WoW Feature – Area Design Principles

WoW Feature – Area Design Principles

As an almost 20-year-old Franchise, everything about the design of World of Warcraft is created with the finest level of detail – to ensure to not disappoint players whose expectations and enjoyment of the game are paramount.

The team works tirelessly to ensure that what’s created into the world is purposeful and fitting for the context of the broader lore. You can see this from the art design and illustrations of the characters, world inhabitants, and the world itself. During the creation of new expansions, these go through many iterations to ensure the highest level of quality is provided to the fanbase.

With the 10.1 patch now well underway, to celebrate, take a look through some insights shared from the experts on the WoW Dragonflight development team, and dive deeper into what goes into the makings of some of the new 10.1 updates.


First up is Dragonriding – the all-new aerial movement skill the game is named after. This received an overwhelmingly positive reaction from the community with some even requesting it be in all zones. Therefore, in May, in the Embers of Neltharion update we will be adding six new Glyphs alongside two new Dragonriding traits. This will hopefully allow players to experience the all-new movement skill even further!

In terms of design planning, before looking at details for other elements of design, the aim for new continents and zones is for them to be beautiful landscapes for players to traverse – particularly so when it’s done at speed on a Dragon! When testing, designers will always question each other – “How does it feel to explore? Is it exciting? Is it full of life? Will this get players excited about the new expansion? How do we achieve this?” – plus so much more.

That’s why in this new patch there are new traits, glyphs, and races that will become available as players ride their drake through Zaralek Cavern. On top of this,it was decided to add a Dragonriding mount—the Winding Slitherdrake – which players can earn along with its customizations as they continue their journey. With all this new Dragonriding content, it proves the development team is committed to implementing and promoting a recently beloved feature.

The Zaralek Cavern – Biomes

At the core of the 10.1 update is the new zone, the Zaralak Cavern. This is a massive new underground zone for players to explore (underneath the Dragon Isles). It features new allies (factions) to earn renown from quests, enemies, and much more.

The Zaralek Cavern was designed by the team to feel very grand and have lots of openings, but also to have places players can swoop in and run some tight corners and get low to the ground.

That’s why there are three distinct biomes/zones for players to traverse through whilst Dragonriding. The crystalline caverns of lofty formations of stalagmites and stalactites, sulfur pools that serve as the dumping grounds for Neltharion’s failed experiments, and twisted spires of volcanic lava flows that the Djaradin Elders call their home.

When planning, WoW developers are always trying to put things together that feel like they complement one another. These features and biomes accentuate the themes of the Embers of Neltharion, and push the narrative Blizzard wants to explore in WoW. So when the team decided they would be pursuing Neltharion’s secrets in this underground space, they talked about the kind of things they’d want to offer players, and get them to naturally run into. The cornerstone of these is the space players are working through. With the biomes, the team really felt this complemented the space and Neltharion’s history.

Meet Your New Ally – The Niffen

he WoW development team are truly excited for players to meet the Niffen folk. But first, what are they and how were they created? As Catarina Pulli, Visual Development Artist, describes “The Niffen are a group of ingenious little mole folk living underground, they are mole-like creatures who use their noses to navigate the all-new Zaralek Cavern. Being poor in sight, the Niffen have always relied on their other senses to thrive in their environment.”

Essentially, Catarina helped us understand that the Niffin folk burrow and their eyesight is not very good, so culturally they refer to things by how they smell. Their entire society is built around scent trails and the scent of home.

Everyone loves a furry friend, cute or not, and allies/companions are always appreciated in a gaming world. These cute creatures were created to bring something unique to the WoW world, but also unique in the creature’s nature – the Niffen’s entire worldview is informed by scent.

When designing the Niffen, Kenny McBride – Lead Character Outsource Supervisor – said ‘We wanted to create a friendly and neutral creature culture. It was fun exploring various features like claws, noses, and teeth for their unique mole-like look’.

If you want to learn more about Dragonflight, check out the World of Warcraft website, or for real-time updates, follow the official Twitter.

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