It’s patch season for World of Warcraft, with the newly announced Embers of Neltharion coming in 10.1 for the Dragonflight expansion. While we only have dates on its PTR debut, that doesn’t mean we don’t have a treasure trove of information on what fans can look forward to in the expansion.
Briefly, this patch sees players exploring the lab of Neltharion- better known to older WoW fans as Deathwing, of Cataclysm box art fame. While the reasons the former Aspect was corrupted have long remained a mystery, Embers promises a better look into the mind of the character- as well as a 9-boss raid and new zones.
We got to catch up with Patrick Dawson, Production Director and Maria Hamilton, the Lead Quest Designer about Embers of Neltharion- from the very serious explorations of Deathwing as a character to spelunking with mole-men and racing giant snails.
Embers of Neltharion is a pretty big patch for WoW, being the first major update for Dragonflight. What are you most excited for players to try?
Maria: Wow that’s hard, because there’s so many things in 10.1, and rather than focus our efforts on the new zone that we’ve created, the Zaralek Cavern, we did stuff in the Dragon Isles as well. I’m super proud of us being able to put together a new season, right? That’s huge. That’s nine-boss raid, Aberrus, the Shadowed Crucible, that’s fantastic stuff.
I’m also very proud of the work we did on continuing some of the stories from Dragonflight. The Blue Dragons and Tyr, as an example.
I wouldn’t be the quest design lead if I wasn’t super proud of the work we’ve done on our quests in Zaralek Cavern, and in particular our fun activities through the renown system, which will let you go Sniff N Seeking, Niffen cave diving essentially, but using the mole peoples nose to find areas you can’t reach otherwise that smell interesting to them, and they will take you burrowing into the ground to find caverns and things where there’s puzzle and treasures and stuff like that.
So it’s a fun opportunity to characterize your new race that we are going to be encountering, and they don’t always have the same opinion as you do about what smells good and what smells bad, and they don’t always have the same opinion about what’s a treasure. So, it’s a fun opportunity to go and do some fun…learning about a new culture. I don’t want to speak for Patrick, what do you got?
Patrick: For me I really love everything that’s happening with the season, you mentioned some of it already, like the raid is fantastic. But also, just changing up the Mythic+ dungeon pool, that’s a new thing for us, we haven’t done this early in the life cycle of the expansion, this is the first time we’ve done that. That’s something we’ve planned to do in the beginning, so that makes it easier.
In addition to the four Dragonflight dungeons that aren’t currently in the pool, you also gets a run Freehold, The Underrot, Neltharion’s Lair which of course thematically fits very well with this update, and also Vortex Pinnacle, a dungeon from Cataclysm, which is the first time we’ve gone beyond Mists of Pandaria to do a Mythic+ dungeon…I think Mists was the first time we really had like the Challenge Mode mentality in there, even that pre-date Mythic+, and going back before that was certainly something that was a little bit challenge to get the dungeon ready for prime time, and be part of the Mythic+ pool. But it is and it’s pretty fun, so have a good time, and enjoy some season 2 stuff.
When it comes to Mythic+, what does a dungeon need to do to be in consideration?
Patrick: I think a couple things are important like variety is one, you know, to go from something deep in the depths of Highmountain like Neltharion’s Lair to Vortex Pinnacle which is extremely open and vast and then the sky. That kind of variety is nice.
Same with things like Underrot and Freehold, where Underrot is a little bit more like cavernous and goopy, and Freehold is a lot more piratey and whimsical and just open. So it’s just very up to themes, it’s something that’s important, you know, people don’t feel like to run into the same thing every time.
And then just general fun, these are all fan favourite Mythic+ dungeons from the past, other than Vortex which is new, but the ones that have been runned, people really enjoy them so…why don’t I come back to those and giving people what they want?
There’s also Snail racing in Embers of Neltharion, for all the fans of high-octane low-speed action. What can you tell us about that?
Maria: Yeah, hot new feature there. Well, so we brought back the Drogbar, if you recall the Drogbar are really interested in their snails and their snail racing, and betting on their snail races, and cheering on their snails. So this time we look into that, you know, certainly we set that up again, but we look at it in other ways that we can sort of bring their love of snails and snail racing to the forefront.
And so one of the things you’ll be able to do is take on a snail, that has been difficult to train. Maybe it’s a little larger than normal snails, and you are gonna learn to train the snail to get faster and faster, and becoming a quicker snail, which is a little relative. At the end, you end up having your own snail mount, which is this cool looking crystal snail.
We are also talking about how we wanna have players participate in snail racing, whether it will be betting on snail races, or participating in snail races. The thing is snail racing is a very slow sport, so we are not sure players will enjoy snail racing as the jockey per se, but perhaps betting on them, so that’s still in progress but definitely there’s a snail mount to earn by training up your own snail racing mount.
For full flavor, will it move slower than the player’s character?
Maria: Oh it’s very slow at first. It’s excruciatingly slow, because of course. It’s very slow, and as you train it it gets faster though, so you train it, it gets faster and faster. And as you probably know, quest designers love their puns, so I promise you the quest names are hilarious.
10.0.7 is bringing the Monk class to some races that didn’t have it before. Is there going to be new narrative content about the new races getting access to Monk?
Patrick: I think our goal with supplying more choices, is really a customization goal, not necessarily a narrative goal. So there may be somethings that aren’t fully covered as the result of the change. But ultimately, the idea is like it would be cool if you can be a Goblin and a Monk, that would be kind of neat to do. So,
Maria: I totally get what you’re saying there too. As we think about, you know, maybe in the future when we do certain other types of classes, we’ll be wanting to think about, you know, possible narrative complications, because if you think about some of those class-race combinations, they are kind of weird. I mean they’re really weird, way more weird than a Troll and Rogue, right? So that’s an example of a thing that we might want to do more.
But with what we’ve done thus far, like we are really happy with just giving people this additional customization.
Cataclysm was really big because of just how much of a monster Deathwing is. Since we’re going to his lab in Embers of Neltharion, are we going to suddenly see him turn into this sympathetic character?
Maria: Oh I think actually you are gonna get some answers to that in Embers of Neltharion, because when we go into his lab, we’re gonna see what he was doing, what he was up to. We are gonna to see his experiment, the ones that were considered successes. Out in Zaralek Cavern, we’re gonna see what happened to the one he considered failures. And the things he was doing were horrific, there were some terrible terrible things.
And you get to experience that through the eyes of some members of the Black Dragonflight, who have very different perspectives on Neltharion. So Sabellian and Wrathion are gonna have opinions, and things they are learning too, about Neltharion. This lab is where he went mad. What happened in this lab drove him mad? And we are gonna learn about that as well.
So I think thatpeople can understand that this is a sympathetic thing. I think when you see some of the direct outcome of his actions, and the reflections that his Flight have on what he did, you know, how they feel about it, how they react to the choice that he made, and then eventually his corruption and fall. I think that adds a lot to the story, and it’s gonna provide players a lot more insights into the event
When you get to Zaralek Cavern in Embers of Neltharion, will you be able to fly immediately, or will there be a quest or anything you need to do first?
Maria: You can just fly right on in. You gonna dive down into this tunnel, and fly right into the depths of the Earth underneath Dragon Isles on your Dragon Riding mount. We got some new techs that allow us to do that. No load, no instance, just zoom on down there and enjoy your mount. Now, we may have sections of the story where you can’t fly, for reasons, but, yeah.
Speaking about the Niffen and the Sniff N Seek, could you talk about that’s going to work?
Maria: The way it works is that you have an individual relationship with a particular Niffen, this is his favourite activity. As you build up your friendship with him, and your renown with the Niffen, he is going to be able to take you to different places. What you encounter in those different places will depend on what you tell him you are looking for.
Keep it in mind, he doesn’t see very well, he only smells. So you are gonna need to figure out how to ask him for certain things. So if you are looking for certain kind of treasure, you’re gonna figure out what is that smells like to him, and then ask him ‘Hey, can you take me to places that smells like this’.
And then when you get there, you may have a puzzle to solve, you may have some creatures to fight, because he’s gonna be able to take you to places that others can’t reach. So it’s gonna be based on what you request that he take you to, and then also based on what you’ve done previously, because we don’t want to give you the same one in a row for example, so we’ll be keeping track of that information.
There is an element of sort of you guiding it to a certain extent. But it does have to do with how well you know him, how clearly you can communicate with him, what you like.
World of Warcraft has been going on an incredibly long time. Yet, even now after all these expansions, people are still looking forward to patches like Embers of Neltharion. How does it feel to be a part of something like that?
Maria: Oh it’s fantastic, it’s amazing. I mean I remember when I started in beta, right at the start, right at Vanilla. It’s been a big part of my life for a long long time, and getting to work on the game and getting to see the development of the game and dive deeply into the lore, I love it. It’s fantastic. Best job ever.
Patrick: Yeah, I mean, big same. I love the way the community has reacted to Dragonflight too. It warms our hearts to see how much joy people have gotten from this expansion. Likewise, I’ve been playing since before launch as well, I actually have one of the very first old school mounts that was removed in patch 1.4, I’ve been playing that long, and I still play the heck out of this game, like I’ve run advance Mythic+, I have over 600 mounts, 35 thousand achievement points, like…I don’t mess around. I like to collect, I do, it’s fun, even working on PvP now too. So that’s been fun.
When I first took the job, it was back in 2005, so World of Warcraft had been released and I was playing, and I was part of the East Coast guild. Because I moved to California from Maryland, I actually had to find a new guild because they started raids when we were still working, and I’m like “Dang it, I have to raid guys, I love you all but gotta find a new home so…” yeah.
It’s always a joy to catch up with the team behind World Of Warcraft, as they dive into the latest updates coming to the game. With Embers of Neltharion, it looks like there’s going to be a lot for players regardless if you’re in it for the raiding or for learning more about one of WoW’s biggest (physically) villains.
Our thanks to Patrick and Maria for taking the time to chat with us, you can also look forward to 10.0.7, which features the return to the Forbidden Reach as well as reworks for the Paladin class.
Discussion about this post