As Shadowlands continues further into Beta, we wanted to provide an insider’s look at the development process of creating some of the great features that you’ll see in the expansion. In this Engineer’s Workshop, we’re focusing on developing a feature simultaneously for mobile and PC platforms with the new Adventures feature, our new offline progression system for Shadowlands. Adventures is a spiritual successor to Missions & Followers systems from previous expansions that allows you to send parties comprised of five adventurers to fight enemy encounters in an auto-battler format.
IT BEGINS WITH SYSTEM DESIGN
Every feature begins in system design where our designers take a set of goals and hammer out the framework to create what’s known as a feature pitch, which then becomes a playable feature. For Adventures, we wanted to retain the things that worked well from previous Missions & Followers systems and iterate on the other aspects. Specifically, we liked that the system presented frequent rewards and goals to the player, allowed for progression while the player was logged out, and providing another avenue for storytelling while emphasizing the fantasy of the game. The major aspect we wanted to iterate on was to make the gameplay more engaging and the determination of mission success more fluid. Previous iterations of the Missions & Followers system were solved somewhat trivially, especially with the use of AddOns. On the other hand, Adventures is a system within a game, not a game on its own. New players should be able to jump in and be successful without having to read guides, but there should be enough depth to reward those that invest more time into it. In addition, we don’t want to create a system intended for offline progression that takes a significant piece of a player’s time while at their PC.
In this stage of development, the designers’ best friends are spreadsheets. Spreadsheets allow designers to bridge the gap between ideas and data. They can get a rough picture of whether or not an idea resonates well, apply different data curves for things like experience and attack power, and allow rapid iteration when it’s still inexpensive to try wild things.
In the end, we landed on an “auto-battler lite” model utilizing turn-based combat that is automatically resolved. Players place five adventurers on the board, strategizing ideal placement based on each adventurer’s abilities. As long as all enemies are defeated, you win and reap your rewards. However, through careful adventurer selection and placement, efficient players can minimize the amount of damage adventurers take during combat so that they can be sent on the next adventure without waiting as long to recover.
MOBILE CHALLENGES AND CONSIDERATIONS
Adventures is a feature that is a natural fit for the WoW Companion App and developing the feature simultaneously for both mobile and PC platforms allowed a close cooperative working environment between systems and user interface (UI) design, as well as providing a singular UI vision for both platforms. One of our UI design pillars for the Adventures feature was to strive for parity between PC and mobile as closely as possible. However, the Companion App is a companion to the PC experience, so parity shouldn’t be enforced at the expense of the main game.