Talking with Ion Hazzikostas, WoW’s director
Although they’re still not sharing subscribers numbers (I tried!), Blizzard is quite happy with the reaction to World of Warcraft: Legion. It managed to strike a chord critically, sure, but a lot of fans who were disenfranchised by Draenor have come back, and best of all, they’re actually adding worthwhile reasons to do so with a regular cadence of content.
With patch 7.1.5 dropping this month, I decided to check in with game director Ion Hazzikostas to see how they were handling all of this post-launch business.
Right now, the team is confident in their ability to keep updating Legion at the same pace. When asked, Hazzikostas explained that “We’ve been very happy with how raid progression has gone, from the Emerald Nightmare shortly after release to the Trial of Valor in Patch 7.1 to the newly released Nighthold raid. We’d heard feedback from our players in Warlords that raid content felt rushed early on only to run into a drought later, and we’re doing our best to address that concern with improved pacing—and more content.”
They’ve also attempted to rectify “awkward mechanics, skewed item preferences, or a lack of diversity among talent choices,” but are keeping class balance to a minimum with hotfixes — the big class overhaul came with the start of Legion and they don’t want to rock the boat too much just yet (even if the playerbase has been clamoring for some class alterations since then — just look at the Rogue and Warlock kits).
As part of 7.1.5 Mists of Pandaria dungeons are now included in the “Timewalking” mechanic — a difficulty mode that brings players back to old school dungeons and scales down your abilities. Preserving old content is one of my biggest concerns, and Hazzikostas says they have no intention of stopping the concept, to a point: “We love Timewalking and the potential it offers. Patch 7.1.5 expands the breadth of the feature to include Mists of Pandaria content, and we’ve said in the past that ‘Current Expansion Minus 2’ is about as recent as we ever want to get with Timewalking, so any future steps are likely to involve adding depth to the existing events we have in place. Both raids and outdoor content have been areas that we’ve discussed potentially revisiting under the rubric of Timewalking, but we’ll have to see what the future —or the past—holds.”
As a player since Vanilla, it’s weird to see how much of a comeback Legion has made since a lot of the missteps in Draenor. Fighting Gul’dan is probably something you’d see over a year into Draenor as a “cap” before the next expansion, but here we are battling him in the Nighthold (his wing opens on March 7 in LFR, at which point pretty much anyone can see it). Patch 7.3 is going to Argus, the homeworld of the Eredar, which has huge implications for the lore. I hope they don’t stop there though, and have a few other tricks up their sleeve before the next expansion is announced.