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BlizzCon 2019 – Developer Interview

BlizzCon 2019 – Shadowlands, Diablo IV, Overwatch 2, Hearthstone: Descent of Dragons, and more!

BlizzCon 2019 – Developer Interview
We sat down with Michael Bybee and Patrick Magruder to talk about Shadowlands!


  • Flying will work similar to previous expansions, with a variation of Pathfinder.


  • The team is still deciding on changes to the PvP Honor system and rewards.
  • The zones scaling for your alts that level out of order presents an interesting challenge when it comes to PvP and War Mode on. The team is working on making it fun and interesting.


  • The team is working hard to make sure the flow of the new leveling experience makes sense.
  • Between the new player zone and Battle for Azeroth, the team is adding an interstitial experience. A new player might learn how to navigate a city, find flight masters, choose your spec, and getting a mount.
  • If you’re going to be sending new and existing players into Battle for Azeroth, it makes a lot of sense for them to have a mount.
  • The team is still talking about what level getting Mage Portals is appropriate. It doesn’t make sense for players to be suddenly restricted from things they used to be able to do.
  • If you aren’t in Chromie time, zones will only scale up to the cap for that expansion. You can still level that way though!
  • If you want to go back to Pandaria and farm for transmog or rares, you wouldn’t want the zone scaling, so you need Chromie Time to scale it.
  • Players will be scaled down in level in a natural way, keeping in mind the expansion milestones, such as being level 100 at the end of Warlords.
  • There will not be a stat squish. It’s very important that players feel just as powerful when they log in to play the expansion.


  • It will be expensive to change Covenants. They aren’t sharing the details at this time, but it’s intended to be a significant choice. This is why you get to experience each Covenant. You’ll probably be starting over from the beginning.
  • The team isn’t sure if the transmog and mounts from Covenants will be restricted to the character that earned it or if alts can use it yet.
  • As the expansion progresses, there will be probably be other Covenant rewards.
  • Covenant abilities might get other cosmetic choices, similar to the fox one.
  • There will be reputations, but it might be in a different form.
  • Covenants won’t operate the way you are used to reputations operating. There won’t be a bar to fill to Exalted, it’ll be a much more involved process. You are forming a relationship with this Covenant and individual characters in it to use the Soulbinding system.

Weekly Loot Chest

  • There will be a tremendous number of factors that influence the weekly loot choice.
  • Factors include how far you made it in a tower run, what Mythics did you do, what dungeons did you run, what World Quests did you do, what did you do in PvP, and many more.


  • The team sat down to talk about what would be cool for Shadowlands and the theme of player agency came up as the cool idea.
  • Covenants, loot chest, and new leveling system were all features for that idea. This time they took the art team time that would have gone towards a new race or class and spent it on character customization.
  • There will be a tremendous breadth of choices available for most, if not all, of the other races.
  • The team could have added more skin colors long ago, but representing more of humanity for Humans took subtle face changes and time from the art team to do right.
  • All races will get some cosmetic features, not just Humans.
  • The team started by asking what additional options they would like to see in the existing races. Lots of discussion internally about customization options that people wanted.
  • Allied Races had a story, “Why is this group joining us?”
  • Dark Iron dwarves look different, but there are other Dwarves that we haven’t seen much of yet, and we should have because they are all Dwarves.

Engine and Data

  • The engine team is working on taking advantage of RTX.
  • The team strongly believes that the more machines that can run WoW, the better. At the same time they want to embrace modern technologies such as ray tracing, multi threading, and DX12.
  • The team’s focus isn’t to make it hard to datamine, their focus is to make the game as efficient as possible. Strings are big and numbers are small.
  • The team went to great lengths to make sure addon authors had access to things they needed. You can look up sounds by name and such. They did trip up a couple of times, but will fix it.

Torghast, the Maw, and Alts

  • Torghast is based on your participation. It’ll be influenced by the gear that you get doing it. As you do runs, you will build legendary items. As your gear gets stronger from raids, Mythic+, and other sources, you’ll become more powerful, go deeper in Torghast, and get more stuff.
  • If your alt hasn’t geared up, you won’t get very far in Torghast.
  • There may be some things that you can craft for your alts that are meaningful. Being able to target stats when crafting should be helpful.
  • World Quests will be unlocked at Level 50 for alts.
  • Covenant campaign starts at 60 for all characters.
  • There will be outdoor gameplay in the Maw, but not regular story quests like the Suramar campaign.
  • Anima is used for a lot of things. It will be used to help power your Covenant. It represents the mana behind Shadowlands.
  • The intent is that the Maw will remain challenging throughout the expansion, you shouldn’t outgear it. One of the things players really liked about Classic is the outdoor challenge. The Maw should have increased challenge and fun!
  • Torghast is the only source of runes for the legendary items.
  • Torghast abilities can be tied into your Covenant.

Raids and Titanforging

  • No big changes to raid structure coming.
  • The team isn’t sure if Titanforging will be in Shadowlands. They are closely monitoring the Visions of N’zoth system.

Covenants and Soulbinds

  • You’ll go to the Covenant sanctum to interact with your Soulbinds. Spend anima to improve your relationship with them and increase their power. Covenants will be a great source of cosmetics.
  • In Legion, you built up the area in Suramar from a empty, hollow, lifeless space, to one filled with people and hope. The same kind of change will be reflected in your Covenant.
  • You can change the Soulbind you are bound to and the talents in their tree.
  • The Soulbind has not only a talent tree, but also a socket like choice.

Tier Sets

  • Will tier sets return? Maybe. The team likes the tier sets a lot, but made the choice to go away from them in Battle for Azeroth because it doesn’t make sense for the story anymore. They were great in Legion because it was such a class focused expansion, but Battle for Azeroth changed to a faction focused expansion, so the armor sets were more faction or raid oriented.
  • Shadowlands is a Covenant focused expansion, so lots of things will double down on that. It doesn’t mean that they are or are not doing the class tier sets.