The Lead Producer of World of Warcraft gives the skinny on the ultimate patch of Cataclysm.
Like Illidan and Arthas before him, WoW players were pretty sure there was going to be a throwdown against the ancient Dragon Aspect, Neltharion - now known as Deathwing - in the final patch of Cataclysm. J. Allen Brack, lead producer of the MMO from Blizzard, said that with patch 4.3 not only will experienced raiders get a shot at downing the huge black dragon in the most epic raid fight ever, but players who aren't in a raiding guild will be able to find groups easier with a new Raid Finder tool. Brack also gave more information on the Void Storage and Transmogrification features and hinted at the news of an expansion that may drop at BlizzCon in October. Oh, and rogues will get some love in the form of a legendary dagger.
Here is the full Q&A with the man behind the curtain of World of Warcraft on everything he has to say about the last patch of Cataclysm.
Greg Tito: What can we expect from Patch 4.3?
J. Allen Brack, Lead Producer of World of Warcraft: We've got a handful of features to talk about and we've got a handful of dungeons. Then something we've previously had in 4.3 is going to be the actual raid where players are able to fight Deathwing and ultimately defeat him. The raid and the dungeons are really tied together with one long story. We're not really spoiling a whole lot as to how that is going to work but the lore of how players are actually able to gain enough power in order to defeat one of the most powerful dragon aspects is kind of told throughout the story of three dungeons and then the actual Deathwing raid.
Tito: Cool. What are the three dungeons?
Brack: The three dungeons will basically have different kind of pieces that allow players to [pause] we're not going to say too much about that. There will be three dungeons that players will be able to participate in that will be all new, something the players haven't done before. Then the story of those dungeons will lead right into the actual raid where players will actually confront and fight Deathwing.
Tito: Is it going to be similar to how Icecrown Citadel worked where a bunch of five mans led up to the raid of Arthas?
Brack: That's definitely the model although we wanted to tie the story of the raid and the story of the dungeons considerably tighter than we did for Icecrown. So with Icecrown we had what's it like to attack Arthas and how the players react to that in a five person dungeon but there wasn't necessarily a story that carried over from the dungeons to the raid in the same manner we're doing with Deathwing. But the model that we're following is very similar.
Tito: Do you have anything else to say about that raid other than it's probably going to be pretty tough?
Brack: We're trying to make it the most exciting most epic raid we've ever done. Players will actually fight Deathwing in multiple phases so there's a lot of different ways for players to be fighting Deathwing throughout that encounter.
Tito: Is it going to be in the air or on the ground?
Brack: We're actually doing multiple phases so there will be some ground phases and some air phases.
Tito: Will you be flying other dragons?
Brack: We're not going to say. To be determined. You'll have to see it when it goes live.
Tito: Do the other dragon flights get involved?
Brack: They're definitely a huge part of the lore and the story. The dragon flights kind of have to come together to help bring Deathwing down.
Tito: When 4.3 releases, will the random Deathwing encounter in zones still occur?
Brack: That's a really good question. We haven't talked about removing the random Deathwing encounters so I think that will continue to the end of 4.3.
Tito: So you'll be able to get that Feat of Strength after this launches?
Brack: Totally, that's the plan.
Tito: I've read about some of the features on the WoW website. What can you tell me about Transmogrification and Void Storage?
Brack: We've got two features that really tie together. One is Transmogrification. The idea behind it is that we're going to allow you to take your item that is a very high level item that you've used and then replace it with the appearance of something that you've had for a very long time. Maybe you've really enjoyed the tier two paladin gear - which is something that player's really like - or you've got your epic sword from Onyxia or your epic helm from the very first original old school Onyxia or you like the tier six priest shoulders that came out with that tier of content. Whatever speaks to you and you really like as most representative of your class in terms of weapons or armor. To be able to take that appearance and then use that for what your current gear already is.
Tito: What about the Void Storage?
Brack: The piece that goes with that is the void storage component. The concept behind void storage is that we wanted to give players a way to store a lot of these items that they've had for some time or give a few players a place to put these items that they would like to keep around a little more. The idea for void storage is it's not instantly accessible like your bank is but it's something that's long term that you're only going to pull out on an infrequent basis. A very large area, long term cold storage, for any kind of series of pieces that you have for your gear.
Tito: The impetus for players to not to take items out is that there is going to be a gold cost associated with that. Is that correct?
Brack: Sure, they can do that if that's what they want to do but the idea was this is for items that you pull out very infrequently as opposed to your bank which is more or less immediate access.
Tito: Do you know how the gold cost is going to be calculated? Is it going to be based on the item level or is it going to be like the talent system where it incrementally goes up each time that you transact with that item?
Brack: We have not actually decided how that is going to work. Both ideas that you brought up are on the table. What we're leaning to right now is that it will be based around ... there will be some factor with the actual cost of the item. Every item in the game has an actual gold cost, you can sell those items to a vendor for a quarter of that cost. It may be based around that cost. We have discussed a progressive cost but I don't think that's a right decision anymore. We haven't nailed down exactly how we're going to calculate the gold cost. There will be a gold cost.
Tito: What else can we expect in 4.3?
Brack: The next big thing that we'll be doing is the random raid finder. The idea behind this is that it is very similar to the dungeon finder we have now except that it is for raids. There are special rules associated with how that is going to work, the first one is that the raid finder is going to be for 25 person only, it's not a way for you to have 10 person raids, it's only for 25 person. It is cross server we will do some auto match making very similar to how it is looking for dungeon. Another piece is that there is going to be another difficulty level and this raid difficulty - the random raid finder difficulty level - we haven't figured out exactly what it's going to be called but there will be a difficulty level easier than normal mode. You'll end up having this raid finder mode then you'll have your normal mode and your heroic mode. The normal and heroic modes are exactly what they are today.
Tito: It's a way to introduce players that aren't able to raid now to be able to do so.
Brack: That's exactly right. So the idea behind that is that it's a little bit easier. There will be restrictions as well for players, you won't be able to get your achievements done, you won't be able to get your titles or your mounts or your awards in that way as if you complete them on normal/heroic. We'll have special achievement s that are specifically for looking for raids tier of difficulty.
Tito: Will the item level of items and loot be cut down as well?
Tito: If you were doing heroic level 5 mans are these raid finder raids more difficult or easier than heroic dungeons?
Brack: Do you mean in terms of the loot you get? Or do you mean in the terms of the difficulty of players?
Tito: There now seems to be the progression where you start with normal dungeons then you go to heroic dungeons then you do 10 mans then you go to 25 man.
Brack: That's one way you can do it. We haven't finalized the where the itemization in terms of the actual levels in terms of where they're going to work towards in terms of the new dungeons or where the, uh, looking for the raid finder item tier or the normal raid tier and the heroic raid tier but there will be a completely separate raid tier. We'll have a raid tier that is for random raid finder, we'll have a raid tier for normal and another raid tier for heroic.
Tito: What else about the raid finder is going on?
Brack: We really want it to be a way for players to get into and experience the highest level of raid content. Right now we have some PUGs (Pick Up Groups) that are able to work where it's a very manual process for players to do it. They're probably not able to do the highest level of content but there's something that they want to do. What if we, instead of having players kind of struggle to get this group together so that they can experience a content level behind, what if we just create a system that allows players to auto match make and automatically facilitates them getting into the most recent content at a different difficulty level.
Tito: I've never been able to raid myself as I've never had the time to wrangle players. This might be a way to make that much easier
Brack: Very similar to the way the dungeon finder works where you can log in and say "I've got an hour and I want to run a dungeon." Click on dungeon finder and let the right thing happen. We're trying to make this at some same level of frictionless entry where you can go on and experience Deathwing content and immediately get on and enjoy that content.
Tito: Is that everything on 4.3?
Brack: There's one more piece which is an announcement that we're releasing a rogue legendary weapon. Specific for rogues, so it will be a dagger. There will be some sort of quest, traditionally we've done these quests that players need to participate in order to create the legendary weapon in this case we'll be focusing on rogues that will try to make that happen.
Tito: Do you know what it's called yet?
Brack: We do not?
Tito: How does it fit into the lore?
Brack: We haven't decided on the name and how it's going to work, we just know that we really want a legendary weapon to come out of this tier and we really want it to be a rogue dagger. That's really all we know at this point. As time goes on we get a lot more lore, a lot more story, an "in" to the creation of all the legendary weapons. We really did a lot with the legendary axe that you got out of Lich King and then we've had other legendaries with the Cataclysm tiers that have had these storylines, we're hoping this one's going to be the most exciting, the most epic legendary quest line.
Tito: I'm sure that'll make all of the rogue's happy. I'm going to be attending BlizzCon in October, is 4.3 going to be released before then?
Brack: We do not announce dates.
Tito: That's true ... So soon or late?
Tito: Are you thinking in the next couple weeks? Months?
Brack: 4.3 is not currently out of PTR (Public Test Realm). There will be some PTR time that we want before the patch actually goes live and we haven't currently released to the PTR. So not next week is the answer.
Tito: Not soon. I have tons of questions about the next expansion but that's not something you can really talk about.
Brack: That sounds like something we may potentially be talking about at BlizzCon.
Tito: Does it have to do with pandas?
Brack: That sounds like something we may be talking about at BlizzCon.