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BlizzCon 2011: Exclusive Interview with Dave Kosak, WoW Lead Quest Designer
2011/10/23 at 3:38 PM
Saturday afternoon, I was fortunate enough to get a one-on-one interview with Dave Kosak, WoW Lead Quest Designer, before his Lore and Story Q&A. Ashelia and I brainstormed some questions together before I sat down with Dave. During the interview, I made sure to ask him about some of our favorite--and least favorite--questing experiences, as well as how they were handling phasing and truly epic questlines in Mists of Pandaria. I hope you enjoy reading the summarizes of his responses--he shared details unreleased at BlizzCon such as a potential new MoP faction, the Lorewalkers!
We were also able to attend a group Q+A with J. Allen Brack and Jay Wilson about World of Warcraft and Diablo III. We've got the all the answers under the break--some of the information was already covered in other panels, so be sure to check our full coverage for details.
Exclusive Interview with Dave Kosak
Q: It's always been a struggle to make players feel like they truly impact the world. How are you showcasing this in MoP? Do the zones progress and change depending on questlines? What about phasing?
A:One thing we always struggle with--is we have this tool, phasing, but a large problem is that it separates players easily. Phasing, as I tell my team, is the story sledgehammer. You don't need a tool that big. Don't try to layer progression in a way that splits up the world. We're trying to have more questing like the 4.2 Molten Front dailies, in which players progressed in a zone but could still see their friends. In addition, the phasing in the starting zone, as you saw on the demo, is not as extreme as in the goblin and worgen starting zones. For example, the Temple at the center of Pandaria lights up more and more as you find elemental spirits. It's a subtle form of phasing. If we did extreme phasing, players would be lost in such a new zone early on. We're always looking for balance, in ways that don't intrude upon gameplay.
The starting zone is interesting because of how the Pandaren love balance and inner peace--which is new to WoW. It's their survival mechanism against the negative energy of the sha.
Q: As a side note, how is something like an undead or dwarf monk going to work, especially after the Pandaren Monk starting experience is so different? Controversial race/class combos like Night Elf Mages were introduced without much fanfare and didn't quite integrate.
A: It's actually not super complicated--there will be Pandaren representatives, or ambassadors, in the starting area.
Q: In Cata, you removed unique class quests for abilities--such as rogues getting poison out in Westfall by taking a tower. Will there ever be unique and personalized questlines not attached to extreme methods of lore such as the new legendaries?
First off, we love class quests. However, if you do it right, it takes a lot of time. If you look at doing a cool story chain, it's weeks of work. So it comes down to: content for classes, or half a zone. We love the idea, but we're always struggling with how much we can do.
As a side note, the quests for the rogue legendary are very cool--so you're in luck!
Q: In the Q&A, people brought up class questlines. Is there any plan to do quests for upgraded armor, much like how level 60's dungeon sets were upgradable into alternate colors through a complex questline? The .5 armor questline was one of my favorite in the game and class questlines helped players grow.
A: That would be a good question for the item team--they've been exploring many ways for players to continuously upgrade your armor. As for class questlines--we're thinking of implementing Training Grounds Missions--special kinds of missions for tanks or healers to learn your class and see how you stack up. It's thematically perfect. It's also a nice contrast to Scenarios, in which players can group together to quest regardless of the player's role.
Q: Scepter questline was by far the best questline in the game. Any plans to redo it, since it was removed from Cata, or perhaps make a questline that is as ridiciously in-depth, wild, and nuanced--sort of a heroic questline/hardmode questing for players just for the heck of it? Such a questline would be great if
A: We're not sure how it will play out, but there's an idea for a faction called the Lorewalkers. The Pandaren are a race with an amazing verbal tradition--they're storytellers. And the Lorewalkers are bent on exploring the world, finding things and relics, filling out libraries. You won't use this faction to get best-in-slot gear, but in finding and returning books, you'll act out all of the new stories. If you are interested in the lore, this is for you. If you just care about the gear, you can skip them--and it's fine. I'm not sure how this will play out, but I've spent a lot of time--including dressing up as a Pandaren to work--to push this idea.
Q: How do you decide the depth of a legendary questline? Some are really simple, such as Val'anyr, despite how hard it was to get. Meanwhile, Shadowmourne had four rewards and made people a fortune. Why are some less legendary than others?
A: We're always playing with different ideas for legendaries. When it comes down to it, it's specialized content for people that raid. What's the best way to spend our time? We've probably spent a little too much (fun) time on legendary questlines in Cataclysm, but it's worth it for the player--and players that don't raid extensively, can access some of the solo questing options and lore in the early stages of these legendary chains.
Q: We loved the class quest mounts for Warlock and Paladin. Are you ever going to add more quests for mounts--faction or race specific?
A: Going back to your earlier question--probably not specific for class, but we do have ideas for interesting questlines at max level for players to customize their own flying mount. It's always a balance of wanting to create more content that the most players can experience--quests for flying mounts should reach a lot of people.
Q: Are there any plans to redo Alterac Valley with more quests? Some of those quests were truly awesome and it feels like they became obsolete but still lurk around for years now.
A: I don't think we'll revise Alterac Valley anytime soon. This was before my time at Blizzard, but the original idea was that everyone would be questing while PvPing, but that fell short. Eventually people simplified it and found one good way to win. Now, Tol Barad is another example of questing while PvPing that has worked better. We don't have plans yet for an elaborate questing PvP hub at the start of 5.0, but we definitely want to step it up mid-expansion.
Q: Last question: Diablo III made questing completely different. They're different games, but do you plan on giving players more of a voice and involving dialogue more in the game much like how D3 does?
A: One issue with dialogue is that the quest process is iterative. We're constantly changing quests a lot, playing through. It's very difficult to surround the player in WoW with a story primarily told with a full voice. We don't want the story delivered via quest text box--we're instead trying to incorporate lots of the story around you in different ways. Such as via the environment and the new Lorewalker faction.
It's a neat idea though, but full dialogue would slow down the questing experience too much in WoW.
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Interview with NFL Player Chris "Warcraft" Kluwe of the Minnesota Vikings
2011/09/01 at 1:46 PM
Everyone was shocked to learn Mila Kunis dabbled in Azeroth in her downtime a couple years back. After all, how could a celebrity manage World of Warcraft and being famous?
We seem to forget that celebrities are just like everyone else--and that means a lot of "famous" people play WoW. From sports professionals to famous actors, WoW's digital world is home to a lot of different characters both in-game and out. It's part of the allure.
So that's where this feature comes in. We're looking behind the curtains of characters and seeing who actually plays them, hopefully with some interesting results. For our first interview, I tracked down Chris Kluwe right before the NFL season starts and asked him about his gaming habits, particularly the one that earned him his very own WoW TCG card after his character.
Watch out though, if you're alliance--he seems a little bit of a troll. A Troll rogue, that is!
Q: Can you give a little background on yourself, who you are and what you do?
, and I play video games. A LOT of video games. I also play tabletop miniatures (Warmachine) and bass in a band called Tripping Icarus. Occasionally, in order to finance these hobbies, I have been known to punt the football for the Minnesota Vikings of the NFL.
Q: Obvious question: Horde or Alliance? Favorite class and race?
Horde. Alliance is filled with dumbs and baddies. My favorite character (which is my main and pretty much only character) is a troll rogue named Loate.
Q: Them's fighting words--it's OK, I'm Horde as well so I won't say anything. What kind of gaming experience do you have? When did you get started?
I started gaming when I was 4 years old when my parents bought me a Nintendo Entertainment System so I'd stop bugging them. I was stuck at home for a week after I split my toe open at Sea World and they needed something to occupy me. Thus began a nonstop stream of gaming that's included Genesis, SNES, Dreamcast, Playstation 1 2 and 3, Xbox and 360, and a succession of gaming PC's. I play every genre of game except for sports. I'm terrible at sports games.
Q: How did you first get into WoW? When did you start playing?
I first got into WoW during vanilla, about 3 months in, after one of my friends kept bugging me to play. I'm no stranger to MMO's (this will probably answer question 8 also) as I started with Ultima Online, moved on to Everquest, then Asheron's Call, Jumpgate, Anarchy Online, DaoC, etc. etc. It's fair to say that I've played about 90% of the MMO's that have come out in the U.S.
Q: Asheron's Call was awesome. Anyway, what was your highest level of PvE progression? Were you a 5-man player or did you actually make time for raiding?
I was initially in a guild with some friends called Order of the Nine (on Kil'Jaeden), which we then merged with another guild to form Astrum Brumalis in order to get enough people for vanilla raiding. We made it about halfway through BWL before BC came out, and that was when I decided to try hardcore raiding. I joined
The Flying Hellfish
at the start of BC and for a while we were 9th US Horde in progression. I've seen my share of eye lazers, flame crashes, and assorted tests of player ineptitude :)
Q: Looks like the Hellfish are still doing very well in Firelands and are working on Heroic Ragnaros! So now that we discovered you were a PvE hero, how involved were you in PvP? What was your best "trash talk" out there in the battlefield?
I've been pretty involved in PvP since the start of the game, mainly world PvP at first back when Tarren Mill/Southshore was the only game in town. Once battlegrounds came out I got exalted in all 3 reputations (which was a complete pain in the ass back then, especially WSG) and then started doing Arenas when those came out. My best arena season was probably season 2 where two friends of mine and I ran Rogue Mage Priest and got to duelist; we didn't have quite enough time to spend playing in order to hit gladiator. Also, warriors can suck my nuts in the arena, especially geared warriors back then. Faceroll some more you champions of shouting.
Q: Spoken like a true TBC pvper--you gotta love the warriors who used two healers in 3's back then. Have you ever used a PvP line on the football field?
Not really, I try to avoid trash talking in most cases, since you never know who you're going to be playing with down the line. There's also not a whole lot of opportunities for punters to talk smack on the field if we're doing our jobs properly. "Yeah, you take that ball out on the five yard line and you like it, biyotch!" See what I mean?
Q: So besides WoW, what other games do you enjoy? What MMORPGs have you played?
I covered other MMO's in question 3, and as for other games I'm a big fan of RPG's, strategy games, RTS's, FPS's, Diablo and assorted clones, fighters, and puzzle games. Like I said earlier, I'll play just about anything other than sports games.
Q: Speaking of games, I hear you have a thing for League of Legends. We just ran a contest for that and a surprising amount of WoW players also play LoL. What's your favorite Champion?
My favorite champion is Vayne, even after they toned her down a bit (she was hideously overpowered when Riot first introduced her and I loved it, especially because you could see it just by reading her abilities). She's a great harasser early game if you learn the radius of her roll properly, and if you can get a couple kills she starts wrecking face. Also, percent based true damage is all sorts of stupid.
Q: Is killing dragons something any of your teammates do? I'll go get coffee sometimes, hear people discussing a PvP build--have you ever been preparing for a real life game and heard people talk about a virtual one?
No one currently on the team plays WoW as far as I know of. We've had a couple guys over the years that did (as well as one guy that played FF11 /boggle), but the only other sports player I know offhand that plays WoW is Adam Podlesh, the punter for the Bears. A lot of guys play games though, it's just they're more into action/adventure type games (God of War, Gears, Halo) and Madden.
Q: There are two major stigmas with gaming. First off, in order to play, you have to have no life, and secondly you're probably a geek. Meanwhile, with sports, it's the exact opposite. How have you felt about the stereotypes? Have they affected you? Do you think you're an exception or a reality given that you do both?
I think that everyone is a geek, it's just a matter of what you geek out about. For some people it's games (geeks), for some people it's sports (jocks), others have cars (gearheads), or guns (Republicans), or fishing (bored husbands), blah blah blah. I think gamers were initially characterized as having no life because you had to spend so much time learning how to program these games and figure out how to make them run, as well as games being relatively solitary activities by nature, but now that we see people who have been brought up with games (myself included) some of that stigma has gone away. I've always felt that you should be balanced in what you choose to do in life, and I think there's definitely a reality that gaming is not the sole domain of the nerds anymore. To be fair, there's still neckbeard basement dwellers out there (you know who you are) who should probably get out in the sun a little bit more and perpetuate the stereotype, but that's their choice to make, and I think people are starting to realize that the majority of gamers aren't like that.
Q: Many people I've spoken to with some degree of fame have kept their real identity a secret. Did you ever let people know you played for the NFL in any of the games you've played?
Well, I definitely played the NFL card for my Hellfish app; I really wanted to get in and I figured that would up my chances :) In most cases though I'll keep my identity to myself, but with the rise of connectivity in games (RealID, Xbox Gamertags, etc.) it's not hard to figure out who someone is if you really put your mind to it.
Q: How do you balance a professional sports career and Azeroth--and in gaming in general? How much time in your life does the NFL take up? Did you ever play seriously while the NFL season was going on?
I raided very heavily during my third and fourth year with the Vikings, probably more than I should have (my wife was not happy at some of the late nights, curse you west coast server!), but I never let it affect my job or my relationship. For me, the key is being able to prioritize and stay balanced in life - I like getting paid lots of money to do something that doesn't really take up a whole lot of my time, and I love my wife (she makes me food). Now that I have kids (2 daughters) gaming is definitely taking even more of a backseat; I still game quite a bit but I've actually moved away from MMO's so I'm able to pause or put the game down if I need to take care of something.
Q: Given that your time is limited, what is your favorite thing to do when you got a chance to log on in WoW? In any MMO?
In WoW, hanging out with my guildies and seeing new content (as well as ganking the occasional jerk who tried to disrupt dailies). I'm pretty sure that will translate to just about any MMO I play in the future.
Q: So, I know you're a manly man...but I'm a girl and this is a real big deal to me, so I have to ask. Patch 4.3 introduces the ability to change your armor into anything. It's probably been the biggest change in years. What do you think about the change? What would you be wearing?
I think that's an awesome change, especially considering all the awesome older armor sets they created and that people never used again once they outleveled the items. How your character looks is one of the biggest things in an MMO, and being able to customize that can only make the game better. I have to be honest though, I haven't logged into WoW since a month or so after Cataclysm came out; once I realized raiding boiled down to "Don't stand in the fire and get loot" I kind of got bored :) Who knows, maybe I'll come check out 4.3 and Firelands though.
Q: Just go with
--it's the best rogue set. Back to the sports themed questions: Curt Schilling may be the only other athlete that compares to you in terms of being "public" about their gaming life. Have you ever thought of starting up your own MMO studio like he has?
Heh, I have plenty of ideas for my dream MMO, but unfortunately starting an MMO studio requires slightly more funds than a punter makes in a career :) I wish Curt all the best though, he's put together a great team and it will be interesting to see if they can bring it to fruition.
Q: What game is your most wanted for 2011?
It's a tie between Skyrim and Saints Row 3. It sucks that they both come out within like 3 days of each other, because I could gladly spend a couple months playing each one.
Q: Any words of advice, parting words, or links you want to share with us?
Be balanced in what you do, and while gaming might be an important part of your life, remember that there are other important things in life too. Like shamelessly promoting my band
! You can also follow me on Twitter
if you're so inclined, I talk many nerdy things. Thanks for the time!
Special thanks to Chris for doing the interview and Cody over at
for getting us in touch!
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Blizzard Interview with Lead Encounter Designer Scott Mercer
2011/04/26 at 5:12 PM
Blizzard has just posted an interview with Lead Encounter Designer
, including a behind-the-scenes look at the content featured in
Patch 4.1: Rise of the Zandalari
! Of course, most of these answers can now be found in-game but it's still interesting to learn how decisions were made when scaling down the content to support a 5-player format. In addition, Mercer hints that we may see more redesigned classic content in the future of World of Warcraft - including perhaps revamped
all for that.
In patch 4.1: Rise of the Zandalari, the devastation wrought by the Cataclysm drives the troll tribes of Zul'Aman and Zul'Gurub into a renewed frenzy that threatens to escalate into outright war.
To learn more about this troll onslaught, the
recently sat down with World of Warcraft Lead Encounter Designer Scott Mercer. Read on to get the behind-the-scenes details of the upcoming content patch, which will bring back the legendary raid dungeons of Zul'Aman and Zul'Gurub as 5-player Heroic instances.
How did Rise of the Zandalari come about?
Well, it's always a good time for trolls! No, just kidding, there's more to it than that. The idea first came up after the launch of 4.0 when we reintroduced 5-player versions of Shadowfang Keep and Deadmines. The classic dungeons ended up being a big hit with players, so we knew we wanted keep the momentum going by remaking more dungeons. Zul'Gurub was an obvious choice as it was a long-time player favorite, and many people were sad to see it go when Cataclysm launched. We started revamping it as soon as we could. Much later, when work on Zul'Gurub was nearing completion, we decided to add Zul'Aman to the lineup as well. The team felt Zul'Aman was one of our best raid dungeons of all time, but that it launched late in the Burning Crusade expansion cycle, so not that many players got a chance to experience it when it first came out. It was really the "hidden jewel" of Burning Crusade raiding. We're hopeful that bringing it back as a 5-player Heroic will open it up and allow a much larger portion of the player base to try out the encounters.
Can you give us any indication of the how the major bosses and features of Zul'Aman and Zul'Gurub will be updated for the patch?
Zul'Aman was ahead of its times in a lot of ways, and it actually adheres pretty closely to the encounter design philosophies we use today. For that reason, we didn’t feel the need to change the encounter mechanics too much aside from a few tweaks here and there needed to retune it for 5 players instead of 10 or 20. On the other hand, Zul'Gurub needed to change a lot to bring it in line with our current thinking on encounter design. For starters, we simplified the dungeon layout by closing off some of the wings with doors or fallen debris. This should make progression through the dungeon more streamlined and obvious. We're also completely redoing the non-boss NPCs in the dungeon to make them easier to clear with a 5-player group. A lot of the Zul'Gurub boss lineup is changing as well, and players can even expect to see some new faces in the crowd.
Were there any specific challenges in taking a 10 or 20-player raid instance and revamping it for 5 players?
Knowing that there will only be five players at an encounter introduces some constraints that aren't there for larger raid encounters. For example, you can't use tank switching mechanics when you know that most 5-player groups are only going to have one tank. In the same vein, events that require a lot of crowd control aren't going to work either; there just aren't as many players available for crowd control as you would have in a 20-player raid. We also had to be careful to limit encounter mechanics that could potentially disrupt or lock down the healer. These kinds of mechanics tend to be much more devastating in 5-player groups, mostly because there are no other healers available to pick up the slack. Of course, I'm not saying players aren't going to see any disruptive mechanics at all, I'm just saying we had to use them much more carefully than we would with larger raid encounters.
You discussed how several of the encounter mechanics are changing for the revamp. Can you give us any specific examples?
Sure, take Akil'Zon, the eagle boss in Zul'Aman. He used to interrupt players by launching them straight into the air, which could be devastating in a 5-player encounter if he chooses the healer or the tank, so we changed this mechanic slightly. Now his summoned eagles pick players up and try to fly off with them instead. The player that gets picked up can still act and cast normally, even while being carried away. So the group just has to make sure the eagle dies before it carries the player away. This works better, because the eagle mechanic still creates a sense of urgency without completely disrupting the targeted player.
Let's talk phat loot! What kinds of rewards can players expect from the new versions of Zul'Gurub and Zul'Aman?
The bosses drop epic quality item level 353 loot, which we hope will help players gear up for Cataclysm raiding. We also reworked the Edge of Madness event as an optional boss encounter which requires the archaeology profession to activate. At a certain point, an archaeologist can release one of four randomly chosen troll spirits, each with unique loot. We're also releasing new versions of the special mounts that used to be found in Zul'Aman and Zul'Gurub. Players who successfully complete a timed run of Zul'Aman can get the new version of the war bear. Anyone who has the old version of a mount can still get the new version. Also -- though this isn’t really part of the dungeon itself -- we're adding a new mini-raptor pet for people who do the Stranglethorn Vale lead-in quests. Oh, and of course, Mojo the toad can still be found in Zul'Aman.
Going forward, can we expect more raid dungeons from past expansions and patches to be revamped as 5-player Heroic dungeons?
We definitely want to, but there are a few technical limitations we will have to solve first, especially with some of the older dungeons. That said, we know players like the classic dungeons and we’re open to updating just about any instance that has memorable encounters, especially if the dungeon as a whole meshes well with our current philosophy of encounter design. Several dungeons in particular keep coming up as potential candidates for 5-player Heroics. I've heard Scarlet Monastery and Scholomance discussed a few times. We also think it would be cool to revamp Blackrock Spire and Blackrock Depths given their obvious tie-ins for the storyline of Cataclysm. Nothing's been ruled out yet, so I guess we'll have to wait and see which ideas rise to the surface and we move further into Cataclysm.
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News Roundup: Cataclysm Hotfixes, Heroics, Project Titan, Starcraft II Demo
2010/12/21 at 7:07 PM
Just the latest news from the world of Blizzard, including a small batch of Cataclysm hotfixes, veiled details about Blizzard's new MMO, tips on surviving Heroics and more!
Notable Cataclysm hotfixes include:
The search radius to find an Archaeology node from the Archaeology ability Survey has been increased. This will result in fewer searches needed while in the "green" range of surveying.
Chakra is no longer consumed by a Prayer of Mending bounce.
Several shirts have been corrected so they no longer cause a player's item level to increase. They are item level 1.
In addition, another, undocumented hotfix was recently applied which will make it so that players without an appropriate crafting profession of 425 or higher will no longer be able to 'Need' roll on
! This should be a welcome change for any users with the profession, however I still say that making them BOP was silly in the first place. But meh, we're probably just a few patches away from a change on that - and by then, it won't matter.
A hotfix was applied about an hour ago that changes it so Chaos Orbs will only be available for Need rolls by characters with Tailoring, Blacksmithing, Leatherworking, and Engineering (minimum skill of 425 required). This fix may not appear until the next time realms are restarted, which is likely to be early tomorrow morning.
Check out the full post for all the latest hotfixes, blue posts and more!
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Wowhead Comic #23
2010/12/08 at 8:33 PM
In honor of the release of
has graced us with another comic, written by our own
With all the fuss about Cataclysm, it's always good to take a moment to look back on the world—and the friends—we left behind...
Noxy has also put together a wallpaper of the last panel, if you'd care to download:
1280 x 1024
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News Roundup: Cataclysm Launch, Developer Interviews, Explorer's League Journal
2010/12/08 at 1:21 PM
Just wanted to try and take you guys away from Cataclysm (yeah, right!) for another news roundup!
I don't know if you guys heard, but Cataclysm launched on Tuesday!
Be sure to check out our
as well as our
The undead armies of the Lich King have been vanquished, and the campaign in Northrend has come to an end. Now Azeroth faces a new threat, as Deathwing the Destroyer has burst forth from the heart of the Maelstrom, unleashing widespread devastation upon Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms. As the world teeters on the brink of destruction, champions of the Alliance and Horde must embark on a quest that will take them from the World Tree to the bottom of the Great Sea to the elemental planes themselves, looking for a way to bring an end to Deathwing’s reign of ruin.
World of Warcraft: Cataclysm is now live and available at a store near you -- or you can
to upgrade directly through Blizzard. Featuring new zones, unique dungeons, hundreds of new quests, an increased level cap of 85, and two new playable races -- worgen and goblin -- Cataclysm provides a huge variety of content for new and returning players. The expansion is available in both a standard and
. To learn more, check out the
, visit our
game information page
, or check out the
to get started.
Check out the full roundup after the break!
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Mike B AKA Fony on the Rawrcast
2010/12/07 at 9:12 PM
just reminded me—ZAM's own
Mike B AKA Fony
did a guest turn on the Rawrcast yesterday!
The crew talk about Garrosh Hellscream, the new Battle.net site, and the Blizzard leak. Check it out on the Rawrcast site!
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Darkmoon Faire Content Fully Unlocked: New Cataclysm Cinematic
2010/12/02 at 1:35 PM
All the content on the Darkmoon Faire has been fully unlocked, and the final cinematic has been released!
If you haven't been following it, there's also a bunch of other content available there, including two interviews, a "Making Of" segment, four ringtones, two new pieces of music, and a ton of artwork.
Go check it out on the Darkmoon Faire site:
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News Roundup: Battleground Bracket Change, Vengeance Explanation, Rob Pardo Interview
2010/12/01 at 1:36 PM
I was writing up individual posts for these, but I figured it'd be best to combine them so I didn't spam your RSS Feeds. So!
More news—a post from Ghostcrawler about tanking changes, a major change to the way Battlegrounds are divided, and a cool interview with J. Allen Brack.
Read on for the breakdown, and the full blue quotes!
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ZAM Discusses Cataclysm with WoW's Lead Content Designer Cory Stockton!
2010/11/22 at 7:50 PM
recently had an opportunity to interview World of Warcraft's Lead Content Designer
and ask him detailed questions about the upcoming Cataclysm expansion! Stockton reflects on the decision to allow goblin and worgen race-changes at launch, Deathwing and the Elemental Invasion, the Darkmoon Faire and more! Check it out!
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