World of Warcraft: Dragonflight Reimagines Fundamentals of Talents, Crafting, and UI.
Nothing like a good old-fashioned talent tree.
World of Warcraft is, inarguably, a pretty old game as far as MMORPGs go. So even though it remains popular nearly 20 years after its initial release, there are a number of antiquated systems and visual aspects that Blizzard’s been steadily trying to update with each subsequent expansion. And now with Dragonflight, it’s time for an overhaul to three big ones: talents, crafting, and the UI itself.
For several expansions now, World of Warcraft players has been frustrated with a series of gimmicks designed to increase player power that was then ditched at the end of each expansion (RIP Artifact Weapons). In Dragonflight, Blizzard appears ready to ditch the temporary magic amulets and what-have-you and go back to a good old-fashioned talent tree once again.
As revealed in the Dragonflight announcement World of Warcraft is re-embracing talent trees after having ditched them at the start of Mists of Pandaria. But the new talent system isn’t just a reemergence of the old trees — it’s been completely overhauled with both class- and specialization-specific talents which players can put points into on each and every level up.
In an interview with IGN, game director Ion Hazzikostas explains Blizzard’s reasoning for initially ditching the trees, and then bringing them back with Dragonflight:
“In the years since we moved away from the standard talent trees…we’ve realized that while there was an initial appeal to focusing the choices and really meaningful pivots on your character’s capabilities, that system didn’t lend itself to the same sort of ongoing growth and expansion,” he says.
“We were increasingly turning to new systems to fill the hole the change to the talent system left. Of course, some of these were more successful than others, and there was a lot of excitement in them. It also inherently feels pretty bad to leave something behind at the start of every new journey, to start every expansion by saying goodbye to a piece of your character that you’ve grown attached to over the last couple of years, as opposed to feeling like you’re progressing.
“So we’re really excited to overhaul our talent system, return to its roots in a sense, but also carry a lot of the lessons that we’ve learned over the last dozen years about different talent systems and how our players play the game today.”
Hazzikostas reassures players that it will be very easy to reallocate talent points and switch specializations, and says that Blizzard wants to get back to an idea that used to be more common of players having an active, secondary specialization they could bust out as needed without tons of effort. The current plan, he says, is to have multiple load-outs that can be adjusted while in town, but then swapped freely between in the field.
Talent trees aren’t the only core WoW system getting an overhaul in Dragonflight. Professions, too, will see dramatic differences. One of the biggest changes is the introduction of profession-specific stats that can be attached to professional gear, giving crafters both practical improvements as well as visual ones. So yes, an alchemist can look like an alchemist while doing alchemy now, instead of just some guy in armor making little potions. And crafting is also seeing the return of specializations, allowing crafters to allocate talent points within their professions.
Blizzard is also implementing a work order system that allows players to commission crafters to make specific items using materials the commissioner provides, or to have soulbound items crafted on their behalf. There are a ton of other changes too that we haven’t seen the full scope of yet, such as quality level being added to crafted items, crafting tables for every profession set up in major cities, and an entirely new crafting UI and interface.
Speaking of UI, crafting isn’t the only segment of the game getting a new interface. The entire World of Warcraft UI is getting redone from the ground up. The rework will present a cleaner and more modern interface, but also allow players to customize how their HUD looks without downloading a bunch of mods, as has been the case for years now.
“One of the challenges with our default UI is that it really doesn’t necessarily have information laid out in the best way possible for the larger screens that people are playing on today,” Hazzikostas says. “[It] all worked physically when the UI was originally created for the 1024×768 CRT monitors people were playing on back in the day, but now you get your cool widescreen, ultra-widescreen monitor. You want to play all your games on it. All your other games instantly feel better. The default UI experience in WoW— that’s honestly not really the case today. So the things we wanted to solve were information layout; offering better, more centralized defaults, but also a much greater level of customization flexibility to let players, without needing add-ons, move things around and place the information where it suits their play style and their aesthetic.”
Sign-ups for the alpha and beta for Dragonflight will soon be live on the official WoW website, though the expansion does not yet have a release date. We also chatted with Hazzikostas about the new Dracthyr Evoker hero class, and rumors of a WoW console port. And we spoke to the WoW Classic leads about some of the changes coming in Wrath of the Lich King Classic, and where Classic might go next.