|Poster: Drake at 9/7/2005 10:08:00 AM PDT|
Subject: World of Warcraft Battleplan - Vol. 2
Since the last World of Warcraft Battle Plan, much has happened in the Warcraft universe. We've launched Blackwing Lair, the highest level dungeon in the game, we launched World of Warcraft in China and Singapore with great success, and work continues on adding even more content for our players.
BlizzCon is quickly approaching, and we're preparing the lineup of programs, dev chats, and the concert to be held at our inaugural event. I'm very happy to announce that we'll have the first public showing of the expansion for World of Warcraft at BlizzCon. Attendees will be able to view the work that is going into the project and hear some of the eagerly awaited details. To those of you who won't be able to make it to the show, please keep an eye out for the game magazines that will be hitting newsstands right around BlizzCon, because some of them will feature in-depth articles on the expansion with plenty of information about how World of Warcraft will be evolving.
For this Battle Plan, we want to take the opportunity to look ahead to what our players can expect in the coming months leading up to BlizzCon and the expansion announcement.
Since day one, our take on World of Warcraft has been that it should be accessible to a wide audience, whether it's players who crave epic battles; fast and furious action; or casual, social interaction. We already have a wide variety of activities that players can enjoy, and we want to continue building upon content already in the game.
One feature we're excited about is the addition of mid-sized raid dungeons. While the epic 40-player encounter is challenging and rewarding, we feel that a mid-sized raid can serve as a dynamic and fun departure from 40-player raids as well as the standard 5-player parties. The tactics necessary for a successful mid-sized raid group will feel different from those for a larger raid group, but good organization will still be required, and each member of the group will be an important contributor to its success. This new raid style will also serve as a stepping stone up to 40-player raids for many players.
Two examples of this new smaller-scale style of raid encounter are the upcoming Zul'Gurub [http://www.worldofwarcraft.com/info/underdev/zulgurub.html] and Ahn'Qiraj content additions. Many of you have already learned about Zul'Gurub from the recent preview we posted and from helping us test this new content on the Public Test Realms. Ahn'Qiraj, which is subdivided into two different encounters, actually takes the small-raid concept a little further. The exterior area is a challenging 20-man raid dungeon, and the interior location presents the next top-tier 40-player raid experience after Blackwing Lair.
Beyond the doors of Ahn'Qiraj, Silithus is being fleshed out as a major quest hub with episodic storylines that extend into its depths and past its borders. Players have frequently requested more small-party and solo content, and we've focused our efforts to meet those desires around Silithus. Everyone should definitely check out the new quest and storylines when the Silithus content is released in patch 1.8.
In addition to those new areas, we'll also be adding some outright terrifying world raid encounters. Along with Azuregos and Lord Kazzak, the names of four green dragons—Ysondre, Lethon, Emeriss, and Taerar—will come to be feared throughout Azeroth.
We're also working on more dynamic interactions in the game. To this end, we're focused on launching new world events and expanding on some of the ones already available. Currently on the schedule is a Halloween-inspired event for Azeroth. We haven't given the holiday a title yet, but players will definitely find a number of great things in store. On top of that, we're adding more diversions to the Darkmoon Faire. Events run the gamut in frequency, from several times a day to once per year, with all levels in between. All in all, this adds up to a ton of dynamic content that players can experience.
On the PvP side, Arathi Basin [http://www.worldofwarcraft.com/info/underdev/arathi.html] is coming out with our next major content patch, 1.7, bringing the total number of Battlegrounds to three. As players on the Public Test Realms are currently experiencing, Arathi Basin brings the "capture and defend" style of gameplay to World of Warcraft in fierce 15-vs.-15 player combat. The fight to control resources is a central theme in Warcraft, and Arathi Basin pits the Horde against the Alliance in the battle for raw materials to supply their war efforts.
We're also working to polish several aspects of the first two Battlegrounds. At the top of the list are some major changes to Alterac Valley. We hope players have been enjoying the experience our epic Battleground provides, with its wide variety of goals and tasks. That aspect is something we definitely want to keep in Alterac, but we also want to make it more accessible by lowering the launch requirement from 30 players per side to 20. We also plan to shorten the length of time required to complete a game of Alterac Valley. Some of the changes we'll be implementing to accomplish this goal are balancing out the terrain, slightly decreasing the landmass, and improving the queue to ensure balanced teams for each game.
Outside of the Battlegrounds, we want to focus on PvP gameplay in general. One common concern has been that lower level players have a difficult time advancing in the PvP Honor System, so we'll be changing some things in regard to the Honor requirements in order to help these players make more progress. Another popular player request has been for us to increase outdoor PvP battles. Prior to the Battlegrounds, the outdoor landscape was fraught with PvP. However, once the Battlegrounds were introduced and NPC dishonorable kills were implemented, outdoor PvP greatly decreased. We want to bring back the hectic action of mass PvP, but with some improvements. One idea on the table is to place a capturable objective in the exterior environment. With something like this, we can encourage outdoor PvP again while centralizing the action to a designated location.
We're currently in the process of improving underused talents for all classes. The goal of the talent reevaluation is to allow all classes to have three viable talent trees to choose from. That is, each class should be able to pick from any tree available and still end up with a character that has desired utility in a specific role. The task is a major undertaking and one we're carrying out with great enthusiasm.
Some classes have already been completed (Warriors, Warlocks, and Hunters in the upcoming content patch), others are currently being worked on (Druids and then Paladins), while still others are yet to come (Shamans, Mages, Priests, and Rogues). Our priority is to address first those classes that have limited choice in talent trees, and move from there. Each class should receive attention to areas where the designers feel talents are lacking, though the scope of the changes will be based on need, with some classes receiving more drastic changes than others.
Outside the game, we understand the importance of the Web site as our central medium to communicate information to our players. Our plans revolve around developing more dynamic functionality for WorldofWarcraft.com so that players can find more information about what's going on in the game automatically. First and foremost is the addition of a PvP Rankings page. With that, players will be able to see PvP Honor performance across all realms. Player profiles is another feature we are looking forward to for the site. Profiles will showcase armor and equipment for each player and allow them to compare notes with players on other realms.
Another feature of the Web site we'll be implementing is fee-based character transfers. This is a feature that's been very frequently requested and one which we want to provide for players as soon as we can. We'll offer character transfers from one realm to another, as well as allow players to move characters from one account to another. While we want to offer this service as a convenience, we also want to prevent its use for exploitive reasons, so there will be a time restriction to limit the frequency that a character can be moved.
We are very excited about the upcoming content we're creating for World of Warcraft. The potential for what we can do with the game is endless, and our main challenge is to continue raising the bar for everyone. Speaking of raising the bar, we know that many players are curious about our plans for Hero classes. We want to assure everyone that developing the Hero-class system as a way for top-level players to advance their characters to new heights remains a high priority for us. While we can't delve into specifics at this time, we do hope to share more info about Hero classes when we see you at BlizzCon.
I want to thank our dedicated players worldwide who have made this game into a global phenomenon, and I invite you to experience the things we have in store. Thanks again, and we'll see you in Azeroth!
World of Warcraft Development Team
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