GamesCom 2017 World of Warcraft: Legion Interview w/ Ion Hazzikostas

By: Blizzplanet

I'm Danny with Blizzplanet. We also have Arthur here. I'm interviewing Ion Hazzikostas, and we're going to be talking about 7.3. So why don't you tell me what you're most excited about about 7.3? What (you know)... what can players look forward to and what's your favorite thing to hear? ION: I think 7.3 is an epic patch. It's pretty ambitious. We are not just doing the standard new zone.

It's literally going to a new planet in this case. So three different regions to explore. Really story-driven art. It's the backbone of the entire patch. I think that's probably what I'm most excited about having in player's hands. I think this is (from start to finish) a quest line that is just epic top-level storytelling. There's no fluff here. There no light quest. This is all major characters: it's Illidan, it's Velen, its Turalyon, it's Alleria, it is all of that supporting cast fighting for the survival of Azeroth, learning secrets about the origin of the Legion the players getting insight into the history of the Eredar that became the draenei, and also some mind-blowing cinematics along the way. So I think that's really the backbone that in many ways sets this Patch apart from almost any that I can think of in terms of the amount of core storytelling, and that's happening in that outdoor quest experience.

DANNY: You mentioned cinematics we haven't seen anything yet obviously I know that you don't like to do that on the PTR, but are we going to get a 7.3 intro cinematic, as well as stuff (cutscenes) in the questing and raids? ION: There are those cinematics for sure. I think, in general we'd like to have the cinematics be discovered organically if people are playing the game. We know that once they're on the live servers, they will get revealed. They will be put up on fansites. We want to get as many people as possible the chance to encounter them organically playing the game for the first time rather than having seen them online and having them spoiled.

DANNY: So we noticed that there's a new Draenei model. The Lightforged draenei. So there's a lot of customization on those that aren't on the models for the existing draenei. Are we going to see any of that in the future for our draenei characters, or is that pretty much just the NPC models? ION: For now just the NPC models. I can't really say what the future holds. But yeah I think we were just trying to build out a very different ecology of draenei. These are the Army of the Light, and Lightforged, and they have been in the direct service of the Naaru, fighting the Legion, fighting these battles across worlds.

GamesCom 2017 World of Warcraft: Legion Interview w/ Ion Hazzikostas

We wanted to make them very visually distinct and as we're filling out a full cast of NPC characters, we just wanted a lot more customization to help distinguish them from each other. Now in terms of player customization we know that it's something that has always demand for, and for sure that is the sort of thing that you'd want to revisit in the future, and just open up customization options wherever possible. DANNY: Yeah, we tweeted something about it, and it blew up People are definitely excited and interested in it. What about daily content? What kind of daily content can we expect, and what's going to be the the daily type grind that we do in 7.3? ION: Yes.

I think core systems -- there are world quests (for sure) which are of course omni-present in Legion. We have two new factions with emissaries. We're also adding an emissary for the Armies of the Legionfall in the Broken Shore. that way you aren't going to be spending that much time there, but in case that an emissary pops up, it's a reason to go back and revisit that zone trying to keep things balanced whichever zone you go. The standard: treasure, Rare Elites, a lot of our end-game systems, we have an all new currency (Veiled Argunite) which is kinda the successor of Nethershards in some ways, our good friend the ethereal trader (with the relinquished items) has made his way to Argus in search of these -- with all-new items the players have forgotten to loot from corpses, and in exchange for Argunite you can get your vest. We also have-- there are BOE tokens that will drop from things in the zone (Timeless Isle-style), kind like the Baleful things from Tanaan. Again just to help your alts catch up, but if you want to mail them to a leveling character, even though you have a big boost waiting for you as soon as you hit 110. Another big twist is going to be our invasion point system.

So these Invasion Points are basically massively-multiplayer public scenarios. Kinda similar to 7.0 invasions before Legion kicked off players will have to go through Invasion Point portals that are essentially Rifts leading to other worlds where the Legion is also trying to scour life from the galaxy, and as soon as you go through one you will find yourself in a public scenario with a bunch of other people there. As you defeat Legion lieutenants deal with environmental hazards, eventually work your way up to defeating the invasion commander; and then there is a Greater Invasion Point that has Raid World Boss level stuff with comparable rewards as part of your general outdoor gameplay loot. So I think for the outdoor gameplay-focused player there's a ton to do in Argus on a regular basis. DANNY: Is there going to be more Invasion Point-like scenarios, or are those going to be expanded upon throughout another patch, or is that kinda all we get for now? ION: I think there is at least six different settings for these as well as a lot of randomization in terms of the types of creatures you'll be facing, the sorts of environmental hazards that may be present, so it's not like (I mean) you'll you'll see some repeats, but there's a fair bit of gameplay variety there; and in general there's a quest to do 5 each week. So that's kind of the expected amount. If you want to keep doing more, there's some diminishing returns past that point. That's up to you, but sort of 5 a week is a very juicely rewarded weekly quest.

DANNY: Tell me about like item level increase. So we have 910 catch up gear, right? So is Mythic+ going to also increase? ION: This is very similar to what we did with 7.2. The baseline level of items dropped from heroic and mythic dungeons will increase, which means that in turn Mythic+ will also increase. The new cap to Mythic+, however, will go back to being 10. So Mythic+ 10 will give you the best stuff.

Slightly better than what a +15 gives you now, but not massively better; but that just means that all of that content remains relevant. The rewards from heroic and mythic (as well as the difficulty) are going up in parallel. So imagine. We have this new dungeon "Seat of the Triumvirate" coming out. We're sort of bumping everything up to be on that new level; and then once the raid Antorus, The Burning Throne opens later this year, Mythic+ ceiling will go up to +15 again. The item level cap will go up, Legendaries can go up all the way to 1000, etc. etc.

DANNY: What's the highest item level that we're seeing in this expansion? ION: 1000. That would be the very end. The item level cap doesn't begin until Antorus opens, Legendaries should be 1000 at that point. The highest titan-forged item could go-- you know... a lucky Mythic+ gear drop, etc. would be 985, and that's that. DANNY: Are you concerned at all with hitting 4-digits now with item levels and power crit, and numbers getting too big again? ION: Yeah, yeah. Numbers are definitely on the large side.

We know that. I think it's likely that another squish of some sort is in the future; but in relative terms we are already in the 900s. What's wrong with another 20. it's more important that new rewards feel meaningful. I think this is something that players often ask: "Why does it have to be so much?" I know it feels untidy.

There's something inelegant about numbers that get so large; and the concern is about what if they just made it +5 level jumps, sort of, or whatever, or didn't have such big gaps between tiers. and really what it boils down to is we want new content to be rewarding. We want-- if you have been clearing Heroic Tomb of Sargeras on a regular basis, but you started in normal Tomb of Sargeras, your guild started a normal mode, and then half of the tier you kinda worked your way into Heroic; and you finished the tier doing a lot of Heroic. Well, now you are going to start the new tier in Normal again and if that normal gear is all downgrades, or sidegrades from what you had from Heroic Tomb then that's a very unrewarding initial progression experience. You're like you're wiping to new bosses that you've never seen before, and when you kill them they drop loot that is not an upgrade, that feels bad, and it's hard to see where you go from there in terms of getting better as a guild overcoming challenges you run into, and as we balance sort of what leads to the iLevel gaps; and what we have in expansions like Mists or like Legion, with many raid tiers, it is going to lead to fair amount of level increase as a result.

DANNY: I think it's inevitable, no matter what. What about a fresh level 110 character. Are they going to be able to jump right into Argus? I mean, with their gear, or I mean, is it really going to be important to get the 910 catch up gear? ION: Yes. I think. I mean, literally a fresh 110 planning to head to Argus will have a pretty tough time. I think that's comparable to what it was like as a fresh 90 going to Timeless Isle or a fresh 100 going to Tanaan. If you are up for the challenge, there is great rewards.

One thing we did was-- all the world quest rewards on Argus actually have much higher floor than World Quest rewards back in the Broken Isles. Even if you are horrendously under-geared, you'll still see about 40 or 50 loot upgrades than all those World Quests rewards out there; but that said, there are a lot of catch up mechanisms that are in place in 7.3. Both on the artifacts front with all three relics slots being available right away for Alt characters that hit 110, you will being able to bring your artifact up to level 54 without having to do the Broken Shore. Those should really help players jump right into the fray, as well as artifact knowledge being a baseline global value that will shoot right up to 41 for everybody at the start of 7.3 and then just go from there on a weekly basis. That is great on the catch up front there. In terms of items, the fact that the Dungeon iLevel has increased, you can run normal and heroic dungeons -- if you are 845 or 855 gear so you can just chain-run some Heroics, that will give you a solid baseline if you want. If you are up for it, you can do Argus under-geared, but there has never been more avenues to get caught up. DANNY: Cool.

Why don't we talk a little bit about the final boss of the raid (or what you can at least). How about you talk about the lore behind that boss? and where he's coming from and why we're fighting him? ION: I am not going to do that. Sorry. The dungeon journal for that boss, as you may have noticed, is pretty blank. At Blizzcon, last fall, we talked about Argus. We mentioned it in the briefest of terms, because there is no way to really explain how, or why we are going to Argus without spoiling the hell out of the end of Tomb of Sargeras; and where 7.2 was going. and in this case, understanding who or what that boss is, and why we are fighting it is a huge part of the story of Argus in 7.3.

So we'll know when we get there for sure. The dungeon journal will not remain blank forever, but for the time being, it's being a mystery. Arthur: So we have seen some of them in the Dungeon Journal. All the Titans, and lorewise we heard that they were dead and they were gone. So suddenly, they have returned.

Can you tell us something about that? ION: So Some things that you have learned-- they were indeed effectively dead, but pieces of their souls, pieces of their spirits remain. Their Titan souls. And they were a great source of power for Sargeras. Something that he sought to manipulate and corrupt, but perhaps as we journey through the raid, we can redeem some of those. Recover some of those, and they might aid us in the ultimate battle that lies ahead.

ARTHUR: Since Legion, we have noticed that there are a lot of hidden secrets Can you tell us if there are new secrets to be found in 7.3? ION: There is definitely at least one new one. Yes. Outside of 7.3, has your team discussed about making the old world relevant in the end-game using the phase technology and the level scaling What do you feel about doing that right now for the future of World of Warcraft? ION: It's something we definitely would likely would like to explore I think it's not really relevant or the right fit in terms of where the story is right now in Argus. Going back to Westfall is probably the last of our concerns, but certainly for leveling players, I think there would be a lot of advantages if we could apply some of the scaling technology we used in Legion to those zones. We have much more flexibility and better pacing as you choose to level up. It's less clear how you'd use that to scale max level players all the way back down. I'm not sure it feels right to be a powerful adventurer who is champion to be Alliance, or champion of the Horde, and you're going back to Elwynn or Durotar, and you're having a tough fight against a wolf or a boar that newbies fought back in the day. So I am less excited about fix scaling all the way up, but more about it as a tool for leveling players. ARTHUR: One question that I know is difficult to answer, but -- Is 7.3 the final raid tier of Legion? ION: Yes.

It is. I mean, we still have more story to tell and, of course, the Raid is not going to be opened until later in the year, and there is more of the story of Legion after that. We have been very effective, and very happy with how we have been able to tell the story of Legion through a mix of large patches and small patches; and sometimes even just non-patch live content updates. Like a couple of weeks ago, when Argus appeared in the sky for everybody, and Doomsayers were in Dalaran, and the quest Magni had most recently. That's exciting. We want to keep doing that. We want to keep telling a story. It never really feels like it reaches an end point but just continues. But as far as big raid tier, I think: yes.

This is what all has been leading up to. There isn't much left about Legion, depending on the outcome after Argus. ARTHUR: In general, how do you feel about the balancing of the classes right now? Warcraftlogs says Survival Hunters are the least represented spec right now, and, in general, are there any concerns about some classes or specs? ION: Overall I think we are satisfied with balance. There is always people who perceive themselves on the lower end, and no matter how good the balance is, no matter how tight the difference gap between the specs, probably lower is always going to feel frustrating about that, and people are going to be vocal about it.

We understand that, but I think it is an ongoing process. We are never just sitting back and saying: "Alright, we are done. It's ok if some specs fall behind." Representation doesn't necessarily matter as much, I think. We knew with Survival Hunter that we were making a niche spec. It is a melee spec for a class that has traditionally being range.

I think that a lot of existing hunters, they are all hunters because they wanted to be a range class, and so we don't necessarily expect them, or want them to feel like they should be changing; but for new players picking up that class, it is an intriguing option; and we have seen a lot of Survival Hunters doing extremely well at very high levels of play. So the fact that they are not playing as often, I don't think reflects upon their potential so much as it just does where the audience is at right now. That's not much of a problem. ARTHUR: There has been some discussion about artifact appearances, and recently we were told that not all appearances will be taken away, that they will still be attainable. Is it finalized yet or in discussion how this will be handled? ION: It is still in discussion a bit, but I think for the most part our current thinking is similar to what was clarified at the stream Q&A a few weeks back.

We think that after Legion, when the artifacts are retired, at that point players will learn whatever appearances they have as transmogs that they can apply to future weapons, and they can still go back and collect those appearances. the only exception will be a few appearances that work that are very skill-based in the current game. So specifically, the mage tower challenges as well as completing Mythic+ 15. Those appearances will cease to be earnable after the next expansion comes out. ARTHUR: I see here, some old characters are returning finally. Will we see more of them? ION: Yes, I think the return of Turalyon and Alleria is one of the most exciting things in this patch for fans of the lore, fans of the Alliance storyline.

We knew that Turalyon was around from going back in the beginning of Legion, when we did the Falling Star questline, and retrieved that message in the beacon. We are finally meeting up with him; and of course when he is found, Alleria is not far behind. The focus for now is overcoming the Legion, but I think with characters as important as these, it is almost certain it is not going to be the last we see from them. ARTHUR: What we do know about them is that they were with the naaru all this time, and I heard some new things that we learned about the naaru, and what is the role they do play. So, can you enlighten us? ION: The naaru are incredibly powerful beings of Light. The diametrically opposed forces of Light and Shadow, and they are the benefactors that empower the Army of the Light to stand against the Legion; but they are mysterious creatures as well.

Their motivations aren't always clear, or known to us, because of how hard they are to understand. So I think learning more about them, and dealing with them in various forms is something that players have to grapple as they go through Argus; and that is a big part of the story for people to experience themselves. ARTHUR: As for one other wing, it's kind of related to the naaru. Is the other side of the Light: The Void, and we've seen there are some things out going on there. So what will we do? What is happening in 7.3? The second section of Argus is called Mac'Aree. This is a preserved piece of the old eredar (who later became Draenei) civilization.

Because it has broken off the planet, and it has been floating over the surface, so it has been largely untouched by the fel and the Legion's influence, we get to see a piece of their old civilization; and as part of that, there are was a naaru within the Seat of the Triumvirate dungeon; and as we have seen in places like Mu'ru in the Sunwell, naaru that are sort of left alone, or naaru that are exposed to corruption, they can become shadow. They can turn into the void, and actually become a powerful source of darkness. And so, there is something very wrong in Mac'Aree as some people will discover, and there are patches of unleashed voids that are all over the place, and it is a very different sort of threat than what the Legion has come to pose to us, but it is something that we are going to have to brave if we want to recover some of the powerful relics that are within, that we need to fight the Legion; and of course, in doing that, we are going to learn a bit more about the nature of the Light, and the nature of Shadow; and Alleria Windrunner is going to be our companion through a lot of those journeys.

ARTHUR: I have also seen some Ethereals coming back too. Can you tell us something about the Ethereal's role in the story? ION: Yes, and I think they are in some way a race that has been connected to the draenei, connected to sort of space-faring. They make a lot of sense to making an appearance on Argus; and there is a group of Ethereals that in particular have an affinity to this void energy, and they are going to be known as one of the players' primary enemies in that second section of Mac'Aree.

ARTHUR: One final question for you, and now-- we have seen from some other game of Blizzard that Jaina is a dreadlord. Are we going to see more concerning that in World of Warcraft? ION: Jaina is not a dreadlord. Heroes of the Storm, much like Hearthstone in many ways, is not canon when it comes to the lore of World of Warcraft. I know. Our good friend, Jessie Cox, is a source of great and enduring meme, and paying a homage to memes is a wonderful thing to do with skins, especially in other games, but maybe we will hear more from Jaina in the future, but she is not a dreadlord. ARTHUR: I think Jessie Cox will not like to hear that. ION: Sorry, Jessie! Not a dreadlord.

ARTHUR: Well, thank you for your time, and ... ION: Of course. My pleasure! Thank you.

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