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WoW: Wrath of the Lich King Q&A
World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King will add a new option to the game’s class roster with the introduction of the first hero class, the necromantic death knight. During the Second and Third Wars, the people of Azeroth learned to fear these merciless, unholy opponents and their terrifying powers. Leadinglegions of the undead into battle during the Third War, the Lich King’s death knights proved both their strength and their cunning on several occasions, making them an invaluable part of the Scourge army.
In Wrath of the Lich King, you will be able to pick up a runeblade, don some plate armor, and wreak serious havoc using both melee abilities and offensive magic. To give you an early glimpse at the design philosophy behind the new class, we sat down with the World of Warcraft design team to talk about the role the death knight will play in the expansion’s story as well as in its gameplay, and to get their thoughts about goals and ideas for the new class.
-The biggest news at this year’s BlizzCon was the announcement of World of Warcraft’s next expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, which will introduce the game’s first hero class, the death knight. What made you choose this particular class?
One of the things we knew very early on during development of Wrath of the Lich King was that we wanted to add an entirely new class to the existing ones. We actually considered several other class candidates before we decided on the death knight, but we felt that this was the perfect fit for the theme of Wrath of the Lich King for a lot of reasons.
Since the expansion is set in Northrend and you’ll be fighting the Lich King, it makes sense to add a class that is directly connected to the coming conflict. The death knights you will be able to play are no longer allied with the Lich King; instead, they have joined forces with the Horde or the Alliance to fight against Arthas. So by playing a death knight, you’re engaged in the story of Wrath of the Lich King right from the start, which makes the death knight a logical class choice for the expansion from a lore point of view. And since we’re designing this class to be able to fill a tanking role in groups, death knights will also be a viable and interesting choice for them, since the tank is one of those absolutely vital group roles.
One of our main goals for the death knights is to make them mesh well with the game both in terms of the expansion’s lore context and also in terms of being a valuable addition to the current class lineup, and so far we’re really happy with how the class is coming along.
The death knights you will be able to play are no longer allied with the Lich King; instead, they have joined forces with the Horde or the Alliance to fight against Arthas.
-How do you think adding another tanking class to the existing class lineup will affect the classes that are currently filling tanking spots in groups and raids?
When deciding which type of class we would add to World of Warcraft, we also took a very careful look at the current state of the game. The questions we asked ourselves were which kind of class roles are seeing the most use, which class roles are most desirable in groups right now, and what can we do to best meet this demand? Tanks play a critical role in any group, such that without a tank, you really don’t have a group. We think that adding another tanking class will make it easier for players to form viable groups for dungeons and raids, but that won’t be at the expense of existing tanks.
The design balance we’re aiming for is one where all the tank classes are equally good at tanking in general so that you can use whatever tank you happen to have for five-player content, but at the same time we want tanks to be clearly distinct so they excel in different ways in various raid encounters. So our goal is to make the death knight a viable, fun tank that coexists with the current tanking classes without replacing them. It’s also important to keep in mind that even though the death knight is a hero class, that doesn’t mean it is more powerful than the other classes, just that it will offer a very different playing experience.
-The existing nine classes can be described as healers, tanks, damage dealers, or a mix of these types, but each one with a unique twist that makes them feel clearly distinct, and sets them apart from one another. How do you think the death knight will feel different from other tanks?
One interesting difference between the death knight and other tanks is that death knights don’t use shields. This is also a good example of how our design concepts for the class are closely reflected in actual gameplay. If you think of a death knight, you think of this terrifyingly powerful warrior in heavy plate armor carrying around an enormous rune weapon, very much like Arthas does in the cinematics of Warcraft III. You don’t really see death knights hiding behind a shield – that’s just not their style. We take this design concept and then turn it into gameplay that is both fun and fitting for the class.
So when you see a death knight tanking, you’ll probably see a lot of things you wouldn’t see with any other class. The “modern” death knights resemble both the ones you saw in Warcraft III and the ones from Warcraft II, so they will combine powerful melee attacks with rune-based spellcasting to lay waste to whatever gets in their way. This mix of devastating melee abilities and magic attacks will be one of the many characteristics that set the death knight apart from other tanks.
But aside from just making them “different,” we’re also trying to make sure that death knights have the tools they need to fulfill their tanking role in groups – abilities that allow them to hold aggro and mitigate damage -- but also have a few twists to ensure that they’re distinct and valued contributors to the group
The “modern” death knights resemble both the ones you saw in Warcraft III and the ones from Warcraft II, so they will combine powerful melee attacks with rune-based spellcasting to lay waste to whatever gets in their way.
-While death knights are new to World of Warcraft, they are already a pretty well-established part of the Warcraft universe. Can players expect to see the return of some classic death knight spells and abilities?
Absolutely. One thing that is very exciting about the death knight character class is that we have a ton of really cool material to work with. Just looking at the many manifestations of death knights in previous games and in Warcraft lore provides a lot of ideas for spells and abilities that will give players a feeling of familiarity with what the class is about. At the same time, the way we introduce this class gives us an opportunity to add some awesome new stuff to the “modern” death knight’s bag of tricks.
What we want to accomplish with the new class is to make players who are familiar with Warcraft lore feel right at home with the death knight, while at the same time creating a truly unique, interesting, and fun set of completely new spells and abilities. For example, the death knight’s spells and abilities will be fueled by a new type of resource mechanic – the rune system – which will be different from mana, energy, and rage. This rune system is highly original and unlike any other class in World of Warcraft, but at the same time it is very consistent with the lore and core abilities of earlier incarnations of the death knight in previous games. It’s still a bit too early to talk in detail about it, but hopefully we’ll be able to reveal more about the rune system in the not-so-distant future.
...the way we introduce this class gives us an opportunity to add some awesome new stuff to the “modern” death knight’s bag of tricks
Thank you very much for your time!