World of Warcraft: Legion has already been off to a great start and is being considered one of the best expansions in recent years by many fans. In order to dig a little deeper into the development of Legion, we had the chance to discuss the expansion with Lead Game Designer Luis Barriga.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today. Can you please introduce yourself and explain your role with World of Warcraft?
I’m Luis Barriga, lead game designer for World of Warcraft: Legion and as the lead I basically help guide the content design for things like leveling zones, the Demon Hunter class, Demon Hunter starter experience, and some of the UI improvements we’ve done recently.
You recently made a big announcement regarding Patch 7.1. Can you go into a detail about what that’s going to bring?
Basically, the patch is called Return to Karazhan. Karazhan is a very well-loved instance that our players hold near and dear, we as devs hold near and dear and so it’s making a return. It used to be a 10-man raid back in the day and the way we’re reshaping it is basically as a 5-man raid. It has a weekly lockout, you’ll need at least mythic level gear. It’ll sit above mythic level dungeons and maybe below some of the harder keystone challenges.
Then we took some of our favorite bosses in Karazhan and gave them a little bit of a facelift. We took some of the old content out and added new content. We just went crazy with the ideas because Karazhan is a place that goes from whimsical to dark and spooky. There’s this connection with the twisting nether as well. Of course, there will be places like the opera house and we did three new plays, but that’s just part of the 7.1 patch.
The two other major components are the Suramar campaign. So we’re doing a soloable weekly, episodic content based story that puts a culmination to the story of Suramar. And then the other part is sort a mini-raid like we used to do during Burning Crusade.
Karazhan is such a beloved Raid by players who were around for Burning Crusade. Will there be less difficult versions so that everyone will get the chance to experience it this time around?
A lot of players will hear that and be intimidated. Oh mythic, well mythic’s not for me, but do you know the plethora of avenues you can get gear from? You get really good competitive stuff from world quests, from reputations, from PvP, from LFR. We anticipate the type of player that previously might have only been able to do a Heroic close to release, they’ll probably have gear good enough that they should be able to do it.
One of the reasons we want to keep it at that mythic tier is because it is kind of a longer experience. I believe it’s nine bosses. It’s the sort of thing where you could have a really bad experience with a queued system where you might not be able to complete the instance. We want it to be more of a special thing; you make it a Saturday with your friends. It really speaks to that classic vibe of BRD or Black Rock Spire.
Overall, the community sees the Demon Invasions as a success. Are you planning to use that same technology for events in Legion?
Honestly, we’re not ready to announce any specific plans, but we share that opinion that it was a success. Personally, I’d love to see it come back.
I know Legion just launched, but some players are already max level. Has there been any negative feedback or constructive criticism regarding what players would have liked with the release?
That’s going to happen anytime. We can’t tune for the people that are going to min-max everything and have their quest log full of quests ready to turn in. We have to tune it for average players who take it all in, they take their time and that’s why we don’t unlock a lot of the progression based stuff until a little bit later. Some of the stuff that we’ve heard fans wants are things that some of our other games are doing.
You come back to Legion and your friends list is full of people doing stuff. One of the issues that we see is there’s a lot of friction in getting things setup. What we’ve seen in games like Diablo and Heroes of the Storm are systems where they just notify you that ‘Hey Eric just joined a queue’ and I click and request to join. Already we’re thinking about stuff to add to our content patches.
With the successful pre-expansion demon invasion event, relatively smooth launch for Legion, and immediate announcement regarding patch 7.1, was this a lesson learned from the way Warlords was handled?
We’re a gigantic game, so by the time we were feeling the content drought during Warlords, we would have needed to start those patches well ahead of time. We finished Legion and then we didn’t stop. Okay, here’s the next patch. It’s going to be ready for testing soon. I can’t recall a time when we’ve been so aggressive when we’ve had plans for this patch and the next patch already.
I think that’s what it takes to keep our players full of content. They love our game and consume it pretty quick so we just have to plan well in advance.
Many aspects of WoW have been streamlined during the last few expansions: Stats, gear, talents, abilities, etc. Are you afraid that the reduction of complexity, and min-maxing potential, might drive away veteran MMO players?
Not at all. We hear that comment a lot and then we look at the numbers. We look at the players who are at a mid-tier and the players who are cutting edge, the difference is still pretty huge. I think a lot of times players misjudge complexity because they fight against a target dummy, but the reduction in complexity of rotations and buttons lets us keep the encounters really engaging. Imagine if fighting a dummy, or Patchwerk, was so complex that it was challenging, we wouldn’t have the ability to add complexity on top of that or to layer cool boss mechanics.
We heard all of that same criticism when Hearthstone was coming out. Oh, this is a very simplistic card game, and as we see now in the competitive scene it takes some really advance people to master it. It’s a symbol of one of our pillars, which is ‘easy to learn, hard to master.’
Thanks again, and to wrap things up is there anything else you would like to tell our readers?
The main thing that we want to drive is that we want our fans to know we mean it when we say we have a lot of content planned for you guys. We’re well aware that it was an issue towards the end of Warlords and we want to reassure our fans that we have a content train that’s not going to stop.Related: Blizzard Entertainment, Interview, Legion, MMORPG, PAX West, PAX West 2016, World of Warcraft