stuff right away.
For the season transition, the raid will be launched on the 21st January (22nd January for Europe), so that’ll happen when we get after the content update. And then the mythic raid will happen a week after that (28th January for America, 29th January for Europe).
If you are removing warforging and titanforging, why don’t you just put something a bit like the PvP mechanic where you get from the chest an item to upgrade any item you may get from the world quests, the arena, the mythic+ to a certain level like 455 or 460?
Actually we’ve experimented similar things in the past. I remember back in Mists of Pandaria, you could spend your Valor Points to upgrade the item level on your items by a few levels. That’s something we’ve played with, and I don’t think that idea is off the table for the future.
For this, we really wanted to try something new. We really brainstormed and said to ourselves “What may feel a little bit better?” So this is something we are really excited to roll out to the community with the Corrupted items; to be able to get more power but at a cost, so people can make interesting choices. We are looking to get some really cool feedback on that once that launches next week, to see how the fans like it. If they like it, it’s something we can continue with. If they don’t, then we’ll go back to the drawing board to consider all the options that we have.
Most of you guys here actually talked about the PvE aspect of the new patch, I’m actually hoping to check what is going on with the PvP side. Will there be any PvP meta changes for certain classes that have been underperforming for some of the past expansions such as Enhancement Shaman? I do enjoy playing the PvP side but there is this distinctively more favourable classes in PvP. Are they going to be addressed in the new expansion?
With every expansion, we tend to do some pretty major overhauls for all the classes just to keep it fresh, we’ve introduced some new ideas and concepts, and we’re really trying to make it an engaging experience both in PvE and in PvP. For this one in particular, going back to even BlizzCon, we talked about how we want to start unpruning the classes a bit, make them feel a little bit more like a “Shaman” rather than an “Enhancement Shaman.” So that’s something that you’ll see when we put up an alpha, beta, PTR; you’ll get to play around with what the class feels like. It’s going to feel different than Battle for Azeroth, hopefully getting more back to the roots of what the class fantasy is.
For the content updates in particular, we tend to not do any major overhauls to classes for the duration of the content updates. Obviously the exception there is that if some of them are severely underperforming, we’ll try to figure out a way to get them back to where they really need to be, to be competitive.
For Visions of N’Zoth, in terms of the PvP content, I’m super excited about the feature where you can basically get corrupted by N’Zoth to the point where you become aggressive to your own faction. It is a really cool concept we’re playing with here, so you can actually go out into the world, kill people of your own faction and get rewarded with a title and a toy. I know, for me, I’ve got a couple of hundred of thousands of HKs (honorable kill) under my belt, that’s what I’m going to try to do. There are a couple of people that are on my list so I’m looking forward to doing that.
Are there any plans to bring back removed items (like weapons, armor – basically anything) with Archaeology?
There have been things that we’ve retired in World of Warcraft as with items, armor and various other things. For me, being a mage, one of the most heartbreaking ones was Atiesh. I’d love to go back and get that today. But there is a lot of prestige around items of that stature and of that nature. You know, if you see someone with that staff, that signifies something about their character. And I think the ability to demonstrate your character’s achievements and prowess through items and itemization, when you played and how you’ve done that is something that is core and important to World of Warcraft. I’d not expect to see something of that nature come back.
For other items, you never know. We look for opportunities to bring things back and retiring things never feels the best. Archaeology could be an avenue for that, especially with the Shadowlands theme of what that could be. I think there are other avenues for that too. I’m not aware of any that specifically that we are bringing back in Shadowlands but you never know.
[Can] What is the current limit of tries per week for Horrific Visions, and do you have plans to maybe increase this number as time goes on, so that it’ll be less restrictive and can help people catch up more easily?
That is a great question, and this is probably one of the first times in an interview that I can say I’m not sure. Usually I know in very good detail all the answers to these kind of things. I’ve playtested this content but when we playtest in a development environment, we iterate rather quickly on it. So in terms of the limitations that are placed on it, I actually don’t know where we landed on that. I also don’t know what the philosophy is going forward. I can talk to Andrew (Meyer) offline and maybe get you an answer to that question, but as of this second, I don’t know.
Additional info received after the interview:
Next Tuesday (Wednesday for Europe), you’ll be able to get one Visions’ key through completing an assault, then another for doing some Lesser Visions content. We will have more ways to earn additional keys throughout the week as well, but I would expect you can run Horrific Visions between 2-4 times a week.
In the Big Bad Evil section… Most characters are no longer ahead of us (in our way) in the World of Warcraft universe. N’zoth is the last (one) remaining and (we are) killing a great evil character in a raid. So where are the Void Lords in this part?
Is the question about the villains in general or the Void Lords? I’ll try to address both.
Yes, we are killing the last Old God. We do big things, we’ve done it before; it is going to be really interesting to see how Void Lords react to their last agent dying. You are not necessarily going to get the answers in Visions of N’Zoth, but this certainly sets the table for answering that question in the future. Void Lords are definitely paying attention, they know what’s happening; they are probably not happy about this. That’ll probably be answered later.
For villains in the future, I think World of Warcraft has such a tremendous immense lore. We have not only a giant list of people in the universe that we can go visit, explore, and really dive into depths with here, but… I only spoke on the Visions (of N’Zoth) but thinking about the next expansion too, that’s a completely new place that we’ve never been to, which allows us to be really creative with some of those people and the stories behind it. It doesn’t necessarily have the same history that our cosmos does with the Void Lords. There is a rich story ahead of us here, both in Shadowlands and beyond that I’m super excited about. And I think the actions of what’s happening right now on Azeroth, with Visions of N’Zoth will help influence with that future.
[Miraç] Right now in Battle for Azeroth in every patch, we have been introduced to a new progression system – like in 8.1 azerite armor, in 8.2 essences, in 8.3 titan research and Legendary Cloak. So it feels kind of like every patch is like a new expansion gameplay-wise. Will that be the case in next expansions also?
Additionally Corrupted items are really related to N’Zoth. And if you are going to remove warforging and titanforging, is this (thematic item system) going to be related to the story of the game every time these systems are going to be involved?
In Battle for Azeroth, I think we’ve experimented a little more than we historically have with our system updates. They have been pretty significant. But if you look back at the history of World of Warcraft, this isn’t necessarily a new concept. Releasing one single system for an expansion and then just trying to maintain it over multiple content updates would feel a little stale. Even with the Artifacts in Legion, later on you got the relic slots that you’d put in there, we added more traits, we added a different endgame progression system for those too. Systems tend not to stay stagnant throughout content updates in World of Warcraft. And that’s what you are seeing here with Visions of N’Zoth. These are a little bit bolder, but I think that’s because what we do is we listen to the community and their feedback, and it sounds like a lot of people want some bolder ideas and some bolder changes to our system. So we’re really excited about what we have, and the feedback from the PTR seems pretty awesome. We’ve been able to iterate on that, get that out in front of people quickly. Essences were a big hit too. I love how those have evolved, we’re adding more in 8.3, so there is just a lot of new content you get to experience there.
We’ve experimented in the past with different ideas, and usually we will tie them or theme them to the expansion or the content update that suits them if they work and they feel good. We want to continue with that in the future. We will come up with a solution how to theme that or fit that to different aspects of the content in the future. This one is absolutely tied to Visions of N’Zoth and the “corruption” aspect of the future in which N’Zoth wins. I don’t know what it’ll be if we do decide to continue forward with it. I think we are really at that part right now where we want to get the feedback to see how it feels and see how the players like it.
Besides Uldum and Vale of Eternal Blossoms, are we going to see new zones invaded by N’Zoth over time?
For Visions of N’Zoth, we are really looking at Uldum and Vale of Eternal Blossoms. Those are the two zones that are going to be under attack. There are reasons for that. There are ancient titan constructs that exist in those zones so he is really focused on those areas in particular to try to gain a foothold there. So the assaults will be pretty persistent in those two zones for you to go out and try to defend against.
[Ezgi] I still have this ominous looking, ugly eye on my head… Will N’Zoth senpai notice me? And without getting too much into spoiler territory, will those who kept the Gift (of N’Zoth) be awarded or treated differently somehow?
I have the eye on my head as well. Player choice is something that we’ve really been experimenting with in Battle for Azeroth, whether you were a Sylvanas loyalist or a defector, or for Alliance and everyone, you get the option to do the eye thing or not. I don’t know if there is anything in 8.3 that we have where you’re going to have a drastic effect on that. The PvP mode that I was talking about before is a little bit tied and themed into that. If you want to give yourself to your tentacle-y overlord, you can choose to do so and become aggressive to your entire faction. That’s a pretty cool thing we’re playing with and that’s a player choice you can make if you want to succumb to his power in that way.
(Editor’s note: Please keep in mind that Wowhead recently had an interview with Mike Bybee and Steve Danuser, in which they stated that those who kept the Gift of N’Zoth will see some small adjustments to the story and gameplay tailored for those players.
Quoting Mike Bybee: “…there are aspects of story and gameplay that will be adjusted based on if you kept the Gift of N’Zoth.”
Quoting Steve Danuser: “…we wanted to recognize that and give you some special and appropriate little extra layers of story and content.”
You can read the full interview here.)
You were picking (?) a mount reward for characters that do hard game plus, where this season it was just a title. Are we going to see more of these kinds of incentives to push players to do mythic dungeons or other types of content of the game?
In Visions of N’Zoth, one of the things I’m excited about with mythic+ is actually the new affix “Awakened.” One of the things we were seeing around in mythic was that the meta was getting a little stale with Rogues and skips being a really important part of it. With “Awakened” and your ability to actually choose your skips as you go through the dungeon itself, I’m super interested to see how the players come up with strategies on a per dungeon basis around that. That’s going to be really engaging for Visions (of N’Zoth).
As to your broader question… Really where we look to make major mythic+ changes would be more of an expansion boundary than a content update boundary. When we get some stuff up on the alpha for the expansion, I think we’ll have more to talk about then.
Since we are fighting an Old God in the next patch, I have a lore question. When can we see the interaction between the Old Gods and the Void Lords in the game or in the lore?
Also one more question… After playing 8.3, what is the true intention of Wrathion?
That’s a great question. So to answer your question about the Void Lords first… I’m not sure if there is anywhere in the game today you can see that interaction. I think we have alluded to it in other media – like we have comics, stories, general things we do outside of the game itself to tell that story. I think at some point you absolutely will see us tell that story more in the game. For the purposes of Visions of N’Zoth, it’s really focused on N’Zoth himself and not the Void Lords because you have an immediate threat that you need to take care of right now. But obviously that will garner the attention of the Void Lords in some way, shape, or form. And there is a lot of story there to tell in the future.
As for Wrathion… Well, he is an interesting character. He is your ally, he is helping you out, giving you a Legendary Cloak but he is very mysterious and you never really know what he is up to. You never really know his plan. Clearly he sees the need for us to take care of N’Zoth right now and this threat to our world. He has got a lot righting on this too, so he’s definitely your buddy. For the future, who knows? He tends to vanish and disappear for a while, and you really never know what he is up to. So I think there is a lot more story to tell. He is a deep, rich character that has come about since Cataclysm days, and he’s really evolved over time.
Once the first raid clearing happens, will we see real life response to that? Will the Visions get reduced in number/frequency?
With Horrific Visions versus the raid itself, they are really two separate experiences, and we want to maintain that separation. The Horrific Visions themselves are meant to be a pretty hardcore progression mechanic, similar to something as challenging as the Mage Tower was in Legion. We are taking a lot of theme and inspiration from that, we want it to be hard, so external factors that make it easier would compromise that goal. We want to provide that challenge to players so we are really going to keep them separate as we typically do with raids and other content surrounding or supporting the raids. I think you are going to have a lot of fun in Horrific Visions, and you are going to get a hard, challenging experience ahead of you.
With the World Quests in the next expansion, will we have the daily PvP ones again? Considering the (current) expansion so focused on Horde versus Alliance, it was kind of odd because there were no PvP World Quests. Will that change in the next expansion?
The goal with PvP in Battle for Azeroth and certainly going into Shadowlands is to try to engage people when actually killing each other in the world. Legion, while having PvP World Quests, did not necessarily do that; a lot of that was about killing NPCs in a tower. It didn’t really get you as involved with killing other players. Some of the other mechanics did, however, like Aviana’s Feather got you into that.
Right now in War Mode, which I think has been a massive success, fighting over crates or something is doing that; or Battle for Nazjatar. In Visions of N’Zoth, that ability to kill your own faction is a way we are trying to engage people in world PvP as well. And with that being the goal, we take a look at these systems, and what has worked and what hasn’t. I think you will see in Shadowlands some version of encouragement to do world PvP; I don’t know exactly what that is today, but you will get the opportunity to see that before launch when we get to the beta stage.
[Can] There was an announcement that you were planning to find a way to give players patch music, starting with 8.3. Are you going to treat us with older expansions’ patch music as well?
I actually don’t know what our plans are for the patch music portion of it or the music of World of Warcraft. I can follow up with one of my producers who would know a little bit more about that. I do know the music that we can pump out has been absolutely phenomenal, and we’ve done some of the best work in Battle for Azeroth that we’ve ever done.
I know this is more sound effects related than music but we had a cool team demonstration of how they made some sound effects for the Visions, and the Horrific Visions specifically to make it sound more Old God-like, where one of our sound designers actually built an instrument out of a metal trash can, some hangers and a cello bow, and actually tried to play the vocal cords of what an Old God might sound like. The creativity down there is second to none, and of course we’d want to share that with the community. I’ll try to get you the details on that after the interview.
Additional info received after the interview:
We will start with our current Visions of N’Zoth patch and continue to release updates going forward. As time permits, we will go back and release prior patch music as well.
Will there be a combination of skills opened with the Essences? After developing one character, it is very difficult to get the same Essence by reputating (farming reputation on?) our alt character.
I think this kind of goes back to the feeling of individual character progression that I was talking about before, and how that is an important concept to us. If you were able to jump too far ahead on an alt character, it would feel like you didn’t really earn that on the character which is an important thing; not just to us but I think to players, that they want to be able to earn these things.
That being said, some of the stuff is a little grindy and I think we want to take a look at what those are. When we change it, I think we’d look at what universal changes we want to make first, and then secondly we’d look at -if the universal change doesn’t make sense- if there is a catch-up mechanic we can add to it.
I don’t think we have any changes for Visions of N’Zoth in terms of Essence acquisition other than that we’ve added new Essences for you to go out and explore and get for your characters.
[Miraç] My question is related to the Death Knights of the allied races. We are going to have a storyline with Bolvar but this is going to be open to players who have pre-purchased the next expansion. In a chronological way, are we going to play that storyline as if it is some time in the future, or does it actually take place when we play it?
Also, is it possible to play an allied race Death Knight and get the Heritage Armor?
Yes to your second question. You can play any allied race Death Knight, you’ll get Heritage armor for leveling naturally to 110.
For the first one about the story… For Visions of N’Zoth, we wanted to allow people that are going to be joining us in Shadowlands to get a head start on playing these allied races. That’s going to be a really cool experience that we’re super excited about. At some point, I do imagine that when we get to that expansion, when everyone is playing it, everyone will be able to play those characters. It’s going to be an interesting moment for people to see what it is like to be raised as a Lightforged Draenei Death Knight. It is kind of antithetical. For me, even before that, going Lightforged Draenei Shadow Priest was kind of that completely opposite fantasy which is something I really like to play with. Dark Iron Dwarf Holy Priest was another I tried too. They are just fun to do, and I’m really glad that we do have the opportunity to open this up to more people so that you can play with the race that speaks to you with the class that you want to play.
The allied race Death Knight experience is not (taking place) in the future, it is in the present.
How will the Legendary transmog system work? Will there be limitations for any classes? For example, I have both of the Warglaives on my Rogue but I only had off-hand on my Warrior.
Transmogs are done at the account level. But I should double-check this to make sure. Legendaries are a little tricky. My assumption would be that you would be able to do it on your Warrior too, but I should definitely double-check that. It sounds like a cool idea. I know that if I had a Warrior with just an off-hand but I had the main on my Rogue, I’d absolutely want to combine those.
Other than Legendaries, that’s the way the system works. So if there are any special rules for the Legendaries, I’ll try to get that in as a correction later; but my assumption is that you’ll be able to do both.
Additional info received after the interview:
Legendary items will be transmoggable across your account! For example, if you have Sulfuras on your Paladin, you will be able to use that appearance on your Warrior. There is one exception to this – the Warglaives of Azzinoth appearance is secured through the Black Temple timewalking quest and not the item drop themselves.
[Ezgi] From a technical point of view, how hard was it to work on the new Auction House system? Will you work on it more in the future depending on player feedback? And do you think this will dramatically reduce the use of addons for this purpose?
The Auction House was a major tech undertaking. We’ve been working on it for over a year at this point. It has been a labour of love for the team that’s been doing it. They have gone through many different designs, many different iterations. It has gone through some changes on the PTR even. But ultimately what we noticed was that it was the same Auction House it had been for 15 years and it was time for a face-lift.
There are a lot of addons that existed in the community that did some of this work for us, and I think one of the goals is to have people rely less on them; but also we take inspiration from a lot of those addons. That’s saying “Oh, this is what our players want. This is how our players are interacting with it.” And we try to establish goals for the system around that.
I think introducing things like commodities is going to be a pretty major positive so that you don’t have 8.000 stacks of 1 Linen Cloth. That’s just ridiculous, and I’m glad that we are finally sunsetting that.
We always listen to feedback from the players and the community in terms of what is working and what isn’t. If there are future updates that are required for the Auction House based on player feedback, we will absolutely do those. If mods can solve them in the meantime, that’s great; but I think what you’ll see when the Auction House comes out is that you’ve a really awesome, easy to navigate, fun, interactable Auction House experience.
Will we see in-game sources or storylines that will teach us more about the Old Gods, their motivations and nature? We can think of the lore but it’s lore about the knowledge of Old Gods and Void Lords, and the rest is externals from the game currently.
Even though the Old Gods have been villains and enemies that we’ve killed, we certainly haven’t explained a lot in game around that, and that’s intentional. You don’t necessarily see or know their motivations, of their origins, where they came from, or why they are on Azeroth. You don’t know exactly what is going on with the Void Lords and what their ultimate goals and plans are. We do explain a little bit more out of the game, but that’s a large vector for us to explore in game, should we choose to do so in the future. Obviously there is a lot there, this book is not done, the door is not closed. We may be killing the last one but it provides just as many questions as it does answers.
In the previous expansions such as Mists of Pandaria, we had the 10-man and the 25-man raids. 10-man had lots of issues, especially with the loot system and the class diversity. But in Battle for Azeroth, most of those problems are solved. So why don’t you bring back the 10-man raids mythic for other players who want to play in such small groups?
Also, since most of the interviewers are from the Middle East, why don’t we have a Middle Eastern server?
First question on mythic raids… great question by the way. I think you’ve laid out a lot of the challenges that we’ve addressed and solved over the years.
Balancing the best of the best challenging content for a team of 25 versus a team of 10 is ultimately very challenging too. If you remember back from the Mists of Pandaria days, there were certain bosses that were simply easier on 10-man or on 25-man, depending on the situation. Going with the static raid size of 20 is a great middle ground that really allows us to focus on what exactly that challenge level should be so that every boss we have is providing that high-end challenge to the most progressed players in our game. What you see for the levels below that are perhaps a little bit more forgiving or casual. The flex raid system is to really be able to allow you to go between 10-30, so that if you do have that large group of guild people that you want to play with, you don’t have to sit people; you can invite them to join you and experience this content at a very challenging level still. Or if you have a smaller group that is more tight-knit, there is only 10 of you, you have the ability to experience this high-end heroic content with a group of that size as well. I don’t think there are any plans to change that today.
As for servers for Middle East… We’re always looking at different opportunities to expand on a global level, and what makes sense and what regions to put servers into. Only recently, just a few years ago, we added some to South America. A few years before that, we added some to Australia. We’ll continue to look at the Middle East and see if there is an opportunity there that makes sense.
Are the new allied races (mechagnomes and vulpera) that are coming with Visions of N’Zoth going to be somewhat related to the lore of N’Zoth, or are they just like the races recruited during the expansion?
As you’ve gone through Battle for Azeroth, you’ve met the vulpera and especially in Rise of Azshara, you’ve really got to meet the mechagnomes. You’ve got to learn a little bit more about their story. This story isn’t tied to Visions of N’Zoth for either of those two races, it is tied more to Battle for Azeroth as a whole. So you’ll get to experience what it’s like to recruit them into your allegiance with the Horde or the Alliance.
Are we going to see Arthas back in Shadowlands? And is there a chance that we might see some characters that died during Legion – like Varian or Gul’dan?
Shadowlands absolutely provides us an opportunity to explore some of those stories in more depth. I think we talked about some of the more major characters at BlizzCon – like Draka, and there are others as well.
Arthas himself, I don’t think, is going to be a major focus. You may run into him in Shadowlands, but the story of Shadowlands isn’t about Arthas. It is more about Sylvanas, the Jailer, what is going on, how the machine of death is broken and how we need to fix that. And Arthas isn’t really a huge player in that game. You may find him, you may see him, you may interact with him but I think there are some other players that are going to help you out a little bit more.