Something Blizzard has been doing for a while now is host live Q&As with game developer Ion Hazzikostas and community manager Josh Allen, also known as Lore. It’s a great way to keep the lines of communication open with players, and also to gently remind us that the World of Warcraft devs do hear us, and they do want the same thing we want – which is for the game to be the best it can be. But it also helps if we raise our concerns in a thoughtful and reasonable manner, rather than yell constantly that WoW is dead and everything is ruined.
Thursday’s Q&A saw Ion and Josh looking cheerful if a bit frazzled, ready to joke about how smoothly the launch of patch 8.0 went (… it wasn’t). You can watch the full thing here, but here’s some of the information that stood out most to me.
They don’t want you to ever feel pressured to give up gear that’s an upgrade for you
This is why Azerite armour is untradeable. At the moment, their philosophy is to keep anyone from feeling pressured to give up gear they really want, to the point of erring on the side of that if they have to.
They’re not done with class changes
We will definitely see some changes in patch 8.1. We’ll also see ongoing tuning and balancing of the classes. Ion specifically mentioned looking a bit at talents, which I’m going to go ahead and assume means that yes, one day, I could get my zoo build back.
If Alliance feel like the goodies and Horde feel like the baddies right now, that’s just because we don’t know the full story yet
Ion didn’t want to mention too much and risk giving away spoilers. He did acknowledge that it’s fair for Horde players to feel a little dismayed and alarmed with the direction our faction seems to be taking at the moment, but he also said there’s more to the story that hasn’t been revealed yet. He says to not lose heart, and I for one will try not to.
Most interestingly for me, he mentioned that in Battle for Azeroth, we’ll be asking the questions “what makes the Horde”, and “what makes the Alliance”. These factions are made up of so many different groups, each with different, sometimes even conflicting philosophies and ways of life, so what is their true core? What does it really mean, when you get right down to it, to be Alliance or to be Horde? It’s an interesting question, and I look forward to exploring it.
He also mentioned that the Forsaken and Sylvanas are “a bit more selfish, a bit more about free will. About ensuring that they’re not going to be underneath the boot of another”, which, despite the bit about being selfish, is an infinitely better description than “Sylvanas is cruel, heartless and evil”, so I’ll take it.
I’m particularly interested by that choice to mention free will. We already know that the Light, traditionally good, has, in Legion, been shown to have some boundary issues that have players questioning just how good is the light anyway. In Battle for Azeroth (SPOILER ALERT – skip ahead if you don’t want to know), they seem to be doubling down on this theme, as alternate timeline Yrel is forcing orcs to accept the Light into their heart whether they want to or not. We already know from the Windrunner Three Sisters comic that the Void is absolutely terrified of Sylvanas and freaks out completely when it comes near her. Now she’s mentioned to highly value free will while the Light is specifically shown to not care about free will. Does this all point to Sylvanas turning out to be, not Garrosh 2.0, but the saviour of Azeroth after all? A fangirl can dream.
They’ve considered a level squish before
There’s a lot of arguments in favour for a level squish, not least because 120 is an awful lot of levels, and can be especially daunting for new players. However, if we think the stat squish of patch 8.0 broke things – and it did, it broke a lot of things – that’s nothing on how much trouble a level squish would cause. To pull off a level squish well would take an intense amount of work – work that could be focussed on bringing us more content. There’s also the psychological implications to consider. How upset will people feel if they used to be level 120 and then they log in one day and they’re level 60 again? So it’s an idea that’s on the table, but I wouldn’t expect it any time soon.
Hati will be back
There’s nothing coming right now, but they’ve heard hunters who bonded with Hati and want to say goodbye properly, or possibly even tame Hati, loud and clear. They understand we have a bond with Hati, and that we need closure. We have not seen the last of Hati. This was also confirmed by Steve Danuser, Senior Narrative Designer, on Twitter.
The Underlight Angler is not going away
Fishers everywhere rejoice! As it turns out, the fishing artifact is the only artifact that wasn’t needed to drain Sargeras’s corruption in Silithis. It won’t be updated for BFA, but its powers won’t be taken away either. As these powers include water walking, the ability to turn into a fish – which increases swim speed and grants water breathing – underwater, and increased fishing skill, this is no small matter. The Underlight Angler is the best (and ugliest) fishing pole we’ve ever been given, and I for one am excited to keep using it in BFA.
Artifact transmog will be improved
There are some problems with artifact transmog at the moment. For example, if you want a specific druid form, you’re forced to transmog your weapons to look like the corresponding artifact weapon. There’s no other way to just choose the druid skin you want. They were forced to make certain decisions that involved forcing certain restrictions so that everything could be ready in time, but there are plans to improve this sort of thing going forward.
They’re really, really excited about Azerite gear
Every time a question suggested Azerite gear is underwhelming or has mostly uninspiring, passive traits, Ion visibly bristled. He spent quite a lot of time defending it, assuring us that, at max level especially, and once we start raiding, Azerite gear is both useful and a lot of fun.
Personally, I’m not really sure why people are already so against Azerite gear. The point that we’ve mostly seen low-level questing gear, and can’t exactly judge end-game content by that, is a fair one. Also, I haven’t played a lot with Azerite gear in the beta, but I have played with it a bit, and I genuinely find the system really engaging. I actually wasn’t sold on artifact weapons in Legion (look, Titanstrike is boring, okay? They gave us a gun and it wasn’t Flintlocke’s gun? GTFO.) but once I got used to the system, I discovered that artifact weapons are actually pretty great. Hopefully we’ll find the same with Azerite gear.
Don’t expect a new talent tier any time soon
Frankly, they’re too worried about bloat. I think this is a major reason why we’re seeing different systems to give us new abilities and toys – artifacts in Legion and now Azerite gear in BFA. Which is fine and all (I actually really like it), but I do still hope they will find a way to give me back my zoo build. I’m a Beast Mastery Hunter, Blizzard. I want to be master of beasts! Just give me back my zoo build!
The mage tower challenge was a success, and we’ll probably see something like it in BFA
They definitely like the idea of giving us individual challenges to test our personal abilities. I’m really happy about this, because the Mage Tower challenge was one of my favourite things in Legion. Impossibly hard at first, over time it did become easier – though still challenging. When I finally completed it, I felt like a badass, and I’m still using the artifact skin I got from it, even though I think that skin is hideous. It doesn’t sound like it will ever become as much of a thing as, say, raiding, but it sounds like personal challenges are absolutely something we’ll see more of in the future. And that’s pretty great.