World of Warcraft: Shadowlands’ closed alpha is upon us, and that means loads of new information about how the game will evolve this fall. We’ve already seen massive changes to the new-player experience, the return of old abilities, and, of course, player outrage over a new system. But one of the tiniest features of the Shadowlands alpha will likely be the most used: a new questing user interface.
World of Warcraft has used the same exclamation point marker for a new quest, and a question mark icon for when a quest is ready to turn in, since the MMO launched 16 years ago. Main quest, side quest, companion quest, profession quest — all of them use the same format. But according to Wowhead, the Shadowlands alpha reveals a new improvement for story quests: a shield behind the markers.
“I can’t believe I clicked on this,” I can already see you typing into our comment field. But hear us out! World of Warcraft has had thousands of quests over its nearly two decades in the world, and only a small portion of them are relevant to the overall story or progressing a plot point forward.
For years, players have walked into towns, grabbed every single quest available to them, and thoughtlessly wandered into the wilderness to complete them — hoping that one of these quests will lead to a chain. The new indicators — which give separate quests under a new “campaign” banner — indicate that if you’re going to do any quest in this town, do this one.
It’s one of those rare changes that isn’t just useful for new players experiencing an MMO for the first time. This is great for veterans that just want to run into an area, clear the story quest, and get out as quickly as they can.
The side quests in Shadowlands still use the traditional quest icons. But even these have clarity improvements. When you activate a quest, a new in-game marker will appear on your screen, showing you where to go.
Opening your map as you explore World of Warcraft is second nature to most of us, but this new feature will allow for exploration that keeps you focused on Blizzard’s increasingly gorgeous worlds, not its map rendering.
Finally, players can now drop a marker onto the map. This can serve for a self reminder on where exactly you’re headed. But it has even more uses as a social tool. Once players mark their map, they can ping it to the rest of their party members via chat, telling them exactly where they need to go.
Just because World of Warcraft is old doesn’t mean it can’t grow. For those of us who’ve played World of Warcraft for numerous expansions, we know how to explore the world and find what we need. But learning that in-game language is a major barrier for inexperienced players — think back to when you started, and realize how much faster you quest now than you did back then!
All of these tools alter the way players engage with World of Warcraft on a daily basis. So while this new icon won’t help you deal massive DPS or make a raid-saving heal, it will quietly help you move about the world during 90% of your World of Warcraft adventure. And that’s a quality of life feature if we’ve ever seen one.