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VG247 Interview with Johnny Cash and Ely Cannon - Jailer May Not be Final Boss of Shadowlands Expansion
20/11/2020 a las 19:52
VG247 conducted an
with Assistant Lead Quest Designer Johnny Cash and Art Director Ely Cannon about all things Shadowlands.
One particularly interesting tidbit involves the Jailer - when asked if we can expect the Jailer to be the final boss of the Shadowlands, the answers were surprisingly non-committal. Johnny Cash called the Jailer "one of the primary antagonists of the expansion", suggesting that there will be more who are at least equal to the Jailer in importance. Though he went on to affirm that the Jailer will definitely be dealt with, he also seemed to suggest how we get there could be surprising. When asked directly if the Jailer is not necessarily the last boss of Shadowlands, Cash's reply was that it would depend.
VG247: At the beginning of BfA we didn’t know who we would be fighting at the end of it. That was a move away from some past expansions, when the box art would be who would be facing in the final raid. Is the Jailer with Shadowlands a move towards having a big end-game boss we can set our sights on, or is it going to be more like N’zoth in BfA, where we don’t know until later in the game?
Ely Cannon: So, with all our storytelling in each new game that we release we’re going to make choices specific to the story we want to tell. That seemed like a really good choice with BfA, but it doesn’t necessarily set a tone for anything we’ll do in the future. In the case of N’zoth, that surprise ending was the right choice. Here in Shadowlands, we’re making this story as poignant and as fun to experience as possible.
Johnny Cash: The Jailer is absolutely one of the primary antagonists of the expansion. He is a significant person we’re going to have to deal with at some point, right. But as far as how that story all comes together, who’s X boss in Y raid, that’s something I don’t want to spoil because I think all the fun is getting there.
Ely Cannon: I don’t think we want to get too serialised in the way we tell stories either, right, we always want to tell the right story and tell it at the right times.
VG247: So… not necessarily the last raid boss of the expansion?
Johnny Cash: We make decisions depending on how things evolve. We have lots of ideas, but we also don’t want to set everything in stone one way or the other.
Another interesting highlight involves the subject of borrowed power. When asked if Covenant abilities, Conduits, Soulbinds and crafted legendaries aren't just more borrowed power, Cash agreed that they technically are, but that limiting certain power within a system allows them to do more with that system, because they don't have to worry so much about it stacking up and becoming unwieldy in future expansions. However, that doesn't mean that you'll never see certain powers again. As we saw with Legion, powers that players responded to really strongly have found their way back into the game since - such as the Mage Phoenix ability from the Fire Mage artefact. Ely Cannon pointed out that the Covenants do have other permanent, long-lasting benefits, such as cosmetics, mounts, and pets.
VG247: Game Director Ian Hazzikostas stated that there’s been an acknowledgement within the dev team that the game has a ‘borrowed power’ issue. Going from expansion to expansion levelling up an artefact – like weapons in Legion, or the Heart of Azeroth in BfA – and then throwing it away at the end and feeling powerless again. Aren’t Covenant abilities, Conduits, Soulbinds, and crafted legendaries just more of the same?
Ely Cannon: I mean, there’s certainly a ‘power’ element that we’ve talked about, and that’s going to play a part in the gameplay of Shadowlands. But beyond Shadowlands, there’s quite a few things that you’ll take along with you. There are so many systems in so many parts of the game itself that are wrapped up in your Covenant choice, whether that’s cosmetics or mounts or pets – all these wonderful things you can collect and take beyond Shadowlands with you. I think there’s value beyond the expansion for that reason specifically.
Johnny Cash: Part of the reason for wanting to limit Covenants to Shadowlands, which players will be enjoying for many months, is that it lets us do a lot more with the system. The moment that something has to persist forever, we are much more limited in the amount of power we can offer players, the amount of utility we can offer, all those sorts of things.
Over the years, as we saw with the old talent tree system, it begins to stack up to something that becomes pretty unwieldy. So, letting us say ‘okay, Azerite items are now gone’, we have all this new space we can explore and do cool new things in, and not have to worry about those things confounding each other and fighting for players’ attention.
I think actually Torghast is a good example of kind of a microcosm of that, where the power you have only persists for the run you’re on. The power you gain in Torghast is extreme, and something we could never do even within the confines of a whole expansion normally.
But at the end of the day, I understand your point and as we have in the past with these systems, we’re of course open to the idea of letting things persist forward. No, you’re not going to bring your Soulbinds with you through adventures beyond the Shadowlands, but if you look at something like the Mage Phoenix ability from Legion from the Fire Mage artefact, that was something where the player response was really strong, with people saying, ‘we love this ability, the Fire Mage rotation would not feel correct without it, we can’t live without this ability,’ and we agreed and so it’s a talent now.
Those are always case-by-case discussions based on where the community is, and where we want a class to be. It’s not to say that nothing you see in Shadowlands will ever persist beyond it; we’re saying all of it isn’t going to. We want to make good choices for the health of the game. So, if there’s an ability that people are really passionate about, and a few years down the line, they’re like ‘oh, if I can’t be a Death Knight without Soulshape, I don’t even want to play anymore,’ we’ll have that conversation.
Extra time from the delayed release date was spent on polish and balance - particularly with regards to fine-tuning Covenant systems such as the Covenant abilities and Soulbinds.
While this year has been really challenging, it was feedback from the community and internally that really drove the decision to have the delay.
They've tried to make sure storytelling will reward players who know and care about the greater lore in a way that doesn't feel exclusionary to newer players or players who are less familiar with the lore.
was mentioned specifically as an example of this, as it tells a story that can be appreciated both by people who know the history of Uther and those who have never heard of him before.
The Jailer may or may not be the final boss of Shadowlands, and has been described as "one of the primary antagonists of the expansion".
They started new customization options with humans specifically because it gave them the widest range of options that most closely related to the real world.
Diversity inclusion is a big topic and something they strive for, as it's wanted both by the team and by the community. They've been listening very carefully to community feedback, and believe it's helped them create characters that feel interesting and realistic.
They're trying to make sure that players have many options to choose from, and that the most powerful choices will vary enough for there not to be one true way. For example, a Kyrian Death Knight might be able to absorb a blow a Night Fae Death Knight can't, but the Night Fae Death Knight will have the advantage of mobility. Every choice should feel like it was the best one to make in at least some situations.
Expansion-specific systems like Conduits and Soulbinds allow for far greater freedom to do something cool than something more permanent like a new talent, which has to take future expansions into consideration. If a particular power or ability becomes extremely popular with players, it can always find back into the game at a later stage. Mage Phoenix from the Fire Mage artefact being made into a talent is given as an example.
While the delay has meant that the raid cycle falls over the holiday period, the game will be supported during this time. While certainly many staff take this time of year off, many others have opted to stay on - for example, some who might usually be traveling at this time have chosen not to this year for obvious reasons.
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