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2013 Blizzard Fansite Mixer, 5.4 Dev Roundtable Summary
on 2013/06/29 at 2:43 PM Pacific
The Blizzard CM team invited Wowhead and fansite members from Convert to Raid, Curse, Gamebreaker TV, and WoW Insider to Blizzard campus for a social fansite mixer on Friday, June 28th!
We spent the day hanging out with the fabulous Community team--
-- and discussed how fansites and Community can better support each other.
We also got to playtest Hearthstone for a bit, got a preview of licensing products like the
adorable Mini Sylvanas
, and enjoyed Bashiok's cooking on Community's Lil' Ragnaros BBQ.
I walked away with some sweet loot, including a
Mega Bloks Sha
in my goodie bag, and a
for doing well at WoW Trivial Pursuit!
Two highlights of the day were getting to go on tour of the Blizzard campus and have a roundtable discussion with Lead Encounter Designer Ion Hazzikostas, Lead Quest Designer Dave Kosak, and Lead Content Designer Cory Stockton. Topics included:
Arena teams are being eliminated, so you can freely group with whomever. Region-wide matchmaking is also being implemented. A Community blog post on this topic is coming soon!
The devs discuss the changes to the Golden Lotus, and how destroying the Golden Pagoda and many daily quests is actually a good thing.
Timeless Isle is shaping up to be an exciting dynamic zone instead of simply a new daily hub. Instead of daily quests, there will be world bosses, a pet tournament, and many discovery-based random events.
is a new world boss on the Timeless Isle, but you must have completed your legendary cape in order to fight him. As this is the first legendary that's not a weapon, the devs are trying to add additional perks to make the capes feel special. They confirmed that the capes will have special effects and procs, and also said they'll be easy to get at the start of 5.4 so players can actually use them when progressing through the current raid tier.
Proving Grounds are both a way for experienced players to challenge themselves and rack up high scores, but also a way for new players interested in trying out unfamiliar specs to do so in a safe, judgement-free environment.
Many details on flex raiding, encounter design, and the shortcomings of LFR!
We've got more details on the developer roundtable under the cut!
Developer Roundtable Summary
Keep in mind this roundtable covered PTR topics--this is only a summary, not a transcript, and details are always subject to change before things go live.
Siege of Orgrimmar Achievements and Mounts
The mounts and achievements tied to the Siege of Orgrimmar raid are being handled differently than those from past raid tiers.
Glory of the Orgrimmar Raider
achievement only requires players to complete non-heroic achievements. The devs weren't really happy with how the Glory of the Raider mounts were playing out in recent tiers, and decided to change how they worked. They mostly ended up being earned by a subset of the people who were fully clearing the zone on heroic already. People typically would finish killing all the bosses on heroic and then take a week off to kill them on normal mode for achievements--which made raiders who disliked achievements unhappy that they were missing out on loot upgrades.
When the Glory of the Raider mounts were initially created, the Normal/Heroic issue wasn't a problem because Naxxramas had no heroic difficulty (although, the devs aren't fans of some achievements like the Thaddius one.) However, problems started in Ulduar, when you had to decide between doing something like
+3 or killing all the protectors at the same time for
Knock, Knock, Knock on Wood (25 player)
With Flex raiding being a separate lockout, those players who really like achievements can get them done on this easier difficulty level without affecting heroic progression or loot acquisition. And since Flex can handle any number of raiders, you don't have to worry about leaving friends out if an odd number of people like the achievements.
Heroic Garrosh will also have a 100% droprate on a special mount, which will be nerfed to a 2% droprate when the next tier comes out. This system for heroic mounts has been used previously for rewards like
but hasn't been used in Pandaria. The devs realized that while there were some cool raid mounts like
, they were all RNG based and didn't reward players that were good or persistent. So rewarding players for accomplishing something really special felt right for Tier 16.
In addition, players who complete
Ahead of the Curve: Garrosh Hellscream (25 player)
Ahead of the Curve: Garrosh Hellscream (10 player)
will get a Kor'kron War Wolf--this requires you to kill Normal/Heroic Garrosh before the next tier. I inquired about tying the Ahead of the Curve feats to mounts during my
5.2 interview with Ion
so it was neat to see something similar implemented.
Flex raiding is designed to cater to two groups. The first are friends and family raid groups--people who like raiding with their friends when they have the time, and have been playing with these friends for years. In past expansions, WotLK 10s would have appealed to this type of player, but after the merge between 10s and 25s in Cataclysm, that wasn't the same.
The second group are raiding guilds--those who are interested in finding people in game to accomplish raiding goals. For people who are struggling on some Normal modes, learning the bosses on Flex mode will help practice boss strategies and the gearing process. One of the hopes is that players forming Flex raids will go on to raid even more with those same people.
LFR is great for lots of things, but it's not a social experience. The devs are committed to the Multiplayer aspect of MMOs and they are always looking for ways to emphasize the experience of playing with other people. Flex raiding rewards players who form these social bonds--the loot is better than LFR, plus you can complete achievements and farm mounts in Flex mode. Flex mode will also open earlier than LFR, as a way to incentivize people to try it out and see the fights sooner.
It was a risky move to make Heroic Scenarios require a pre-made group--originally it was going to use the queue system. The devs were concerned that not many people would do Heroic Scenarios as a result, but it appears a really large portion of the population is doing them, which is great--players are completing challenging content and doing so with their friends.
PTR Encounter Tuning
Encounter tuning on the PTR is a few rounds of iteration. The first pass uses a frame of references based on live numbers, which are then buffed by 20-25% to account for players getting stronger. This explains why encounter tuning seems to get easier as an expansion goes on--it's difficult at the start of an expansion to completely predict how classes will interact at max level.
The next step is the internal team of raid testers who test all the encounters before they're on the PTR. You may have seen some of these folks at the Mists of Pandaria launch, where they beat Blood Legion in a Challenge Mode competition--no small feat.
After that, the encounters go to the PTR where adjustments are made based on feedback. Since the PTR tends to attract dedicated players, the devs realize that if a PTR fight is too difficult on normal mode, it's probably going to be awful and needs a nerf before it hits live.
Once a raid goes live, there are some micro-adjustments, but those are kept to a minimum.
Throne of Thunder
The difficulty ramp in
Throne of Thunder
was a bit steeper than it should have been.
was intentionally easy, but
was a step up in difficulty. However, for guilds that weren't finished with Tier 14 normal content,
was a roadblock, and it's discouraging to be stuck on the second boss of a big raid zone.
To solve this issue, the devs made targeted nerfs to
, Council, and Tortos--this way, players can ease their way into
Throne of Thunder
, and if they get stuck on a later boss, they can look forward to getting new loot and Valor upgrades each week to feel stronger.
Initially, the devs thought offering multiple daily quest hubs would be a way for players to never feel bored. However, since players viewed daily quest hubs as mandatory instead of optional, this system had to be tweaked. In addition, no matter how hard they tried to randomize quests, players still view dailies as repetitive.
There's a lot of things the devs learned in 5.1. Players responded well to the idea of content as a reward, in which hitting various reputation milestones allowed players to view more special quests tied to the unfolding Alliance and Horde conflict. More story-type quests like these will be on the Timeless Isle.
From 5.2, the devs commented that in spite of the many dailies offered on the
Isle of Thunder
, they noticed players gravitating towards spontaneously farming groups and searching the Isle for rare spawns. This isn't a bad thing, as it gets people making social connections with fellow players.
And in 5.4, the Golden Lotus is getting
some big changes
. The Vale is mostly blown up, as well as the vast majority of daily quests. This gave the devs more flexibility in revamping Golden Lotus reputation. There's a handful of the most interesting dailies remaining, but players can also kill rares for interesting loot and other mobs for reputation gains.
There were originally 100-120 Golden Lotus dailies, but players still found them repetitive. It was meant to be a unique form of single-player progression, but to many players it felt obligatory. Hopefully the changes to the Golden Lotus in 5.4 will feel more interesting.
is all about discovery and exploration. You're meant to feel that you're one of the first people to really be there--there's no breadcrumb quest sending you there or main daily hub telling you what to do. There are cosemtic rewards on a tiered structure players can earn, but getting the currency for these rewards hopefully won't feel repetitive. You can check out our
initial Eagle Eye
preview for a look at the landscape and Celestial world bosses there.
It builds upon the design philosophy in Battlefield Barrens, where you could have fun soloing content a variety of ways, or group of with your friends to farm elites efficiently. There was one weekly quest and 0 dailies.
won't have dailies--instead it will have randomized solo encounters and treasure chests, group content like world bosses, pet battles, and lots of hidden nooks and crannies to discover.
Lorewise, it's a pretty weird place to live since time never ends. A lot of creatures there have been stuck in time there for quite some years. The Timeless Isle was described as a farewell to Pandaria: all the characters you've been touring with are adventuring over to the Isle.
: Legendary-Only Boss
is a special world boss on the
. He's in an ancient ruined temple at the highest point at the
, and there's a gap in the terrain that only players with legendary capes can glide over. He's a world boss only for players that have completely finished their legendary questline, and there's tech in place preventing players who haven't completed it from fighting him.
will not spawn on a super-rare timer, but will be rarer than Nalak. Players will still want to kill him because the legendary capes can be acquired early on in Tier 16, when many players will not have BiS gear. Loot drops will be at least raid quality and possibly Thunderforged normal.
Siege of Orgrimmar
Siege of Orgrimmar
is purposely a large raid tier, because the devs feel it's more interesting and epic that way. It gives them room for more encounter variety and flexibility in telling this patch's story. First there's the Vale being destroyed by Garrosh, then there's a move to an all-out siege on Orgrimmar, and then fighting in Garrosh's underground base.
The legendary was purposely designed to be completed early-on during the final raid. This was because past legendaries like
Fangs of the Father
were completed usually when players had BiS and defeated relevant content. You didn't really feel that you were helping your raid kill new bosses with your legendary--all you used it for was farm content and leveling.
Since this is the first legendary that's not a weapon, the devs know they really have to offer some special things so players won't be disappointed. Access to
special spell procs
Spirit of Chi-Ji
, interesting textures, and other effects are tied to this legendary so far.
The devs are happy with how Thunderforged-style items have turned out in 5.2, and a similar system will be implemented for the
Siege of Orgrimmar
. It keeps farm content interesting, instead of bored players sharding every single thing that would drop after a few weeks.
It also allows for routine, steady gear progression that feels better than the staged progressive nerfs in the past, such as in Dragon Soul. Between Thunderforged items and Valor upgrades, it guarantees that every week, a raid that is progressing through content is getting slightly stronger each time.
Valor Points and Item Upgrades
The devs feel a lot better about the item upgrade system in 5.3 in contrast to the one in 5.1. Between the currency cost nerf and removal of most PvP upgrades, the system seems to flow a lot better. People seem happy that they can spend
as soon as they get them, instead of hoarding points until they got an irreplaceable item.
With the addition of Thunderforged items adding complexity to loot tables, the original system in 5.1 really needed to be tweaked. Otherwise, players would feel upset that they just spent 0
on an upgrade only to win a Thunderforged item a week later.
In addition, players can tentatively upgrade items in 5.4.
Raid Encounter Complexity
We also talked a bit about raid encounters through the years. While the minimum skill level for basic fights has increased--there's no more Patchwerk style fights anymore--the devs believe the memorable fights from several expansions ago hold up to the ones now. Encounters like
come to mind.
The devs are pretty happy with how LFR's Determination has worked out. In random matchmaking content like LFR, the satisfying learning curve you'll usually encounter when learning a new fight simply isn't there. After a wipe, players usually get frustrated and drop queue hoping for a better LFR. With Determination, it might be worth sticking around for a few wipes.
Proving Grounds are not currently on the PTR, but they will be coming pretty soon. There are
gold, silver, and bronze achievements
associated with Proving Grounds, as well as an "Endless Wave' difficulty mode for those that truly want a challenge. Players will get a score based on their waves, and there may be leaderboard functionality for that in the future.
Proving Grounds serve two purposes. Since players enjoy soloing encounters and role-specific experiences like the legendary questline, Proving Grounds should appeal to those types of players who want solo challenges. It also serves as a teaching tool for someone who has never tanked or healed before. Currently, you usually learn how to tank or heal in a dungeon, which is a miserable experience for all. In Proving Grounds, you can learn new roles without learning them at the expense of others in your party.
Ion and I also talked about Proving Grounds in comparison to Brawler's Guild. The Brawl fights are great for dps, as well as players who enjoy being watched. However, it's not great for tanks or healers as well as players who don't want others to see them messing up as they learn a fight. Ion commented that he's personally seen a lot of players hanging around Brawler's Guild as spectators, who have none of the achievements done but just like watching others.
PvP Changes in 5.4
The concept of the arena team is being eliminated, so people can freely group with whomever--similar to the rated battlegrounds system. The UI for this is currently on the PTR--if you go look at your honor and arena pane, it shows that there's no team there, just personal ratings. Region-wide matchmaking is coming as well. A blog post on these details will be coming soon.
The devs said it was too soon to see if the radical PvP changes in 5.3 have gotten more players PvPing, but among their friends, they've noticed more people in PvE gear filling in for rated battlegrounds and enjoying it.
2013 Blizzard Fansite Mixer, 5.4 Dev Roundtable Summary
2013/06/29 at 2:43 PM
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