Game designers Luis Barriga and Craig Amai sat down with us to discuss upcoming changes to Darkshore's landscape, the fate of Auberdine, and the challenges of redesigning an old-world zone from the ground up in this World of Warcraft: Cataclysm content preview.
Note: This interview is also on our site, along with images:
Q. What was the original concept for the zone?
A. Darkshore was one of the areas hit hardest by the Cataclysm, so the main idea was to present a zone that had literally been shattered by those events. That was the approach we took for the revamp in terms of lore and aesthetics.
In terms of gameplay, our goal was to take advantage of the changes to the environment and use them to help address previous issues with quest flow. It was an opportunity to streamline progression within Darkshore so that the overall experience for players would be much smoother and require less running back and forth.
Q. Who will be using this zone (what levels/factions)?
A. Darkshore is designed for Alliance players, primarily night elves and worgen, from level 11 through 20.
Q. What is changing about the zone?
A. Auberdine has been destroyed; entire species of creatures have been wiped out, and the land has been torn wide open in multiple places.
The Cataclysm has also given the upper hand to a number of nearby foes, including coastal naga, Twilight's Hammer cultists, and opportunistic trolls of the Shatterspear tribe who seek to exploit weakened night elven settlements.
Q. What's happened to Auberdine?
A. Auberdine has been nearly razed to the ground, and what wasn't destroyed by the Cataclysm is now under assault by air elementals led by Twilight's Hammer cultists. The city is pretty much in ruins, but some survivors did make it out alive.
Q. With Auberdine in ruins, where do night elves go now?
A. Lor'danel. It's a small night elven town just to the north of the ruins of Auberdine.
Q. Without giving up any spoilers, what's the general storyline for this zone?
A. Darkshore has suffered immensely from the massive seismic ripples of the Cataclysm. The night elves are in survival mode, helping refugees and, wherever they can, fending off the advances of the Twilight's Hammer cult, the naga, and the Shatterspear trolls. Meanwhile, Malfurion Stormrage, recently returned from the Emerald Dream, has traveled to the epicenter of the destruction and called upon the ancient powers of Cenarius to contain it.
Q. What do you think is the most exciting new addition to the zone?
A. Without a doubt, the most exciting addition to Darkshore is the gigantic vortex in the center of the zone, where the devastating forces of the Cataclysm are being pit against the primal power of Malfurion Stormrage. Our amazing artists and level designers made us an epic energy vortex to serve as a visual centerpiece for the destruction, and it looks phenomenal.
Q. What goes into redesigning a zone like this?
A. Redesigning Darkshore required much more work than we originally anticipated. This was one of the first zones we tackled that centered on the effects of the Cataclysm, so we started out with the modest goal of adding a few themed quests and improving the general flow of the zone. As we piled on the visual changes, though, we soon discovered that a lot more manpower was needed to generate content that correctly reflected Darkshore's new landscape and lore.
Q. What was the most challenging aspect about implementing these changes?
A. At first we thought that we would be able to work with the majority of the original quests in Darkshore, but most of them just didn't make sense when viewed in the context of the zone's new storyline and direction. For example, chasing after corrupted wildlife and investigating washed-up threshers would seem out of place when everything around you is being ravaged by natural disasters, elementals, naga... and worse. Reaching the realization that we would basically have to scrap all of the old content and start from scratch -- and then actually bringing that plan to fruition -- was probably the hardest part of the process.
Q. What should players do or go see first?
A. Players should start in the town of Lor'danel and then play through the quest series naturally, slowly heading south. Higher-level players (levels 15 and up) may want to skip ahead and meet up with Malfurion Stormrage at the center of the zone, but Darkshore feels best if you experience the entire storyline from the beginning, as intended.
Q. What's happening at the Master's Glaive? The last time we saw it, it was mostly buried underground.
A. Twilight's Hammer cultists have recently begun to unearth the remains of Soggoth, one of the more powerful servants of the Old Gods, from beneath the Master's Glaive with the intent of bringing him back to life. Players will have to foil the cultists' plans before the new incarnation of Soggoth reaches full strength.
Q. Is there anything new at the Grove of the Ancients?
A. The Grove of the Ancients was shielded from most of the devastation caused by the Cataclysm, due in large part to the power of the ancient guardians residing therein. Protecting the grove required an enormous amount of energy, though, and as a result, most of the guardians have gone into a sort of slumber. Players will have to figure out a way to wake them and bring them into the fight to ensure the survival of Darkshore.
Thank you, Luis and Craig, for taking the time to talk about your involvement in reshaping Darkshore for World of Warcraft: Cataclysm!