The Deathwing Raid: Interview with Scott Mercer
In World of Warcraft content patch 4.3, players will make their ultimate stand against Deathwing the Destroyer. Almost a year has passed since the corrupted Dragon Aspect burst forth from the Maelstorm to bring the Cataclysm down upon the mortal races. Now the determined survivors from the Horde and Alliance have rallied to unleash vengeance of their own.
To prepare for this earth-shattering battle, the Blizzard Insider recently discussed the upcoming Dragon Soul raid with Scott Mercer, lead encounter designer from the World of Warcraft team. Read on for all the epic details.
*** CAUTION: THIS INTERVIEW CONTAINS SPOILER INFORMATION ON THE CATACLYSM STORY AND THE FINAL BATTLE AGAINST DEATHWING. ***
Blizzard Insider: Before we dive into the details, can you tell us about Deathwing’s character arc to date?
Scott Mercer: Deathwing has changed the face of Azeroth probably more than any other villain in Warcraft’s history. He tore the Barrens in half. He caused tidal waves that transformed both continents. He even burned his claw marks into Stormwind Keep, leaving his personal signature on the Alliance capital. In many ways Deathwing embodies the Cataclysm itself, not just as the direct cause of it, but also as the thematic center of the expansion. His violent transformation from Earth-Warder to Destroyer ultimately led to all these changes across Azeroth, so in a very direct way, his character arc represents the force that set the entire expansion into motion.
That said, we’ve been building towards a showdown with Deathwing for some time. Players have been wrestling with his Twilight's Hammer minions since before Cataclysm, and we’ve already seen Deathwing defeat Alexstrasza in single combat. The powers that be in Azeroth know Deathwing presents a mortal threat, so in the wake of all the chaos and destruction, forces are finally rallying to oppose him. That’s how patch 4.3 begins, with the major players of Azeroth gathering to decide how they are going to tackle this seemingly unstoppable monster.
Insider: Can you tell us about the new 5-player dungeons that lead into the Deathwing raid?
Scott Mercer: The short version is that the players are sent on a series of quests to recover the Dragon Soul artifact so Thrall and the other dragonflights will have the firepower they need to confront Deathwing. The new 5-player dungeons involve the Caverns of Time and require the players to go forward in time to witness a future where Deathwing has destroyed the world. Then, from that bleak future, they must go back in time to the War of the Ancients to recover the Dragon Soul and bring it back to the present. We’ve discussed a lot more details on the new 5-player dungeons in other interviews. They're going to lead in directly to the patch 4.3 raid instance, which is called Dragon Soul. When the raid begins, the players have recovered the Dragon Soul artifact and arrive at Wyrmrest Temple to find it under siege by Deathwing’s forces.
Insider: Aside from a battle with Deathwing, what other encounters do you have planned for the Dragon Soul raid?
Scott Mercer: When players first arrive at Wyrmrest, they have to fight off a variety of Deathwing’s minions who are laying siege to the temple. There’s Morchok, a stone giant who is pounding the base of Wyrmrest, and Warlord Zon’ozz and Yor’sajh the Unsleeping, two servants of the Old Gods in league with Deathwing who are summoning more minions to sack the gates.
In addition to lifting the siege around Wyrmrest, the players also have to return to the Eye of Eternity to get the Focusing Iris so the Dragon Aspects can refocus their power into the Dragon Soul. We have some new gameplay elements in mind for these raids, including a mechanic where players are granted the ability to dodge a deadly attack from a twilight dragon by phasing away.
Insider: What details can you tell us about the Deathwing raid? How does it differ from other raids?
Scott Mercer: Dragon Soul is the most story-driven raid we’ve ever created. We’re even building several cut scenes to transition between the last three stages of the final encounter with Deathwing.
The first stage occurs as players are flying on an airship, chasing down Deathwing while his Twilight's Hammer drake riders are swooping in to harry the pursuit. In the second stage, players paratroop commando-style onto Deathwing’s back and start ripping up his armor, trying to pry a hole big enough to give Thrall a clean shot with the Dragon Soul. During this phase, players are actually riding on Deathwing as he’s swooping around and trying to knock the players off with barrel rolls and such. Players will have to hang on at key points in the fight to avoid falling while also tangling with all kinds of monstrosities that are rising out of Deathwing’s corrupted magma blood. Once the players get enough of Deathwing’s armor off, Thrall blasts Deathwing with the Dragon Soul and sends him crash-landing into the Maelstrom.
Insider: Very cool! And the final stage?
Scott Mercer: Well, the interesting thing about Deathwing’s armor is that it wasn’t really built to keep things out--he doesn’t have to worry about weapons like swords and arrows. Instead it was built to keep things in. His body is this incredibly volatile mixture of corruptive energy and burning magma, so without his armor to hold it all together, he starts to lose it and come apart in all kinds of crazy ways. The final stage of the raid begins when Deathwing’s deformed body rises out of the Maelstrom to face off against the players in the final showdown. I won’t go into too much detail about this final stage, but I will say that it’s going to be unbelievably epic. Even in his weakened state, Deathwing still presents a major threat, and bringing him down will require the combined efforts of the players, Thrall, and even the other Dragon Aspects.
Insider: What difficulties did you encounter while designing the Deathwing battle?
Scott Mercer: It took a lot of new technologies to set up the fight on Deathwing’s back. The artists in particular focused on selling the fantasy that you’re grappling with a giant dragon midflight. We’ve never done anything quite like that before. Overall, setting the right scope for an encounter like Deathwing required a lot of development disciplines working together--artists, coders, encounter designers, level designers, and animators. We built corrupted Deathwing as a giant set piece with a lot of moving parts--probably our most complicated character model to date--but we felt it was necessary to convey the epic scale and do justice to the final boss of Cataclysm.
Insider: Let’s talk loot. What rewards await players who are strong enough to tackle Deathwing the Destroyer?
Scott Mercer: There will be a new tier of armor sets, of course. We’re also adding a new legendary weapon--a pair of daggers for rogues--with a new quest chain involved in obtaining them. The artists and animators are working on a new mount, a drake from the red dragonflight that borrows many visual elements from the Alexstrasza character model. Players can get one version of the new mount as the reward for the meta achievement for completing all other Dragon Soul achievements. There will also be a second, rarer version of the mount, that’s obtainable as a single, guaranteed drop off Heroic corrupted Deathwing.
Insider: Thanks for your time. Is there anything else you’d like to share before you go?
Scott Mercer: Sure, there’s a lot going into the next content update besides just the Dragon Soul raid--Transmogrification, Void Storage, the new Darkmoon Faire, and more. The patch should have something for everyone.
Be sure to check these links for all the latest details on the other features coming with patch 4.3:
Patch 4.3 Dungeons Preview, Part One: End Time
Patch 4.3 Dungeons Preview, Part Two: Well of Eternity
Patch 4.3 Dungeons Preview, Part Three: Hour of Twilight
Patch 4.3 Raid Preview: Dragon Soul
Patch 4.3 Preview: Transmogrification
Patch 4.3 Preview: Void Storage
Patch 4.3 Preview: New Darkmoon Faire