The alpha for World of Warcraft's upcoming Shadowlands expansion has begun. Blizzard Entertainment knows that the fanbase was disappointed by some aspects of Battle for Azeroth, so it wants to make sure Shadowlands delivers. This means that the studio is being very open with upcoming changes, with a series of blogs about class updates, the realm of Death, and the brand-new starting experience.
The cornerstone of any MMO is loot, and Blizzard has some thoughts about changing how loot works in Shadowlands. In an interview with Twitch streamer Ted "Sloot" Bacinschi, World of Warcraft game director Ion "Watcher" Hazzikostas said that Blizzard acknowledges the dissatisfaction with additional RNG systems—Thunderforging, Titanforging, and Warforging—on gear drops. These systems were an attempt to make gear drops more exciting for veteran players, with random stat rolls. Hazzikostas admitted that offering different difficulties, raid sizes, and content increased the amount of gear WoW awarded to players, which when combined with random drops, didn't offer satisfying rewards.
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"At this point, our plan for Shadowlands is to take a step back and actually—and this may sound like a nerf to some folks—reduce the amount of loot that drops. We have tons more sources than ever before. Just let loot be loot. We're not planning Warforging, we're not planning Titanforging. There's no Corruption, there's no system to replace Corruption. We'll see how that plays out," said Hazzikostas.
That's not the only incoming change to loot in Shadowlands. The class tier sets were dungeon and raid gear that shared an aesthetic with each class and the current content. In Battle for Azeroth, tier sets were limited to zone aesthetics and armor type, meaning Plate-wearing Warriors, Paladin, and Death Knights all wore similar gear, which didn't feed into the idea of class fantasy that Blizzard said was its aim. Hazzikostas said that tier sets will "quite possibly" return in Shadowlands, but not at launch.
"It's something our art team wants to do again and it's something we're talking about seeing return later on in the expansion," he said. Hazzikostas said the team had a problem with what tier sets had turned into by time Legion rolled around. Raiders would get their tier sets within a few weeks, making it useless for them to acquire any other gear until the next raid. "We don't love that aspect of it. But, the art, the class fantasy, the sense of class differentiation and also some aspects of the set bonuses as a goal to strive for are all things we want to recapture."
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Hazzikostas said that Blizzard wanted to get the changes out early to get a ton of player feedback. "There isn't some giant drop of additional content and changes that we have planned that you're not seeing yet. But obviously that does not mean that what you see today is going to go live," he explained. "Iteration is important, feedback is important. We've very rightfully gotten raked over the coals for this, when big changes to a class or spec get dropped late in beta without a lot of time to really iterate on them. We want to get things out there upfront, so we can start the conversation."
Similar to Legion following the much-maligned Warlords of Draenor, Shadowlands seems to be a clear response to negative feedback to Battle for Azeroth. Hopefully, openly releasing and explaining all of these new systems early in the process will lead to a game that will make more of the WoW community happy. World of Warcraft: Shadowlands is scheduled for a 2020 release on PC and Mac.