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World of Warcraft, one of the most enduringly successful and engaging MMOs in the history of the genre that it basically defined, is still truckin’ along with a new expansion, Battle for Azeroth, coming this summer. GameSpot recently had the opportunity to speak with senior game designer Paul Kubit and producer Shani Edwards about two of the biggest new elements of the game and expansion: level-scaling and Allied Races.
Level-scaling in World of Warcraft was added in the recent 7.3.5 patch for all players. Previously limited to Legion’s zones, this sweeping new feature is now available across most of the game. What it means is that the level of creatures and quests scale to the level of the player. In turn, this means you can party up and play together with friends, regardless of your level, all the while earning level-appropriate rewards for your accomplishments.
Kubit told GameSpot that players have responded really well so far to the new level-scaling system, adding that now is an opportune time to release it more widely with the new Allied races out now and the expansion due out soon. Fixed leveling was problematic and could lead to gameplay experiences that were not as fun and engaging as they could be, Kubit acknowledged.
Fixed leveling led to a more scripted experience because you could only play through level-appropriate zones instead of having free reign, Kubit said.
“In the past, what you had to do with fixed levelling was you had to go to one of three zones that was the correct level for you and then go to this one and this one. It was very scripted.”
“It didn’t offer a lot of choice.”
But with level-scaling, you can now freely move through Azeroth and carve your own path instead of being forced down one particular path.
Getting level-scaling working across Azeroth was not so easy. Kubit said it took “hours and hours” of staring at numbers to make sure enemies were properly scaling.
“It was a big data problem. There are thousands of quests in the game. And tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of creatures, and the majority of them had to be looked at,” Kubit said.
Kubit also spoke to us about how Blizzard didn’t want the new level-scaling experience to come at the expense of the feeling of progression. As anyone who has played World of Warcraft knows, the sense of exploration and adventure and mystery is part of the major appeal of the game. Being able to run directly from the starting zones to the end of the game would kill some of that sense of progression, Kubit said.
“We had a couple goals for scaling the world in a way we thought was satisfying,” he said. “The first was we didn’t want to take everything in the game and say, ‘OK, everything in the game now scales to every level, from 1 to 110, so you can fight anything and get rewards.’ That sounds great but we still wanted to maintain some of that progression.
“On one side of things, making sure that when you’re a Level 1 character just getting into the game you can’t go straight to Icecrown. That should be something you look forward to and have to get stronger to do. And on the flip side, when you’re Level 110, we wanted to make sure that when you go back to Durotar that you’re not getting chased around by boars that used to be level 3 or whatever.”
Regarding the new Allied Races, producer Shani Edwards told GameSpot that they exist in the game now principally due to player feedback. These characters were introduced in the Legion expansion.
“They came from player feedback. A lot of players would see some of these Allied Races as we’re calling them now like the Nightborne and say, ‘Oh, that’s a really neat character model; I’d love to play as them,'” Edwards explained. “And it just kind of made sense for Azeroth for you to recruit new members to your faction. So we decided that these four really helped with Legion; you gained their trust, you helped them with their quest lines, and really formed a deep relationship with them. So it really made sense for you to be able to recruit these four as part of your allegiance going into Battle for Azeroth.”
Battle for Azeroth launches this summer on PC. Pre-sales are now live for the game’s standard and deluxe editions. Pre-ordering the expansion gets you a lot of nice bonuses, including extra content for other Blizzard games like Overwatch, along with an instant World of Warcraft character boost to 110.