As a nearly 20-year-old franchise, everything about the design of World of Warcraft is crafted with the finest level of detail – to ensure that players are not disappointed whose expectations and enjoyment of the game are paramount. The team works tirelessly to ensure that what is created in the world is purposeful and appropriate to the context of the broader lore. This is evident in the design of the art and illustrations of the characters, world inhabitants and the world itself. During the creation of new expansions, they go through many iterations to ensure that the highest quality is delivered to the fan base.
With the 10.1 patch now well underway, in honor of it we can take a look at some of the insights shared by the experts on the WoW Dragonflight development team and delve deeper into what it takes to create some of the new 10.1 updates.
Dragonriding First up is Dragonriding – the brand new aerial movement skill the game is named after. This received an overwhelmingly positive response from the community, with some even calling for it to be added in all zones. Therefore, in May, in the Embers of Neltharion update, we are adding six new Glyphs along with two new Dragonriding abilities. This will hopefully allow players to enjoy the brand new movement skill even further!
As for design, before we look at details of other elements of the design, the goal for new continents and zones is to provide beautiful landscapes for players to traverse – especially when done at speed on a dragon! In testing, designers always ask each other, “How does it feel to explore? Is it exciting? Is it full of life? Will it get players excited about the new expansion? How do we accomplish this?” – plus much more.
Therefore, in this new patch, there are new traits, glyphs and races that become available while players ride their drake through Zaralek Cavern. Moreover, it has been decided to add a Dragonriding mount – the Winding Slitherdrake – that players can earn along with the modifications as they continue their journey. With all this new Dragonriding content, the development team proves their commitment to implementing and promoting a recently loved feature.
The Zaralek Cavern – Biomes At the heart of the 10.1 update is the new zone, the Zaralak Cavern. This is a huge new underground zone for players to explore (under the Dragon Isles). It includes new allies (factions) to earn fame through quests, enemies and more.
The Zaralek Cave was designed by the team to feel very large and have many openings, but also to have places where players can turn sharp corners and get low to the ground.
That’s why there are three different biomes/zones that players can ride through while on a dragon. The crystalline caves of imposing stalagmites and stalactites, sulfur pools that serve as dumping grounds for Neltharion’s failed experiments, and the twisted towers of volcanic lava flows where the Djaradin elders call their home.
When planning, WoW developers always try to combine things that complement each other. These features and biomes accentuate the themes of the Embers of Neltharion and push forward the story Blizzard wants to explore in WoW. So when the team decided they would pursue Neltharion’s secrets in this underground space, they talked about the kinds of things they would like to offer players and what they might naturally walk into. The cornerstone of this is the space that players work through. With the biomes, the team really felt this complemented the space and the history of Neltharion.
Meet your new ally – the Niffen
The WoW development team is really excited to introduce players to the Niffen folk. But what are they and how are they made? As Catarina Pulli, Visual Development Artist, describes, “The Niffen are a group of ingenious little mole creatures that live underground, they are mole-like creatures that use their noses to navigate through the brand new Zaralek Cave. Being visually impaired, the Niffen have always relied on their other senses to thrive in their environment.”
Essentially, Catarina helped us understand that the Niffen folk dig and their sight is not very good, so they culturally refer to things based on how they smell. Their whole society is built around scent trails and the smell of home.
Everyone loves a furry friend, cute or not, and allies / companions are always appreciated in a gaming world. These cute creatures were created to bring something unique to the WoW world, but also unique in the nature of the creature – the Niffen’s entire worldview is defined by scent.
In designing the Niffen, Kenny McBride – Lead Character Outsource Supervisor – said “We wanted to create a friendly and neutral culture of creatures. It was fun to explore different features such as claws, noses and teeth for their unique mole-like appearance’.