Game Design Exercise: Dream of Creation, pre-expansion patch

Concept map Remember when I said concept map? It means it's not a finished artwork.

Welcome back to next part of my game design exercise about the Emerald Dream expansion, which I dubbed Dream of Creation. For a while, I was struggling with the idea of how exactly should I divide up all the potential material into posts. Since designing an expansion takes up a lot of space and time, and many internal elements are very intertwined, I can’t really design everything in one, specific order, like I was able to with Farahlon. Take for example designing leveling zones. Let’s say I want to have space for six chapters of the zone’s storyline, but I can’t leave it at that. I need space for not only level cap content, but also for potential future patch areas, like parts of Krasarang used in patch 5.1. So while designing even the first leveling zone, I have to take into account how many reputation factions or other level cap activities I want to have. And when I decide how many reputation factions there will be, I have to decide what role they will have in distributing gear… so yeah. My point is, it’s a really complex system and a lot of thought has to go into it. Even when you have just one post written, you have to keep in mind almost everything else right from the very start.

So how do you decide what post to write first? I decided the best way to present this expansion will be to present it in the same order a player would normally experience it. In short, we start with the pre-expansion patch, and continue to leveling. Next post will describe at least one of the new races’ starting experience, and we will continue through leveling zones, and into endgame content of patch X.0, and only then proceed to further patches. Because I want it to feel as “real” as I can make it, I will keep information about those future patches hidden until shortly before their respective posts’ publication. So now, I invite you to the X.0.1, the Wild Hunt – the pre-expansion patch to Dream of Creation.

Another thing I wanted to speak about before the break is something else I felt would help the immersion of this exercise. Basically, after a BlizzCon announcement you’d have a Q&A session which would reveal various small (and not so small) details about the coming expansion. Well, we didn’t have it. To create one, I invite you to ask Q&A questions in the comments below. I will gladly answer all of them, pretending to be a real game dev when I can.

Phase 1: Ill Omens

As soon as the X.0.1 patch hits, game system changes are implemented, as well as the first phase of the pre-expansion event. For now, there is no trace of the new playable races anywhere in the game (meaning, no arakkoa town in Twilight Grove, for example) and the only new bit of content is a quest available from the command board in your capitals. The quest tells you of strange happenings in Eastvale or Dranosh’ar Blockade where villagers have seen strange specters haunting the woods at night. Even worse, a concerned parent in both of those places have seen one of those specters sneaking around the house, looking for the child’s bedroom. You are ordered to investigate these rumors.

When you arrive, you find the panicked parent with a broom, saying the specters no longer even fear the light of day and are attacking her house. As soon as you accept the quest to protect her, you are attacked by a new creature never before seen in WoW – a spectral hunter with an antlered helmet and furred leather coat. After defeating the first one, more obviously follow in three waves. All of the defeated specters can be looted for Spectral Charms, which are a special currency for this event (with no way to turn it in for now). After successfully protecting the mother and child, you are sent back to Harrison Jones or Belloc Brightblade to explain this phenomenon.

In a few words, Harrison and Belloc explain to you the myth of the Wild Hunt, and a longer explanation can be found in a book they hand to you as the quest reward. Since times immemorial, mortals reported seeing strange specters running around the forests, resembling a hunting entourage. These specters are usually harmless to mortals, but there are some sinister elements about them. First, t’s said that witnessing these spectral hunts can cause bad luck and staring at them too intently will charm you to follow them into the Emerald Dream from which they hail. Two, nobody knows their origins, but first reported sightings are after the Sundering. Three, it’s said they replenish their numbers by stealing children and other young individuals of mortal races and converting them into more of their own with dark magic. Neither Harrison nor Belloc know why they suddenly became so bold, but they’re sure that unless this continues, this shouldn’t be of much trouble.

The questline ends here, for now, leaving you with just a few new gold pieces for your trouble, and of course a sense of foreboding doom.

Phase 2: The Hunt Begins

As expected, it’s not the end. A week after that (or instantly afterwards if you are late with completing phase 1 questline) you get a new quest. It turns out, the specters have returned and are now attacking Kharanos and Bloodhoof Village in numbers rarely seen ever before. When you arrive there, you find the town being consumed by a green, ethereal fire and specters running amok. These mobs are at the old level cap, of course. Your quest directs you to the commander of the town’s defense. When you talk to him, he has a few quests for you, including picking up supplies, taking down fires and finally, going into the buildings and clearing them out of attacking specters. After those are done, you get a new quest to defend the town from a new wave of attackers.

These waves of attackers happen regularly every hour and their arrival is announced zone-wide. What follows is a dynamic event similar to garrison invasions. Your main objective is to simply defend the town, but you will get varying rewards by how much you do during it. The main difference from garrison invasions is it being tuned for more than one players and intended to scale up to the amount of players gathered in the area at the time. Various objectives within the scenario include protecting civilians, saving wounded soldiers, protecting the buildings and rescuing children the specters are already taking away. When most of the invading forces are killed, the leader of this force arrives. He announces that nothing can stop them, as they will not go back to the Dream without “the bounty”, not with the dark force that stirs up yet again. Players of course figure out immediately what he’s talking about, but the characters in-game are puzzled. Nevertheless, you protect the town and kill the invader.

After the successful defense of the town, you return with the quest to your faction leader, who sounds troubled by the development and tells you stay vigilant around the small towns of Azeroth, as the specters may return. From now on, every few hours, one of the “starter towns” (such as Goldshire, Kharanos, Razor Hill, Bloodhoof Village, etc.) can get attacked by another such invasion. Every mob in those invasions, as well as the preceding quests, will drop (along with the gold) more Spectral Charms. Now, vendors appear in the invaded towns who will sell you some special supplies in return for those Spectral Charms. For now, just some potions, food, and so on.

Phase 3: The Harvest

A week after that, the situation becomes even worse. The huntsmen no longer attack just the starter villages, but begin appearing everywhere on Azeroth, all at the old level cap (X00). This phase resembles the most the Elemental Invasion that preceded the Cataclysm. The invasion scenario from the previous phase remains online, but the addition of specters scattered around the world gives you more sources of the Spectral Charms. In this phase, new vendors appear in the capitals, offering not only the supplies from the previous phase, but new, epic gear as well – one that will give you a small headstart once the expansion hits.

The questline continues meanwhile, and Varian and Vol’jin are concerned about the severity of the situation. They know only that the specters are a strange movement from the Emerald Dream, but that’s where their knowledge stops. Even Harrison Jones and Belloc Brightblade don’t know anything beyond that, so you are sent to seek help from someone who’d know the Emerald Dream first hand – Keeper Remulos in Moonglade. When you arrive there, you notice that zone being oddly quiet. Turns out, Remulos protected Moonglade from the specters by a special force field they cannot penetrate. Unfortunately, even he doesn’t know the true origins of the Wild Hunt but he heard speculation that they’re some kind of corrupted druidic order. The only answer you can find will lie within the Dream itself. Remulos is convinced you are not yet ready to brave the Dream in its full power, but he hopes you can at least pay a short visit.

In the next quest, you are sent, along with a small group of Dreamwalkers, a new mortal order dedicated to help the weakened green dragons protect the Emerald Dream, to a phased version of a subzone called “Spectral Glades” in the Overgrowth zone of the coming expansion. You can’t leave the subzone because of force fields erected around it. In this full of afterimages section of the zone, you find the huntsmen on their own turf, but with the help of Dreamwalkers you are able to face them. Together, you approach a structure looming in the background and you may notice an instance portal shimmering at its entrance. However, before you can enter a powerful Wild Huntsman emerges from within and mocks you for attempting to brave the Wild Hunt on their own grounds. He effortlessly kills your Dreamwalker guards and prepares to kill you… but you’re pulled back just in time by Remulos.

Although you failed to discover the truth about the Wild Hunt, your description of the location you saw gives enough of a clue to Remulos to let him prepare a special ritual that will banish the Huntsmen from the mortal plane… at least for a short time. Enough to give the world a respite from this invasion. He needs time, though, and you are sent back to protect your homes until he calls on you again.

Phase 4: The Culmination

Out in the world, not a lot changes this week. The towns and outdoor areas are still being invaded with the same force they were. However, now the capital cities themselves are in danger. Tougher, elite Huntsmen begin appearing in the capital cities throughout Azeroth, attempting to make their way into inns (where potential converts presumably sleep). This gives you even more sources of Spectral Charms, as the vendors open up a new selection – including a blink dog companion pet whose recolor can be randomly dropped by the Huntsmen. Third version of said pet will be acquired… soon.

The questline continues when Remulos calls on you to return to Moonglade. You return to find Remulos around a ritual table. He’s preparing the first phase of the ritual and your task is of course to ensure everything goes according to plan. At first he tells you to throw in various ingredients, like you do in some quests, but then it turns out the Wild Hunt has sniffed out what’s happening and concentrated their assaults on Moonglade, weakening the barrier Remulos raised. Spectres bleed through and begin attacking and you have to protect the Keeper. The archdruids, including Malfurion, Hamuul, Celestine and Zen’tabra, arrive on the scene to help you. After a few minutes of combat, he finishes first phase of the ritual and the Wild Huntsmen are banished from Moonglade. He says he can finish the ritual without you, but just as he starts casting it, you are called to Ironforge or Orgrimmar. The Specters concentrated their attacks on specific targets within these cities.

You proceed into previously unseen sections of these cities, where you find personal quarters of Thrall and Moira, respectively to faction. Turns out, the Wild Hunt knows they’re on their way out and they concentrated their efforts on obtaining two children of great power and even greater future – Durak, son of Thrall, and Dagran Thaurissan II. You have minutes before they’re pushed back to their world, and for that remaining time, you have to protect the children, along with their parents. (It’s Thrall and Aggra for Horde, but Moira is accompanied by Muradin). After fending off waves of invaders, you are attacked by a particularly large blink dog. In the middle of that fight, something pulls that blink dog back and the capitals become specter-free. (In outdoor world, for gameplay purposes, the specters remain active) Remulos whispers you that he succeeded and the Wild Hunt was pushed back.

You return to Varian and Vol’jin and report them what happened. They say that although the invasion of the Wild Hunt was repelled, the problem is not solved. Remulos’s solution isn’t permanent and we still don’t know either what is the origin of the Wild Hunt, nor what is the dark force they were running from. They say they will mount a force that, with Dreamwalkers’ permission, will cross over into the Emerald Dream and investigate the source of the problem, hopefully putting it down for good. As a reward for your fight, you get a new toy (TBD) as well as the final, third color of the blink dog companion pet.

Thus ends the pre-expansion event. But wait, it’s not JUST pre-expansion event. Blizzard allegedly said they’re reluctant to make those big events because they’re played only once and remain inaccessible from then on. Well, to avert that, once the X.0.3 patch and the expansion hit, this event becomes the expansion introductory questline, much like Tanaan. There are small changes, of course. There is no big invasion out in the world, no Spectral Charms or vendors for them, but the questline itself remains, potentially removing the end rewards to keep them rare. In the post-event version, once you protect Durak or Dagran, you are immediately directed to a relevant Dream portal to cross over with your faction’s forces. But more on this, in upcoming Overgrowth/Verdant Plains posts. And for now, I hope you enjoyed this and see you soon.

About Arakkoa

Verroak Krasha, an Arakkoa druid with over 50 years of experience. Formerly from Farahlon, during the Orcish expansion relocated to Skettis, then to Sethekk Halls, then to rebuilt Shattrath, following the heresies in each of those places. Finally, he founded his own succesfull alchemy business and set out into the wide cosmos to explore strange new worlds and seek out new life and boldly go where no bird has flown before. View all posts by Arakkoa

2 responses to “Game Design Exercise: Dream of Creation, pre-expansion patch

  • Theramas Dawnrunner

    Let’s play Red Shirt Guy here.

    Previously, the Emerald Dream has always been quoted as being the Titan’s blueprint of what Azeroth should look like, and what it would be like if it wasn’t for mortal races interfering with the face of the world. So how does that mesh with the Emerald Dream being filled with all those fey civilizations? Wouldn’t they be corrupting the template the Titans made for Azeroth?

    • Arakkoa

      The fey creatures are different from most mortal races in how they can live in accordance with nature. They can live in the natural environment without corrupting it. Therefore, if the Titans needed to reorder Azeroth and actually the Emerald Dream as a backup copy, there would be no mortal-caused corruption. At least until we barge into the place and start causing trouble… which will be a plotline touched on in the expansion.

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