If you're seeking info from the World of Warcraft "Dungeons and Raids" - BlizzCon 2010 Panel Wrap-Up, then look no further! It's the most wonderful time of the year! BlizzCon 2010 started with a Cataclysmic bang, and I'm here to give you updates straight from the hottest Warcraft panels. The "Dungeons and Raids" World of Warcraft panel, led by Cory Stockton, the lead content designer, and Scott Mercer, the lead encounter designer, explained a lot of the new philosophies behind the latest Cataclysm dungeons, Heroic additions and raids.
With the impending Cataclysm comes a variety of new Heroic dungeons for level 85 players, but there are two specific dungeons that Blizzard has spent considerable time on, and those are the revamps of the level 20 Dungeons: Shadowfang Keep and The Deadmines. These dungeons are extremely nostalgic for Horde and Alliance players alike, and Blizzard has updated them to make them fit in with the new Cataclysm storyline, and to position the climax of their respective zones in Silverpine Forest and Westfall. These two retooled dungeons will also have Heroic modes enabled for level 85 players, and feature new bosses and challenges for players trying the dungeon out in the new mode.
But Deadmines and Shadowfang Keep aren't the only two dungeons that are getting a makeover when Cataclysm hits. Cory Stockton showed us several examples of dungeons that, right now, are extremely long and confusing for new players. With Cataclysm they are simplifying many of these dungeons and in some instances splitting the dungeon into two seperate ones to make them less overwhelming for new and old players alike. Take Uldaman for example. Currently, Uldaman is a dungeon with two entirely different wings that can take hours to finish, and if your group wipes, the run back is horrdenously long. What Blizzard's doing in Cataclysm is splitting Uldaman into two dungeons: one finishing with Ironaya and one starting at the famous back entrance of Uldaman and finishing with Archaedas. Basically, they want to take the philosophy from Wrath of the Lich King's "winged" dungeons like Utgarde Pinnacle and Utgarde Keep that share the same aesthetics and update this idea to older dungeons to bring them up to date. Other dungeons that are receiving this makeover include Maraudon and Sunken Temple.
That's not the only dungeon improvement that Blizzard's throwing at us in Cataclysm either. They're also going to make every dungeon quest available as soon as you enter the dungeon instead of making players complete super long quest chains before being able to get the dungeon quests. As someone that takes the time to run around for every single dungeon quest to maximize my time in there, I think this is absolutely fantastic. It will save so much time and effort on the player's part, and will allow players to quest more efficiently since they'll have all the quests they need and then be able to move on from the dungeon once it's complete, instead of having to run the place several times as they find new quests in random places.
Cory also mentioned how they're looking at all of the old dungeons from vanilla WoW and are making a strong effort to trim them down to a more manageable size. They want to trim the fat from a lot of the dungeons, including losing a lot of uneeded trash pulls and spacing the bosses out better. For example, Wailing Caverns is losing an entire wing and many of the bosses are being moved to other parts of the dungeon to make it flow better.
But this panel wasn't all about the old! The second half of the panel dealt with all the new, shiny raid and dungeon details, straight from the lips of Scott Mercer. He began by talking about the Cataclysm raid philosophy, explaining how they wanted Cataclysm to ship with more raids than Wrath did (which shouldn't be hard, since WotLK shipped with only Naxxramas...), and how they are trying very hard to design the coolest encounters WoW has ever seen by implementing new mechanics. He also detailed the flexible raid lock system, which limits the amount of raids players can participate in each week.
I still can't get my head around their reason for implementing the flexible lockout system. I'm a fan of raiding ten and twenty-five man raids each week and I'm very sad to see this change as it means less raids are played. It has a very good chance to break up guilds, even though Mercer hopes it will help bring them closer together. After he talked about the new flexible raids he dropped a bomb and gave us the very first look at some Patch 4.1.0 content, including a new raid that will be available upon Cataclysm's first content patch: Firelands, as well as a new five man dungeon: The Abyssal Maw.
Firelands is located in Hyjal, one of the first zones available in Cataclysm. The storyline follows the original World of Warcraft baddie, Ragnaros, as he tries to burn down the World Tree. The Firelands is located in the Elemental Lane of Fire and is the home of Ragnaros! Cool!! The idea is to give players an idea of how powerful Ragnaros really is when he's on his own turf, surrounded by smoke, fire, and of course, lava. The raid will feature seven bosses and both interior and exterior encounters.
The Abyssal Maw is coming out alongside the Firelands and is a five man dungeon located in Vashj'ir, Cataclysm's first underwater zone. As such, the entire dungeon will also be underwater. Not too many details were released regarding the Abyssal Maw, but from the concept art pieces that were shown it did look like it was coming together beautifully and we do know that it will follow the winged dungeon philosophy.
The final element covered in the panel was an all new enhanced dungeon maps system. In Cataclysm, every dungeon will now feature a full 2D map, as well as detailed information on bosses including a 3D portrait, the lore behind them, all the loot they drop, and their abilities. All this is done with current mods and is just another example of mods that WoW developers have been influenced by and integrated in their own way for the game.
The biggest takeaway from the Dungeons and Raids panel is that Blizzard's not afraid to get their hands dirty and take on some of the tougher issues surrounding these instances. Nothing's sacred, and while the jury is still out on the effects of the flexible lockout system, a lot of the other additions are impressive and in some cases, long overdue. More to come from BlizzCon 2010 as I hit other World of Warcraft panels tomorrow!