BlizzCon 2019: World of Warcraft Shadowlands deep-dive panel liveblog

    
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Updates! Improvements! Theoretically making people less upset about still being knee-deep in Battle for Azeroth! The World of Warcraft update panel at BlizzCon day two is one of the things we knew was happening even before the opening ceremonies dropped Shadowlands. Now it’s time to catch up with the update panel, so let’s jump in for all of the usual fun. As with our other liveblogs, the live portion is in the comments below, while we’ll be updating the main post periodically along the way with images and summaries. If you’ve got a golden ticket, you can watch along with us too.

Everything BlizzCon 2019

Notes

Here we go! Digging right into the four covenants, which we wrote about extensively last night.

Covenant sanctums – it’s pretty much class halls.

You also get covenant abilities, some of them customizable.

Then there are new class abilities, somewhat akin to artifact active abilities.

Now we’re on to soulbinding that sounds like picking a hero character to ally to, who grants special abilities.

Yay cloaks and mounts and armor.

Yes, you can change covenants, but it’ll take a while and effort.

Leveling flow up next. The devs think leveling takes too long, that levels don’t feel meaningful and every level isn’t rewarding, and the timeline chronology is confusing. In BFA the devs rescaled the gameworld to reduce outleveling zones before the story was over, leading to the 1-120 level scaling. Devs are also concerned about how long it takes for new players to catch up to the endgame, they don’t want people to make 120 short levels that feel silly. It’s apparently been a problem the most with Pandaria.

So here’s the fix, along with the new starter zone to intro the game to new players.

So the new level spread will be squished to 60 at the cap, with something at every level, with 60-70% faster leveling from 1 to 50. And you can take any of the expansions and set your story to it to level to the whole expansion story from 1 to 50.

New characters will also be scaled to match and level from 50 to 60 in Shadowlands.

Exile’s Reach will be the new newbie zone that shows off the game’s best mobs and biomes, ending with a small dungeon that scales to the party, then you push on to the capitals, and then new players are pushed into Battle for Azeroth specifically so they’re brought up to speed.

Yes, existing players can still start in Exile’s Reach, but they have more options afterward, as Chromie allows you to choose your expansion to level up through. You are not FORCED to do this – you can ignore all this and wander all over the world and quest as you like if you want. Allied races start at level 10 and go right to Chromie time.

On to class philosophy. Blizzard seems to finally be recognizing it may have pruned too much, but there won’t be Legion-style extensive class changes. At the core of it is “returning to class from spec” – making Priest matter more than your Priest’s spec.

Big cheers for auras and totems and curses and poisons!

There’s a renewed focus on class range, less division of types of powers, and iconic class abilities – this means fixing up some talent abilities we miss.

Kubit’s back to talk about Torghast and recap the Maw zone. I can’t wait to hear us all trying to say “Maw Walker” 10 times fast. Storytime! Yes you can play with people in other covenants. You’ll be dealing with the Eyes of the Jailer mechanic, heading into the tower itself, and YES, it scales to your group size, though it (and you) get more badass as you go. This is super similar to such dungeons in games like Aion and GW2, MMO players will note, except that you can bring any number of folks up to 5 and any classes. The floors are built to encourage exploration, not timed; you’ll always be climbing, and the story you’re going through will keep changing, sort of like a roguelike.

Maw rats, lol.

And that’s a wrap! See you at the Q&A panel.

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Loopy

Bringing class identity back is a huge step forward. Now give my pally blessings and seals back, and i’m in 100%.

Mordyjuice
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Mordyjuice

Not sure how I feel about the new leveling system, it’s like they decided screw it regarding a coherent story.

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TomTurtle

In a sense, it allows for having the option to play through a more coherent story rather than doing a zone or two in one expansion and then having to move on breaking up the story flow. They also nudge new players to do the previous expansion’s story since there tends to be some direct continuity between that one and whatever the current is.

It’s not perfect of course as there’ll still be some head scratching moments of wondering what’s going on if you’re not familiar with all of the story plot points.

It makes sense they made this compromise since it doesn’t require too many resources and time to implement.

Mordyjuice
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Mordyjuice

I get it, I’ve often commented on this problem; I’m just going to be compelled to do BFA from now on when ever I level a character.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Just clarifying what mean by “compelled”. Do you mean because that’s your favorite zone or because the game will make you? New players will have there first character go to BFA to level and then to SLs. After that, alts can choose any expansion to level and then go directly to whatever Covenant they want to. So, other than a player’s first character, BFA can be skipped.

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Christmas Dog

WoW hasn’t had a coherent, linear story for new players since Cataclysm, so this isn’t anything new.

Even back then, a new player would start in Shattered Azeroth, level to 60, go back in time to Draenor to 70, go a bit further in time to Northrend to 80, and then catch back up with their own timeline 80-85.

If anything, this system of it being Chromie acknowledging the player is being sent back in time is more coherent.

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NecrococoPlays

I think it makes story more of a priority. You chose a full zone, and its corresponding narrative arc, to experience. BfA is the first arc I’ve finished in a long time – because it’s well designed, rewarding, and was scaled pretty closely with my leveling from 110-120.

The idea of starting Northrend at 10-15, and finishing it and its corresponding arc at 50 is really appealing. It sucked showing up to a zone and totally outleveling it before the story got anywhere. My first character is full of lose end quests.

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losludvig

Having so many empty levels 48-cap was one of the biggest gripes for me with wow leveling so hearing that every single level 1-50 granting something is great, but what of 51-60? If there’s nothing new there I feel like blizzard only half fixed the issue.

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Jokerchyld

51-60 will be the new expansion Shadowlands. If you dont buy the expansion you cant level past 50.

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losludvig

I’m talking about getting new stuff when leveling. If there’s no new stuff levels 51 through 60 then those levels are pointless and should be replaced by something else.

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Vincent Clark

Why would you think there would be no new skills/abilities with the addition of 10 new levels? Has that been the norm??

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losludvig

afaik that has been the case since maybe cataclysm (so 80-85 content).
If you’re lucky you might get a single talent pick during a 10-15 level bracket

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Ashfyn Ninegold

If I understand correctly, covenants are meant to provide additional active powers. We’ll see how it works out in the end.

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losludvig

Great, so like artifacts, that got scrapped the next expansion leaving a 10 level hole with nothing but your gear getting weaker.
I’m still very salty that they had a very fun system for giving you something to look forwards to in a very dry spot in leveling and just decided to throw it all away
(this is not meant as an attack on you, I just have a very low opinion on blizzard for this topic)

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Jokerchyld

Well for me Blizzard is giving me what I’ve been screaming about since I started back in 2012. I will NOW be able to start the game with a level 1 and go where ever I want. Thats a huge benefit. I get a good story which keeps me engaged but after I finish the story I dont have to do it again. Plus. I like the concept of the maw. Something challenging to do at max level that I can do ALONE or with friends and get meaningful progression from doing it in legendaries and improving my covenant/order hall. The problem with BFA is after you reach 120 its honestly raiding. or mythic+ dungeons. That gets boring so fast. Mythic+ was great but the whole timed concept soured it for me. I dont want to rush through a dungeon as fast as I can. I like to explore.

Things I didnt hear/still missing to make this complete.

Adding new content to the world. if I decide to go back to Goldshire there should be fresh level 60 related stuff to do making it relevant.

Crafting. They hinted at changes to crafting but dont know the details. But crafting sucks today. By the time I can craft a weapon I already have a drop that a number of ilevels above it making it pointless (until I max out the profession). They really should take ideas from WoW classic with crafting progression and being able to be a weaponsmith or armorsmith through a quest line.

Housing. Order halls were pretty close and perhaps Covenants gets me a serviceable replacement. But we need a base of operations we can decorate (preferably with trophies from the conquests we achieved in the game). I dont mind if thats a personal house or sometype of order hall thing.

Part of the fun of an MMO is the ability to travel through the virtual world grinding stuff to progress whatever it is you want to work on at the moment.

ESO does a great job of nailing this, but I cant get over the realistic theme. I much prefer the high fantasy, cartoon look of WoW.

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Koshelkin

The new way to level your characters is pretty much exactly what I wanted. Pick an expansion, experience the complete story, keep the rest of it for another alt. Fantastic.

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Zola_Rose

I’ve just come back to the game, and am looking forward to the changes they’re making. By returning with a new character, the issues around leveling have been a lot more noticeable – especially with trying to follow a narrative arc and feeling late to the party.

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TomTurtle

Shadowlands still feels anemic to me. While it’s potentially good that Blizzard wants to fix things, I’m not exactly going to applaud them for doing what should be considered the bare minimum.

BfA seemingly made certain players have lowered expectations which is something I don’t agree with. They should manage good systems and fixes while putting out a regular, healthy amount of new content in the forms of things like new classes and races along with the rest.

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Utakata

I am starting to like more of what I hear. I still feel there is a lot of stuff they have to iron out first…as I am sure they’re not placing all their cards on the table as of yet with this. So fingers and pigtails remained crossed in hoping it will all be a desirable outcome…for what that’s worth.

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TomTurtle

We’ll have to see. The devil is in the details.

I can’t imagine they’ll introduce anything major that they haven’t announced already. People kept saying to wait and see for the What’s Next Panel. Then the Deep Dive Panel. It’s pretty obvious to me that Blizzard would advertise all the major important, attention-grabbing features in the initial announcement.

I really get tired of the idea that I’ve seen some people (not you) seem to require holding back criticism until some point in the future. Moving goalposts and all.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Two things that interest me way, way more than BfA (which I haven’t played, yet) is the way they are handling alts, which is more rational than any other MMO atm. “You’ve already played the content. We want you at level cap enjoying the new stuff.” Thank you.

The other thing, which I’ve heard Ion say a couple of times is that players should be playing content they enjoy and playing the way they want to. What a change from Legion, which pushed players into PvP and all other sorts of content not everyone likes/enjoys.

Just from those two things, I’m already way more interested in SLs than I ever was in BfA.

Bree Royce
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Bree Royce

If you missed the panel itself, we’ve updated the post with pics of everything and summaries – give it a refresh. :D