One of the major panels at the illustrious BlizzCon '08 convention in sunny Anaheim, California was the Dungeons and Raids Panel focusing on the instances inside World of Warcraft and its subsequent expansions The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King. It was hosted by Jeff Kaplan (Lead Designer), Lee Sparks (Design Producer on WoW), Scott Mercer (Lead Encounter Designer for WoW), and Geoff Goodman (Game Designer). It produced a bevy of excited fans who were lashing out for the chance to hear about whats coming up and they were not disappointed.
Things rolled right out into the main new feature coming up in Wrath of the Lich King which is that 10 and 25 man instances will be the same, but will have far better loot for the 25 man versions. It is being designed this way so that if you have a social circle of ten or twelve friends then youll be able to see all of the raid content, but you will not be able to get the loot. If you have a social circle of more than twenty five friends then youll be able to get the better loot from the same instance. Multiple difficulties (with the harder difficulties) will be give better loot as well.
Halls of Lightning
The panel went right from that to the first five man instance that was to be discussed, Halls of Lightning (part of Ulduar, ruins of an ancient civilization located in the Storm Peaks). The Halls of Lightning is a level eighty instance in Northrend that is tied heavily into the Titans and their lore. This is an important part of both the décor of the instance, the enemies inside, and the quests. This is a topic that was returned to often during the discussion of the instance.
Afterwards there was a large amount of emphasis placed into how the dungeon is designed to be epic on a huge scale. The dungeon is massively huge but the actual game space where players will actually fight is rather smart. It is designed that way to keep you from having to walk forever to get anywhere but still feel like youre inside of something very large. This leads into the next point which is that the entire dungeon should feel like its part of the lore with new creatures, an epic sense of scale, and a sense that youre unraveling the secrets of the dungeon. They feel that epic gameplay and epic lore equals a good time.
The final room in the Hall of Lightning.
A video was then played that showcased the instance in real time. For anyone who is curious, yes the instance is available within the beta but it is a level 80 instance and does require a full group. So its not exactly the most populated instance within the beta. Moving back to the topic at hand, the video walked the entire audience through the start of the instance into the last boss. The first point of the tour was the first boss, General Bjarngrim (an iron vrykul), who is patrolling in the first room. There will be multiple places to fight this boss since he patrols around the large area. This gives some variety in where youll be able to fight him.
While in the first room youll also be able to see Volkhan way up in the instance. Hes designed to be something that you see and will then wonder hrm, how do I get up to him? along with some foreshadowing of a future boss youll fight. The third boss is a custom air elemental, known in the beta currently as Ionar, and showcases Blizzards sense of detail in these new instances. They are using the standard elemental boss sprite but have customized it so that it doesnt feel the same.
Blizzard at this point showed some of the windows in the bosses room which allowed you to see outdoors. This is to remind you that youre still inside the world and are not just inside of some portal. This is all part of how Blizzard is trying to make things feel as smooth as possible and really enhance immersion. For instance, one of the rooms contains statues of titans and another has constallations reminding us that from what we know so far, the titans are the ones who crafted Azeroth.
Loken, the final boss in the Halls of Lightning, was the last subject point for this instance. Hes a messenger to the titans but has begun to hear the call of the old gods. There are going to be two cinematic sequences. One before you fight him and one afterwards. This is to help the storytelling in the instance and once more show the attention to detail in fleshing out the lore in the instance.
Ahn'kahet: The Old Kingdom
Ahn'kahet: The Old Kingdom is another five man instance coming up in Wrath of the Lich King and is also currently in the beta. Blizzard led their discussion explaining how theyll be continuing with the Old Gods motif. They explained how players will see more and more of the old gods influence as they go deeper and deeper into the dungeon. There will also be lots of new models (including some very strange and sometimes creepy creatures) along with a huge area (but small player area) like the Halls of Lightning. One of the key points is the custom fights that make combat inside of the instance exciting.
One of the major influences for Ahnkahet is Naxxramas since Naxxramas was a section pulled out of Azjol-Nerub. A lot of emphasis was placed again on lore, scale, and how custom the enemies and combat will be. A lot of these topics were revisted later in more detail, but so far this seems to be a reoccurring theme with the new dungeons.
At this point the audience was again treated with a live action video of the instance in its current beta form. The first boss will hatch eggs that cause the fight to be very different from others. Youll have to deal with the eggs the boss hatches or youll quickly be overrun. You cant just AoE them down either meaning there will be some tactics involved.
Naxxramas is also an upcoming instance and will be look somewhat similar to Ahn'kahet.
The second boss is a Blood Prince which is something similar to a vampire. One of the neat mechanics he has is that hell choose someone and latch on to them and begin feeding. The rest of the players will have to beat him off of their ally. So it is of the upmost importance that hes beaten off before hes finished feeding and that player dies.
The third boss is an Orc who belongs to the Twilight Hammer cult (the cult that worships elemental lords and old gods). This is a revival of some of the old lore around them that really didnt get very far. The boss will summon her followers and then once they reach her sacrifice them for a massive buff. If the follower isnt killed before it reaches her then shell gain a massive amount of power.
The final boss is a faceless one which is an enemy being brought in from Warcraft III. The fight will be using a lot of new technology like phasing to make it a very interesting battle. The example given is that players will be fighting the boss and think that theyre doing very well. Eventually the entire party will be phased into separate areas where theyll have to fight each others doppelgangers. All five players will basically be fighting duplicates of one another. The name, class and spec of players allies will be copied so that players are not fighting something that doesnt seem like their allies. Once someone defeats one of the doppelgangers then theyll be able to join another ally and help them with theirs until everyone is together. This means the healer doesnt need to be worry about DPS as much as the Rogue.
Chamber of Aspects: The Obsidian Sanctum
The Chamber of the Aspects will be a raid instance for both ten and twenty five man parties. Its an introduction to raiding taking the difficulty level way down from Gruuls Lair and Magtheridon Lair which they found to be a mistake from The Burning Crusade. Its supposed to be something that you and 9 or twenty four others can easily take on and youll even be able to choose your own difficulty.
Choosing your own difficulty is Blizzards answer to the Zulaman problem where it was introduced as progression from Karazhan but many guilds were way past that point. So if guilds want to do the instance but find that its too easy then they can bump up the difficulty. The encounter can be tackled in many different ways and the way you choose to tackle it will determine which way you go.
There are three twilight drakes surrounding Sartharion who is the only raid boss inside of the instance. You can choose to fight and defeat all three twilight drakes and then take on Sartharion. This will give you the standard loot and standard difficulty of the instance. Then you can take out two of the drakes and leave one up. When you engage Sartharion hell summon the drake that was left up increasing the difficulty by a bit along with the loot drops. Rinse and repeat for the two other drakes. The maximum difficulty level is all three drakes which is described to be near impossible.
The fight will also use phasing technology so that players will have to switch into the twilight realm to fight monsters there as well. It also features an exterior terrain so that it feels like its outdoors along with lots of lava.
Eye of Eternity
The Eye of Eternity is home of Malygos and is the final instance inside of the Nexus. Most fights no longer require keys or attunement, but this one will require someone to have beat Sapphiron in order to obtain an item to draw Malygoss attention. A lot of the fight was kept secret (although another live demonstration was given) but a few details were leaked. Its an epic multiple phase fight with lots of new technology involved. There will be vehicles used, the red dragon flight coming to assist, lots of magical effects since Malygos is the aspect of magic, and even vehicles. Its good to note at this point that Malygos wouldnt attack the character on the screen because god mode was activated.
There were a few good points mentioned about itemization. The major announcement is that heroics will be on another tier from normal instances that should be flat out better than doing a harder instance and getting the same loot as the normal instance gives. There is also a new badge currency called emblems (emblems of heroism and valor were shown). You will not have to farm the equivalent of heroic mechanar in order to gain all of your emblems. The harder the instance then the better the emblem itll drop. Its also worth to note that youll be able to get some of your tier items through emblems.
On the final note about itemization, the next legendary may be for healers. Blizzard also announced that they do not plan on making anything nearly as difficult as the Sunwell.
Well thats it for the Dungeon and Raids Panel at BlizzCon 08. If youre looking for more info on BlizzCon '08 then click here!
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