Dragonflight Pre-Launch Interview with Ion Hazzikostas
With only a couple short weeks before the launch of Dragonflight,
got together with the
podcasts to interview Game Director Ion Hazzikostas and discuss the upcoming Race to World First event, endgame designs, and development philosophies of the coming expansion!
We'll leave the full set of questions and answers to their post interview blog, but have recapped some of the highlights below.
Raider.io Interview with Ion Hazzikostas
Race to World First
The goal for initial Mythic raid tuning is to make it just difficult enough to allow the best guilds in the world to distinguish themselves, but Sepulcher had several walls, even on lower difficulties for guilds that normally achieved AotC without issue. This led to several conversations about tuning philosophies, such as whether a single player's mistake should instantly wipe the entire raid. The goal of designing a new encounter isn't to add it to the list of highest wipe counts or hardest bosses.
The design of Vault of the Incarnates and other raids going forward should still be a stern test for the best guilds and real sense of accomplishment, but they'd rather not have to nerf things 20 times for the rank 100 / 1,000 / 5,000 guilds to finish. It's become increasingly challenging to tune bosses for world first competitors without being unattainable for others, but a big part of that is also caused by the splits and farming done during the first week of each season.
simultaneous release of all raid difficulties
will change that dynamic, as the more time spent in Heroic now detracts from time learning Mythic, but they also think it will be interesting to see which guilds decide to jump straight into Mythic first thing.
EU daily reset
was completely unrelated to the RWF, due to their maitenance window being desynced from the weekly reset.
There's almost no chance of a global raid release in Dragonflight, as they do not wish to inconvenience the hundreds of thousands of other players who already have established schedules and raid times. The RWF is a community event and not an objectively fair experience. There will always be bugs, tuning changes, copying strats from streams, and other factors offsetting the fairness, but if the raid is done well, the winner should be determined by who prepared and executed better overall, not the difference in their reset times.
Raids and Raid Design
Season 4 was a huge experiment, both with returning older dungeons in M+ and fated raids. Neither were without flaws, but participation and community feedback indicated that they were still successful and it beat having another 3 months of just Sepulcher. In that sense, it's something they're probably going to return to in some form as an "greatest hits" outro or epilogue before the next expansion.
There was a lot for dungeon, raid, and PvP players to sink their teeth into during Season 4, but outdoor-focused players got left out, and that's something to address next time. For them to be happy with the final season of Dragonflight, there should be something equally robust for players who aren't focused on instanced group content.
There are no current plans to make changes to how the Hall of Fame functions, as it's intended to be a guild list list for guild groups. It's feasible that could leave out a hypothetical 8 Alliance/12 Horde group, though
cross-faction guilds are eventually added, they will then shift to a single unified faction-agnostic Hall of Fame.
There are players who only want to do dungeons and there are players who choose to engage with multiple activities. More than ever before, Dragonflight will try to ensure that the different endpoints for each content type are close to one another, which is why
Mythic+ and Great Vault rewards have been increased
to better compete with raid drops. Although they might get there a bit differently, the intent is that both dungeon and raid players end up around the same average item level.
At the lower end though, it will be harder for players to get the same quality of gear from Mythic+ as in previous expansions. While it isn't the goal isn't to make Mythic+ dungeons less rewarding, they don't want a situation where Normal or Heroic difficulty raiders have an easier time getting much better loot in Mythic+, resulting in the encounter they'd been struggling against not actually dropping anything useful for them. The intent is to promote a similar effort, challenge, and reward ratio for dungeons and raids, at both the low and the high end.
What they've seen with Mythic+ is an increasing expectation of having to do +15 as soon as a new season starts in order to immediately maximize their reward, yet the same is rarely true of raid progression. With this change, some people won't max out their vault the way they did in Shadowlands, and it might feel bad for those players, but the rewards and new goals to strive for should result in a healthier overall ecosystem for the WoW endgame. With more motivation to push past +15, they think a lot more players will strive to get there.
Design and Development
Class balance is an area they want to take a more active hand in. Community perception has a major impact on a ton of players and the develoeprs aren't doing the community a good service if they let those situations persist for too long. There's always going to be someone who is perceived as the best or the worst, but their job is to keep things dynamic and address those issues as they emerge. No king rules forever, but also no one should be at the bottom forever.
While working on Patch 9.1.5, there was a lot of unrest in the community — a lot of justifiable unhappiness around the direction of the game and around the perception that it wasn't always respecting players’ time as much as it should. That led to extensive philosophical discussion and reexamination of some of the underlying pillars of WoW going back to 2004, and several shifts which we began to see in Patch 9.1.5 and Zereth Mortis/Eternity’s End were built with in mind, but Dragonflight truly is the first expansion built from the ground up with ideals and saying formally “it’s okay if you ignore large chunks of the game, you don't have to do everything."
With the exception of all-or-nothing overhauls, if the developers can make things better for players but not all the way, it's better to do what they can now, rather than wait until they can do the full measure. The User Interface revamp is a reflection of this - there's a lot more to do, but its a good foundation that they wanted to get into player hands and build upon over time, rather than hold off and release an entirely feature complete product someday.
Updating talents was a scary change to make. It’s the underpinnings of the game, and every single person whether they like it or not was going to log into a completely transformed class and spec experience. There are players who don't like the tinkering or min-maxing and just want to play, which is why the default loadouts were added to reduce that burden. At the same time, there are also players who are making different builds and loadouts for different bosses, for dungeons versus raids, or just leveling new characters for the first time - those are all tremendously encouraging and heartening, given the goals with that effort.
The team is going to continue to iterate on all 38 of these spec and 13 class trees, as well as looking at how many people are using different talent builds and switching between loadouts to help understand what percentage of players are going deep into the system. They can probably infer from how well the new talent system is working. As they get into later patches, they want to change the talents that are so unpopular nobody is taking them and address talents that are so dominant they stifle choice.
There is an unprecedented amount of encrypted narrative content in Dragonflight that no one has ever seen, and it is going to blow some minds in the weeks to come! There are multiple endgame narrative chapters and endgame campaigns that are available at level 70 that were not available on Beta. There are dozens of cutscenes that you’ll be seeing too, so look forward to all of that!
The most inaccurate thing said at times, and the most hurtful, is that the developers don’t care. The entire team cares passionately and are deeply rewarded by the joy of their players, and want to make everyone happy. If they're unable to act on feedback, it’s often because they're balancing the concerns and requests of a
diverse player base that has different goals, different motivations, and often directly conflicting desires. Doing the thing that person A requests could make the game worse for person B and vice versa because they play the game in different ways and want to experience the game in different ways. Mistakes happen, but they come from a place of positive and earnest good intent.
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