Hot on the heels of the official patch 5.2 trailer, we had the opportunity to sit down and speak with one of the developers behind it all. While chatting with Lead Quest Designer Dave Kosak about patch 5.2 and its development, one thing became incredibly clear -- 5.2 is definitely not just a raid and a few dailies. There is far, far more to be seen and experienced in the new patch.
Read on for some of the details behind the trailer released earlier today, the story in the new patch, daily quest development, scenarios, and even a few hints at what's in store for patch 5.3.
Please note: There are a couple of minor spoilers for 5.2 content in the interview. Nothing huge, we promise!
WoW Insider: The poem in the 5.2 trailer was fantastic!
Dave Kosak: Yeah -- the impression was that he recited the older legend and then added a couple verses onto there, sort of modern additions to it to call people to arms. That was the idea, so hopefully it came across, because the meter shifts when he talks about the Zandalari.
There was a part of it that was interesting, "Did once a hopeless horror hold/When from her sacred veil did spring" -- that almost sounds as if Lei Shen was born out of a need to protect the land?
Well, let's see -- certainly there's tons of lore objects on the 5.2 island that you can collect, and then go back to Lorewalker Cho and get a story. But if you don't mind some spoilers, then the mogu absolutely were created by the Titans, and part of their job was to guard the sacred Vale.
The Vale of Eternal Blossoms?
Yeah, exactly. And the poem has some poetic license in that "from her sacred Vale did spring," you can imagine the ancient pandaren, they don't really know where the mogu came from, but that's the part they were guarding. So they feel like maybe the mogu emerged from there. If we have a few minutes I could talk about the poem, I worked hard on that poem!
Go right ahead!
It's exactly eight syllables per line -- I'm talking about the main verses before Cho's thing. I think you'd call that iambic octameter? It's iambic because every other syllable -- now Cho doesn't have to read it this way but I think subconsciously it works -- every other syllable is stressed. "When from her sacred vale did spring -- built by slaves their hearts in chains" -- all the important words are accented, every other syllable. I really worked hard on that, to get three line rhymes, to get eight syllables per line.
We had a version of the poem that was three stanzas of four lines each, but the music that we did had four musical phrases, followed by that cool transitional sequence. I really wanted the poem to match the music, so we went back to the drawing board and I had to re-write the poem and try to get everyone on the quest team to help feed me rhymes! And finally we came up with four three line stanzas that fits into the music. So if you listen to the trailer again, now listen to the music, you can see there's a change in between each stanza. I don't think people always necessarily notice that, but it helps build, it's all part of creating that really epic experience.
So the music guys worked with us, and obviously we worked very closely with the voice actor (Jim Cummings). We had him read every version of the poem, three different versions, and the three line stanza was my favorite -- that's definitely the one that worked out the best.
You've got one heck of a voice actor there!
Oh, he's awesome! He's incredible to work with, and he was perfect for doing this. It just really gives the trailer a very different vibe -- I mean so often our trailers have the boss himself taunting you. This was a very different -- it felt very pandaren. It was very relaxed, but also ominous and very cool. We're very proud of how it turned out!
Those last two lines were goosebump worthy.
(laughs) Poor Jim Cummings -- our voice actor for Cho -- we had him read that like ten times, we kept going "No darker. No try darker, let's see how it sounds! Go really dark!" and then he -- because he's just so good -- he just nailed it. He kept -- no matter how dark he got he could still get deeper and darker, and that last "The Thunder King comes," he really brought that home.
Daily quests were awesome in patch 5.1. What should we expect to see from 5.2? Any changes?
Well we were developing both patches simultaneously. So we tried to bring some of the lessons from 5.1 into 5.2, but we also didn't have a lot of time after 5.1 was released to do it. One thing we loved about 5.1 -- we got a really positive response to the way that the story kind of trickled out every other day and then eventually every day. People loved that, it made going to do your dailies every day a really cool experience because you really wanted to see what would happen next. We really like that.
You're not going to really see that in 5.2. With 5.2, the story progression is more server progression, it's more about how the island progresses, and your big story moments are when the server unlocks the next chunk of the island -- that's where you get your story moments. So there's a cool event that happens when you hit exalted, and there's a cool event that happens when you unlock the last chunk of the island. Actually, there's cool events that happen every time you unlock a chunk of the island, but there's a pretty big lore moment for lore fans when you fully unlock the island on your server.
But you're not going to get that story quest every other day that was in 5.1. So we carried some of the lessons forward, but we didn't quite carry everything forward.
So you were working on both patches simultaneously?
Yes! It's part of that trying to come out with the content faster. We really think that it's better for the game when there's more things to do. And we've done a pretty good job with coming out with patches about every couple of months.
It's working really well so far.
Yeah, especially when you feel the story is evolving and pressing forward. So we'd been laying out the groundwork for 5.2, and then as soon as 5.1 was ready, everybody shifted over to 5.2, but we'd already done a lot of the work on it.
Correct me if I'm wrong -- Pandaria's got a few different bad guys. We fixed the mantid and the Sha. Then we have the mogu and Zandalar, which we're addressing in 5.2. Does this mean we're done cleaning up Pandaria?
Yeah, interestingly all these separate bad guys, if you trace them all back -- and 5.2 does a good job of connecting them all together -- it really does kind of all come back to the eternal conflict between the Titans and the Old Gods. It's from way, way back in the day, and you can still feel the echoes of it, even today. So you know the mogu were a Titan construct originally, the Sha came from this Old God, and the mantid had worshiped this Old God when it was alive. So it all is kind of tying together.
But you haven't mentioned the other bad guy!
Well, he isn't exactly directly involved with Pandaria, is he?
Oh, but he's been causing all kinds of trouble there, and bringing a lot of the lessons of Pandaria that he's trying to use in his own way! Yeah -- we have that problem that we're going to deal with next.
So we're switching from Pandaria to our own conflicts.
Well to some extent, I mean we've kind of been dealing with both all along -- I mean 5.1's certainly had a lot to do with the internal conflicts of the factions and even 5.2 has a little bit of that.
There's kind of a cadence happening, the switching between Pandaria and addressing ourselves.
Yeah! Pretty cool, you'd think we planned it that way! I can't say that we necessarily planned it that way, but we definitely did want all of the conflicts to kind of be forefront, and all come together. Hopefully by the end of this expansion people will feel that it all came together in a pretty epic climax.
It seems so much more focused than Cataclysm.
That's tremendous -- that's good feedback to hear. I think that Cataclysm -- even though it has this kind of great iconic villain, I think a lot of people didn't feel all the connectivity between Cho'gall and the Twilight's Hammer and everything that was going on. So hopefully this time it feels a lot better. And certainly every expansion needs lots of bad guys and lots of problems to deal with, but it is nice when it feels like it all kind of thematically came together.
Lor'themar and the blood elves seemed to be pretty adamantly against Garrosh by the end of 5.1. (for good reason!) Are we going to see more of the other Horde races come into play?
Yeah -- you know, the idea is that Garrosh is kind of unraveling the Horde, because his idea of what the Horde should be doesn't mesh with everyone else's idea. In fact Wrathion says that, I think, in the 5.1 quest. The question is "What is the soul of the Horde," and he kind of goes through the different visions of the Horde.
We'd like to see the others come into play -- particularly with 5.3, you'll get to see a little more about Garrosh interacting with the other Horde races.
We've gotten a lot of questions about the Forsaken and what they're up to in all of this.
Sylvanas is always cooking something up! She's not really in the spotlight this expansion. One thing that we struggle with from a story perspective is that there's all these interesting characters, all these things going on. But we can't really have story in the game without gameplay. It's really about creating cool gameplay. So if we don't have the space to create really cool gameplay around what Sylvanas is up to, it's kind of hard to tell her story. I don't think that we really wanted to spend time on just a whole bunch of events that you watch and then don't participate in. That's not very interesting.
So Sylvanas -- she's running a city that has Kor'kron as all her guards, and she probably doesn't like that at all, and she's probably eager for an opportunity to take her city back. And we are hopefully going to have some time to explore that with gameplay, but I can't guarantee. I mean we might see it from a different perspective -- we might say, focus on the Gilneans resistance and then you could sort of glean a little bit about what's going on with Sylvanas from that. But we'll see. That's something we want to explore, but we also want to be conscious that we're putting content in the game that's good gameplay, as opposed to just stories we need to tell. Sometimes we can't create every story that we need to tell or want to tell.
I think people just want to know what happened to Koltira!
Yeah -- yep he's under there! (laughs) We haven't said what -- oh, I'll tell you -- he's probably not been happy. He's not sipping soda down there. (laughs) Chained underneath Undercity.
Speaking of 5.1, Jaina seems to have made a few moves that Varian wasn't too happy about. Are we going to see more from him in 5.2?
We'll kind of cycle back to Varian in 5.3. He's not super, super active in 5.2. We just kind of wanted to show the difficulties of leadership and also that dynamic between Jaina and Varian there, so there was a little tension there at the end.
She did kind of chuck everyone out of Dalaran.
Well yeah, but you also kind of want to look at it from her perspective. She was definitely trying to be a bastion of light, the symbol of peace. And wouldn't you know it, someone messed it up again! She was betrayed from within, and that's the worst -- not everybody shared her vision.
The scenarios in 5.1 were faction-restricted, but that restriction's been lifted in 5.2.
Right! So we have the mechanic -- if you played through the Alliance intro to Jade Forest, Lorewalker Cho can create a dream brew to see visions of faraway things. So the fiction behind it is that you can slurp the dream brew and you'll see what happens. So if you're Alliance, you'll get to see what happened to Vol'jin, and in that vision, you'll turn into trolls, because you're really just seeing what happens to Vol'jin and you can reenact it. That's the fiction behind it. Obviously the real reason is we just want everyone to be able to play all the scenarios and play all of the story!
So there's a Caverns of Time shapeshift thing?
Yep! That's the plan.
Does this mean we aren't going to see faction-restricted scenarios anymore?
Not necessarily -- we reserve the right to still have the faction restricted scenarios, but we do want some of these to be available to all of the players, especially patch 5.3, which has several new scenarios.
Single-player scenarios seem like a really cool idea -- are they story-driven, or more like a personal challenge?
Let's see -- we have a few different examples of them. There's -- one of them is for the legendary quest. At some point, you and Wrathion are going to have to do something at the Thunder Forge on the Isle of the Thunder King. That is very much a skill challenge, very difficult -- and we engineered that scenario so that it's possible to be played as a tank, a healer, or dps. And it is tricky! It's meant to really push you to the edge of your abilities as a player. Because hey, you know, you're working toward a legendary item of some sort.
Then there's a single-player scenario for the island progression experience. The reason we created those is that we wanted to make sure that even if you're late to the party, even if the island is all the way unlocked by the time you get to it, you don't miss out on any of the cool stuff that happened along the way. The scenarios are the cool stuff that sort of tell the story of marching forward across this island. There's this scenario where you take your beachhead, and you establish your faction's hub, then there's a story where you shatter the walls and breach the Thunder King's city.
We wanted to be able to show those in a way that you don't miss out on them, even if you come in late. Even if the island is fully unlocked by the time you get there, you can chain run those scenarios and back to back see how your faction moved up the island and advanced and took over the place. You don't have to miss out on any of the coolness -- it's a solo scenario, you and Lor'themar or Jaina actually get to do something cool together and blast open the doors, or do a cool stealth mission with the Shado-Pan to infiltrate the shipyard and take it over, you see your army marching in in the end, blowing open those doors and now it's available for questing.
Have you thought about going back and doing that for old events?
It's kind of a bang for the buck thing. Like say we redid Battle for the Undercity -- we could do it now with much better tech, right? That's a lot of work, and who would want to go back and play the Battle for the Undercity -- we'd almost have to create a heroic so you'd revisit it again. Maybe if we could make a really cool compelling gameplay scenario it might be worth it, to do it as a fun little Caverns of Time thing, but I'd rather spend that time -- it's the same resources -- doing a current, modern-day scenario that tells you what happened with Sylvanas. I think that's probably more exciting than revisiting old content. We're committed to having these patches come out faster, so we have to be really picky and choosy about where we spend our time, so we can get content to people as fast as possible.
We're killing the Zandalari Council. Is this the end of the Zandalari?
Well there's a couple of key Zandalari characters that we've either seen or heard about before. There's King Rastakan, who you don't see in this patch. However, Lorewalker Cho will tell you a story about him, so you kind of get a glimpse of him. There's the Prophet Zul, who you saw in the trailer for patch 4.1, who foresaw the cataclysm and tried to unite the other troll races under the Zandalari banner -- that's sort of the turning point for the Zandalari. We don't see him in 5.2.
So he's out there causing trouble -- presumably this Zandalari army that marched on the island of the Thunder King -- that's not the entire Zandalari race, that's one branch of their force that's cruising out around the world, so they're far from done. And we still haven't seen Zandalar. We know that Zandalar is sinking into the sea, but we don't know what's going on there. Other than a lot of panic, presumably!
That's a story we set up with Cataclysm, and we're getting another hit here, but it's far from over.
What's up with Wrathion? He's got us doing all kinds of stuff!
What's funny is that I think he, in a surprising moment of honesty, pretty much spelled out his plan at the very beginning! He's like, "Look, I think the Burning Legion's coming. And I think that if we have an Alliance and Horde, we're divided, and we need to be united." He wants to unite the races. And probably his method of uniting the races isn't going to be a pretty one. He's certainly feeling out basically who he thinks should conquer.
Is that really what he's up to, though? Black dragons are so tricky.
I know! (laughs) Isn't that awesome? And props to that voice actor, Aaron Phillips, for creating a character that is just so smarmy. (laughs) You just never know for sure what he's really thinking!
I think players will enjoy -- in 5.0 and 5.1, the formula was Wrathion gives you these monologues, and you go out and do stuff, and he'll give you another monologue when you're done. In 5.2, we see him interacting with other people -- in this case, Anduin is kind of his foil, and they discuss matters of world importance together, and you see them interacting together, which I think is a lot of fun and illuminates several sides of their characters.
Anduin's OK, then.
Anduin's alive! When you see him in 5.2, he's got a crutch and his leg is up on a stool, so presumably he's still on the mend.
What about Vol'jin?
A lot of that is explored in the upcoming book. We won't see a lot of Vol'jin in the immediate future, but before the end of the expansion, obviously he's going to be around.
Last question -- what are you most excited for in 5.2?
There's a lot of things! It's a huge and extremely cool raid with a lot of cool fights, so there's that. I think the thing that excites me the most because it's new is that when you're on the island, there are a whole lot of other things to do that aren't daily quests or raids. There's all kinds of things that drop and things that are happening around you, there's a lot of rare spawns and they're tough, they require a group.
There's a choice between PvE and PvP quests, so while you're questing, even if you're not flagged you might see a lot of PvP going on around you. There's rare mobs, there's a lot of stuff you can summon, you can find scraps that allow you to summon mogu spirits in the mogu graveyard, you summon up these boss fights for extra trinkets and rewards. There's these keys scattered around that you can get for the treasure room -- and we haven't talked about the treasure room yet, but the treasure room is this crazy -- man it's tricky!
It'll take people weeks I think to master the treasure room, because you get one, maybe two runs a week. And you really can use all of your class abilities. You can use every -- every sort of hacky cheaty thing you can do -- Goblin Rocket boots are awesome! You can stun a creature on a trapped tile, then send a pet in to the trapped tile to set it off so it kills the creature -- I mean you can do all kinds of crazy things with your different class mechanics to help you get around that treasure room faster.
And that's just one of the things to do on the island! We also have these summonable 5-man bosses, they're very difficult but have potential to drop some cool loot. And you don't even have to be doing dailies to necessarily do those -- it helps to do the dailies, it increases your chance of getting the Shan'ze Ritual Stones that drop in order to summon the bosses.
There's just a lot of things to do. So while you're doing your dailies on the island, you'll find groups forming, you'll find friends doing things, stuff happening all around you, you'll see a rare wandering around. It's a lot of fun. And hey! For lore people, all the Zandalari mobs have a chance of dropping these journals -- there's an achievement I think for collecting all five. And they really tell you what's going on behind the lines for the Zandalari. Like what's it like for the Zandalari, who are seeing their city sink into the sea, what are they thinking, how do they live, what's their deal.
And then there's collecting all the lore around the island and having Lorewalker Cho tell you some more stories. I mean there's so much going on on that island, in addition to the raid and everything else. And I think that's fun -- I think there's a lot of good gameplay, I'm excited to see how people interact with it.
We're definitely eager to get started. Thanks for sitting down with us, we're looking forward to seeing what's next!