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Wrath of the Lich King Demo panel: liveblogging from BlizzCon

Mike Schramm

We are live on the floor at BlizzCon, and in just a few minutes, the devs will sit down on stage and show us everything that the Wrath of the Lich King entails. Tom Chilton, Jeff Kaplan, and Lee Sparks will all be here right around 1pm (2 minutes by my clock), and updates are forthcoming.

The liveblog starts right after the jump. Here we go!

1pm: Surprise, they're starting late. The Main Area in BlizzCon Hall A is filling up, and there's a big picture of Arthas taunting us from the video screens.

1:05pm: Welcome and intros: Hello Jeff Kaplan, one of the lead game designers on WoW. Cory Stockton, Tom Chilton, and Lee Sparks are also here.

1:06pm: Been a great year for WoW-- Burning Crusade, Patch 2.1 with Black Temple and the Daily Quests "to put Chinese gold farmers out of business"-- and it's working! VOIP coming ("Time to stop paying for Ventrilo and Teamspeak")

1:07pm: Welcome to Northrend. Showing the Northrend map, looks very similar to the ones we've seen so far. Our goal is to not have an entire expansion that takes place in the snow. Probably more zones than Outland, because no new races means more focus on content.

1:08pm: We learned players want to interact with people like Illidan, so everyone will have a chance to hang out with Arthas, not just an ingame raid.

1:09pm: Level cap raised to 80, will give people a lot of new zones and content to explore. New class, the Death Knight, WoW's first Hero Class.

1:10pm: First question Kaplan's son asked: "Will the Death Knight summon stuff" Yes! "Will it be overpowered like the Warlock?" Laughter. I can't promise you that.

1:10pm: Siege weapons and buildings, because blowing stuff up is cool. Inscription example: modify existing spells and abilities. Fireball, for instance, can inscribe it to perhaps have knockback or further damage.

1:12pm: New character customization-- hairstyles changing, even on existing characters. Cheering from the crowd-- players want epic barbershops. Plastic surgery not now, but maybe next expansion (joke).

1:13pm: History of Northrend-- created during War of Ancients. Nerubians are up there, as is Arthas on Icecrown Glacider.

1:14pm: showing off the design map with four seperate zones, Cory Stockton will tell us about it.

1:14pm: Northrend will have two points of entry (so there's no choke point like Hellfire Peninsula). Borean Tundra, and Howling Fjord will be the two starter zones-- both sides have same level tuning.

1:15pm: Showing off Howling Fjord, lots of cliff edges, 13-foot tall Viking badasses, and Utgarde Keep will be here too.

1:16pm: Vikings are an evil race, starting to feel the call of the Lich King. Ingame video.

1:16pm: Titan statue in the video. Dragons with people on them. Blue Dragonflight?

1:17pm: back to Cory, showing design layout for Howling Fjord, laying out maps for gameplay areas, quest flow, dungeons.

1:18pm: Borean Tundra is the second "starter zone," home to Tuskarr race-- "transient Walrus-looking fishermen." It's also the home of the Naga right now, and they're melting the ice-- can't tell you why, but it gives the zone a unique feel-- not all ice and snow.

1:19pm: Concept art from Borean Tundra. Inspired by Easter Island, and giving a little history to the Tuskarr. Ingame footage of Borean Tundra. Warsong Hold, Orc fortress. Gnome town with huge science thing (and airstrips), a Tuskarr Fishing town.

1:20pm: Lots of ice flows and icebergs, now showing the design map for Borean Tundra-- blue line down the middle shows split where half is snow and half is thawed out.

1:21pm: Very important in starter zones to have easy-to-find quests and towns. Next up: Grizzly Hills, home of FURBOLGS!! Grizzlemaw is here, as well as an ancient Dwarven city, Durn Rhodan (sp?)

1:22pm: Not a snow zone-- a little chilly, but more redwood forests.

1:23pm: showing ingame video of Grizzly Hills. Looks like Hinterlands, very lush and foresty.

1:24pm: And showing design layout of Grizzly Hills-- showing what looks like PvP towns and goals in the center.

1:25pm: Dragonblight, lots of dragon stuff going on in the quests and in the zone itself. We want to draw everyone into the lore of the zone, give a story that you can feel connected to.-- You'll be able to go into these Ice caves, a brand new ice cave shader system just to get you guys in there. Dragonblight is where dragons have come to die, so HUGE dragon skelly on screen. Showing ingame video.

1:25pm: Spooky, cold kind of feeling. lots of leafless trees and dark music.

1:26pm: Showing design of Dragonblight-- using the maps to give Horde and Alliance enough bases and graveyards.

1:27pm: So where's our Shattrath? DALARAN!!!! "This place might look familiar." It'll be the home city for Northrend, so it'll be on the move a little bit-- shows funny animation moving the Dalabubble up there.

1:28pm: Kirin Tor are setting up the final fight against the Dragonflight-- they're moving Dalaran to take a stand. It'll be the home city, and floating above the air, access it from the ground... or flying mounts. Very centrally located in Northrend-- we learned a lot from Shattrath, but build in a ton of lore and make it a really cool place.

1:29pm: Tom Chilton talking about Death Knight. With the impending addition of Gnome death knights, we've got to stomp them, so new PvP features. Siege weapons are something we've been talking about for quite some time, and we're ready to bring them in to affect both outdoor world and battlegrounds. New battleground, and adding entirely new type of outdoor world Zone-- a zone dedicated to PvP activity.

1:30pm: Destructible building, in both outdoor and the BG. "The more you blow up, the more honor you'll score."

1:31pm: 15 person battleround, 30-40 minutes-- no name given yet. New arena season coming, both gear and a new map. Non-instance PvP zone will be called Lake Wintergrasp.

1:32pm: Intro to the Death Knight class. Designed to fulfill both tanking and DPS roles. Can tank using 2h OR Dual wielding-- no shields here.

1:32pm: Death Knights like bladed weapons, showing off big axes and swords-- Runeswords and Runeaxes. Wears Plate armor, showing concept art-- looks like Rogue/Warrior/Warlock all had a baby.

1:33pm: Death Knight spells and abilities are a mix of both caster and melee. Not standing back and casting, but using non-melee spells and abilities. In your face, beating your head in, and using a spell called "Army of the Dead." OMG

1:34pm: Death Knight is a hero class-- can't roll as a level one character, wanted to make it more epic (no level one Death Knights). Character class with two distinguishing elements-- have to unlock the ability to play one. Don't have to be a raider. Quest chain at level 80, like the Warlock epic mount quest, to unlock Character class. Story elements-- explain interaction with Arthas. Second element: Once you've unlocked it, you start off at a relatively high level (55, 60, 70-- not sure yet), with preexisting set of spells and abilities.

1:36pm: Hero classes are Unlocked, allows us to release more in the future. Can't release them all at one time, because of game balance, but what it boils down to is your favorite WCIII heroes, playable.

1:37pm: Rune resource system. Three rune schools: Blood runes, frost, and unholy runes. All DK spells and abilities will use these different runes in some combo. DKs carve these runes into their weapon-- done anytime outside of combat.

1:38pm: Character portrait has six runes in place of the mana bar (and a special circle around the icon, probably for Hero class). These runes are consume as your spells use them-- they deactivate and then reactivate over time, so if you have two frost and four blood runes, you get that much to use as spells and abilities. We have plans for mechanics that allow you to change one resource type on the fly-- like Warlock's Life Tap (Health=mana).

1:39pm: Showing a DK with six Unholy runes chosen-- hopefully that won't happen, since players should want to use all the rune abilities. Runes are on cooldowns modified by talents and attributes-- "Death Strike" might be a spell that refreshes runes, or spells might consume more than one rune at a time. By the way, the graphic showed was an Orc Death Knight.

1:41pm: Q&A Time. More work done towards midlevel content? Yes, we may do more of that before the expansion, but we want players to roll up. Will be changes coming to speed up 1-60 and 1-70.

1:43pm: With Level 70, will there be 51 point talent trees, and what's the ETA? It'll come out "when it's ready" (DUH). Won't be today. We certainly do expect to extend talent trees, so 51 point talents, and Death Knight will have three talent trees of their own. It's not our goal to make talents get stronger down the trees-- we want to give players more freedom rather than just choosing a tree.

1:44pm: Undermine, Grim Batol, anything in the old zones? Anything that will encourage us to go back to old Azeroth? Jeff, what do you think? We definitely want to send players back to the old world-- we have plans, some which aren't announced. There will be a new CoT instance, info coming soon. Karazhan and CoT, and the AH (laugh) serve all your old world needs.

1:46pm: With Death Knights, will your current class play into that, or will you get a new character? You get a new character-- we considered upgrading a character, but we felt that too many people felt there were losing something. We want players to feel like they get a net positive after the quest. Storyline will explain how it all works. It will be an entirely new character.

1:47pm: Will green items in Northrend be better than Tier 4? Yes, we do expect to see the same kind of progression. We were happy overall with the way it worked. If you're decked out in Illidan gear or the new raid zone that I can't mention just yet that will be out before the expansion (!), that gear will last you a while. But players like upgrades early and often.

1:48pm: Are we going to have to buy new flying mounts again? Laughter. You'll not "have" to buy a new flying mount, but we'll have new options available.

1:49pm: With DK, another plate melee class, what's up with Rogues? It's a balance thing. Rogues bring utility into PvP with crowd control. Rogues are not really good at 5v5 (!), so expect them to be better there. We expect the DK to feel and play very differently.

1:50pm: Solo questing or grouping? Same amount of time as BC? We don't want you to run out of quests and just grind, so my guess would be that it will be simliar from 60-70. Jeff Kaplan: solo quests will be outdoor, dungeons are for grouping. We want to keep the ratio of group to solo quests way in favor of solo quests. There are some groups that work, but solo quests are a priority. Daily quests will also play a big part.

1:52pm: There are more daily quests coming in the next patch-- a dungeon daily quest, a battleground daily quest, and a cooking daily quests (cheers).

1:52pm: How will the Death Knight work with factions? And what kind of minions summoning, and more than one? Playable for Alliance and Horde for sure-- not their own seperate faction. Will "flavorize" NPCs just like other classes get custom stuff. "Army of the Dead" was the spell in the video-- Death Knight is not a pet class, but they'll have a couple of abilities like that.

1:54pm: For hero classes in the future, will we have to pick one or play all of them, and new character slots? No character slot additions now. Crowd boos-- "point noted." It's too early to say anything else about other Hero Classes. But it's a reasonable assumption that you'd be able to create different classes.

1:55pm: Burning Crusade made people ignore existing content-- with new expansion will Legacy content be supported more? We expect the old content to be used for leveling up, but as far as a lot of the old raid content, "we don't intend to keep it around." It had it's time, it's fun, and now we're moving on to new stuff.

1:56pm: With DKs, how do you feel the new class will upset the balance? Introducing a new tanking class obviously has implications for Pallies and Druids. We want them all to be viable tanks, and do it with a slightly different feel.

1:57pm: whether your tank is Pally, Druid, or DK, you'll be able to do the content.

1:58pm: What races for DK? Our current plan is for all of them to be available. ("Gnome Death Knights ftw" from the audience)

1:58pm: Flying mounts in Azeroth? That's not something we expect to do-- we didn't build those zones with flying mounts in mind. We'd rather spend the time making new zones.

1:59pm: Thanks everyone for coming-- Neth and Drysc were the ones taking the questions.

Thanks for reading all-- WoW Classes panel is coming up soon, and we're planning on liveblogging that one as well. Stick around.

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