When World of Warcraft’s sixth expansion pack, Legion, comes out later this month, it will bring a lot of exciting additions to Blizzard’s 11-year-old massively multiplayer game. One of the most anticipated of those is the addition of artifact weapons, a unique, super-powerful weapon for each class specialization that players will hunt down through a series of quests, wield and continue powering up through the whole of the expansion.
But what about after the expansion? What comes next, and will artifact weapons be a part of it?
According to World of Warcraft lead narrative designer Dave Kosak, artifact weapons won’t be sticking around for the seventh expansion, whenever that arrives.
"It’s kind of like what’s going to be the marquee cool new thing in this expansion," Kosak told Polygon. "It was garrisons in Warlords of Draenor, and that was pretty cool. We take some of those elements forward, but otherwise that was a Draenor-specific thing. Now you have an artifact weapon, and it’s going to be very Legion-specific. Down the line, I imagine we’ll have something else really cool."
With garrisons, Kosak refers to a system added in 2014’s Warlords of Draenor expansion where players were able to take command of and build their own military base, including recruiting soldiers and sending them on missions. The garrison system was initially met with an extremely positive critical and fan response, though by the end of the expansion many players felt burnt out on the constant grind of keeping your garrison up to date.
Rather than carry garrisons over to Legion, a few elements from the system will repeat in the new "class order hall" feature. It’s unclear what, if any, parts of the artifact system will stick around for the future, but Kosak did provide some explanation for why Blizzard has a tendency to prune features from the game rather than carry them forward indefinitely.
"If we kept adding new stuff every single expansion, the game would be very unwieldy," he said. "We’d have to update it every single time. Imagine if we had to do a whole garrison system this time around. It would get super unwieldy. When you have a live game like World of Warcraft that’s over 11 years old now, you have to consider how to keep the game manageable."
Speaking about why Blizzard came up with the artifact system for Legion, Kosak explained that it gave the developer a chance to explore the game’s lore and tie players to it, while also giving them unique content that their friends may not see.
"We’ve always wanted to do more class-specific content, and players have always wanted more class-specific content," said Kosak. "In this case, the fact that there are these custom artifact weapons lent us the opportunity. Now is when we’re able to invest the time in class content. It’s when we’ll pull the trigger on doing a lot of class-specific stuff and class-oriented stories. As you start playing the expansion and talking with other players playing different classes, they’re having very different experiences and going to different places. It should play out pretty cool."
World of Warcraft: Legion will be available on Windows PC and Mac on Aug. 30. A major pre-expansion patch hit the game last month, and special events leading up to the expansion have been happening in-game since then. Most notably, players who have pre-ordered the expansion can now begin playing as the brand new demon hunter hero class.