Wowhead's Patch 5.4 Interview with Lead Game Designer Tom Chilton
18.08.2013 um 10:24
Patch 5.4 is coming very soon
, bringing with it a variety of innovative content from Flex Raiding to the daily-free Timeless Isle. This past week, we got to sit down with Lead Game Designer Tom Chilton and ask him about popular upcoming content--the unique nature of the Timeless Isle, legendary questline development, Proving Grounds, and more.
Read on to find out more about the most-anticipated features coming in Patch 5.4!
I've had a lot of fun with the
on the PTR--finding all the hidden events, getting the vanity loot, participating in the Pet Tournament, etc. What were the inspirations in designing a hub that's so radically different from past ones, where the emphasis is on participating in fun vanity content instead of daily hubs for reputation epics?
One of the resounding things that we heard and felt from launching Pandaria was that the dailies felt too repetitive. We wanted to find a world content structure where the content wouldn't feel as directed. We wanted it to be a little more open-ended and do more freeform open gameplay that would feel more inherently accommodating to non-repetitive play. And so, we took that as our major philosophy and looked into ways we can do that.
It's going to be a push for us in the future as well to continue to develop on some of these ideas. In a lot of ways, the
is a place where we can test out ideas for the future.
How do you hope players will view and experience the
. The daily hubs felt mandatory for gear at first, but since the Isle is just for enjoyment, what will make players keep returning to it?
I think there's going to be some amount of people who need charms for the week or want to round out the Valor they get, so some of that is your normal playtime stuff. But beyond that, we hope players find reason to go back whether it's World PvP that crops up, or taking advantage of the legendary cloak they get that allows them to access special content. Or it could be to gear up alts--a lot of the Timeless Isle gear you can hand off to an alt character. The play space should get reused quite a bit.
Can you talk a little about the new tech that's on the
? I've observed some additions like the map alert for rare spawns and new event tech.
We're definitely developing our tech to be able to do more events out there in the world that feel more dynamic and happen outside of the normal quest system. We feel things like that support the normal quest system. As players quest through zones, they can be supported by extra free-form stuff that helps players feel like they've discovered things that they otherwise wouldn't have encountered if they did quests.
In addition to just the rare spawns, I had a lot of fun stumbling across the sword icons on my map and doing those daily challenge events.
We're definitely trying to find the right balance for the UI--we want them to be discoverable, but also to give you enough hints to where you can reasonably find them. We're definitely experimenting there with what we put on the minimap.
So in addition to the
being a daily-free hub, we also have most of the daily quests in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms being destroyed in 5.4. I know at launch Golden Lotus dailies were seen as a bit extreme, so some players might view this as a welcome change while still being sad over the overall destruction. Can you elaborate on the decisions that went into revamping the zone?
It's not so much that we wanted to eliminate those quests, but it was a by-product of how we wanted that zone to evolve as part of the Garrosh storyline. We really wanted it to feel like Garrosh was having a real negative impact on the world, and think about what players would be likely to see. The heart of Pandaria really is the Vale, so there was no better place to express that.
So it really was a side consequence that we decided "well, we're doing this to the Vale of Eternal Blossoms…it makes no sense they'd still be giving out their daily quests." We know that players expressed that they want the world to feel more dynamic, and these changes are really part of making the world feel that way. Things change with time.
It's those two things combined that let us go "well, it's okay if that goes, we've got other things for players to do once they hit 90." There's no obligation to have to have done those specific quests.
Yeah, while the vale does look pretty different, you can still get everything done except that one Feat of Strength.
So we also have the conclusion of the legendary questline. When it was first announced that the rewards would be capes, some players were shocked that they weren't weapons for a change--how are some of the ways players get to feel special when finishing this questline? I've seen some of the visual process on the PTR and they look great.
We've definitely tried to make sure that it feels very legendary. Since the beginning of World of Warcraft we've always envisioned that there would be legendary items that weren't necessarily weapons. One of the first legendaries that slipped into the game was the amulet from Rag, so it's always been on our minds but we just didn't have an opportunity to do it much. Honestly, when we were thinking about what this legendary item should be, we were trying to think of something that wasn't deliberately a weapon. We've been doing weapons so much, we wanted to do something a little bit different this time.
At the same time, we want to make sure that these cloaks feel really rewarding and really awesome. They have a huge item level and they have the ability to open up content you can't normally do. So unquestionably, I think these capes feel legendary and they deliver on that uniqueness that legendary items should have.
What about the decision to make the capes obtainable pretty early on in 5.4, instead of towards the end of a tier's progress, such as previous weapons?
That was extremely deliberate, definitely something we planned right from the start. When you get this legendary item, we want you to feel you could really take advantage of it and use it to beat content that you haven't necessarily beaten yet. And that would feel a lot better than getting it at the end of the expansion when you've already beaten everything. Sure, you might use it in the next expansion, but it will get replaced quickly and become obsolete, so you don't get to feel like you're beating new content that's relevant to you with your legendary item.
With all these new cool things to do, some new or returning players might worry that their gear isn't good enough for a raid or taking down some of the rares on the
. What catch-up mechanisms are in place for players? We touched a little on the
BoA gear before, and there's also things like no ilvl requirement for Flex.
We try to make sure there's ways for players to catch up pretty quickly. Even with LFR through Throne of Thunder, you'll get a player caught up very quickly. We increased the droprates of loot for older raids, so you can get gear and get through them very quickly.
In addition, the
has a variety of difficulties throughout the island. There are parts we deliberately designed for players to solo them even if they don't have a really high item level and get some gear there, but in addition, if they partner up with other players or friends, they can take on some of the harder content on the
and gear up even faster.
More than anything else, we want to get someone to the point where they can do the 5.4 raid content, so they can then quickly go with friends to a Flex raid.
Cool, that ties into my next question actually which is about Flex raids. They seem like a lot of fun for players who don't have a dedicated raid but are missing the social component when they're in LFR. What is your target audience for flex raids, and how do you envision it fitting into players existing raid schedules--both more casual players in LFR and organized groups in Normal/Heroic?
It definitely feels like there's a segment of players out there that are part of friends and family type guilds that aren't hardcore enough to do the hardcore versions of raids. Normal and heroic are tuned at this point to require a fair amount of dedication and willingness to stomach a lot of failure. So, we wanted to make sure there was something out there for more casual guilds that wanted to do the raids, but they didn't just want to jump into LFR as a full group, or even as a group of 10 or whatever.
We initially thought LFR would satisfy that type of player. And it really turns out we were off the mark on that. Those players weren't really satisfied by the LFR experience, and there was a gap to fill.
As for more serious raiders in the Siege of Orgrimmar, there's a wider variety of mount rewards and other incentives compared to previous MoP raids. We've got a mount from Heroic Garrosh, a mount tied to the Ahead of the Curve achievements, and then the Glory mount...and also the new heirlooms. How did Siege of Orgrimmar end up with all these additional cool raid incentives?
We truly feel that the game is a better experience when you're playing with friends and guildmates. We're really trying to give players incentives and reasons to go beyond LFR. LFR is there so that anybody that wants to, even if they're not really social or don't have a big guild, can go and experience the content instead of feeling left out. But we really do feel that you don't fully realize the WoW experience until you're going beyond that. So we really wanted to emphasize that while also not taking things away from LFR players or making them feel like they couldn't get something anymore.
Really it's about making sure that we keep giving players reasons to the more difficult content.
Yeah, it seems that there's many community initiatives with Flex--the glory mount for example. You can go in and do it with friends, but it's not tied to Heroic kills, so it can be more casual and also not disrupt heroic raids.
Definitely--the lockout decision was also made to support that. You can do Flex with friends, whether they're on your server or other servers, if you want to raid with them, you can now, instead of having it come into conflict with your own raid. In addition, the server boundary conflict is removed when you can do Flex cross-server.
So to prepare players for raiding, there's Proving Grounds also in 5.4, where players can go from easy Bronze challenges to pretty challenging encounters in Endless. What are your target audiences for various levels, and what sort of players do you think will be drawn to these challenges?
Primarily we've built the feature for players that struggle to make that transition going into the endgame and want to do more than just solo. That audience is a meaningful group--they do solo content and quest and experience the storyline of the expansion, but they feel kind of afraid to go into multiplayer content because they don't feel comfortable with the role they're expected to have. A lot of players have negative experience--they go into dungeon finder, and they get yelled at because they don't know what to do in an encounter, they get yelled at because their dps is terrible, or they don't know how to tank or heal a group, and they feel like there's no way to really learn that without doing it. But they don't want to deal with the negativity as they're trying to learn that. So we really wanted proving grounds to be that place where players can learn how to make that transition into doing group content.
And then, beyond that, we figured that once we're setting things up for Bronze, we might as well make sure that it has value to the existing core audience, the hardcore players. It's an interesting event, so we might as well make it cool for everyone while we're at it. And that's really where the Gold, Silver, Bronze and Endless modes came from.
How do you envision Proving Grounds fitting into the larger community? Do you think they'll catch on as qualifications for pugging raids?
I definitely see it becoming a way we can do qualifiers. We talked about in the future, it's a possibility that we could do a dungeon scheme more like we have in the past with Burning Crusade where we have normal dungeons that we expect everyone to be able to do, and then only once you've gotten a Proving Grounds medal of Silver or higher, you can queue for the heroic dungeons. Something along those lines.
A difference from the way that happened in Cataclysm would be that we would never require you to complete the heroic dungeons in order to do LFR, so it wouldn't block you from your raid progression. It would just be a more time-efficient way to get your Valor.
So I guess while we're on the subject--quick question about Valor. What's happening to it in 5.4?
There won't be a Valor reset for 5.4--the item upgrade stuff is likely to stay in place and that will be the primary outlet for Valor.
I know you guys are short on time, so I'll just ask one more quick question. Cooking got a big (and possibly controversial) revamp in MoP, with all the various Ways and additional effort required to max things out. It's been untouched for a few patches and now we have the addition of noodle carts--how does that fit in and what niche does it fill?
More than anything else, they're ways to give players more optional content. Cooking more than anything else is a secondary profession. It's meant to feel like something optional to do. If you've done everything there is to do, or trade skills are just your thing, it's an awesome thing for you to go out and experience. We want to continue to deepen experiences like that, but they're really not designed to be something where every player feels obligated to do it. I think if it got to that point, that's where it would feel like the experience breaks down.
Thanks so much for answering my questions--we'll get back to having fun exploring the
and playing the PTR!
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