E3 '07: World of Warcraft Content Updated Impressions - The Dungeon of Zul'Aman
We take a sneak peek at some upcoming content for one of the most popular online games in the world.
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SANTA MONICA--All the sunshine and sandy beaches in the world couldn't keep us from visiting with Blizzard Entertainment at the E3 2007 media summit in Southern California. The developer was on hand to show off new content updates for its insanely popular massively multiplayer online game, World of Warcraft, including some new gameplay features and a brand-new dungeon area.
The big news is the new Zul'Aman area, an outdoor dungeon in the mid-level Ghostlands area near the blood elves' homeland. The dungeon is inhabited by the forest trolls who first made their debut in Blizzard's real-time strategy game Warcraft II. ("Trolls love the outdoors," explains vice president of game design Rob Pardo.) The vast outdoor zone consists of ruined stone temples that reflect the trolls' shamanic beliefs growing through thick forests of trees. According to the story that Blizzard has penned for the area, Zul'Aman is the home of the troll warriors led by Zul'jin (a character from Warcraft II) and has become a stronghold from which the trolls have begun attacking the blood elves, thanks to a newfound power that a troll witch doctor has discovered. Apparently, this powerful troll spiritualist has somehow managed to steal away the essences of four troll animal gods and confer them to four mighty troll warriors. These avatars act as the early "boss" encounters for the dungeon.
Zul'Aman is a smaller raid dungeon that's better suited for 10-character parties than the full-on 25-character raids that some of the game's larger dungeons demand. Because the dungeon will not require any keys or attunements to enter, the dungeon seems intended to be more accessible to players on tight schedules. Much of the layout will call for methodical clearing of troll enemies who may call for help by beating on nearby war drums, which summon additional troll warriors to fight. Each of the four avatars, which have respectively been infused with the spirits of a bear god, a dragonhawk god, a lynx god, and finally, a god of evil, may also summon help, as well as assume different forms over the course of battle. Once players have defeated each avatar, they'll eventually take on the witch doctor that started the whole mess and finally do battle with Zul'Jin himself. The final troll boss will not only be a powerful foe; he'll also be able to draw upon the ghostly spirits of each of the four liberated animal gods and change his own shape to assume their powers.
In addition to offering challenging encounters against these mighty foes, Zul'Aman is apparently intended to encourage players to tackle it repeatedly to master its content. There will be several characters hanging around just outside the dungeon to give out quests that take place within the dungeon, including hunting for treasure and liberating four different hostages who have been taken captive by the armies of each of the four avatars. The rescue missions will apparently be timed and will yield better rewards if completed early.
Blizzard also plans to release additional, smaller patch updates before then that will add two new features: integrated voice chat and guild banks. Voice chat will be added to the game free of charge, will mute the game slightly whenever someone talks (so that you won't need to talk over any onscreen battles), and will use onscreen icons to indicate who's saying what, so that you'll be able to quickly determine which team member in your party is asking for help. The guild banks, on the other hand, will let guild officers create vaults to store the guild's entire possessions, as well as set permissions to limit access to certain items if they care to do so.
World of Warcraft is still running strong with millions of subscribers worldwide. Unfortunately, there's no set release date planned for the Zul'Aman update, beyond "when it's ready," though we're told that the voice chat and guild bank updates should be coming sooner to the game.