As interest in World of Warcraft patch 4.3 grows, we got a chance to sit down with Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street to talk about the final showdown with Deathwing. In the following interview we discuss the new dungeons and raid encounter, how players will earn the next tier of raid gear and the legendary rogue daggers, and what else players can expect once Patch 4.3 hits the live servers.
Ten Ton Hammer: Is Patch 4.3 going to be the last major content patch in the Cataclysm storyline?
Greg Ghostcrawler Street: It will be the last major one, this is the last one with the big raid tier and a new PvP season. We may offer smaller patches afterwards but weve not really decided yet. However, theyre not going to offer a lot of content, this is the climax of Cataclysm, right here!
Ten Ton Hammer: Are you concerned about the perception that weve moved through the Cataclysm storyline so quickly? After all, the expansion isnt even a year old.
Greg: Well weve said for a long time that the key to keeping players happy and focused on the game is to release content more frequently. Weve had patches with nine months gaps in the past and weve had expansions that had taken two or more years. Thats kind of the reality but thats not where we wanted to be so its taken us a long time but were finally getting into the mode where we can release content pretty quickly now so well see how it works out.
Ten Ton Hammer: So tell us more about the five-man content youve hinted at for this patch. What can we expect?
Greg: Its very cool. There are three separate dungeons and theyre all part of the Caverns of Time. In the first dungeon, you are sent to the future to see, more of less, what will happen if Deathwing wins. What happens - and this is a spoiler - if Deathwing wins all life on the planet is destroyed.
The dungeon takes place in an almost apocalyptic atmosphere where nothing is left but the shades of former heroes. Theres a crazy opening scene where you see the corpse of Deathwing himself impaled on the broken tip of Wrymrest Temple. Its a really powerful-looking image and players are really going to see that and be like Whats going on here?
Ten Ton Hammer: So what about the second dungeon?
Greg: The second dungeon actually takes you back to the past. So, in order to defeat Deathwing, players are going to have to acquire this really powerful artifact from Azeroths history called the Dragon Soul. But to get the Dragon Soul, theyre going to have to go back to the time of the War of the Ancients, right when Azshara and her Night Elves had the portal open that allowed demons to come through the Well of Eternity. So right before all that happened, players will have to go in and deal with Azshara and a bunch of demons then snatch the Dragon Soul away. That one in particular is going to be a very lore-heavy dungeon.
Ten Ton Hammer: And the third dungeon?
Greg: The third one goes back to the modern day where players - with the Dragon Soul in hand - have to escort Thrall to Wrymrest Temple where the final showdown with Deathwing will take place. Its going to be an escort-style dungeon, kind of like Escape from Durnholde Keep, especially as Thrall is there. Youll be fighting some minions of the Twilights Hammer, some Twilight Dragons and eventually get to Wyrmrest.
Ten Ton Hammer: And will that storyline eventually lead players directly into the raid?
Greg: The raid picks up at Wyrmrest with Thrall and the Dragon Aspects, ready to fight the big dragon. When you start off, Deathwing has realized that maybe hes in trouble so he sends all of his forces and the players are defending Wyrmrest from the attack. There are Twilights Hammer agents, powerful elementals, there are dragons and minions of the Old Gods so quite a different crew of creatures they have to fight off including the first several bosses.
Then the largest Twilight Dragon youve ever seen attacks the top of Wyrmrest and hes so big, he cant even land on top. The players are going to be on the platform fighting him off and he flies around strafing the Temple. Assuming that dragon can be defeated, players will then be able to use the Dragon Soul to blast Deathwing and weaken his armor enough to kill him.
It's finally time to confront Deathwing ...
The first time they shoot Deathwing, he starts to retreat so he can go back to Deepholm and nurse his wounds again. But, of course, the heroes cant let that happen so they board an airship and chase him down. Then they actually parachute down onto Deathwings back and start to just pry his armor off of him, to weaken him so they can make the killing blow. He doesnt want them on his back so Deathwings doing all sorts of aerial manoeuvres to try and dislodge them. Meanwhile his corrupted blood and various Old God-ish tentacles are rising out of his back to try and fight the players off.
Assuming they succeed in that fight, Deathwing crashes down into the Maelstrom but, of course, hes very, very powerful and hes not out yet! He rises back out of the Maelstrom and, at this point, the corruption inside of him is breaking out, his armor has been pried off and hes almost a creature of pure corruption and hatred; he looks almost demonic with all these tendrils of lava coming out of him and theres a very epic, enormous fight as the players go from the little landmasses around the Maelstrom, moving from landmass to landmass fighting off the tentacle and then a wing, then fighting his tail while the Dragon Aspects in dragon-form are flying around overhead trying to help you, periodically with their special powers.
Ten Ton Hammer: So what is Deathwings loot table going to be like? Is he the source of the Tier 13 gear?
Greg: One of the different things about the rewards this time around is all of the tier sets are in the raid itself. Players wont be able to use Valor Points to buy stuff this time around, they actually need to defeat the raid bosses. That gear will drop on the first couple of bosses and, in the grand tradition of Warcraft bosses, Deathwing only drops weapons and these weapons are slightly more powerful than the rest of the raid tier in terms of item level.
Players also have a chance to get some Epic gems out of the raid tier so theyll be able to have some purple gems to replace the gems in their current gear.
Ten Ton Hammer: When you say better than the rest does this mean hell drop a nice Legendary?
Greg: We do have a Legendary weapon as part of this tier but it doesnt drop from Deathwing. Its a constructed Legendary, just as the last few have been, and its a pair of daggers than can be used by Rogues. You can get a main- and off-hand dagger and were constructing them so that all three Rogue specs will benefit from having the daggers.
Ten Ton Hammer: You say theyre constructed, can you say anything specifically about the storyline surrounding the daggers?
Greg: Its a really cool storyline. In the Cataclysm leveling experience, theres a quest in the Badlands where the Red Dragonflight have managed to recover the last uncorrupted Black Dragon egg. Well that egg hatches and inside is a Black Dragon prince whos free of the taint of the Old Gods so hes not a fan of Deathwing. Hes kind of got his own hidden agenda and in order to follow through on this, he reaches out to Rogue players because they always have this little something going on the side, other players in the group are like What have you been up to? Oh nothing, nothing. Meanwhile theyve been helping this little Black Dragon assassinate his enemies in return for the chance to get their hands on this pair of legendary daggers.
Ten Ton Hammer: Thralls been getting a lot of coverage, both in-game and in the novels. We take it hes going to have a huge role in Deathwings demise? Is he going to die?
Greg: Chris Metzen would kill us if we killed him off! We have big plans for Thrall and one of the interesting things for us is to see the player speculation on his role. The fun thing for us is that the story is pretty long and were not going to wrap everything up in a neat little package in 4.3. We have a lot of plans for Thrall in the future.
Ten Ton Hammer: So, moving on to another topic, why did you guys decide to revamp the Darkmoon Faire?
Greg: We kept having more and more ideas like wanting to add a game to the Faire. We have this list and were not going to be able to add everything right away but we wanted roller coasters and ferris wheels and stuff like that but it just wouldnt fit in the space around Thunderbluff or Elwynn Forest so we decided to build this entire island that the Faire can just take over. So the Darkmoon Faire that people are used to will just be the portal to reach this island and now we can make it this whole carnival thing and give it this whole Disneyworld feel rather than just a few little booths like we have today.
Blizzard wants to make the Darkmoon Faire feel more like Disneyworld.
Ten Ton Hammer: Transmogrification has been one of the most discussed and controversial aspects of 4.3. Are you pleased with how its working out?
Greg: Its something weve talked about for a long time, weve always been really nervous to go there but we felt like players were well one of the constant criticisms which come up is players dont feel like they're very different from other players. Thats become even more of a problem as more and more players get into dungeons and raiding, they come out of the raid and they end up looking like the Mage sitting next to them.
So we figured we have such a library of great-looking old armor and weapons to let players use that to customize their character but it also provides a little bit of content because now they have to go back and its a really good combination. Its gameplay plus players will compete to come up with really cool outfits.
Ten Ton Hammer: Will there be a vendor or is going into content the only way to get items from previous tiers?
Greg: No were actually asking them to go back and do the old content, at least for pieces that can still be acquired that way. There are a few cases where really popular gear are no longer available, like the original dungeon set we made and the Death Knight starter gear so what were going to do with that is were going to put it in the Darkmoon Faire and one of the things players can do is earn currency to try and buy gear from the Faire. And, as time goes on, if we see pieces that players are requesting a lot, like a quest item you can no longer get or a sword then well consider adding that as well.
Worgen mounts are just one feature of 4.3!
Ten Ton Hammer: So what else does 4.3 hold? There must be some features youve not yet announced.
Greg: Yeah sure. Weve talked about the dungeons and the raid, the legendary item, the Darkmoon Faire, Transmogrification and Void Storage we are trying to do a Raid Finder tool. Itll work a lot like the Dungeon Finder and will be fairly casual but offer much more difficulty than players will be used to in a raid. Itll be cross-region and everything, like players are used to in the Dungeon Finder, to just get them into a raid. Its targeted at players who, maybe, dont have the time or havent found a guild they really gel with yet and kind of want to see the content.
We know theres a pretty big pugging phenomenon for raids, especially as content gets easier and we wanted to support that, more officially, without players having to use trade chat or find a group.
Ten Ton Hammer: And the Worgen will be getting horses in 4.3, correct?
Greg: Yes that was certainly interesting. We did that largely to help a problem where players would faction transfer and lose the number of mounts they had. We really are trying to sell it as finally heres the long-awaited Worgen mount but Running Wild, the racial which has them on all fours, is intended to be the Worgen mount but this is really to give both factions similar numbers of mounts because players are really sensitive to that when it comes to Achievements and faction transfers.
Ten Ton Hammer: Youve just announced a nerf to the Firelands tier. Is this your way of saying to people Deathwings coming, hurry up!
Greg: Yeah, thats exactly it. Were trying to get our patches out and wed reached the point where the rate of new boss kills had dropped off a little bit, both on normal and heroic, so we wanted to give a little nudge to players who might have been thinking about quitting raiding to show them theres a light at the end of the tunnel and new content is coming.
Ten Ton Hammer: Are you worried that the Deathwing encounter will just be for the uber-raiders like Ensidia, Paragon and Vodka?
Greg: No, we eventually want everyone to see it. Its not a fun story if you dont actually get to kill the bad guy at the end. The heroic Deathwing encounter is going to be particularly hard at launch but, over time, well make it easier as the super-guilds go through and get their World Firsts, then the rest of us can go in and have a challenging encounter that will take a lot of learning but were not trying to lock people out.
Ten Ton Hammer: Whats your favorite part of 4.3
Greg: I would say that both the raid and the dungeons are very non-traditional for us. They dont really have the standard going into a dungeon hall-of-trash-then-a-big-room-with-a-boss feel. Theyre very story, very event driven and I think theyll feel a lot more like players are participating in an adventure rather than clearing out an abandoned tomb. There are a lot of cutscenes, a lot of interaction with NPCs. I think its going to feel really different and players will feel theyve never seen anything like this before.