Interviews with Jeremy Feasel and Alex Afrasiabi
Wowhead Weekly had the opportunity for two interviews with Blizzard developers during BlizzCon -- Senior Game Designer Jeremy Feasel and
Creative Director Alex Afrasiabi
First, we sat down with World of Warcraft Senior Designer Jeremy Feasel:
Jeremy Feasel, who "does a little bit of everything" for World of Warcraft, gave us lots of insight into the new direction of exploration and reward in Warlords of Draenor.
What do you do for WoW as a Senior Game Designer?
"A little bit of everything"
Can you tell us a bit about the Warlords of Draenor staggered raid release schedule?
Somewhat similar to MOP but slightly different because we have more bosses than MSV in the first raid, as well as (rotating) world bosses that come out later.
Has the design philosophy behind exclusive or time sensitive content like Challenge Modes/Legendary Cloaks changed?
-We want players that played then to feel awesome, that has value and prestige. The choice is between encapsulating moments and keeping content for other people to experience.
Holidays changes! Why now?
-Purpose of time gated content is to feel like something new is always coming rather than oppressing them into one style of game play. We felt players had maxed out most holiday content.
Class balance in 6.0 - are we just waiting for level 100?
-Class team is always looking at outliers with sim bots. Things are always changing and we care and are making changes. Mostly looking forward to the future. There is a constant seesaw battle in balancing and please keep giving feedback!
Challenge modes - are you trying to incentivize people to do them even if they are not getting gold?
-CMs were new in MOP and we learned a lot from being able to do that. New season is more accessible in terms of rewards for non-golds and we want more players doing them. We want players in all content and we love that players want to do CMs.
Garrisons - is this expansion just Garrisons? Too much going through Garrisons?
-They are designed around being optional. They didn't like the Pandaria farm because it was too much time and not enough impact. Garrisons "concentrated coolness down" and allow for much more character customization through outposts. We want you to look forward to it instead of just logging in once a day and clicking some things. With Garrisons, every building has an impact on the world. "It's like super christmas!"
In Warlords, do you level at the same rate as past expansions? Is it fast or slow?
-Leveling per zone may be a bit faster than before. There are fewer standard quests in every zone but way more optional content, like bonus objectives and followers and treasures. Good rewards for not questing. More of an exploratory experience.
What about leveling through dungeons?
-We do want to give players options, especially for alts. Realm firsts railroaded you into one course of action and we want people to do more stuff.
Timeless isle - what have you learned?
-We don't want people to repeat loads of rares all the time. Rares in Warlords are more like one time rares, mostly, you get the item and move on; one time explosions of loot. Creating more end-game points of interest - you can kill rares, do events, quest, get rep, etc. It all connects and is more holistic than Timeless Isle. This is more rewarding and has more content. No more achievements to kill all the rares! We are going for "fun, new, and shiny!"
Is this the replacement to the repetitive nature of dailies?
-Very few quests on Timeless Isle, but also, it turned out, not enough quests. We are looking for a balance between those things. The process of knowing what the audience wants in terms of dailies is also always ongoing.
Are we trying to shift away from completionism? That seems like quite a big shift.
-Pet battles taught us about risk and rewards in terms of feeling required to complete them. They were an entirely optional feature that gave no player rewards but a TON of people did it! This felt optional and fun, like playing Hearthstone or something, instead of feeling required; it's your choice and fun.
Darkmoon Faire and Heirlooms-What's with the cost for heirlooms there?
-We still needed a cap on heirloom purchases so they retain value. Heirloom returns are still being discussed for other vendors.
What about the Darkmoon Faire race course that was on the beta?
-We loved some elements of it but it was not polished; "I'm not saying it will never come back!"
Any word on if we'll ever have flying in Draenor?
-Depends on how not flying turns out as a gameplay experience. We are forced to be honest to ourselves about what's fun. We were allowed to make super overpowered garrison toys because there's no flying. As well as spawning, which will maybe feel old school now that you can't just fly to your destination. No plans right now for future flying, we're going to play it by ear!
Later the same day we interviewed World of Warcraft Creative Director Alex Afrasiabi
Alex Afrasiabi gave us some awesome insight into zone design and "The Orc Situation" in Warlords of Draenor!
What do you do for WoW?
As the Creative Director, I'm guiding creative visions with my hands in everything
What's the word on Blood Elf models?
-No date for that, but they are looking awesome and they are working hard on getting them modeled.
Will be any further race customization options?
-Hard to do super wild skins like Dark Iron Dwarf or Taunka, but we are always interested in how to make our characters look cooler.
Are existing models going to be honed?
-Maybe in 10 years. These are above and beyond now. I wouldn't rule it out.
Any chance we'll see skin tones added to the barbershop?
-A chance yes, we'll certainly talk about it.
Any worgen or goblin changes?
-Don't know about those models, but not out of the question.
Was the decision to let players keep their old character models intended all along or last minute?
-Yes, intended, but more for performance reasons. Some machines can't handle new models but we want WoW on lots of different types of machines.
Will we see the Rest of Tanaan? Level 100 areas? 6.1 teasers?
-I can't talk about unreleased content but we will see Tanaan for sure and we are excited for fans to see it. "It's coming!"
How you do approach coming up with art/zone design differently for a zone you intended players to fly in vs no flying?
-Zone layout becomes a slippery slope with designing for flying. So we have stuck with not accounting for flying in terms of zone flow. Pace and flow of zones is designed for not flying. Draenor specifically we did a good job with running around the zones and identifying the "pain points" of getting around zones, and remedied this by, for example, inserting flight paths. Want to get around faster? Get a mage tower and stables.
Will you be sticking with the new flight path philosophy?
-Continuing to evolve flight paths to be as comfortable as possible. We have exciting stuff in the works for "that type of thing" "kind of like transport" that you won't see for a while.
How do you balance keeping the flavor and references to old zones of Outland to be recognizable while still appearing fresh and new?
-All about balance. Be true to Outland by calling back/out those points almost mechanically. Remind the player of it. We made an active effort to make world call back to itself. But you can't just copy all the geography, so we have a nice balance of old and new.
We’ve seen a lot of orcs for several expansions--what are some design challenges to keep them exciting and new with some variation?
-We redid whole zones because of this issue. Gorgrond and Shadowmoon Valley were completely redone. In fact, we called this "The Orc Situation" and thought, what are we doing about it? We put our minds to making sure this wasn't a situation. Gorgrond was 90% Iron Horde; 24/7 Orcs all over the place, so we redid the zones. Designers worked their butts off to get Gorgrond up and awesome. Gorgrond was also an experimental zone where we tested Garrisons out in the world. The outpost here alters what quest chain you would get, so we crossed those over with bonus objectives so you have the inverse incentive to go places depending on your outpost.
How was Shadowmoon changed?
PAX east build was max "orc situation" level. After finishing in Tanaan, players used to start at Karabor attacked by iron horde, leaving a giant scar through the whole zone. We realized, Blasted Lands was orcs, Tanaan was orcs, and SMV was also orcs? 24/7 orcs was too much. Shadowmoon crew worked their butts off to control the orc situation. Flow of the zone was entirely reversed. Karabor is your reward at the end, you worked for this to save it at the end.
Without flying, what does this open up for you design wise? What things can you do that you previously couldn't when you expect everyone to fly?
-In the past we HAVE designed specific AREAS of zones for flying but not critical quest paths. But yes, this has evolved as well because we do go to great lengths to increase exploration and detail. If we were designing spires with flying, there would probably no tree tops.
Legendary Quest Chain -- what have you learned from the old one? what do you want to apply with new one?
-It's a refinement of MOP. Refined on the pain points, but we do want to encourage people to do activities. This questline feels more natural. The quest lines in WOD are heavily story related, and became a great way for us to show case story moments. Giving good exposure to lore of the world.
Where are we now with questing? We saw 2 extremes in MOP where 5.0 was a deluge of Dailies, and Timeless Isle had almost no quests?
-Questing continues to evolve. This is something we hotly debate internally. Questing system, as a whole, is dated. 10 years ago, it was new and novel. As years have progressed, "collect 10 bear asses quest", after 400 of those, there's nothing special you can really do with that. We are always looking for ways to repackage that. What we want is to bring people together (like at BlizzCon!), so how can we bring people together and keep people together in game. We have noticed that we have been tending to isolate people, which is good in the sense that it makes it feel personal, but the cost is things like weird phasing issues. Our main goal is to keep people together so that conflicts. We are digging deep on this one and are rethinking it. Not making whole world group quests but looking to get people out in the world and meet each other. We're not a single player game, and we want to emphasize the social.
What sorts of creative solutions go along with that?
-Always experimenting. You can never do a wholesale swap of systems, but we're incrementally testing things.
What max level things can you do with your Garrison that aren't tied to buildings?--we've heard about some story quests with Azkua Bladefury? We've heard a lot about invasions, including some new tidbits in our previous interview about the types of mobs that attack you.
-There are "chapter quests" that change every week that send you to max level points of interest around Draenor that are tied to the fabric of the story around Warlods. Invasions are tested in the level up experience and then at max level they become important and a big deal in terms of rewards and you should do them with friends, to increase your chance of success. Weekly/bi-weekly adventures.
What is the purpose of faction hubs when players also get a hearthstone to their garrison which has lots of useful vendors? Lots of reasons to be in the garrison.
-Faction hub has changed from past expansions. Garrisons changed everything. We have added places for people to go, spread out; Garrisons, we have capital cities and they are spread into, so now we have 2 more cities in the content and Ashran for them to spread to? How far do we want to spread our player base? "We can't have both" - we don't want you to be upset about Karabor and Bladespire, but we picked garrisons because they are awesome.
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