World of Warcraft remains a phenomenally successful online game with a huge player base. While Blizzard Entertainment is still rolling out the 4.1 patch update, which includes a revamped version of the Zul'Aman dungeon area, the developer is already working on update 4.2. It will introduce huge amounts of new content to complement the game's latest expansion, Cataclysm.
According to lead systems designer Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street, update 4.2 is "going to be a really epic patch with tons of content players haven't seen before." The update will focus on an area known as the Firelands, an inhospitable, volcanic zone where the game's mighty fire elemental creatures reside. Said Street, "4.2 will center on going into the Firelands to take on Ragnaros or to use the new daily quest area, which will give players the sense of waging a battle against the fire elementals without having to commit to a full raid." Ragnaros the Firelord is, as diehard World of Warcraft players know, one of the first bosses ever to appear in the game in the Molten Core raid dungeon--one of the earliest raid dungeons ever to be implemented into the game. "Ragnaros is definitely the sentimental favorite of players…he's a memorable boss, one of the first that [Blizzard] had ever done. Players remember him as this giant guy emerging out of a whirlpool of fire." The designer suggested that 4.2's Ragnaros encounter will not "just be a re-do of Molten Core. It'll tell the rest of the story--now you're in his home turf, and he has the home field advantage."
In addition to adding a new raid dungeon for which Ragnaros will be the boss, the 4.2 update will include a new encounter journal, which is planned to include the vital statistics of every single boss monster in Cataclysm. Said Street, "We've been trying to communicate to players more and more with the quest journal, since [World of Warcraft's] only way to show how bosses work is otherwise to use graphics and animations. Some boss encounters still kind of feel like you have to die through them a few times until you figure them out." The designer explained that the encounter journal will include a brief list of each boss's primary powers, such as how the targeting on each power works and whether these powers can be interrupted by player actions. It will also include a list of what sort of loot each beast will drop when defeated. Street pointed out that encounter journals won't go so far as to break down exactly what adventure parties will be optimal to take on which boss or where each player should stand in a fight. But they should help give players a fighting chance when facing a boss for the first time. The designer also pointed out that Blizzard has plans to retroactively add other World of Warcraft bosses to the encounter journal…eventually. "We said we weren't going to commit to the project unless it could be extended to include all [of World of Warcraft's] bosses, but we're going to start with Cataclysm and then go back from there. Cataclysm has about 60 to 70 bosses, but there are a couple hundred in the entire game."
The 4.2 patch will also include a new area known as the daily quest hub, which will provide new content for players who aren't necessarily ready to spend all their time pursuing raid content with large groups. "We understand that not everyone is a raider, but we want to let players still feel like they can go out and strike a blow against the fire elementals. To that end, you can imagine two giant islands of rock floating above the Firelands--one is the raid dungeon with Ragnaros, and one is the daily quest hub." The new area will apparently have layers of quests that unlock successively as you complete earlier steps, and it will have up to about 60 total quests. Said Street, the daily quest hub is "definitely more for solo players who aren't interested in raiding and just want more content to explore."
Furthermore, the 4.2 patch will add a new attainable player item, an epic caster staff (which, when fully upgraded, will be tagged as a "legendary" item in orange letters). Interestingly, the item will not simply be the loot dropped by a powerful boss monster. Said Street, "We've tried to do epic items a lot of different ways, and the least exciting is a rare drop from a boss monster. The most exciting way seems to be having a whole quest line associated with it. For the lucky casters that gets this staff, they'll do some really epic things, such as bringing a raid group to fight epic bosses to bring their staff up to the next level." The item will also have four upgrade levels. Though the first upgrade level will be relatively easy to get--it can be acquired from just about any boss monster in Cataclysm--actually attaining the fourth and final upgrade level will be much more challenging. "We've never done a legendary quest line this epic, so it'll be interesting to see how players react to this," said Street.
The final addition that 4.2 will add to Cataclysm is a new quest line focused around Thrall, the orc warchief who first appeared in the Warcraft universe in Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos. While the character had already made a brief appearance in Cataclysm in an earlier quest line, the character is "going to have a really big role in the final battle against Deathwing," explained Street. "This will be a chance for all players to get a lot more interaction with Thrall, particularly for Alliance players who don't normally get to interact with him," considering that Thrall is a character from the Horde faction (orcs, trolls, goblins, undead, blood elves), which directly opposes the game's Alliance faction (humans, night elves, dwarves, gnomes, dranei, worgen). The designer suggested that Thrall's quest line will feature "the kind of story you'd normally see in a novel, rather than in a game like this, though the story will be told through a series of quests. Thrall has an all-new [character] model and is now probably the best-looking character in the game. He has amazing animations and new facial expressions." Street added, "If it works out well, we'd definitely like to use this type of story-driven quest line as vehicle for the [Warcraft universe's] other hero characters, but Thrall is definitely the most important one in World of Warcraft right now."
Not surprisingly, Blizzard otherwise can't really confirm too many details about World of Warcraft's future. Said the designer, "Without going into too many details, we're aware that players are asking for more ways to customize their characters and are looking into ways to address that. Also, we have a really wide audience, and while it's easy for us to stray too far into content only for casual players, considering that some players feel that, for instance, the dungeons in Cataclysm are too hard, we definitely want to provide good content for players of all levels. We don't just want to dumb everything down."
The 4.1 patch should already be deploying to World of Warcraft and the 4.2 patch will follow shortly afterward.