“Dragonflight is a return to the roots of Warcraft”

With Dragonflight, the MMORPG World of Warcraft wants to go back to its roots. In an interview with MeinMMO, the Blizzard developers reveal how this is supposed to succeed and how it can still offer something new.

With the next expansion of World of Warcraft, Blizzard has to make up a lot of lost ground that they gambled away with Shadowlands. The last addon was not well received by the players, even if PvE fans are positively surprised by the current Season 4 in Shadowlands.

But can the next expansion Dragonflight really offer enough? Are the Dracthyr as a new race and the Caller as a new class along with the “dragon riding” feature really enough? At least the reactions in the beta are quite positive. We at MeinMMO used the new expansion as an opportunity to interview the developers and ask a few questions.

We answered questions from Graham Berger (senior game designer on the combat design team) and Jake Miller (senior game designer for various game systems) from Blizzard.

MeinMMO: Why did you decide that the Dracthyr can only choose one class?

Graham Berger: With Dragonflight we knew we were going to the dragon islands, we’re going to meet dragons, adventure with dragons, so if you can play a dragon it would be cool – sounds awesome. So we searched for an answer: What is the best way to deliver this experience?

We can make them a playable race like we’ve made many before. Our artist then created these fantastical draconian humanoid characters. But with a race we can only do this to a limited extent with the few race skills that exist. So you get a fire breath and a tail swipe. That’s pretty much all we can do if we limited ourselves to that. But we wanted to do more, we want you to feel like a dragon through and through. And the best way to do that is to give you a class, a whole set of abilities that are all draconically inspired. So we wanted to create a class.

But it would be weird for a gnome to tail swipe – it doesn’t make that much sense. So what if we do both? It is one people and one class. And she’s the only one that can be. It opens up a lot of possibilities so we can really focus on it and do some really cool things with it. The special animations for soaring into the air or breathing in flames as you glide across the battlefield, push enemies back with your wing thump, or lean back to inflate the big deep breath. It was a limitation, but it lets us do so many cool things that really make you feel like a dragon.

The Dracthyr have a dragon form and a humanoid form.

Will it be that long again before we get a new class?

Graham Berger: It’s something we talk about every time we talk early on about a new expansion: “Is this the right time for a new class, is this the right setting?” It’s not something we strictly plan, like ” every X expansions we bring a new class” – it’s more like: “Is the time right, do we have a great idea, do we think about it, do we think the player base is ready for a new class?” I have nothing to announce , but that’s always something we look out for.

The Dracthyr have a hell of a lot of customization options. When can we expect more of the same for the other races?

Graham Berger: The Dracthyr – the team did a fantastic job there. One of our techs did the math – that’s roughly 600 octillion different character customization combinations for the Dracthyr. But we’re also proud of what the team has done in Shadowlands, they’ve added a lot for the existing races. For Dragonflight, we really wanted to focus on the Dracthyr and their “Visage” form, to make this as deep and fantastical as we possibly could. However, we have also added many options to our repertoire with which you can bring adjustments for other races. It’s definitely something we’re interested in and there will definitely be more in the future.

Looking at Balancing – How will the Caller fit into the meta looking at Dungeons, Raids and PvP? Do you think it will replace a class or have strong synergies with other classes?

Graham Berger: This is something we always think about carefully when introducing a new class. For the Rufer, we knew early on that we wanted a ranged damage dealer. You’re a dragon, you breathe fire and hurl spells, so it makes sense that you’re more of a magic-caster and if you’re going to borrow the magic of the dragonflights in the Warcraft storyline, okay, red and blue kind of fit in there. Red tends to be fast and explosive, while blue tends to be more focused and overwhelming on a single target.

We then looked at the other colors that were there – green and bronze, but also black – green fits perfectly with healers and bronze with time magic is something we had explored before as players so it would be really cool to go from there make a healing specialization. So yeah, those are the two specializations we do.

We’ve never added a ranged DPS to the game and we haven’t had a new healer since Mists of Pandaria – sounds fantastic.

World of Warcraft MMORPG
There haven’t been any new healers since the monk – now it’s time again.

How they fit into the pre-existing classes and meta – part of that is what specializations were previously available. We haven’t had a new healer since Pandaria, it’s time for another one. We’ve got a new ranged fighter, so let’s get on with it. But beyond that, creating is what the class is good at and what makes sense to their imagination, to theirs [Fähigkeiten]. Both specializations are really good at area effects. But that’s what you expect from a dragon, right? You exhale a giant cone or create flowers from the Emerald Dream.

It’s just fitting that there are good area effects – whether damage or healing.

Medium range was chosen because it works well with mobility. We wanted to make you feel like you’re flying in a certain way while you’re fighting. You can leap across the battlefield, and to compensate somewhat, the range of the Callers is slightly shorter than other ranged attacks. So you want to be close to the enemies when using your Dragon Breath, but you have the mobility to make up for that.

And after that, it’s up to the players, right? We’re giving them these tools to use with their class and play with, but how accurate it will be, how it plays in group builds, or how it fits into the player vs player meta in arena – we’ll have to wait and see and watching and listening to the community… but we’re also very excited.

Worgen and druids are their own mounts. Why can’t Dracthyr use their wings to fly permanently?

Graham Berger: With Dragonflight, we knew from the start that we wanted to give the Dracthyr a way to fly. You have wings, you are dragons, this expansion is about the dragons.

For the Dracthyr we wanted to focus on the new mode of locomotion, we want that to be the real highlight, the most awesome thing they can do and their primary mode of locomotion – and they can use it anywhere in the world! You are not limited to the Dragon Islands. With their racial Soar – and we wanted to emphasize that and make that the focus instead of having it like, “Here are four different ways of flying and they’re all slightly different but kind of very similar.”

We just want “Soar” to be as cool as it can be and kept that in focus. We think it’s really fun.

Dracthyr cannot fly continuously unless you are very skilled.

Tell me more about dragon riding.

Jake Miller: With kite riding, i.e. movement in the air […] the player can make his way through the level zones, no matter which race or class they belong to. There are four different new mount types, four different dragons of the Dragon Isles. And on this kite, the player is able to jump off a cliff and find out that the movement in the air is very different than in previous expansions.

In previous expansions, you ran from quest to quest mostly on the ground, but in the Dragon Isles you’ll jump off cliffs and will experience being subjected to various forces, such as gravity or momentum as the dragon moves forward and relies on the player saying “Now dash down” to gain momentum and then “up” again to use that momentum and move forward. And then there are some active abilities in the air like we’ve never introduced in World of Warcraft.

4 minutes gameplay of Dragon Riding, the new feature in WoW Dragonflight

How does that work exactly, can I fly anywhere?

Jake Miller: For the Dracthyr and the Dragon Isles dragons, the limitations are primarily the design of the environment and the skill of the player while learning this new way of flying. When you see players flying really long – those are the players who are really gifted at things like: maintaining a good flight angle, flying with foresight. These are all skills that players will learn as they progress through the level-up experience, and then gain more active skills to make things a little bit easier.

So if I’m a skilled player, I can fly halfway across Azeroth?

Jake Miller: If you can find a good, high starting point and a suitable flight path – good preparation – and memorize the level design, then this is definitely something that is currently possible.

You did a good job with the visual design of the world. What was the hardest part about making the Dragon Isles the home of the dragons and not just Northrend 2?

Jake Miller: With Northrend, we had a completely different way of getting around in the air. So we’ve built these huge structures that are the seeds of the Dragon Culture very liberally to ensure they support movement that’s much faster than in previous expansions, including Northrend. This also supports the different mechanics that we have in Dragonflight.

As an example, as players play through the plains of Ohn’ahra, they learn to recognize that there are vortices that will propel them high into the air while perched on their Dragon Isles kite.

As a “casual player”, what would be the highlight of the Dragon Islands for me?

Graham Berger: Something about the Dragon Isles and Dragonflight in general that I’m really excited about – and I think the players you’re describing as well – is that it’s going back to the roots of World of Warcraft in a way. Back to the fantasy experience that just really immerses you in the world. The stories are easy to understand and feel good.

It’s just “they’re big kites, you’re flying around, the scenery is huge and beautiful” – and you can experience that. I’m playing the beta myself and while watching the stories, playing a little here and a little there, it’s so immersive and exciting. When we’re done talking here, I’ll continue playing the beta.

Jake Miller: For me it’s getting your own set of four dragons in the Dragon Isles that you can customize however you want. I think this appeals to a lot of players who like to express themselves in the game world and express that with their look.

If you don’t want to wait for Dragonflight, you might find joy in WoW Classic – because that’s when Wrath of the Lich King Classic starts.

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