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The Heart and Souls of Icecrown Citadel

With the final battle against the Lich King just on the horizon, Lead Content Designer Cory Stockton and Lead Systems Designer Greg Street discuss what awaits players inside Icecrown Citadel and offer a glimpse at the design process behind Wrath of the Lich King's ultimate raid and dungeon encounters.

What were you looking forward to most about developing Icecrown Citadel?

Cory: I think the most exciting thing about developing Icecrown Citadel was just knowing that we were working on the final chapter of the Northrend expansion, and that we'd really be able to give players that ultimate sense of completion of the storyline. Arthas is a huge character in Warcraft lore, so we took a lot of pride in making this the best experience we possibly could.

Icecrown and the Frozen Throne are important parts of the world of Azeroth and have quite a bit of history, especially for longtime Warcraft players. How do you convey the significance of these places and the events that took place there in design?

Cory: History was a large factor in the design of Icecrown Citadel from the very beginning. When we first sat down to discuss the layout of the raid itself, we immediately went back to Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne to think about how the spire from the ending cinematic could be translated into World of Warcraft. We decided to actually build Icecrown Citadel around the original spire to pull players even more into the storyline. This kind of thinking carried on throughout the entire design process.

Greg: We want Icecrown to be an epic experience from top to bottom, and that includes the loot you get. We're not going to shower players in items -- well, more than we already do -- but we do want to make sure the items are sufficiently powerful so that they're upgrades for all of our players.

Is there an existing model in World of Warcraft for Icecrown Citadel's itemization or style of play? What lessons that you'd learned from earlier projects wound up being applied to Icecrown Citadel?

Greg: The nice thing about Icecrown Citadel from an itemization perspective is that we have lots of bosses. That's something of a relief coming from the Crusaders' Coliseum, where we had only five bosses. For Icecrown, we can afford to have multiple options for a particular slot -- say a healing leather bracer or a melee trinket -- and even itemize some of the more unusual pieces. We have a pretty effective system for figuring out who is going to drop what to make sure that an individual boss will be interesting to a variety of players in terms of loot. Most of our lessons learned are in the realm of what differences there should be between 10- and 25-player itemization, the role of tradeskill recipes, and what kinds of items to place with badge vendors.

Cory: I think we learn lessons from every raid that we do. We didn't model Icecrown specifically after any of our previous raids, but you can definitely see influences. For example, we have a winged structure in Icecrown that players will remember from Naxxramas. Another example of an influence would be the teleporters from Ulduar. We know that players really loved that concept, so we brought it back in Icecrown.

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