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Wowhead's Patch 5.2 Interview with Lead Game Designer Ion "Watcher" Hazzikostas
2013/02/28 at 2:22 PM
Patch 5.2 is right on the horizon, bringing with it a new raid full of exciting bosses and powerful epic loot! Yesterday I had the opportunity to interview Lead Encounter Developer Ion "Watcher" Hazzikostas, who shared insights on
Throne of Thunder
's design as well as on raid-related topics such as Item Upgrades and Thunderforged gear.
Topics covered include:
The decision to implement Ra-den, a limited-attempt heroic-only boss, in Throne of Thunder.
Thoughts on the staggered release of Tier 14 content.
Progression paths for raiders in 5.2 who have yet to complete Tier 14 content.
The multiple purposes behind Thunderforged items and how they can benefit 25-player raids.
Strengths, weaknesses, and possible modifications to the item upgrade system.
The purpose behind the new Feats of Strength (Ahead of the Curve, Cutting Edge) for killing Tier 14 bosses before 5.2's release.
Challenges behind creating legendary weapons and their effects on raids and player participation.
The success of and future plans for Challenge Modes.
As for other Patch 5.2 raid commentary,
interviewed Ion Hazzikostas yesterday and
focuses on many of the new encounters coming in 5.2. Blizzard also released a
Throne of Thunder
raid preview earlier this week, in which Ion contributed commentary on all of the new bosses. We've included his comments as well after the interview.
Click the cut for Wowhead's interview and Blizzard's Throne of Thunder raid preview!
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News Round Up: Developer Q & As, Fast Patch 5.1.0A Notes
2012/12/10 at 11:59 AM
Today we have a list of all the other recent fansite interviews with Blizzard Lead Developers. They cover a variety of topics including Mists endgame, dailies, pet battles, and the Brawler's Guild, and include transcripts, podcasts, and video interviews--so there's bound to be some topic and format that suits your tastes!
In addition, there are some "Fast Patch" notes for 5.1.0A that mainly cover some bug fixes for pet battles and Macs.
We also want to highlight
, which has a brand-new layout as well as a news section, event roster pages, enhanced friends lists, and user profiles with tooltips.
OpenRaid makes finding a group for any raid or dungeon easy, whether you want to run an old raid for achievements or need a group for Challenge Modes. To learn more about OpenRaid, listen to the
and check out their
World of Warcraft Fast Patch 5.1.0A Notes
Pet Battle Abilities that use a shoot or missile animation will now properly display their visual effect.
Disabling Loss of Control in the Interface menu will now also disable the red cooldown swipes on the action bar in addition to the notification in the center of the screen. Loss of Control Alerts can be disabled in the Game Menu by going to Interface; Combat; and un-checking Loss of Control Alerts.
When Loss of Control Alerts are enabled, the red cooldown swipes will not be displayed for abilities that were already on cooldown and in situations where that cooldown will last longer than the loss of control.
Night will now fall at the proper time on all realms.
Objective icons in Scenarios will no longer incorrectly persist until the Scenario is complete.
Fixed an issue that could cause crashes during Pet Battles.
Fixed an issue that could cause a crash to occur during in-game cinematics in OSX v.10.6
Click the cut to read the interview roundup and latest blue posts!
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Wowhead's Exclusive Interview with Lead Quest Designer Dave Kosak
2012/12/05 at 3:47 PM
Yesterday, we sat down with Lead Quest Designer Dave Kosak and asked him about some experimental content choices in 5.1, as well as contested topics such as Mists of Pandaria's daily quest system. We previously
interviewed him right before MoP's launch
and it was cool to follow up on many of those topics!
Many fansites will be conducting interviews with Blizzard staff this week, which we'll be rounding up, but for now, all raiders and PvPers will want to check out Ghostcrawler's interviews at
All Things Azeroth
Now that players have settled into MoP, what will keep them out there exploring the world in 5.1?
We tried to do a lot of new things in 5.1--it's very much an experiment for us. We put in a lot of World PvP objectives in 5.1, and to some extent, that's very new. We know one of the problems facing WoW today is that a lot of the servers have an imbalanced population. We wanted to see if we could make PvP work in that environment. From my personal experience, I'm seeing a lot of really cool pvp on servers that have imbalance. For example, I play on a server that's slightly alliance favored--we've had a great time and some incredible fights on the beach. I'm really curious to see the feedback on the other servers, if anything is happening differently there. We're watching it closely and adjusting our future content accordingly.
There's that, and we also think that the Brawler's Guild was a really interesting experiment for us. It's clearly solo content because you're testing your own player power against a series of increasingly difficult monsters, but there's a really interesting community set up when you get into the Guild room. People are giving each other advice, and even the first boss, Bruce the Alligator, is pretty funny. There is a lot of fun little touches there and we really want to see how players interact with that.
What do you think are the defining characteristics of the factions added in 5.1? What new types of things did you experiment with in them? So far I like how the scenarios directly relate to the quest hubs and the epic faction quests.
We had always really wanted to play off the idea of the Alliance and Horde war at full strength, and that's the theme of the patch, which you see along the coast. We wanted to have that questline intermittently tell you more of the story, which unfolds very slowly over the course of a few weeks as you continue with the reputation grind. I love that, and my impression is that players really love it too--once they understood it. However, I don't think it was understood very well at the start. People were wondering "When's the next quest? what's going on." Again, another experiment for us, but I think players will end up liking it.
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Interviews with Lead Quest Designer Dave Kosak, Lead Encounter Designer Ion Hazzikostas
2012/09/20 at 1:31 PM
With Mists of Pandaria a week away, we're excited to bring you some interviews covering the expansion!
Wowhead interviewed Dave Kosak, Lead Quest Designer, this past week. Mists of Pandaria has a lot of exciting
, not to mention quirky exploration details like
rare spawns dropping vanity loot
and treasure chests hidden around the world. Plus the new
is innovative--it will spawn several content patches and has rewards for
class. Read on to learn about how these features were developed!
Our friends at
also interviewed Ion Hazzikostas, Lead Encounter Designer. Lore spoke with Ion about Tier 14 raids, Blizzard's plans for Legendaries in future patches, Challenge Modes, Scenarios, Proving Grounds, and more!
Wowhead's Interview with Dave Kosak
What sorts of things inspired Pandaria--lore, mythology, culture? How did you create a new area that on the surface, seems quite different from Azeroth, while still making players feel like they're tied to Azeroth?
It's an interesting expansion, because Pandaria's been hidden for over 10,000 years. It gives us the chance to do something totally new even though things are going on in Azeroth still. I think we used Pandaria's alienation to our advantage. Early in the opening sequences, you see giant Horde and Alliance gunships hovering over a small Pandaren town. You have a real feeling that they're invading someone else's space which we feel is pretty cool. We want to play with that feeling throughout the expansion.
You also asked how we create a new culture. What's great about Pandaria is that we can delve deep into a new culture and explore what they're about. We wanted to make sure that not all Pandaren were Kung-Fu masters or wise old masters or other stereotypes. There's definitely elements of that in the game, but you also have Pandaren farmers, Pandaren brewmasters, Pandaren tradesmen, fishermen…they're in all flavors. Family is very important to the Pandaren too, so we want to explore family relationships.
The whole world itself helps creates the Pandaren culture too. The sha energy haunts this continent, so the Pandaren have developed a culture that learned to adapt to that threat. They're very easy-going and they don't hold grudges--and the reason they don't hold grudges is because they know those negative emotions can become real and bite them in the butt. They're very laid back and that puts them in contrast with the Alliance and the Horde. It makes for an interesting story: they ask questions that the Alliance and the Horde don't usually ask, like "Why are you guys fighting in the first place?" We vaguely hint at that in the opening cinematic itself.
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Wowhead's Exclusive Interview with John Lagrave and Ion Hazzikostas
2012/08/22 at 4:43 PM
Today we have a special interview from Gamescom to share with everyone! Gazimoff from
was kind enough to conduct an interview in our stead. He spoke with both John Lagrave (lead game producer) and Ion Hazzikostas (lead encounter designer) about Mists of Pandaria, World of Warcraft's future, and more.
Read on to find out what feature has been the most challenging for these developers, where they're drawing their inspiration from, and other exciting tidbits to tide you over until Mists of Pandaria's launch!
In your opinion, what was the hardest part of developing Mists of Pandaria as an expansion?
: I think overall, just meeting the challenge that we set for ourselves when we set out to create this, we set out to offer more content than ever before, in terms of breadth and depth. We have eighteen raid bosses this patch. We have well over a thousand new quests, over two hundred max level daily quests, as well as entire new systems - scenario system, pet battles, challenge modes.
We’ve said that we came up with a very ambitious feature list for ourselves, and just rising to the challenge and getting it all done to the standards we expected of ourselves, as well as our players ahead of us, that was a hard challenge.
: So for me, that’s all good, right, but actual work... (laughs)
Our pet battle system, which is the notion of you take your companion pet, and you face off with me, or AI, and our pets battle. It sounds trivial, but it’s actually incredibly difficult, because we’re establishing a turn based system into our real-time game, and we didn’t support any of that. The engineering work was tremendous, just a ton of work. We had several guys, full time on it for months on end, doing that work. And people are like “That has to be trivial, you just have two pets and one goes, the other goes. How simple is that?” Tremendous amount of work. There was a lot of sweat involved in that.
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Mists of Pandaria Interviews and News Round Up
2012/03/20 at 11:24 AM
Blue posters were hard at work yesterday, covering a variety of topics: LFR's new loot system, item squish, female pandaren, DotA-style battlegrounds, new models, and as a bonus--a creative blog covering Mists' content features. Here's what's new since yesterday's coverage:
There will be many more options for her hairstyle, face, and features. There will also be options to have a long tail, or a more traditional pandaren stub tail.
Can teleport to dig sites after finding an artifact, and can dig more times at a single digsite.
Players can level by making staves and wands now.
Craftsman tokens from new faction currencies allow you to buy items like fun toys or pets.
Allow players to purchase new items, convert to Valor, or buy Charms of Good Fortune--allowing players to buy another go at a boss' loot table
A solo instance that allows players to try out their new rotations while getting achievements.
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Interviews with Greg Street, Cory Stockton, Tom Chilton, and J Allen Brack
2012/03/19 at 2:00 AM
We had a chance to sit down with Cory Stockton and Tom Chilton for exclusive interviews about Mists of Pandaria. Lore from
got to sit down with Greg Street (Ghostcrawler) and J Allen Brack. Their answers are great and we've transcribed all of them down below.
However, in case you just aren't
into reading, we've also uploaded videos of all four interviews as well!
Make sure you also read our huge guide
the Mists of Pandaria official FAQ
for even more information!
J. Allen Brack
Question: I noticed that Prime Glyphs were removed while playing today, and there were some new fun glyphs--like the one that turned druids into a ridable stag. What's the direction for Inscription in MoP--and can we plan on seeing more fun cosmetic glyphs?
There's definitely going to be more cosmetic glyphs in general. It's something we wanted to do more of initially--and even more important now. Major glyphs have more prominence without primes, so minor glyphs take on more cosmetic stuff to feel more cool and meaningful--almost like a form of transmogrification. It's really cool for druids--if they want to be in tree form all time, you can now. I think we made a few glyphs for mages to modify polymorph too.
As far as it affects how it hits the profession--I don't think it will change too much, with specifically how major and minor glyphs align differently. Most things we're doing is fixing gaps and holes in places that it was too hard to get the next skillup. We changed the skillup system a little bit in Cata by items that give multi-skillups.
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Cataclysm Post Mortem -- Quest Design with Dave Kosak
2012/02/28 at 12:34 PM
To kick-off our World of Warcraft: Cataclysm post mortem series, we sat down with World of Warcraft Lead Quest Designer Dave “Fargo” Kosak to discuss his thoughts on questing in Cataclysm.
Q: What were your main goals going into Cataclysm?
Certainly from a quest design standpoint our primary goal with Cataclysm was to remake the old world, specifically the 1-60 questing experience. World of Warcraft was released in 2004, and we've learned so much in the years since about what constitutes good MMO gameplay. We wanted to make sure that the game was relevant to new players coming in, and walking up and down the length of the Barrens on foot over and over just didn’t do it for us anymore.
Remaking the entire old world -- 46 zones! -- was ambitious. Actually, it was ludicrous. It was like re-releasing a whole game in the course of an expansion cycle. Then we added a couple new races and their starting zones on top of that. I’m not sure how we convinced ourselves we could make it happen, but somehow we pulled it together.
Q: Are you happy with how the old world re-vamp turned out?
I am. Leveling up a new character to 60 nowadays is a great deal of fun. Every zone has stories to play out, with interesting nooks and crannies and plenty of hidden gems or references for players who remember the pre-Cataclysm world. Zones like Ashenvale now live up to their premise (intense Horde-vs.-Alliance combat), and previously empty zones now have a lot of character (see: Azshara). The content just flows. It's still World of Warcraft, but the quests have a modern feel, with lots of action and storytelling.
Q: But what didn't work out so well?
We really spread ourselves thin and taxed the team. The original plan was to totally re-do a handful of high-priority zones, but to leave a lot of the zones that worked mostly alone. We categorized them into "red," "yellow," and "green" zones. The idea behind the green zones (for example, Loch Modan) was just to tweak the quest flow to be a little smoother, but not to make any major changes.
The reality is that even the green zones really needed a lot of love. Once we got in there, it was all or nothing: we ended up completely re-doing a lot of green zones so that they met our new quest design standards. We came up with a nickname: "watermelon" zones. They were green on the outside, until you got in there and started poking around. . . .
Where that hurt us was when it came time to do the max-level content, the 80-85 zones. The content there turned out well, but the experience is inconsistent across the board -- Uldum feels totally different from Hyjal, which in turn feels different from Vashj'ir. The design decisions and efforts we made didn't always yield the desired results.
Q: Tell us more about the level 80-85 zones -- what worked and didn’t?
We were aiming for a really global feel with Cataclysm, so we set the max-level zones in varied environments all over the world (underwater, across deserts, in the elemental plane of earth, etc). However, as a result, they ended up not feeling as connected as we'd like. You get widely different experiences in zones that aren’t geographically related to one another. That's something important that we're keeping in mind moving forward – World of Warcraft works best when there's a sense of place. A connected world to explore.
We feel the storytelling in Cataclysm was strong. Whether assembling the ancients in Hyjal, rescuing your drowned crew in Vashj'ir, or reassembling the world pillar in Deepholm, there’s a strong sense of plot in every zone. Players participated in stirring stories, like bringing the Dragonmaw into the Horde via a violent coup or reuniting the Wildhammer Dwarves with a crazy wedding. These were memorable moments and shared experiences.
The downside to creating these stories is that the zones on the whole ended up being way too linear. For example, because we wanted to show your character re-growing the burning devastation of Mount Hyjal, there was really only one way to play that zone: you started at point A, and you worked your way through to point Z. Pretty glorious the first time, but frustrating on your second or third character because there's only one way to do it, and no way to skip around. That's a lesson we’re going to carry forward for sure. We want big sweeping stories, but we want to give players the freedom to explore those stories on their own terms.
Q: Places like Hyjal also used a lot of phasing to show the world changing.
We have a massive phase shift halfway through the story that changes the terrain for nearly a third of the zone. It's epic, right? But it can be a real pain for players when so much of the world changes like that. Phasing is like a story sledgehammer: it gets the job done, but at best it splits up players and at worst it totally confuses them.
We're going to be a lot more careful going forward. The Firelands dailies in patch 4.2 gives you a much better idea of our future direction. There were sweeping visual changes to the world as you progressed, but there’s very little actual phasing. For the most part, everyone is playing together on the same map. That’s important to us. Looking ahead, we’re going to be a lot smarter about how we show changes to the world, and we’re going to do everything we can to avoid splitting players up.
Q: Talk more about the 4.2 patch. Were the Firelands dailies a hint of what’s to come?
Definitely. With those dailies we were able to engage a lot of players, myself included. (I was the first quest designer on the team to get the mount and all the achievements on the live servers -- suck it up, slackers!) Previously, "doing dailies" meant hitting the same quest givers for the same three quests, usually in a static place. Here we were able to deliver a sense of progression and a story that unfurled over the course of a few weeks, all as you did a constantly changing set of quest objectives in a dynamic environment. We think that worked out well.
Moving forward, we're going to look for more opportunities like this -- ways to keep people engaged and cool things to do solo with your max-level character. We've got ambitious plans.
Q: Patch 4.2 also had the Aggra and Thrall questline, "Elemental Bonds." Did that meet your expectations? How do you feel about Thrall's character development?
That's a tricky one -- we’ve got mixed feelings. The essential story is a good one, and we really wanted to portray all the inner struggles Thrall is going through. Here’s a guy that stepped down as Warchief and had to rediscover himself as a shaman in order to save the world. And he's haunted by his decisions: he’s afraid of what’s to come, paralyzed by doubt, angry at what Garrosh did to Cairne . . . the guy's a mess. We figured out a way to show all that internal tension, and we wrapped it up in a story that demonstrates how his mate, Aggra, will literally go to the ends of the world to pull him through this. It's a powerful love story, and a story about finding one’s inner focus.
But we had to do a lot of things to make it work in the game. We needed to make a quest that 500 people could do simultaneously without getting in each other's way. We wanted a quest that players could do solo, no matter what their skill level. We didn’t know if the player was decked out in raid gear or level 85 greens, so we had to keep it simple. We somehow made all of it work under those restrictions, and we filled the screen with some killer imagery (I love the vision of Thrall immersed in the Abyssal Maw). But ultimately the quests themselves ended up not being as compelling from a gameplay perspective as we would have liked. Many players blew through them once and never looked back.
I really think we can do better. Cataclysm was in many ways Thrall’s story, but it was hard for players to follow his development over the course of the expansion. Going forward we want to convey a clearer narrative, delivered in the context of solid gameplay. We have some ideas on how to do that, and we’re also going to keep experimenting. This is important to us -- we talk about ways to tackle this problem all the time.
Q: The Cataclysm patches also saw the debut of some legendary weapons: Dragonwrath and the Fangs of the Father. Will future legendaries be this, uh, legendary?
Good question. We love class-specific content, but quest lines like those are very resource-intensive. Each sequence involves weeks of development focus that takes content away from dungeons, dailies, or outdoor zones.
The feedback from players (and from our own team) has been overwhelmingly positive. Dragonwrath proved to be extremely popular, and allowed caster classes to get a front-row seat for major lore moments otherwise reserved only for dragons. Meanwhile, Fangs of the Father was pure rogue, from the theme to the mechanics. It was super-targeted and extremely fun -- it proved to us the value of focusing in on a specific class and tailoring the content to their abilities. Given that the audience for these weapons consists of badass raiders, we didn’t hold back on the difficulty either, so these quests were great for people who wanted a real challenge.
The short answer is yes, we'll definitely continue doing these moving forward. Most likely future legendary quest lines will be built similar to the rogue experience: a couple key story moments, a lot of flavor, and some very specific challenges. But I wouldn't expect very many quest lines like these. Like legendary weapons themselves, they're going to be rare and special.
Q: We haven't even talked about goblins and worgen yet. What lessons did you take away from the new racial starting zones?
In both cases, the starting areas really sold the character and tone of the new races. The worgen area is so marvelously gothic, and Kezan is unmistakably unique and gobliny. The art and the quests all work together to establish a racial character. So that’s a big win.
As for the mechanics themselves, I’m glad we were so experimental, but our general feeling now that all is said and done is that we went a little too ‘gimmicky’ with the player’s initial experiences. Everyone can agree that the goblin experience gets pretty wild in places.
That's a big lesson we're carrying away from the expansion as a whole.
Q: Can you elaborate?
Overwhelmingly, players have told us that they want more quests where you have to flap a giant bird around a cave while targeting creatures in a 3D space.
Maybe not . . . But moving forward, we're re-focusing on core gameplay mechanics. World of Warcraft works best when you’ve got your boots on the ground and you get to play your class. To that end, we’re concentrating on giving players lots of fun combat challenges in continually changing environments, wrapped up in a terrific story that’s propelled forward by the quests. Whenever we do special mechanics, we want them to feel special, and they’ll never tear you away from combat for very long. Our goal is to load up the world with lots of interactive spaces, cool encounters, great characters, and neat spaces to explore. That’s part of the reason we’re keeping you grounded (literally) in Pandaria, and why we’re focusing on a single continent. But I’m getting ahead of myself. We’ll talk more about Pandaria soon enough.
Q: Looking forward to it. Thanks for your time!
Not a problem!
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Patch 4.3.2 Will be Cataclysm's Last According to Dave Kosak
2012/01/17 at 5:45 PM
Dave Kosak, Blizzard's lead quest designer, gave a
solid interview with Videogamer.com
late last week. He highlighted 4.3's successes, failures, and also confirmed that there will be no extra content in the wings for Cataclysm--meaning anyone betting on a Ruby Sanctum styled encounter should stop while they're ahead.
In the interview, Kosak also touched on World of Warcraft's recent subscriber losses as well as Blizzard's overall feelings towards Cataclysm as an expansion. Although many have been disappointed with Cataclysm, he was quick to note the sheer level of content it brought to the world and how much of an epic undertaking that truly was for the World of Warcraft development team. Overhauling all those low level quests took massive amounts of time--and were desperately needed, whether players realize it or not.
While Cataclysm may not have been the highlight of WoW's timeline, it was a necessary one to prolong the life of Azeroth.
Hit the break for a transcript of the full interview and let us know your thoughts on both the interview and the expansion. Was Cataclysm a good expansion? Should there have been another encounter after Deathwing? And, most importantly, what has been your favorite feature of 4.3?
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News Round Up: WoW Loses 800k More Subscribers, Mists of Pandaria Interview, and More
2011/11/08 at 8:09 PM
Blizzard had their third quarterly call for the year that reported losses. World of Warcraft lost
for this quarter--following a
600k loss this May
300k subscriber loss in August
over the past two quarters.
In the call, Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime said the majority of subscriptions lost came from China and other countries in the East. They also declined to provide a forecast for future numbers. However, though this may seem like a shocking number, you have to remember that this is during a lull in the expansion. Without major content patches, WoW tends to lose subscribers only to regain them during an expansion's launch. Here's to hoping Mists of Pandaria brings players back!
Without further ado, here's the news round up.
Wired.com Interview with J.Allen Brack on Mists of Pandaria
Definitely worth reading this interview, thanks to our friends at
for posting it.
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Has
World of Warcraft
jumped the shark?
One of Blizzard’s strategies for continually expanding its incredibly popular massively multiplayer world has been the release of expansive add-on packages, which thus far have had serious, tortured names like
Wrath of the Lich King
At its annual BlizzCon convention in October, the publisher said it would try a different tack with the next WoW package. Titled
Mists of Pandaria
, its primary additions to the fantasy world are a new playable race of martial artist pandas and a
-style system in which players can battle their virtual pets.
With dipping subscriber numbers (11.1 million, down from 12 million in 2009) and Electronic Arts’ competing MMO
Star Wars: The Old Republic
coming in December, it might seem like the unconventional new
package is something of a desperation move on Blizzard’s part, adding more mainstream-friendly features just to keep fans’ attention.
To get some clarification on
, Wired.com spoke with
World of Warcraft
production director J. Allen Brack at BlizzCon.
Pandaren have existed since Warcraft III. Why do the Pandaren race now?
J. Allen Brack:
It’s been something that we wanted to do for a long time. We’ve talked about the Pandaren for just about every expansion. That’s definitely not a new idea for us; it was super popular with the fans when we put them in
. It was super popular with us. So it was just one of those things in the back of our mind that we wanted to do even before the original game launched.
We started talking about ideas for the next expansion, and when we were wrapping up Cataclysm someone said, “Hey, let’s talk about the Pandaren again.” We started talking about it more and more. Then one day it just became, “Wow, we’re really excited about this idea,” which eventually became the Pandaren.
The Pandaren are the first race to be playable for both factions . Why do this now?
World of Warcraft
production director J. Allen Brack.
We talked about a great deal back in
for the Goblin race. We thought that Goblins could be a neutral race because they’re neutral in the game already. Players start out as neutral and then you can go Horde or Alliance with that.
Obviously we ended up not doing that . But that was something we spent a lot of the time thinking about. The idea that was really compelling was that you start adventuring with people, and then one day, you have to choose sides. So that’s why we decided to do it this time around. It seems like it worked real well.
So why didn’t you end up doing that with the Goblin in
We were really excited about the Worgens as well. We talked a long time about the Goblin and decided we really needed a more whimsical race on the side of the Horde, and we really need something that’s a little darker, a little more sinister on the side of the Alliance. We needed to bring a little bit more character to both those factions. We were really enamored with the idea of doing a Worgen and doing a shape-changing race. That was something that was one of our first ideas for
. Goblin had been a fan favorite for years and years and years, and so that was on the list as well. Once we made that decision for
that was going forward, we thought, “OK, well if we’re talking about a new race for the next expansion, then maybe we can resurrect the idea of players choosing the faction.”
You’re only neutral for 10 levels. When you get to level 10 you actually decide Horde or Alliance. When you’re in and you’re completing those first 10 levels, that’s very much in its own kind of environment. And the Pandarens that you see out in the world as a normal player, you’re going to see as either Horde or Alliance. You’re not going to see any neutral Pandarens out in the world.
Players who want to play as the Pandaren monks in
can do so whether they are Horde or Alliance, a first for the MMO.
Some critics are saying that Blizzard is “jumping the shark” by having cute “kung-fu pandas” in their expansion. What do you say to that?
We don’t really worry about that because we really feel that our fans are going to be really excited about it. We have the community that’s really excited about what we’re doing.
The team is really excited about doing it. So that’s really what’s important. When it comes out, it’s going to be great. I can understand the concept of “Why isn’t there a big bad guy?” in this expansion? But how many times can we say, “This bad guy is going to destroy the world now and this time it’s serious? No, this guy, he’s really, really, really, really bad!”
So taking a break from that was very conscious and just having a very different tone. Instead of Horde and Alliance, we team up to defeat the big evil. It’s about the discovery of this new land and how the conflict of the Horde and Alliance influences that. With Outland and then with Northrend we had these self-contained areas where players came for an adventure in the higher level. That was really successful.
, we didn’t have that. It was very much focused on redoing the entire levels 1-60 experience. You didn’t have, “This is the high level area.” So that’s something we actually want to get back to, that kind of experience and that kind of visual.
As far as the Pandaren lore, clearly it was inspired by Asian cultures. How do you play to that without resorting to stereotypes?
We’ve always tried to make
very much its own thing. Certainly we have influences from all around the world. And certainly the panda is the symbol of China. Obviously, there’s a lot of influence, but it’s a very light touch of how much China it is or how much it is the rest of Asia. We just tried to take little bits here and there and incorporate it into our own thing.
Was there any consulting with your Chinese office, as far as that goes?
We talked with the office obviously, and they were really excited about what we were doing. The most important thing for the game is that the team making it should be excited about it. Because people who are excited about things that they’re working on they are going to put a lot more of their heart and soul into it and that’s really what makes great games.
Another thing that people either love or hate is the pet battle system. Would you liken it to
, as some are calling it? How would you describe the gameplay? Is it just a fun side thing, or are we going to see some serious pet PvP tournaments?
That’s a really good question. I think a lot of that is going to determine on the tuning which we haven’t actually made yet. The point of it is just to be a very fun thing that players can do. But you’d be amazed how hardcore people get about certain things. Actually, you probably wouldn’t be amazed…
So that’s definitely a goal for us, but more importantly it has to be fun and give something to players to do with their pets. People have been collecting pets for a lot of years now. When we put the very first pet in, people were super excited. Some said “Hey, I want my pets to battle each other.” Now we’re saying, “OK, that sounds great. Your pets should be able to battle each other. Let’s build a system around that.” When we did
, we removed pets from your actual bags and put them all in your spell book, which means there’s a lot of people who have a lot of pets.
Mists of Pandaria
's new environments bring a decidedly Asian visual influence to Azeroth.
You said you’re still working on the pet tuning. How are you going to balance that? Are rare pets better, or is it how players equip them?
It’s definitely going to be how players equip their pets. So you’ll be able to say, “Hey, I want this pet,” and that pet maybe is the ultra rare one that has these three or four abilities. Someone else can have a common pet that has similar abilities or different types. It’s much more a rock, paper, scissors kind of approach in terms of how the combat is going to work as opposed to, “I’ve got the one uber-rare pet and now I’m all powerful.” That’s how we’re going to do it.
Are you worried about farming for rare pets, then? I can see China starting pet farms for rare pets because pets are…
Pets are very special. They’re close to people’s hearts. We haven’t seen a whole lot of farms in terms of stuff like that. That’s a really interesting question. I really hadn’t thought about how that would work. We’ll definitely be looking at all the various drop rates and how people actually get all the various pets in the game. Our goal is to actually have all the pets that you currently have translate right into that system. So there will be new pets for you to get. But you’ll also be able to start using your existing pets as well.
With so many expansions out, are you worried about new players being confused about which ones they need to have and which ones they should buy and in what order? How do you solve that?
That’s something that we talk about all the time. Over the summer we actually rolled the
expansion into the , so there is no
expansion. And that’s something we evaluate on a pretty regular basis. “How many boxes should we have on the shelf?” It can be very overwhelming. We don’t like that. And we want it to always be clear what players need.
Right now all of our expansions extend the level cap. So there’s really no way to just buy the brown box and
Mists of Pandaria
, because how would you get from level 60 to level 85? So they do need everything to get the newest content. Will we roll
Wrath of the Lich King
into the brown box? Eventually yes, just like we did
. When will we do that? I don’t think we know yet.
Mists of Pandaria
feature the Monk class. Did you talk to the
team about this? Did you get together to discuss the name or the class traits?
It’s pretty separate, honestly. Sometimes we’ll have discussions like, “Hey, we’re using the same name for this kind of system.” That can maybe cause some confusion, but that’s super rare. All the various teams are very solo. Which is not to say we don’t talk, but we don’t have the design council of Blizzard that decides, “OK, for World of Warcraft we’re doing monk. For Diablo we’re doing monk. For this game we’re doing that.”
It really doesn’t work that way. Each team decides what they want to do. On the couple times we’ve had a name collision, we’ll say, “Hey, we need to name this a little bit differently or something like that.” It’s really rare.
In the past, Blizzard has promised a
World of Warcraft
expansion every year. Has that just become too unrealistic?
A long time ago, someone made an on-the-record comment it would be great if there were expansions every year. I think that would be great. That’s not really something that we can really do today. Mostly, we just try to do the best thing we can and make sure it’s a great experience. The most important thing is when players get the game that it’s a great experience. We are trying to make the expansions faster. There’s no question about that. We haven’t been really successful with that at all. Every expansion has taken about two years. In fact,
took longer than all of our other expansions. So, yeah it’s something we’re definitely trying to get better at, but we’re not quite there yet.
Having worked on so many expansions, do you find the process becoming faster and easier?
Well, there’s always new stuff. What ends up happening is we get faster at making some of the content in the various pipelines. But at the same time, we add things to that pipeline. A really good example is the Encounter Journal, which we released in 4.2. It’s awesome. It lets player know about all the bosses, all the abilities and the various things that they can do. But including that increases the amount of work that we have to do for every single boss from now. So even if we made content faster, we also add things to slow us down at more or less an equal rate. It’s super challenging.
Talk on Dailies and Bad Design
This is just a bad design. A game should not ask for daily commitment to enjoy what it has to offer.
They ask nothing - they merely reward a choice.
We typically provide some boundaries because, as you've illustrated, something that we allow, is something that can all too easily seem mandatory. That's not what we want, but we do want to provide a reason to come into the game, be in the world, and see what's happening on a frequent basis. It's nice to also be able to offer some rewards for doing that. Naturally, dailies shouldn't be the only way to accrue rewards, and they aren't. Dailies were, in part, a response to a World of Warcraft where there wasn't a lot of incentive to come play on non-raid days, since for many players, the only way to progress became dungeon runs and, for a few, raiding. We also wanted to provide another means of acquiring currency aside from professions, and new ways to acquire reputation with important factions too. They're designed to hit a lot of notes (I'm probably missing some), and I think that they're pretty successful. You don't have to hit your cap, (indeed, one of our fears about a raised daily cap is that players might feel compelled to hit the new, higher cap) but you can if you want to put in the time. Naturally, we also want to continue to add other means of progression to the end-game, and we're looking for ways to do so in a fun and compelling way.
I get concerned when I see players throwing out words like 'bad design'. Perhaps an individual dislikes a design choice, and that's fine. We do our best, but World of Warcraft can't be all things to all people, all the time. That said, making a value judgment about whether the design is 'bad' or not is not only un-constructive, but in the vast majority of the cases I've seen, such an assessment reveals that the design was not well understood to begin with.
These forums represent an opportunity to have a dialogue about the game. I think that choosing words that have context and meaning, and offering alternative solutions, makes for feedback which is more readily useful.
what is a proper description for rehashed content?
A response to many, many requests over the years from the community to revisit old dungeons and characters?
I have a question then: If the intent is to give players a choice, why is it that the Molten Front dailies award gear upgrades from tier 11? Unless you raided firelands, those dailies weren't a choice, they were a path to progression (which, in my opinion, was a wrong decision to make).
Daily quests like the Netherwing ones in Outland or the Argent Tournament in Northrend feel like a "choice" because ultimately the rewards involved have no bearing on your character's power (mounts and pets are cool to have, but aren't by any means mandatory). They feel optional. For non-rading characters, the Molten Front (and to a certain extent, Tol Barad) dailies don't "feel" optional at all, because opting out of them means you're giving up gear upgrades, which is never a cool thing to do.
Any comments on that?
There are plenty of other dailies where the rewards have been non-power related. The goal was different for Molten Front, and we deliberately wanted to offer a separate path to power for interested players. So, we wanted it to be compelling in that way. Still, it remains that there are alternative, non-raid, paths to power aside from Molten Front.
If the Time Lost protodrake, Poseidus, that drake in Deepholme, and the camel figurine in Uldum qualify as "enriching" then I'm going to suspend my account again. >.<
It could be argued that, by adding nuances to the zones they're in, they do enrich the game.
They add things to hunt for, to seek out, and achieve. They're not easy to get, and that's fine, because they weren't designed to be easy to get. It's a very particular kind of goal for a particular kind of player - we don't expect everyone to pursue them, and if it's not fun for you to do so, then hopefully there are fun goals for you to achieve that are suited to your playstyle.
So are you saying that your employer has never implemented a "bad" design? By that logic, they'd never have to change anything, ever. Fact is, your employer makes bad design decisions all the time. The saving factor is their willingness to correct those flaws when presented.
I don't think it would be reasonable to suggest that we haven't made mistakes. We've made them, and acknowledged them throughout the years. There are, however, differences between mistakes and bad design.
That said, those mistakes haven't typically aligned with the criticisms of 'bad design' I was referring to. Like I said, in just about every post where I've personally seen the words 'bad design' used, there was also a fundamental lack of understanding about design in general.
Usually, it boils down to just another way for people to try to enforce their vision of what World of Warcraft should be. I'm just pointing out that using that tactic in one's feedback is a good way to start off on the wrong foot.
WOW is the only game where I found myself generally doing the exact same thing I was doing over a year ago.
Forgive me for saying so, but that seems like a strange statement to me because most games I've played don't change much from year to year, if they change at all. Actually, I'm not doing the same thing in World of Warcraft now, that I was a year ago. The same general gist of things, sure. Games don't tend to radically change their core gameplay in a year's time. Most never change their gameplay at all. In that context, World of Warcraft changes quite a bit more than most games.
Gear Look Customization
I like transmogrifying in the new patch. It puts emphasis that our characters are strong and not just our gear. Sometimes wearing a dress or shirt looks really bad with shoulders..
At least for now, there are no plans to make other slots 'invisible'. We're starting things slow with the first roll out of Transmogrification, so the feature set has a good chance of expanding in the future.
It's also worth mentioning that shoulder items are highly distinctive, and a lot of effort is invested in making those items look cool and interesting. It's not currently a high priority to hide gear which is so integral to the overall look of World of Warcraft.
Your opinions have been duly noted. Fortunately, even if you can't turn them off, using the Transmogrification option will allow you to choose more aesthetically pleasing shoulders. If you happen to find all the shoulders in the game ugly, then I can't help you.
I understand that there are particular looks which are more minimalistic. Transmogrification isn't being added with the intention of making every conceivable look possible - at least, that's not the current intention. It's being added to provide more--a lot more--customization options. I think it's fair to say that it will achieve that goal admirably.
Let's see how things shake out. =)
Outlook on Loot System
What we are doing for 4.3 with the Raid Finder looting system (detailed here:
) is an experiment in order to try and reduce loot drama without removing the chance to benefit from offspec gear completely. In fact, a lot of what we are trying with Raid Finder for 4.3 is our very first attempt at a design that is going to need a lot of iteration before we’re happy with how it works. We’ll use the information we gather on the new looting system (we can call it Need+, for simplicity's sake) and Raid Finder in 4.3 to make both features even better for Mists of Pandaria.
The game currently does not have a very robust notion of what your spec is, so for now we can’t make the loot rules very stringent, other than checking your current role. In Mists of Pandaria, the game will have a well-developed "concept" of spec, and we can do things like let an Enhancement shaman roll need plus on an Agility axe without letting the Restoration shaman roll need plus. (The Resto shaman could still roll need though, since shaman can use axes and the player might presumably have an Enhancement offspec.)
EU Portuguese Realm Available Soon
With the release of the next World of Warcraft content update, Hour of Twilight (patch 4.3), players on European realms will be able to play World of Warcraft in Brazilian Portuguese. On December 7 a realm dedicated to the Portuguese community will open with optional time-limited free character transfers from specific European English realms with high Portuguese populations. Please stay tuned to these forums for additional information.
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