Community Manager Lore hosted a Q&A session with Lead Game Designer Cory “Mumper” Stockton and Lead Narrative Designer Dave “Fargo” Kosak, and we’ve got all the science they dropped. Some highlights of the session:
- Garrisons are really a game-changer.
- No PVP content in the legendary ring quest series.
- “Story quests” with weekly chapters will unfold over 3-4 months of time.
- Budd Nedreck and Magtheridon are not going to show up. Shed your tears, Budd fans.
Let’s get started.
Set the Stage
Kosak starts off with a brief overview of the set-up for the expansion: Garrosh escapes justice, goes back in time to create the Iron Horde out of all the awesome warlords of bygone days. The plot is to build the Dark Portal and come through to present-day Azeroth and mess us up.
First action once you get into the expansion: go through the Dark Portal and try and shut it down from the Draenor side. Archmage Khadgar, Thrall and Vindicator Maraad are driving this process, but stuff goes sideways and they end up being stuck on Draenor, with an objective to continue shutting down the Iron Horde and keep them from destroying Draenor. Kosak then digs into the scenarios for both Shadowmoon Valley and Frostfire Ridge, which in both cases are along the lines of “befriend the locals, build a garrison, strike back against the Iron Horde, profit.”
Garrisons Are A Big Deal Guys
Stockton took over to talk about what’s going on with the garrison system, specifically talking about the origins of it: instead doing the standard MMO model of housing (Stockton specifically called out choosing the color of your drapes or arranging furniture) the origin was in coming up with ways for the buildings to change gameplay. Over the course of the beta, that’s something that’s been added to more and more over time.
Kosak reiterated the concept that the garrison is meant to call back to the RTS concept of building up a base over a period of time. As you get further along in the expansion, your garrison becomes more complex and more improved, not just in terms of the gameplay but also visually.
Stockton then took over again to talk about how the garrison’s building-oriented concept let them use the buildings are rewards for gameplay; instead of just getting new armor and new weapons for playing the game, here’s a Mage Tower. Garrisons are a whole new form of supplying rewards to players, in addition to letting players have something they can enact a lot of control over. It’s your base, you’re the boss, go to.
Q: How does the garrison fit into the leveling process?
A: The garrison was designed to be a big part of the experience during the level-up process. You establish it right away (it’s literally the first thing you do after getting out of Tanaan Jungle), you’ll be dispatching the followers you start picking up as you’re questing through the zone. In later zones, you’ll be establishing outposts where you get to select certain building options, and which building you choose unlocks a unique questline, as well as providing an ability you can use within that zone exclusively. Moreover, that ability is something you’ll deploy in the max-level area of the zone, which every zone will have.
Stockton went on to talk about how much the garrison design shifted since BlizzCon. Initially the buildings would supply passive buffs or temporary power-ups. It turned out that this wasn’t enough, which is why so many of the buildings are now oriented on changing up your gameplay; specifically he called out the Lumber Mill sending you out to collect trees, or the Inn giving you an NPC questgiver to send you out to do things. He also talked about how completing the quests that your buildings trigger can potentially reward you with more followers.
Q: How do professions work and how do they work with the garrison?
A: Essentially, the concept is for there to be a building for every profession. You can build that building whether or not you know the profession, but having both offers some advantages: namely, being a blacksmith with the Forge built lets you do your daily cooldowns faster than before, and it offers the highest possible crafted gear available within the tier. If you don’t have the profession, there’s an NPC there who can craft stuff for you, but you won’t get the best possible gear.
All the buildings will also have a perk at Level 2 that you’ll get if you assign a follower with the proper skill to the building. Using Blacksmithing/The Forge as an example again, Stockton talked about a temporary buff called Song of the Anvil that will prevent you from getting wear-and-tear durability damage on your gear, or a random Elemental NPC that can assist you in combat while you’re out in the world.
Q: How do garrisons work with groups of players?
A: Essentially, every benefit of the garrison can be shared with your party. The party leader flips a toggle to let players into his garrison, and players can take portals from his Mage Tower, or use any other services. Stockton dovetailed into talking about garrison invasions, which players should be encouraged to bring their buddies in to assist with. The invasions are being built with new AI that should hopefully change up the invaders’ tactics: they might focus on destroying walls or buildings, or focus on kidnapping your followers and other NPCs. You’ll also be graded on your performance, so bringing in some assistance will be beneficial for getting the greatest rewards.
Kosak jumped in to talk about the story quests, since that’ll also be something you can conceivably do with a group of players. There’s going to be an ongoing story with chapters every week that start up in the garrison, which play out episodically like the Operation: Shieldwall/Domination Point chains in Patch 5.1. They’ve currently got 16 weeks of this content laid out, with the narrative eventually focused on a Burning Blade warlord.
Stockton took over to talk about the Level 3 perks from the garrison buildings, mentioning how they are intended to break some of the rules. The Barracks gives you a bodyguard you can take anywhere in the Draenor zones. The Workshop gives you a vehicle you can use in any zone for a limited time. And moreover, if you want to experience the benefits of different buildings, you can tear down an existing building and replace it with something else: none of the building choices are permanent.
Q: What’s the storyline for the legendary ring quest chain?
A: Kosak didn’t want to spoil many of the details of the story, but he did reveal this: we’re working for Khadgar, who’ll be the one who crafts the ring itself and imbues it with legendary power, “because nothing ever goes wrong with magic rings” he quips. He mentioned that they’d learned a lot from Pandaria in terms of how this chain should work, so it’ll be PVE content only, no forced PVP elements, no rep grinds, and it’s something you can kick off at level 98 if you so choose.
A later question added a few more details to this, namely that the first few weeks of the story quests would center on establishing the garrison and working with the local factions, but that around the 8-week mark, the larger narrative about the Burning Blade would come into play.
Q: How much Budd Nedreck can we expect to see?
A: No plans for Budd. Sounds like he’s sailing. (Editor’s Note: OH THANK ALL THE FLUFFY GODS.)
A: There are plans for some familiar characters to show up, though. Stockton dropped Nat Pagle taking up residence at the Fishing Shack as an example.
Q: Will dismissed followers keep their experience when they’re re-hired?
A: Stockton talked about how feedback during the beta compelled them to drop the concept of dismissing followers completely. Instead, you’ll be able to deactivate a follower, taking them out of the available pool that you can assign to buildings or dispatch on missions. So you can keep all your followers, and you can reactivate inactive followers at a rate of 1 per day, with a mild gold cost.
Kosak put it in that the feedback they were getting from players was “I want to collect everything, but with a follower cap YOU’RE NOT LETTING ME.” Stockton mentioned that players are going to have different reasons for wanting different followers, but ultimately, maintaining a cap on active followers is all about creating Interesting Decisions. Which missions do you want to complete? Considering that determines what followers you need to keep active.
Q: Are garrisons account-wide?
A: Stockton clarified that they are character-specific, but there will be some account-wide components. Level 3 building blueprints, for example, are locked behind achievements that will take weeks of effort to complete, so those will be account-wide. Level 1/2 blueprints, on the other hand, just have a gold cost once you’ve unlocked them. Similar to Sunsong Ranch in Pandaria, everyone will get their own garrison.
Q: Can we get guards from any factions we’re exalted with or just the seven Alliance/Horde racial factions?
A: Death Knights who are exalted with the Knights of the Ebon Blade will be able to get Death Knight guards. Stockton added that this was a customization they worked in pretty late in development, and they like the feel it brings to the garrison.
Q: Will Vol’jin’s new bodyguard be revealed to have a name?
A: Kosak dodged the direct question, but went on to talk about how the Shadow Hunters are for Vol’jin what the Kor’kron were for the past warchiefs. They’re Vol’jin’s eyes and ears on Draenor, and are also the opposite number for the Alliance SI:7. You see them coming into the Horde garrison right from the start, and they’ll be a noticeable presence.
Q: When we enter the portal and disable it, will we be stuck in Draenor?
A: Storywise, yeah, you’re stuck for a little bit. Gameplay-wise, your hearthstone still works. Both Stockton and Kosak talked about how the original design was for players to ACTUALLY be stuck, but they realized it was going to be more fun to let players have the freedom to go back to Azeroth and to bring more of Azeroth back into Draenor over the course of the game. This also ended up informing Ashran’s design a bit by having the Alliance and Horde display their representation there, as well as having portals back to the faction capitals on Azeroth.
Q: Will we see more from Rexxar?
A: He’s a popular character and is definitely in there. (They didn’t say where specifically, but suggested it was one of the max-level questing areas.)
Q: Will we have more cinematics in Warlords? “The players need it.”
A: Kosak shot down the idea that players “needed” more cinematics (Editor’s note: THANK YOU.) but added that they’re using cinematics judiciously to create cool moments, like the destruction of the Jade Serpent statue in Mists of Pandaria. Stockton reiterated that the upgrade cinematics for the garrison would be one place where that’s getting flexed to make you feel like you’ve accomplished something momentous.
Q: Will there be anything like the Timeless Isle on Draenor?
A: Kosak responded by saying that every zone has some Timeless Isle-like elements to it. Bonus objective areas (and max-level questing areas, purportedly) will have a progress bar when you enter the area, and you can either do simple things like picking up significant objects on the ground or killing relevant monsters to progress the bar a little bit, or kill things like rare spawns to progress the bar a lot. Stockton reiterated that these areas are intended to deliver different experiences whenever you show up, such that it’s not the same every time, because players are going to be coming back to the place repeatedly.
Q: How long ago did you know that Warlords was going to be the expansion after MoP?
A: Work on Warlords started before MoP was released. Both devs talked about how Blizzard has constantly promised content faster; Stockton mentioned that they’re trying now to plot out not only the next expansion after Warlords, but the expansion after that as well. Kosak replied by saying that they were able to churn out the content patches for Mists, but when it came time to shift the dev team’s gear into Warlords, it didn’t shift as fast they wanted in order to get the expansion out sooner. Ultimately, it comes down to striking a balance of what’s the right amount of content and how to get it into the hands of the players.
Q: Any plans for Magtheridon to show up?
A: Kosak and Stockton both pondered this one for a minute, eventually saying that they didn’t think they had anything with Magtheridon. Kosak stated, though, that they’ve worked hard to get a lot of references and callbacks to past content into the zones, though, so there should be a lot for people to find.
Lore asked if Stockton or Kosak had anything add about questions that weren’t asked, and Stockton tanked it with a couple notes: he’s very excited about Ashran, since it’s their third attempt at building a World PVP-friendly hub after Wintergrasp and Tol Barad, and it’s the next step in trying build something awesome for established PVPers that’s also accessible for newcomers. The objective is to create a dynamic battlefield that doesn’t have a discrete win condition to it.
Stockton went on to talk about a perk from the Workshop building, namely the “nuke.” It’s a weapon on a daily cooldown that when you use it, it paints a target on the ground, and a huge shadow forms over the target, followed by a countdown and an explosion that obliterates everything in the area for like 500,000 damage.
All in all, Kosak was his normal exuberant and over-animated self, while Stockton looked rather tired. Excited and eager to talk about what was going on, but body language and his responses when people mentioned how much work he’d been putting into garrisons gave the impression that he’s really been pouring a ton of hours into getting them right. Never doubt that the devs work hard to deliver this game, folks. Just because we can’t see them pouring blood, sweat, and tears into the code doesn’t mean it’s not happening.
What do you think of the devs responses? Let us know in the comments.