World of Warcraft®: Dragonflight Deep Dive
Join a full panel of World of Warcraft developers in this deep dive as they take you into the Dragon Isles and share insights about the new lands to explore, the creatures you’ll meet, and take you deeper into the various systems and changes that will come with the expansion.
Weaving the Story
Once the broodlands of the Dragonflights, the Dragon Isles was once the center of the dragons’ kingdom when the world was young, and the mortal races were just starting to form kingdoms of their own. When the Legion invaded in the War of the Ancients and the Great Sundering broke the world draining much of the magic of the land, the dragons were forced to leave their homeland behind. But they didn’t leave it without the watchers to stand in wait—ready to call back the flights when the elemental energy resurged, and the dragons could be drawn home to re-establish their kingdom.
The time has come for the sky to light up with the colors of the aspects once again and for Alexstrasza and the others to come home. But the land has changed a lot in all these thousands of years they’ve been away, and some old threats have awakened as well.
The dragons we know of today are quite different than the early past of Azeroth. They were more primitive, much more savage—what we now know as the protodragons.
In more recent history the dragons we know were empowered to become the Aspects—the green dragonflight, red dragonflight, blue dragonflight, bronze dragonflight, and black dragonflight—each with unique powers and abilities to protect the world in different ways. These pillars of draconic powers were appointed to defend Azeroth from threats within and without. This power was used for good in the case of most of the Aspects, but also for more nefarious reasons in the case of the black dragonflight led by Neltharion who would later become Deathwing.
An opportunity to reclaim their legacy and return once more as the protectors of Azeroth lays before the dragons, but they’ll need the help of the heroes of Azeroth to face the challenges of this reawakening. The land has not been peacefully awaiting their return— old enemies have awakened as well and will need to be confronted and overcome if the flights are to make it their home once more.
One of those old foes they will have to overcome are the elemental half-giants, the Djaradin. They aren’t the only residents of the Dragon Isles, however, and there are many more occupants to get to know along your explorations. You’ll encounter the beloved tuskarr as well as get to know the civilization of the centaurs which predates those who we came to know in Kalimdor.
We’ll also get to reconnect with Wrathion and see if he is ready to step into the leadership role as the leader of the black dragonflight, or if there’s another path for him. We’ll also meet up with Kalecgos, Ebonhorn, and Ysera’s daughter Merithra to see where their return to the Dragon Isles takes them.
A new playable race will also be available — the dracthyr. Dracthyr were an experiment created by Neltharion with the essence of the dragons and imbued with their strength, nobility, wisdom, and adaptability to become the perfect soldiers.
Exploration is a key theme for this expansion and players will be able to adventure in this ancient land and explore the landscapes and its architectural history. We’ve created huge zones with many places to delve into with many old treasures and secrets tucked away. The heroes of Azeroth will work alongside The Reliquary and the Explorers’ League to help the dragonflights to help them find their legacy, as they have long helped the residents of Azeroth.
It’s a true Azerothian adventure waiting to be had and explored.
Explore the Dragon Isles
Players will have the opportunity to traverse and explore four new zones as they aid the dragonflights in rediscovering their ancient lands. As you progress, you’ll make your way through the Waking Shores, roiling with elemental power; the vast expanse of the Ohn’ahran Plains; the frosty peaks of the Azure Span, and the majestic spires and temples of Thaldraszus.
Your travels will begin in Stormwind or Orgrimmar as you journey by boat past the ancient ruins of the isles and land on the Waking Shores.
The Waking Shores is the first of four level-up zones players will encounter. It’s a wild untamed land that has begun to reawaken. Protodragons soar through the sky, elementals are rising as the magic of the land does, and the land is rife with opportunities.
The Horde and the Alliance have been engaged in an expedition with The Explorers’ League and The Reliquary as they join with you to learn more of what these mysterious lands have to offer.
Here, you’ll learn more about the red dragonflight, led by Queen Alexstrasza, the Lifebinder. They have a mandate to nurture all life and it’s a duty they take seriously, but it’s not without its challenges, especially when it means finding ways to preserve the lives of their enemies—the Djaradin— while still preventing those same enemies from adversely affecting the ecology of the land. These half-giants wield the power of magma and while the Dragon Isles slumbered, so did they, but like the land, they have also awakened and are primed to create chaos anew.
It is also the ancestral home of the black dragonflight, which has fallen on tough times since Deathwing’s descent. Wrathion is joining Azeroth’s heroes as he comes to terms with the state of the dragonflight, which is in a diminished state.
After the Waking Shores, players will venture into the wide-open expanse of the Ohn’ahran Plains. The area is named for the wild god of the wind, Ohn’ahra, who has appeared before as a large spirit eagle who helped guide the centaurs to the Dragon Isles many years before. She blessed them and took their caravan across to the isles and showed them the plains where they could make their new home.
The centaur encountered the green dragonflight here and would fight for dominance only to find that neither they nor the green dragonflight was stronger than the other. And so, they made peace with each other. The green dragonflight made their homes in the groves while the centaur took over the plains. But, after thousands of years, the centaur have advanced in their culture and players will have the opportunity to explore and learn more about them.
These centaur originated as one strong clan led by the mighty Maruuk and Teera who helped found their new life in the Ohn’ahran Plains all those years ago, and so you will need to learn their rules and traditions if you want to earn their trust and cross the plains. As the first outsiders to visit in generations, it will take some doing. Your first encounter will have you coming to their aid to take down one of the many protodragons that is harassing them.
With such a large expanse of land to see, the engineers have also made additional improvements to allow players to see even further so that you can fully enjoy the beauty of this rich landscape.
Our third zone takes us into the Azure Span. One of the biggest zones created to date in World of Warcraft, it offers the largest visual elevation change of the zones players will explore through. It is inspired by one of our favorite zones in Wrath of the Lich King, Grizzly Hills, along with the California Bay area with the coastal fogs and redwoods, though there’s more than just redwoods to be found in the zone.
As players progress through the zone, they’ll eventually come upon a wide-open tundra alight with golds and reds until you reach the next level of elevation where you’ll get to see the snow. The majority of the zone is covered in snow and ice with giant frozen waterfalls, ice rivers, and more.
It’s here you’ll encounter the gnolls who have made the forests of the Azure Span their home and beyond that in the wide-open tundra, the tuskarr. We’ve met them before in Wrath of the Lich King and here we’ve expanded upon this beloved group with male, female, and adorable child tuskarr.
We’ll aid the tuskarr alongside the blue dragonflight. We’ll follow the story of Kalecgos as he ventures into Sindragosa’s archives. It’s a giant zone and there’s a lot more surprises that we’ll have in store before you move on into the fourth zone, Thaldraszus.
After spending time seeing the many dragon building ruins in the previous three zones, Thaldraszus offers something more pristine with beautifully intact buildings in the seat of power for all five of the dragonflights and home of the dragons. Vertical lofty mountains and great cave systems (with maybe a small dragon hoard or two to be found along the way) create a compelling new land to explore.
It’s also here that the bronze dragonflight has their own area carved out. Their power over time lends itself to a variety of gameplay options and adventures for players to undertake.
Players will also reach the main city hub of the expansion here—Valdrakken. This city is the culmination of all the dragon’s efforts and provides several vignettes to enjoy from the blue dragonflight’s public library to the red and green dragonflights own separate gardens.
The city will serve as a convenient hub of activity and will include access to an auction house for those looking to gain access to purchase a variety of goods.
You’ll also be able to find Tyrhold here in Thaldraszus. Built by the Titan keeper, Tyr, this ten-thousand-year-old Titan technological marvel houses great aqueducts that reach across the valley. It was Tyr who helped the Aspects fight Galakrond and when they came to settle in the Dragon Isles, it was he who built this facility. Even though Tyr is long gone, the dragons still hold him in reverence. The Titan keepers have continued to maintain Tyrhold while the dragonflights have gone on to take part in an incredible amount of history as the defenders of Azeroth.
Flights have nearly been wiped out. There have been invasions and betrayals, and even some Aspects have died. These are all things that have left marks on their society, but now the dragonflights have come back together in this place. It’s a story that will be played out through the Dragon Isles and its many mysteries discovered over time.
Meet the Dracthyr Evoker
Dragonflight introduces a new race and class in one known as the dracthyr Evoker, allowing players to play as a dragon (one that can still fit in a raid without crushing your allies.) This hero class begins at level 58 and will have its own starting zone. Players will be able to choose their alignment with the Horde or Alliance at character creation and will be able to take advantage of a slew of new customizations that allow them to match their dragon form closely with their humanoid visage.
Dracthyr Evokers were created by Neltharion to wield the magic of all five dragonflights providing a very distinctive style of spell casting. You’ll be able to see the coalescence of these powers each time you cast. Evokers also have two distinctive specializations which take advantage of these magic types. Devastation is a DPS-focused specialization that utilizes the fast explosive power of the red dragonflight and the more focused and overwhelming magic of the blue dragonflight. Preservation serves as a healing specialization and utilizes the healing power of the green dragonflight and its more nurturing spells, while also using the power of the bronze dragonflight to manipulate time to accomplish feats such as healing wounds faster.
We’re also introducing a new type of spell called Empower. Players will be able to hold down a button on their keyboard to power up a spell. The longer you charge the spell, the more damage it could do or the more targets the spell could hit.
Taking to Dragonriding
As players make their way through each of the areas of the Dragon Isles, they’ll partner up with the dragonflights to move through the air as they’ve never done before. They’ll learn the Dragonriding skill which they can level up over time. Unlike what players know of flying, you’ll instead hone your Dragonriding ability and learn to defy gravity while using your momentum and skills to soar to higher heights and explore the Isles.
Players will also be able to customize their new drake mounts with a variety of new options including snout, horns, tails, armor, and more.
HUD and UI
It’s been some time since we’ve updated our UI and technology has advanced since we first developed it in 2004. Players now have larger monitors, and the development team has better tools to look at revamping the UI to accommodate the times.
With the update in Dragonflight, we wanted to create a layout that would allow players to customize and move elements of the UI around their screen to better fit their needs. We recognize that add-ons today provide many opportunities for players to customize their experience, but not all players use them. With the help of our user research team, we are working to meet the goals our community needs and add those elements to the base UI. This allows us to add new functionality, improve accessibility, and make aesthetic updates to the art.
A key component to our changes is maintaining the charm and personality of the UI that players have been using for the past eighteen years while still presenting a more modern take. You’ll see with these changes the minimap and health bar appear larger, we’ve removed some of the clutter to provide more visibility to your gameplay as well. As a part of maintaining the charm of the design, we’ve also taken the time to update the gryphons and wyverns on the action bar at the bottom of the screen.
Not only will you be able to move various elements of the HUD around the screen, but each component has various sets of options that you’ll be able to work with. You’ll be able to save, edit, copy, and name it. It will also remember which specialization you’re in so when you switch between then, it will remember the HUD layout that you have for that specific spec.
As with anything in development, it’s still a work in progress. We look forward to getting more feedback from the community as they experience these changes and more.
Another UI intensive project we’ve been working on is an update to the Talent system. We wanted to look at it once more and find ways to provide players with more choice in shaping their character’s abilities. Currently, as you level up, you receive new spells and skills, but that progression and ordering is entirely predetermined. So, we started looking at creating a system that would provide players with a wider set of options.
One of these ideas that we returned to was that of trees. In this case, it’s actually two trees. One tree focuses on class utility while the other focuses on specialization and the expression of your role whether that’s doing damage, tanking, or healing. We want choosing your specialization to be important and want to make sure that when you choose it, it affects the tree in some way.
When you look at the new tree, you’ll notice the class side will have some abilities filled out for free to get you started off in the spec you’ve chosen, but then you’ll have your first point to spend in the class tree which could be something related to that spec or it could be something from elsewhere in the class.
We wanted to make sure that the new system allows players to take combinations of spells and abilities that may not have been possible in the game before. This opportunity also allowed us to inject more art and fantasy into the actual Talent UI itself.
We want players to be able to tinker with the trees and make a lot of changes while not necessarily feeling like you must fully commit. The power really is coming back to the player. It’s not something we want people to feel locked into and so one of the things we’ll be preserving is the ability to change talents at the same kind of frequency as they do now. Players should easily be able to go from their raid night to playing arena matches by taking advantage of a new feature that allows them to save and load their build. They’ll be able to name it, save it, then load it up very quickly.
Talents really are about having a breadth of options and we wanted to give players the ability to hold the building blocks of what make up their class and spec and put them together in a way that works for them.
This is only a first preview of what we are working on, and we are looking forward to hearing more about your thoughts.
Professions have been a staple of World of Warcraft since its initial launch and while there have been incremental updates over time, we wanted to do something a bit different in Dragonflight. We wanted take time to rethink them and figure out how to make them a part of player identity—at the player’s choice, of course.
First up, we’re introducing something we’re calling Crafting Orders. Crafting Orders allow you to request for another player to craft something for you even if you don’t have the skill or have the right profession to do it yourself. You’ll be able to browse through any recipes that can be crafted, pick the one you want for yourself, and then include some or all the reagents needed for the recipe—including ones only you can get your hands on. You can either find someone in person who craft right in front of you, or you can go to an NPC, which uses an Auction House-like interface and send the order out.
You’ll be able to specify if the order is open to the public for any crafter to pick up, only send it to your guild, or to a specific player you know who has the ability to craft the item for you.
One of the other things worth noting is that the item you have crafted can also be Soulbound. In the past, the only way to get access to a crafted Soulbound item was to have the profession yourself. Now anyone can have them crafted for them which really expands the number of items that we can provide to anyone.
There are some additional updates of note as well. The biggest is the introduction of quality of both your crafted items and gathered reagents. Quality is pretty straightforward. If you craft something that is higher quality, it’s just going to be better. For pieces of gear, which may mean a higher item level. If it’s a potion, it may be a more powerful effect at a higher quality.
The crafting UI also introduces stats specifically to your professions for both crafting and gathering.
The biggest source of your ability to craft items at higher quality is through crafting specializations. While there have been specializations in the past, in Dragonflight, you’ll be able to go out and earn specialization points in multiple ways. You may find an old book on a bookshelf in a ruin somewhere. You could meet up with a hermit in a cave who can teach you more about your profession. In the end, you’ll be able to choose as a Blacksmith, for example, to become an Armorsmith and you’ll be able to put points into that skill to become better at crafting all armor. This opens opportunities for players within the same guild to specialize in varying aspects of a profession to add value to the guild.
We’ll also be adding crafting tables for all professions within the new city hub of Valdrakken. It’s a great way for crafters to meet up in the city or for other players to find a crafter if they want to meet face to face.
Crafters will also be getting new types of gear for their profession which you will automatically swap into when doing something like tapping a mining node. This gear won’t need to take any space in your backpack and will have special stats on them that will aid you in getting better in your profession.
By specializing and honing your craft, you could build your own clientele and build your reputation for high-quality items. How far you take it is up to you.
This is just the very start of our journey to the Dragon Isles. Visit our new Dragonflight site for more information. Check WorldofWarcraft.com often for more information and updates and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.