Not too Casual, Not too Hardcore...Juuuust Right
A Visit to Zul'Aman
When Jeff "Ethec" Woleslagle and I ventured to Blizzard's camp at E3
2007 I wasn't sure what Blizzard would have to show us. We gathered
information on upcoming voice chat for World of Warcraft (coming soon
in a patch), which will be fully integrated into the game with many
robust features. We also found out that guild banks are in the works.
But the highlight of our visit was a full preview of WoW's newest
dungeon, Zul'Aman, a 10-person raid instance scheduled to be patched
into the live game later this year. And it looks as though Zul'Aman
will offer something to please everyone, from the casual raider to the
Rob Foote, Associate Producer of World of Warcraft, started our tour by
sharing a little background lore. Zul'Aman is home to a band of forest
trolls under the command of Zul'Jin (a character players may recognize
from Warcraft II). A troll witchdoctor has found a way to infuse trolls
with animal spirits: the bear, the lynx, the eagle, and the dragonhawk.
These animal-infused trolls make up the themes for the boss battles
players will encounter as they adventure through Zul'Aman. For purposes
of the demo, Foote trekked solo through the zone with dev tools that
made him invincible. We're assured adventurers won't have it nearly so
href="http://tth.tentonhammer.com/modules.php?set_albumName=album357&id=ZULAMAN_019&op=modload&name=gallery&file=index&include=view_photo.php"> style="border: 0px solid ; float: left;" alt="Zul'Aman"
title="Click to enlarge"
hspace="4" vspace="2">Our first fight of
the instance was a troll boss infused with a bear spirit.
Interestingly, instead of having to work our way through trash mobs to
reach the boss, we engaged him right away. "He's the first guy you'll
see as you enter the instance," said Foote. "So, let's turn this
corner...and there he is!"
As soon as we encountered the bear boss, he yelled a threat and sent
his men down to attack us. "So, instead of having to fight your way to
the boss," said Foote, "you engage him and he's going to send waves of
mobs at you that you fight through. Once you take care of these guys,
he runs up to the next staging point." And that was where Foote took
"The cool thing is that this is an outdoor instance," Foote said. "A
lot of our [isntances] put you in a dungeon the whole time; it's
totally enclosed. This really gives you a feel like you're in your own
zone with 9 of your friends."
As we made our way to the various bosses Foote explained some of the
dynamics Blizzard has come up with href="http://tth.tentonhammer.com/modules.php?set_albumName=album357&id=ZULAMAN_004B&op=modload&name=gallery&file=index&include=view_photo.php"> style="border: 0px solid ; float: right;" alt="Zul'Aman"
title="Click to enlarge"
hspace="4" vspace="2"> to make Zul'Aman
more fun. Players will need to remain on their toes and figure out
certain triggers that allow the mobs to change up their game. Those
include a drum-banging scout who calls waves of warriors to fight as
long as he's banging his drum, and another mob who plays a little game
of Hot Potato by hurling a skull that knocks a player back, but also
winds up in the player's backpack (and whoever's got the skull has the
aggro). One of the boss mobs has a bomb throwing AoE that
will challenge players. "It's completely random," Foote said. "It's not
as if you can read online where you're supposed to stand. So it should
still be hectic even for people who've done it several times."
"As we're making new dungeons it's very challenging to keep coming up
with new dynamics to keep players excited," said Foote. "But we're
definitely trying to push further with scripting and making things more
interesting to players who've run dungeons like this before."
I asked about the loot tables for the boss mobs. Were they deep? Would
they make Zul'Aman worth a raid's time?
"Definitely!" said Foote. "It's going to start off better than
Kharazan, and then get better and better as you're able to go through
the dungeon faster and faster." In fact, there's a dynamic in place
that rewards players for their skill at playing through the dungeon.
The faster players are able to complete the instance, the better their
rewards will be.
"So, replayability is a priority?" asked Jeff Woleslagle.
href="http://tth.tentonhammer.com/modules.php?set_albumName=album357&id=ZULAMAN_001&op=modload&name=gallery&file=index&include=view_photo.php"> style="border: 0px solid ; float: left;" alt="Zul'Aman"
title="Click to enlarge"
hspace="4" vspace="2">"That's sort of the
idea behind the sliding loot," Foote answered, "because basically
you're going to give players [incentive] to play over and over again
and reward them for doing so, [as well as] reward them for becoming
better at the instance."
So Zul'Aman appears to offer a little something for everyone. More
casual raiders are sure to like the fact that they should be able to
play through the instance in 2-3 hours. More hardcore players will
enjoy the challenge of becoming better and faster at the raid in order
to up the loot ante. We're assured that Zul'Aman is more difficult than
Kharazan, and with better loot. Yet it's not so vast that a raiding
party couldn't get through it in an evening.
As we made our way through the instance to the final scripted battle
with Zul'Jin himself I was impressed with how fun Zul'Aman appears to
be. And it doesn't much matter whether you're hardcore or casual or
anywhere in between--when you get right down to it, fun is universal.
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