We participated in the World of Warcraft: Shadowlands Summit that took place on 8-9 July 2020, and had the opportunity to attend a group interview with Morgan Day.
We’d like to note that we added our names to the questions by our team whereas the rest of the questions were asked by the other wonderful content creators that participated in the interview.
Morgan Day began his career at Blizzard in 2005 as a quality assurance raid and dungeon specialist. Currently, as lead game designer on the World of Warcraft development team, he oversees the design of various game systems, with a focus on combat and encounter design. For the upcoming expansion Shadowlands, Morgan is primarily focused on dungeons and raids, working closely with the team’s artists to help craft the look and feel of the enemies and environments where these challenging encounters take place.
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Would you consider unlocking Shadowlands Pathfinder with the release?
Pathfinder is something that we discuss a lot. It’s something we often get feedback on. One of the things we talked about in Shadowlands is that this is a new fantastical place where the rules of Azeroth aren’t quite the same. I know that reputations have been a big part of what makes pathfinder unlock in the past. That’s something we actually heard a lot of feedback on in terms of “Some of these reputations are really challenging,” or “They may take a long time and I don’t feel like I have a ton of agency over how I can get those; I just have to wait” in a lot of cases.
I don’t want to announce too many specifics today but we are, for sure, taking a look at how pathfinder is unlocked. We’d like to discuss further in terms of pacing, and when and how you unlock pathfinder in Shadowlands.
(Note: It is now officially announced that flight in Shadowlands will be earned in connection with the new Renown system.)
Are you planning to add transmog items to the Battle.Net shop? I really need dresses.
I know that it’s one of those activities that there are a ton of people in the game that love to pursue that one look they are going for, and it drives them to certain types of content. I can’t speak to items that have been added to the Battle.Net shop. That’s actually not something I have a ton of knowledge on. But a really cool thing that we are looking into is for the Legion artifacts. Right now the transmogs are tied to a specific spec. That’s a restriction we’re actually looking to loosen up a little bit.
[Can] Both Arthas and Bolvar remained dormant for years after donning the Helm of Domination. Was that related to the situation in the Shadowlands and the fact that they had an eye in there? What did they see when they were supposedly “dreaming”?
As was famously said, “There must always be a Lich King.” Part of that reason, as we’ve seen, is that the Scourge without a Lich King -to essentially hold them at bay or command them for their own will- will do any number of scary things. I can’t speak to the specifics of what you’re talking about as that’s a little bit in spoiler territory. There is a lot that will be discussed and discovered as you progress through the Shadowlands. There are really interesting stories to be told after you’ve chosen a Covenant; there are these max level campaigns where you’ll learn more about certain things that are happening in the Shadowlands as well as who is in the Shadowlands and where they are residing at.
Another cool thing about the Helm of Domination is to see what happens when it’s broken. The shattered sky above (Icecrown Citadel) was one of the ramifications of that.
Can we change our Covenants in a way that when we change our mind, we do not lose progress?
We really want that choice of which Covenant you join to feel like this meaningful decision and we want you to be compelled by not only the interesting abilities and soulbinds that are with them, but also the story as you learn about these Covenants and the characters within them through the level of experience. There will absolutely be the opportunity to switch and join a new Covenant.
That switching to another Covenant will be fairly easy, there won’t be a tone of friction. Joining back to the first Covenant after switching… That’s where there might be a little bit more friction involved because you left them, you betrayed them. They are not just going to let you back after you’ve abandoned them. There might be some things you’ll have to do to prove your worth to them once again. But once you go back to them, you’ll keep your progress; whatever your Renown level was, it’ll be that when you return.
Renown is not like artifact power or azerite power. This is a system where there’ll be discrete activities that you’ll need to accomplish for your Covenant every week to get your Renown increased, and each of those Renown levels will come with a unique and fun reward – like a follower or a new ability on one of your soulbinds. On top of that, those will have catch-up on release, so if you’re feeling a little bit behind, you’ll be able to increase your renown by doing other activities.
[Miraç] One of the disappointing things in Battle for Azeroth was that the PvP-focused players needed to do PvE content to become more powerful in PvP, and vice versa, to get their best-in-slot Essences and stuff. During the live stream (on 8th July), Ion mentioned that the new conduit structure can be earned from PvE or PvP or some other areas as well. Are you going to make PvP-focused players more powerful in PvP by only doing PvP content, not PvE content, and vice versa?
PvP players feel like they want to have more agency over how they’re getting the gear that they want. We’ve introduced some fun new trinkets that will make you feel a lot more powerful in PvP that are earned through PvP. But it is sometimes challenging to get that. With the Shadowlands, we’re reintroducing the PvP vendor; so we really do want the players to feel like they have a lot more agency over how they’re gearing themselves in PvP.
It is about options. We don’t want to create barriers where if a person is doing PvE and PvP, they should be able to use all the things that they’d require in the game. But we also want to make sure that PvP players have viable options through their own system and gearing. We want PvP players to be able to go and find items in PvE and use them, and also vice versa. We think that cross pollination between those systems is really healthy. We just want to make sure that both sides feel like they have options available.
Will there be new allied races in the Shadowlands? If yes, are we going to unlock them with reputations just like before?
Allied races was a new feature that we introduced with Battle for Azeroth. It is a really awesome and compelling system that we are not closing the door on, but we don’t have anything to announce for the Shadowlands. Where it makes sense, that’s an interesting idea for future us but nothing for the Shadowlands launch.
[Ezgi] There are many beloved dead characters that people would love to see, but it was also stated that you do not want Shadowlands to be a character dumping ground. In regards to this, what is your approach to well-known characters in the Shadowlands?
The Shadowlands is actually this endless, infinite afterlives. The Arbiter in Oribos sends the souls to their appropriate afterlives and to the different areas of the Shadowlands that we’re going to be exploring. Ardenweald might be the only aspect where it is more of a cycle of life. But all of these places have their own unique function and story, and it is just a few of the places. So there could be tons of characters that you might have interacted with in Warcraft history that didn’t get sent to one of these four spaces.
There will certainly be opportunities, and people that you’ll engage with. We don’t want it to feel like you are just inundating all these characters, but we also feel like there’s really interesting opportunities to continue some of the stories that didn’t feel like they were quite finished yet. We’re trying to be very limited with which of those characters that we’re going to interact with because we don’t want this to just be a dumping ground as you put it.
As far as I can see, the level scaling in the level squish system does not exactly divide numbers by two. What exact formula is being applied for the level squish?
I don’t have the exact formula at hand but there is a correlation between what level you were before the Shadowlands and what you’ll be. It is not evenly divisible, as it were. There were several goals of the level squish, but one of the foundational pillars is that leveling in World of Warcraft feels like it took quite a while to get through 120 levels. That was many, many hours of leveling you had to experience, and for a lot of those levels, it didn’t even feel that rewarding to get the level. And the goal in the Shadowlands is that you can get to the new content; you can get from one to fifty in far fewer hours, closer to 20 hours.
In Shadowlands, there will be many Legendaries, and I wonder how you plan on balancing all those Legendary items bonuses in PvP. And do you have any plans to bring back Resilience or some similar system for this?
One of the major features of the Shadowlands is something called “runecarving”. In Legion, people loved the Legendaries but they didn’t feel like they had enough agency over how to acquire them. One of the main pieces of feedback that we wanted to try to address was to allow for more agency. We wanted you to have a very clear path to getting that specific Legendary that you want. That’s something we’re really striving to achieve with this new runecarving system. In Legion, you were able to put on two Legendaries, and they were extremely impactful. In the Shadowlands, you’ll only be able to equip one; that should make a big difference there.
In PvP, often, the thing that can sway the pace or the match is control and survivability and other elements like that. We’re trying to keep that in mind as we’re designing these to make sure that there are not only really good offensive options, but also very good defensive and utility options so that the players can feel like there is a lot of fun, can build diversity and try out different things. We can always put on PvP multipliers or tune where it might be required.
There are no plans right now to add the Resilience stat back. We didn’t want to reopen the door to it yet.
I stopped playing during Cataclysm, but the song “Daughter of the Sea” made me come back. I love that such content creates an incredible emotional connection with the characters in the game. Can we expect something like this in the Shadowlands?
I can’t speak in terms of if we are going to have more songs. But with Warlords of Draenor, we started to introduce these epic pieces that really focused on the characters of the expansion. We love those. I don’t think I can announce anything yet but we agree that these are incredible, and they are absolutely something that we want to continue to explore. (*wink wink*) Hope that isn’t saying too much.
In the story “The Edge of Night” by Steve Danuser, he mentioned the experiences of Sylvanas after her deaths. Are we going to see those stories for Sylvanas in the Shadowlands the same way we saw the Illidan story in Legion?
Sylvanas is a character that we’ve seen so much story and development behind, we’ve seen the huge role that she’s played in Battle for Azeroth. As we discuss our expansions, we’re constantly considering “What are the stories that are going to cross multiple expansions, how are we going to tie this altogether, and finally what’s the finale to these stories for these epic characters?”
Sylvanas is, for sure, one of the major focuses in the Shadowlands, and we are going to get to see why she took some of the actions that she did. We saw her go toe to toe with the Lich King, and she was using powers that were not familiar to us. Where did she get this power? What is her relationship with the Jailer? What is their endgame? What is the goal they are pursuing? There’ll be a lot of cool content that’s created to carry you through that storyline.
I want to ask about the allied races’ cosmetics. When the Shadowlands launches, as we level an allied race from the beginning to the max level, will we still get these cosmetics?
Yes, absolutely. Those cosmetics are one of the main reasons that compels a lot of people to create and level up, even though they might have a boost and they still want to level the character to get those awesome heritage armor sets.
I’m playing as a monk, and I play as tank, healer and dps at the same time. With the new Covenant system, the soulbinds, the signature abilities and everything included, is it going to be hard to make a decision on a Covenant if you want to play all three specs at top level? How is it going to work?
The Renown system will not be the artifact power. If you focused on your, let’s say, Brewmaster artifact, your other artifact weapons would be falling behind; but with Renown, that’s something all being brought up together, and it will unlock abilities across all your soulbinds. Those are all designed to be impactful and meaningful across all of your specs. The conduits are the things that are potentially spec or class specific. There are three soulbinds that you can unlock, so that’s a potential to make sure that you have interesting options. We do want to try to make all specs feel like they’re getting more power at the same time.
(Addition to the question above) It is ok to do this in just one Covenant. But what if the Night Fae is better for healers, and Venthyr is better for melee dps? How will this problem be solved?
That’s something that certainly we discussed a lot. We want your Covenant choice to feel meaningful and we do not want you to think like “Ardenweald Mistweaver, Maldraxxus Brewmaster”. We really want that one Covenant to feel like a package. It is a huge part of your identity as a character. We want to provide you with a breadth of options and abilities so that you have very clear strengths and weaknesses within these Covenants in that class. We’ve also discussed the opportunities to create class specific Covenant conduits that would potentially help raise up that weakness.
This is regarding Elune. Will we finally understand her nature, her appearance and who she is?
There are really awesome opportunities to tell stories in the Shadowlands. Tyrande has a large part of the storyline. We saw her become the Night Warrior, and we know she certainly has a bone to pick with Sylvanas still. Her relationship there with Elune is really interesting. I can’t get into specifics there but Tyrande will play a big part in the Shadowlands. (As you can see, there was no straightforward reply to this question.)
As we all know, Battle for Azeroth was slower than Legion in terms of content release. Have you any plans to go back to 77 days between patches?
That was a fun coincidence. Our philosophy with content release is to always make sure that the content is at a rewarding and satisfying pace for our players. That’s an ever-evolving topic and cadence for our team. There are a lot of things that go into these decisions, and it is not something that we want to announce with specific dates or times, especially now that the Shadowlands is not launched yet.
We’re creating content that is meant to be extremely replayable such as Torghast. That’s actually something that we originally planned to have keys that would be required for you to do the content, but we got a ton of great feedback about that and we’ve removed the key requirement. We’re looking at the content and how players are engaging with it to help inform our decision in terms of the pacing that we release new content.
What about the professions and recipes? Now we have expansion recipes and levels, and they (low level ones) are clumsy and useless. Will you rework all that system, or leave it to die?
With the Shadowlands, we took a new, fresh look at the professions, and in particular, how players are progressing through them. One of the more exciting things that we’re introducing is something internally called “variable crafting reagents” where you add an additional reagent to a recipe to make it guaranteed to have a particular stat. Also the runecarving will play a huge role in crafting because the items you bring to imbue and scribe these awesome legendary affixes will require core ingredients that are crafted items.
In terms of previous expansions, we had to revisit a lot of our previous expansions’ crafting and see how those are working within the context of the level squish.
While we’re talking about secondary stats and professions… Reforging was very useful for secondary stats, and it would help our bad luck just to some extent. Would you consider bringing back reforging?
No plans for the Shadowlands release to bring back reforging. Back in the day, people were compelled by it because there were caps and break points. That’s something we’ve tried to move away from philosophically. With the Shadowlands, you just have the agency to get the thing you want more easily with the variable crafting reagents. One of the more exciting things we’re going to be introducing with the Shadowlands is the (new) idea of the weekly chest. Instead of getting something randomly, the more activities you do and the deeper engagement you have in certain activities like PvP and raids and mythic + will actually increase the number of options that you’ll have from that chest, and you’ll actually get to pick one of those things.
There are some classes that are overtuned in PvP, and with the Shadowlands coming in, the new abilities might make a spec overpowered. Will the developers look into these issues to balance them quickly? In Battle for Azeroth, the balancing comes too late into the season.
When we introduce systems, we want players to feel like they have this opportunity to create new builds and different play styles that are unique to them. Sometimes it actually does feel like it is breaking the game too much. But with the Shadowlands, our main goal is to have a lot of those systems in place when we launch. As we progress through beta and see feedback, we’ll fine-tune it better. We’re actually making a PvP-server for the beta where players will be able to engage with all these systems and have them fully unlocked, so hopefully we’ll be able to identify some of those more degenerate strategies and take action on.