Senior World of Warcraft dev says we might see single player 'story mode' versions of legacy raids in the future

 Orc man looking pensively at camera.
Credit: Blizzard

One of the more interesting developments to come out of World of Warcraft's The War Within expansion debuting in August is the introduction of "story mode:" a single-player way to battle the last bosses of the game's raids, so that even solo players can experience the full narrative.

PC Gamer associate editor Tyler Colp had the opportunity to interview associate game director Morgan Day this week at Blizzard headquarters in Irvine, California. Day hinted that story mode might not just be for the expansion's new content.

"In Shadowlands, we added 'Chromie Time,' where you can play past expansions to level up," he said. "We always talk about the strength of World of Warcraft and how we have so much cool content, and how we can leverage that better. As we've seen with Remix, the team is trying new and different ideas to leverage that."

That led to an idea: What if "story mode" could be used to help leveling players complete those narratives and experience classic raid moments solo as part of the journey to max level?

"We've talked often about, like, 'Wouldn't it be cool if I do Wrath of the Lich King Chromie Time, and I end my leveling experience defeating Arthas? How cool would that be?'" Day said. "Right now, you end that experience in a way that's like, 'Wait, what's going on?'"

According to Day, one of the advantages would be opening up raids that weren't seen by many players even when they were originally released.

"Raids in the olden days were something that only a small group of people could participate in. We've really expanded who the core audience of raids is," he said, though he notes that the team still wants to reward players who rise to the challenge of completing raids at high difficulty close to launch, letting them be the first to play through how an expansion's story ends.. "We respect that raids are for these people, while also understanding that the story is critical to these other people."

That said, don't go looking for your opportunity to single-handedly defeat Arthas while leveling just yet. The team has focused on implementing story mode for The War Within's content in time for its Looking For Raid implementation⁠—this treatment for legacy raids is something being considered for the future.

"So that's something we've talked about," Day said. "It's just a matter of working towards that end goal over time, as we add these new features that allow us to put that tool in our toolbelt."

Production Director Michael Bybee said in the same interview that in the end, players' reactions will play a strong role in whether the feature becomes a staple of the game.

"This is the first time we've done it exactly like this. We're going to try this out," he said. "We want to understand how you guys respond to it, because that's going to shape what we do next. Maybe people prefer something else. Maybe they want a different version of it."

"Let's put it out there and see how it goes," Day said.