World of Warcraft: Dragonflight interview with Production Director Patrick Dawson

World of Warcraft: Dragonflight takes the MMORPG back to Azeroth and the high-fantasy setting players have been asking for.

Last week Blizzard announced the ninth expansion for World of Warcraft: Dragonflight. There’s a lot to explore on the Dragon Isles and to talk more about what the expansion has to offer, TechPulse was invited to a group interview with World of Warcraft Production Director Patrick Dawson. Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Dragonflight environment

About the expansion

Hi Patrick, what’s something in World of Warcraft: Dragonflight that you are very excited about?

One cool thing is the opportunity to bring a new race and class to the game with the Dracthyr. We have really cool character models for their different forms, both of which are very customizable. The gameplay of the class is also fantastic thanks to new mechanics like empowered spellcasting. 

What can we expect from the new zones in the Dragon Isles?

Wonder yet familiarity. We want to get back to that core Azerothian fantasy of what it’s like to be in this world. We’ve visited the afterlife and other planets, but what is it like to get to this new continent and explore it? You’ll meet some familiar but also unique faces, like the centaurs who are native to the Dragon Isles or the Tuskarr. Of course the different dragonflights will also have plot points throughout the zones and there’s the Drakthyr who awaken in this new world and get a very different intro experience. 

Centaur character models

Will dragonriding be gated in any way and will it be limited to the Dragon Isles?

Dragonriding will be available immediately. It’s not something we’ve done in the past, but we’re building up this expansion with the skill in mind, meaning you’ll be doing things that require it. Right now we are focused on getting it right for the Dragon Isles.

What is the main theme of World of Warcraft: Dragonflight?

Wonder would be the first word I’d use. The awe, the amazement of this new land. Familiarity is another. We want this expansion to feel like Azeroth, a world that you already know. We also want it to be awe-inspiring. You’ll notice this in the cinematic and screenshots already released and in the architecture of the city of Valdraken for example or the volcanoes, frozen waterfalls or tundra areas and everything that this world is. There’s a lot to discover and explore. 

Another aspect is going back to the roots of what made WoW fun. This can be seen in our system updates, like the talent overhaul that’s being turned into something more meaningful and important to you as a player. Professions are also getting a lot more depth and of course there’s the ui revamp. We want to grow all these core systems so that we can move them forward into the future for our players. 

Dragonflight dragon

We’ve been wanting to do dragons for some time and this is the perfect time. We’ve explored other worlds in past expansions and while that was a lot of fun, we wanted to change up the storytelling so it’s not just one cosmic threat all the time. We want something that’s closer to home and based in exploration, similar to what Mists of Pandaria was. 

The world map is getting quite full, where are you going to put the Dragon Isles? 

There’s still plenty of room on Azeroth and we haven’t even flipped over the map yet (laughs). You never know what’s there. There’s a lot to explore and we’ll definitely find a place in a sensible location.

About the different classes

Dracthyr ranged dps (Devastation) is described as mid-range, can you elaborate more on the playstyle we can expect from the spec and class? 

Compared to Hunter or Mage you’ll want to be a bit closer to your target to make sure you can hit them with abilities like breath attacks. That way it’s not a traditional melee or ranged class. There is still a lot of playtesting to be done, but the midrange feel is what we’re going for. 

Can you tell us more about Empowered Spellcasting?

The longer you cast a spell before you release it, the more it grows and the more powerful it becomes. Timing here is important and you don’t want to cast for too long or too short. We hope to introduce some interesting combat with this mechanic. We’ve already been having a lot of fun with it internally. 

Dracthyr combat

Can you run around while casting? 

There’s some abilities where you can and for others you want to remain stationary. It depends on the theme of the spell and we are still discovering this.

Will this type of casting come to other classes? 

This will depend on how it’s received. For Dragonflight specifically we are not planning on making fundamental changes to other classes. 

Do you plan to rework any specs?

We want to keep the core feel of what they are the same, but provide you with more options. In the past you could alter your playstyle through Legendaries and Covenant Abilities and we want to capture this in the new talent system. 

About dungeons and raids

How many dungeons can we expect at the start of Dragonflight?

It will be similar to what you’ve come to expect from earlier expansions. Players seem to love mega dungeons and that’s something we want to consider for Dragonflight. 

Will we see dungeons and raids that are specifically optimized to Horde and Alliance playing together?

Any dungeons we have will be playable in a cross-faction manner in Dragonflight. We’re not planning any cross-faction specific mechanics or anything special. It’s more of an accessibility feature. We don’t want cross-faction play to be a barrier or incentivize it. It’s all about having more freedom.

“Cross-faction play is all about having more freedom.”

What are your plans for personal loot? Will you bring Master Loot back?

It’s definitely been requested. There are challenges to that because our loot systems are built with personal loot in mind to make sure players are getting gear at a reasonable pace. Deciding to bring it back would be game-changing and we want to be really deliberate about it. It’s a good topic and we’ll continue to discuss it. 

What did you learn from Shadowlands regarding tier sets?

Right now we are still in the learning and listening stage and then later we can shed some light on changes we want to consider for Dragonflight. 

Dragonflight environment

On player housing, professions, and… ducks?

Can you tell us more about the profession changes? Will there be any new professions?

There will be no new professions, but most of them will feel new. We are adding a lot of depth. The specialization is really strong and we are even talking about specialization trees  where you can decide what type of blacksmith, tailor, enchanter,.. you want to be. Making professions fun to do is what we’re focusing our efforts on. 

“Player housing is not something we’re considering for Dragonflight.”

Any news on player housing?

It’s an interesting feature idea. We talk about it from time to time and always conclude that it will take a lot of effort to get it right. If we do it then it has to be amazing and exactly what players expect. It’s not something we are considering for Dragonflight. 

Why introduce ducks now? 

There’s a lot of things to discover about ducks in Dragonflight (laughs). 

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