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[ Welcome to our Blizzcon 2013 coverage, sponsored by Megarom Games. You can see all the coverage in one place by clicking here. ]

Is the new expansion just the Caverns of Time on steroids? We tune into to the World of Warcraft: What’s Next panel to find out. Chris Metzen (Senior VP), Tom Chilton (Game Director), Ion Hazzikostas (Leader Encounter Designer), Cory Stockton (Lead Content Designer) and Greg Street (Lead Systems Designer) are here to talk about what’s up with Warlords of Draenor, how it happened, and what players can expect.

befoerafterHere’s the official blurb:

A portal into Warcraft history has ripped open, and the fifth World of Warcraft expansion has been revealed! Warlords of Draenor sends players to the savage world of Draenor–home of the mighty orcs and haven of the mystic draenei–to fight against and alongside legends from Warcraft’s brutal past.

Amid Draenor’s untamed jungles and battle-scarred plains, a merciless new Iron Horde has been forged from the mighty orc clans of old. To save their own world from impending invasion, Azeroth’s heroes will need to explore the far reaches of this unforgiving land, achieving new heights of power on their way to the new level cap of 100. To establish a foothold on Draenor, players will construct, command, and expand their own Garrison, a customizable base of operations and refuge for the followers you recruit to your desperate cause. Warlords of Draenor also empowers players to instantly boost one character to level 90, making it so anyone can join the battle for Draenor alongside their friends.

Some of the new content and features of Warlords of Draenor include:

  • Explore a Savage World: Explore the hostile world of Draenor, home of the orc and draenei races, as it once existed, and adventure in all-new zones alongside characters central to Warcraft history.
  • Build Your Garrison: Construct, command, and expand your own customizable stronghold on Draenor, and gather NPC followers to collect resources and embark on missions on your orders.
  • Instantly Upgrade to Level 90: Boost one character of your choosing to be ready to adventure on Draenor, making it easier than ever to enjoy the latest content alongside your friends.
  • New Player Character Art: Character models and animations for many of World of Warcraft’s existing playable races are being fully revamped in keeping with the game’s iconically epic style.
  • Adventure to Level 100: Reach new heights of power and unlock bonuses to further enhance your abilities on your way to the new level cap of 100.
  • …And More: Take on a wide array of Dungeons, Raids, Scenarios, Battlegrounds, Challenge Modes, and more—no matter what kind of content you enjoy, new adventures await.

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THE STORY

Garrosh has a new friend that can control time. Garrosh is all peeved that the Horde is now this tree-hugging hippy peace-loving crap. Garrosh grew up with war stories of all the great orc conquerors. So, Garrosh wants to go back in time and stop the orcs from drinking the blood of Mannoroth the Destructor. Garrosh wants to build a different Horde: the Iron Legion.

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Draenor isn’t just a tweaked Outland (since they’re geographically the same place), Draenor has been built from scratch. The starting experience to this expansion will be modeled after the Dark Knight introduction from Wrath of the Lich King.

SOME OF THE NEW ZONES

You join a suicide mission to do something about the Iron Horde invasion, going through the portal to Draenor, dropping you right into the action.The Horde start in Frostfire Ridge, snow-covered wastes beneath towering volcanoes. Bladespire Fortress will act as the Horde main city in the area.

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The Alliance will go to Shadowmoon Valley in the introductory quest. The zone is always night. Karabor, the Draenei holy temple, will be the main city for Alliance.

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GORGROND

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TALADOR

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ITEM CHANGES

“One of our goals for Warlords of Draenor is to make the act of finding and collecting loot even more exciting for players. With that in mind, we’re adding some fun new stats to gear, such as Movement Speed and Cleave, which gives you a chance to do extra damage or healing to additional nearby targets. In addition, we’ll be retiring a few stats that players don’t find very enjoyable to manage, such as Hit and Expertise. We’re also making improvements to armor itemization that will make it easier to share armor pieces across classes.”

NEW PLAYER MODELS

All the player models are being redone, though not all will be new at launch. High priority was to keep the “soul” of the original. Didn’t want to upset players. Higher visual fidelity, new facial detail with fully rigged faces so they can animate during emotes. Three races they can give a sneak preview of. Left is original, right is the new.

Dwarves

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Orc

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Gnomes

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GARRISONS

The World of Warcraft version of housing. This isn’t a cottage that doesn’t exist in the world, tucked away in some instance. This is a full on base. You collect followers, send them on missions, and you can customize your base. You’ll be able to pick which zone your base will be in.

Offline progression lets you send your followers off to a dungeon, and see what they come back with after a few days. Integrated directly into the world, using the seamless instancing technology. So you see yours, and other people see theirs. People in your party can choose.

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You get gear for your character via the Garrison, you get a piece of land all your own. Unique benefits, limited access to professions you don’t have, so if you only have skinning and engineering, you get access to blacksmithing if you tailor your base to have it.

Garrisons have three tiers. You can move it if you want. You get monuments and trophies that you can display in your Garrison. If you go kill a badass monster, you can mount its head on your wall. Garrisons have specializations, kind of like a talent tree. Every building type has options you choose between, like your Infirmary can res you once a day.

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You send followers on missions, they level up, and they have their own abilities and traits. Their gear, type (there are rares, uniques) determine their success, or the reward.

BOOST TO 90

When you purchase the xpac, you get to boost one character to level 90. Or, create a new one from scratch and have it start at 90, so you don’t have to spend weeks trying to catch up before you can play with friends. The idea is to give players the ability to just drop in and start.

INVENTORY UPDATES

Pets and Mounts are already Collections (account wide). Heirlooms, Toys and Tabards will also be made collections, so you earn it once on a character, and all characters have access. Cross-realm too. You can star items/mounts as favorites, and there is a button to summon a random favorite.

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Bags will now be sortable, you can set a bag to be a type. Like, you can have only equipment fill into one bag, or consumables into another. White items indicate new items, and item quality now have proper outlines. Icons with gold tokens on them indicate vendor trash. Quest items will no longer be stored in bags.

You’ll also now be able to craft directly from bank. Stack sizes are being increased to 100.

ADVENTURE GUIDE

A one-stop location that shows character progress, where you need to go, what armour you should upgrade next, etc. It’s basically a way to give players focus. An Engineer will get a suggestion to perhaps craft a valuable mount,  an PvP’er will get suggestions on which battlegrounds to queue for, etc.

DUNGEONS AND RAIDS

Seven new dungeons at launch, four to level up in, three for max level (100). Upper Blackrock Spire is being overhauled. Normal, Heroic and Challenge modes for all dungeons.

One of the new dungeons is Bloodmaul Slag Mines. Located in Frostfire Ridge, it has four bosses, a non-linear layout. Cruel ogre slavers are putting people to work in the volcano. You’ll liberate the captive Frostwolf orcs to stage a revolt.

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Other new dungeons include Auchindoun, Arakkoa Spires, Shadowmoon Burial Grounds, Iron Barracks and more. There will be two new raid zones, Highmaul and Blackrock Foundry, with 16 bosses in total. There will also be new world bosses that exist out in the open world. Raid sizes are also being adjusted, with the lower difficulty raids allowing for flexible numbers, with the harder types requiring a set amount.

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PLAYER VS PLAYER

There’s a new World PvP zone, UI improvements, Battleground rewards are being changed, and Trial of the Gladiator is being introduced.

The new PvP zone is Ashran, a staging area near the Dark Portal. It’ll have Faction bases, and aims to be a PvP sandbox. It’s not an instanced battlegrounds, it’s more open world, and while all the objectives are PvP focused, anyone can wander in. A throwback to the original Alterac Valley. A persistent war, that you can return to at any time. It will use Blizzard’s cross-realm technology to pair realms up to keep the sides equal.

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You’ll be able to build and commandeer siege vehicles, some which might take days to build. You’ll be able to reduce the enemy base to rubble. The PvP UI improvements include a full objective tracker, capture status so you can see your progress towards capturing a flag at a distance. Battleground score is being introduced, so you can see how you’re doing relative to others on your team. Bonus random rewards will give you a chance at getting lucky at the end of a match and winning Honor-based items in advance, items, BoE gear and more. A new weekly quest will let you upgrade an item, taking some strain off grinding for Honor.

Trial of the Gladiator is the new arena ladder system. It uses tournament rules.