Transcript: Reddit AMA with World of Warcraft Developers

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in World of Warcraft News

Community Manager of the Year Zarhym posted a very extensive transcript of all the World of Warcraft developers AMA Q&As held on Reddit a couple of days ago:

To keep the information we shared on /r/WoW in one handy location, we’ve put together a full transcript for you. We’ve trimmed the fat wherever possible, to give you just the facts. If you’d like to read the full threads in which these answers were provided, you can click the “Q” link next to the top question of each conversation. Threads are sorted under each of the participating developers:

 

Tom Chilton, Game Director

Q&A Focus: PvP, gameplay systems, cross-realm zones, character models, development timelines, Activision’s role in design

Dave Kosak, Lead Quest Designer

Q&A Focus: lore, novels, characters, quest and zone design

Ion Hazzikostas, Lead Encounter Designer

Q&A Focus: dungeons, raids, boss encounters, loot systems, talent systems, endgame progression, future patch content

Greg Street, Lead Systems Designer

Q&A Focus: cross-realm zones, dungeons, raids, character models, classes, gameplay systems, content concepts

Tom Chilton, Game Director

Q. What’s the status on updating player character models?

Also, thanks for allowing players to mount after drinking Noggenfogger. I asked about it at BlizzCon 2011. :D

A. Actively working on updating character models! It’s a high priority for us.

Q. I am playing on a low-population server (5 ppl online right now, Wednesday primetime 50-60, 4k items in the auction house, 2 raiding guilds left on the server) and it is no longer fun to play there. The auction house is almost empty and every article is heavily overpriced (compared to other servers), the trade-chat is very slow (10-20 lines per day), but what really bugs me is that I can’t find/build raids anymore. The thing I love about WoW by far the most is raiding, but there are no people left on the server to start pug-raids. Having a guild where I can raid with my main-character is the only reason I still play on that server (despite having a great community there with rl-meetings etc). I know for sure that my server is not the only one like that. The new cross-realm zones won’t help either, since they just “fill up” the leveling-areas, but do not change anything regarding raids (where the latest content will not be accessible via battle tag x-realm raids) or a more populated trade chat. So on regards of all people on my server, here is my question:

tl;dr: (When) will you do something to help/save the dying/dead servers like merging some of them? I would even be willing to give up my beloved toon’s name for being able to have fun again.

A. Cross-realm zones are definitely our first move toward improving the play experience for low-pop servers (or even medium population).

Beyond just the fact that the world will be more populated, the ability to make friends at the battle tag level (since that friendship level is cross-server) combined with the ability to do group content with those players represents a huge step forward in the ability for players on smaller servers to access a huge community to play with.

With regard to the auction house, I can imagine a future where we might decide to make auction houses cross-server. It’s not something to jump into lightly, but there may be ways to design a cross-realm auction house that ensures a viable economy without getting “too big”.

I’ll add to this by saying that the nature of the way the player population distributes itself, merging servers ends up not really being the great solution many players imagine.

At this point, the overwhelming majority of players online at any given time are at max level and hanging around in major population centers. Merging servers makes the cities far more populated, but the outdoor world still ends up feeling dead, nothing like what the world feels like when the player population in general is still leveling-up. Even if you assume MoP succeeds in getting people back out into the world, it’s important to understand that that will mean people will be out in the world in Pandaria, but the rest of the world would still feel abandoned.

Q. I’d really honestly just like an answer as to why we had the massive delay from raid to next expansion again. We were told there wouldn’t be a repeat of ICC -> Cata, but it happened again with Dragonsoul -> Pandas.

If the answer is as simple as it was a mistake in planning I’d understand entirely, it would just mean a lot for my guild if we got an answer as to why.

A. To be fair, Dragon Soul -> Pandaria will have been several months faster than ICC -> Cata. That being said, I totally agree that it’s still way too long. This is something we’re committed to making better.

Q. I have three quick questions for you.

1. Have you considered adding in a system to make it easier for PVPers to find team mates for arenas and rated BG’s? Such as cross-realm LFG channels and a list of players that are LFG with class/spec/rating etc?

2. Have you considered adding some sort of gold income to PVP, such as a small gold reward for doing random BG’s?

3. What is your current opinion on the overall state of Mists PVP? Is it where you want it to be with regards to player survivability, healing, damage, and CC?

A. 1. Yes, a system like this is something we’d like to see. We have a variety of improvements we’re planning for both rated and unrated BGs.

2. It has been considered, but isn’t currently in the works. We’ll see how the MoP endgame plays out before further consideration. Bear in mind I say this as a habitually broke WoW player that spends a lot of time doing PvP and would definitely benefit from it.

3. At 85 the numbers are kind of wild… healers heal for a ton as a percentage of a health bar and non-healers die too quickly. At 90, health pools increase more than damage does (by roughly a 3:2 ratio, although your mileage may vary), so it should be noticeably better.

Q. Improvements for Random BG queuing?

Is there a plan to make queuing for battlegrounds randomly at max level more enjoyable? I understand that gear doesn’t make the player but it’s frustrating when I’m T2 Full Cata getting paired with people with 80k-90k health who can barely do any damage. This must be frustrating from their end as well getting their face smashed in.

I wouldn’t mind waiting for a longer queue to be put with people around my MMR/iLvl.

It would also be nice if teams had at least two healers. I’d be willing to wait longer for that as well.

A. Yes. We’d like to do make queuing for random BGs better by ensuring some semblance of healer balance between alliance/horde. For example, having no healer on your 15-person team when the opponents have 3 can have a huge impact on your team’s chance of success. Also, we’re considering more aggressively separating players with entry-level gear from everyone else (unless they’re grouped with a player with non entry-level gear).

Q. Question for Game Director Tom Chilton:

What happened to the raid/arena observer feature mentioned during BlizzCon 2011?

Almost every guild has at least two raiders more than their respective raid size (our 25 man guild had up to 40 raiders at one point). So we rotate and substitute from boss to boss. But having to explain the same boss mechanics for several weeks gets really troublesome. Could it be possible upon entering an instance, to mark the raid as observable for guild members or even the public? These players could then fly around like invisible Eyes of Kilrogg watching the raid fighting bosses as a first-hand experience. Maybe add invisible walls after each boss to prevent dungeon exploring.

A. Observer modes are still on our want list, it’s just a question of when we get to it. So far, other features and changes have been higher priority but hopefully one of these days we’ll finally get it done.

Q. First off – thank you for the awesome game and the many hours of fun it’s provided from when I first started in June 2005! Two questions:

There seems to be a lot of hesitation about expanding features like raid finder and scenarios to low level characters and to older content. It seems like giving people an option to queue up for more group quests through scenarios as they level would build up a better social environment in the game – an element that is often overlooked when leveling and then quickly becomes important in the endgame. Plus, for people like myself who’ve done a lot of the old content when it was once relevant, it would be fun to show friends that are new to the game what MC and BWL were like when it wasn’t something you went in with a friend and blew up in 5 minutes. Why the hesitation on adding in these features?

Professions – crafting in WoW is not something I enjoy doing a lot, but often feels mandatory or at least needed to be able to sustain the stuff I want to do in game. In Cataclysm, the multi-point skill-ups helped some, but crafting still feels like an entirely UI bound exercise without a lot of real fun to be had other than playing in a server economy or crafting some fun items like mounts and pets. Do you have any ideas on ways to improve trade skills to make them feel more enjoyable?

A. From somebody that has worked for nine years in an effort to provide fun, thanks for being such a dedicated long-time player!

We’d definitely love to expand raid finder and scenarios to lower-level characters. There are a lot of hurdles to overcome as it relates to scaling/tuning the content and appropriately rewarding characters of varying levels though, so it isn’t something we’ve gotten to yet. Someday I think it’ll happen. Although, we’re certain to be accused of trying to pawn off “rehashed content” when we get to it. =[

I totally agree that there are tons of cool things we can (and should) be pursuing to make our professions gameplay much more interesting. This is something we'd love to tackle!

Q. There seems to be a significant lack of clarity on many people's parts about what impact (if any) Activision has had on Blizzard. As the people designing the game, do you feel there has been a change in how things are done since the merger, either within game development or the company in general?

A. Since there aren't a lot of people that can authoritatively answer your question, I'll tackle it.

I'll come out and say it. Activision gets an unfair reputation among our players for this, as does Bobby Kotick. We do demos for the Activision executive team about twice per year (sometimes only once). They ask intelligent questions about why we're doing what we're doing, but at no point have any mandates (or even "suggestions") about the game's design been issued.

 

Dave Kosak, Lead Quest Designer

A. Wait – we’re supposed to answer questions about Mists of Pandaria? I was hoping to just post pictures of my cat for karma. http://imgur.com/3UbZM

Q. What do you think the biggest challenge was in wanting to change how Mists plays compared to Cata?

A. I’ll answer as the Lead Quest Designer, although others can chime in.

We wanted Pandaria to have a wide swath of content for all different types of players. To this end we wanted to add really awesome hardcore skill-based challenges (getting gold in all the Challenge Mode dungeons is a FEAT to be PROUD of!), as well as more casual experiences (Pet Battles is a really wonderful, low-stress, turn-based system that everyone can enjoy.)

From the quest perspective, we’ve always wanted more things to do with your max-level character, especially if you’re not into Dungeons or Raids. One entire zone (Vale of Eternal Blossoms) is dedicated to level-90 content. It’s a randomized series of missions to experience every day. The Mogu attack different parts of the Veil every day. New quests and hubs will unlock as you adventure. And as you earn reputation with the Golden Lotus faction, you’ll unlock a story arc that carries through until you’re exalted.

That’s just one example. All of the factions have something special going on, so that they’re not just a bar that grows along the bottom of your screen. The Tillers give you your own personal farm. The Shado-Pan companions accompany you on your quests every day, and you can unlock more companions, etc., etc. These are just a couple examples.

I would say that’s one of the major differences between Mists and Cata – there’s just plain MORE TO DO, regardless of your playstyle!

Q. How pleased are you with the lore and storyline in MoP? Any hints or teasers?

A. The story for Mists was a real challenge because we wanted to tell a story that didn’t have a big giant villain on the cover of the box. I’m immensely pleased with how it all came together; it’s a real journey. After the widespread destruction of Cataclysm, Pandaria is a great change of pace. You can really delve in and explore a beautiful place.

We kick things off with a bang and then strand you on the continent to fend for yourself. You’ll get to know the locals, solve some local problems, and learn what makes this land so different from the rest of Azeroth.

We’ve got a whole story arc planned out for the subsequent patches, where the war between the Alliance and Horde really heats up and splashes onto Pandaria itself. The pandaren force us to question what we’re really fighting over – perhaps ultimately, it’s a story about the factions defining who they want to be.

Don’t worry – just because there’s no villain on the box doesn’t mean you won’t be fighting for your life against some really brutal badasses…

Q. I know this might sound like asking too much to give away, but the Sha have really interested me going into MoP. How significant are these strange negative beings going to be in the overall story and plot of Pandaria? What makes them unique to the continent of Pandaria? And in that vein, do they pose a threat to all of Azeroth?

A. Great question! Sha energy is CENTRAL to the story in Pandaria. It’s the reason that pandaren culture has evolved along the lines it has. (If you’re really curious about the Lore, follow the story of the Last Pandaren Emperor by finding all of his lore objects hidden in the world and talking to Lorewalker Cho.)

A. The arrival of the Alliance and Horde on the continent really uncorks the bottle – this long suppressed energy explodes out, causing havoc from coast to coast. You can earn the trust of the wary pandaren by helping to clean up your mess. There’s a real cultural exchange that happens: The pandaren learn a lot about the Alliance and Horde, and hopefully the factions learn a lot about the pandaren that they can apply to their own situation.

At a deeper level, there’s a lot of symbology with the sha, which is good from a storytelling perspective. There are some wonderful moments in the game – one of my favorite stories has to do with a Shado-Pan warrior dealing with the death of her husband, which opens up her heart to the Sha of Hatred.

If you’re intrigued by the concept, you’ll find that the sha plays a big role in a lot of the quests, dungeons, and raids. Sweet!

Is the sha a threat to Azeroth as a whole? Possibly. I’d be more worried about the orc with the nukes. ;)

Q. As much as you are able to go into, can you explain the thought process behind the legendary gems and the future of the legendary Black Prince quest line in MoP (and perhaps any more details about the future of the questline)?

How do you think this legendary or legendaries will affect guilds and LFR players alike? Did you go for something that won’t be as headache inducing as previous legendaries?

A. Wrathion has a vision for the future of Azeroth – a united Azeroth – and he’s not too particular about how we get there. We’re big fans of characters who flirt along the line between hero and villain.

In 5.0, Wrathion is definitely feeling out the factions and trying to formulate a plan. It’s up to you to impress him. You’ll have another chance in 5.1, when the war rolls up onto the pandaren shores. As for his next move… well, no spoilers.

One of our goals with the Legendary in 5.0 is to remove some of the guild headaches and drama often associated with Legendaries. Everyone can begin working on getting a Legendary immediately, even if you use LFR. (You’ll be able to gather faster with your guild, though.) Getting the final legendary (whatever form it takes) won’t be an easy feat – you’ll have to participate in content throughout ALL the patches.

It’s a great opportunity for ALL players to experience a legendary questline!

Q. Are we having more questlines like Angrathar the Wrath Gate?

A. I guess this depends on what you think defines that event. Are you asking for more quests that have an awesome climactic cinematic? Are you asking for more quests that require you to do a whole lot of things over one or more zones before it all comes together? Are you asking for quests where you delve into major cities for huge lore events?

The answer is: Yes, yes, and … yes. :)

Although these events are few and far between – we want them to feel special. And some big events will happen in the patches. Glad you liked the Wrathgate! It was a big milestone for WoW storytelling.

Q. I can still remember the Wrathgate cinematic starting up on my screen, completely unexpected. I burst into a huge, nerdy grin at the idea that the game’s storytelling was heading in this direction. WoW’s visual style is so well-suited to those specially-animated cutscenes; it’s like watching the coolest cartoon ever. I know those must take a long time to plan and create, but I sincerely hope they keep coming!

A. Hopefully this isn’t too buried, I wanted to talk briefly about cutscenes. If you’ve been playing the game since vanilla, you know that our storytelling is constantly evolving. We’re always trying new things.

When it comes to full-on cinematics, we definitely have more of them in Pandaria. They highlight KEY moments in the game and the lore; you’ll see one when you first get your mission to go to Pandaria, and there’s a whopper of a movie when you play through the climax of the Jade Forest. This stuff is AWESOME, we’ve got a great team who’s put together some really magical pre-rendered moments.

HOWEVER!

It’s way more important to us to convey story through gameplay, not movies. To that end, there’s a lot of “less flashy” stuff we do in Pandaria to surround your character with story as you play. NPCs will seamlessly start to follow you or fight with you, the environment will change around you as you do things, and we try to have a lot more key lore characters directly involved in your experience. We’re trying to do all of these things without breaking players into different phases constantly (there’s less phasing in Pandaria than in previous expansions), and we’re trying to do it without having super-linear zones anymore.

It’s tricky. I can’t say we’ve “nailed it.” But I think Pandaria has the best in-game storytelling we’ve ever had in an expansion. I’m really looking forward to seeing it all play out!!

Q. I have a couple of lore questions relating to some of the developments in Tides of War.

First, Jaina’s official status is in limbo. While she declares that she’s “anti-Garrosh” that seems to be the extent of her disdain for the Horde. This coupled with the fact that she’s now the leader of a neutral faction, which contains both Alliance and Horde members, and it seems that she’s effectively a neutral character now, and that after Garrosh is deposed she’ll go “full neutral.” This is the opposite of how many people thought was going to happen; after having her city destroyed by the Horde, even if Garrosh is deposed it doesn’t feel as though she should be a neutral character after being victimized by the Horde to the extent she has. Can the devs shed some insight on this?

My second question pertains to a subject that’s highly controversial on the forums, which is Lordaeron. This is not a question about whether the Forsaken qualify as the rightful owners or not (I don’t want to touch that subject with a ten foot pole), but rather in how the Alliance’s position there is and what the Alliance’s motivations are combined with what we see in Tides of War. In Wrath of the Lich King, Varian declared that he has every intention of retaking Lordaeron, and that the Alliance’s operations against the Scourge were largely conducive to that goal. In Cataclysm we see the Alliance making some effort, but it seems to be minimal as it’s easily forced back and in Tides of War, Sylvanas alludes to the idea that the Alliance has not attempted to retake Lordaeron in full force. Why is the Alliance holding back, and what is the Alliance’s plans for the future of the region? How does the Alliance look at the whole Lordaeron situation now, and will the Lordaeron citizens in the Alliance ever get a voice?

A.Re: Lordaeron. Without having the book in front of me, I’m not sure which passage you’re talking about. The Alliance can’t retake Lordaeron until they get to it; Sylvanas held them off at Andorhal, as depicted in-game.

What’s Varian been up to? Well, after focusing on the Lich King, he wasn’t using Alliance military might to conquer new territory. He used it to, among other things, provide aid and rescue the Gilneans. Does this make him a bad leader, or a noble one? That’s a good question.

Q. So…neutral or not?

A. I’m trying not to spoilerize here, man!

Q. Does this mean the Alliance has lost another lore character to neutrality? Really would like to see some Alliance lore figures that don’t die or go neutral.

A. Feedback from Cataclysm is that people don’t like when they “lose” a character to neutrality. So I hear you. Jaina’s story continues, and we have plans!!

Q. I finished the recently released book “Tides of War.” I rarely read novels, but since I enjoy WoW I decided to give it a shot. I ended up thoroughly enjoying the book and it even got me more excited about MoP, and also reading the other novels.

My questions are: How many novels are planned to be released over this expansion? Also, since you have stated Garrosh is the main antagonist during your big MoP reveal, do you feel you’ve hurt opportunities to write more exciting novels to build up this already hyped epic battle we will eventually experience in-game?

A. I’m glad you enjoyed the novel! Golden is a fantastic author who works very closely with us to do justice to the franchise.

If you’re getting psyched about the storyline, I think you’ll love the next novel which focuses on Vol’jin. Have you played the troll 1-10 intro experience? Vol’jin flat-out tells Garrosh he doesn’t trust him and he’ll stab him in the back the moment he sees an opportunity. The novel carries his story forward and really meshes in with the events of patch 5.1.

One of our ongoing goals is to make sure that the games and novels complement each other, and that major lore events don’t happen in the novels without some kind of representation in-game. This is a huge challenge for us!! But I think we’re getting better at it.

Q. SO excited to hear this–my troll character is the easiest Horde race for me to identify with fully and even though she is a tiny baby still I have a goal to go kill Garrosh with her while he is still Raid Finder content! I love Vol’jin, I want him to be warchief and then it won’t feel so forced if we have temporary peace dealing with the next larger threat. I mean, that dude already gave me a bunch of quests in Zul’Gurub so he has no problem at all working with humans and such. He is the greatest I am so happy for a novel maybe I will actually have the money to buy it yayayayay. (I have the Jaina one on hold at my local public library because of broke.)

A. Good to see a Vol’jin fan! You’re going to dig the novel. :)

Q. As you know Garrosh will be dethroned at the end of Mists of Pandaria. I’m not looking for this to be answered just to be recognized or give some insight on the decision.

Rexxar Champion of the Horde would be the best candidate for Warchief wouldn’t you agree? As he said he would never join the Horde unless it really needs him, but also the wild is his home.

A. Rexxar for Warchief! Who’s with me!?

Q. Is Thrall going to lead an attack against Garrosh?

A. It’s hard to tackle these questions without just straight-up spoiling stuff. I argue that the best stories are experienced through gameplay.

So: Thrall. Obviously Thrall feels that Garrosh is his mistake. We explored some of his emotions around this in the “Elemental Bonds” questline in patch 4.2. For that reason, he’ll DEFINITELY play a role in the ultimate conflict in Orgrimmar. But maybe not the role you’d expect.

He’ll be lying low in 5.0, but the current plan is for you to catch up with him in 5.1. (That content is still in development, so don’t hold me to that.)

Also, Horde and Alliance players will be happy to know that he’ll be focused on Horde content this time around, not a neutral NPC helping both factions (which made sense in Cataclysm, but overwhelmingly the feedback is players want to see him be Hordey again. Yeah, I just made that word up.)

Q. Is he going to retire from the calm Far-Seer position he got himself into in Cataclysm and get back as the old fearsome Thrall we had known in Warcraft III?

A. We really want to show Thrall developing as a character, not moving backwards. He’s learned a lot about himself after Cataclysm. He’ll continue defining himself in the wake of Mists…

Q. In the new expansion the tension between the Alliance and the Horde have increased drastically. Would there ever be a raid or dungeon that would happen to be an attack on a city such as Stormwind or Orgrimmar?

A. It would be difficult to dislodge a warchief without an attack on Orgrimmar. Oh man. I AM FIRED UP.

Q. Why did Thrall let Gallywix Live if he’s a slave owner? Why did Thrall ever even allow Slavery in the Horde?

A. Thrall’s vision of the Horde is a refuge for people in need. He’s a helpful guy. The Bilgewater Goblins just had their home destroyed, and they were refugees (he can certainly relate to that). They helped him in the Lost Isles, so he offered them a home. Presumably he’d put a stop to any slave trade (the player characters don’t remain slaves once they join the Horde.)

Of course… afterwards he was no longer the Warchief. Garrosh was probably a lot more hands-off of the goblins, so long as they showed their usefulness – as they demonstrated immediately in Azshara.

An excellent question, BTW!

Q. Given what Sylvanas and the Forsaken have been up to regarding the Plague, isn’t it inevitable that her desire to “procreate” the undead will bring the Forsaken into direct conflict with all the living factions (Horde and Alliance both)?

A. Well, first she’d have to run out of corpses, so from that perspective, the war is REALLY helping the Forsaken out… ;)

This is a good question, because the nature of the Forsaken makes them a really unstable ally. That leads to some great stories. At the moment, Sylvanas is fortifying her position – she’s making a landgrab, she’s fortifying her borders, she’s using the Valkyr to boost her numbers… But what’s her long-term plan?

At least Garrosh called her out on it. What will the next Warchief do about it? Better question: What if SYLVANAS is the next Warchief? Oh man.

 

Q. Are we going to get more Old God lore in Mists? I love their arc that permeates a lot of back story, especially in Wrath, and seeing more of them and getting more answers to lore related to them would be awesome.

A. Obviously the Old Gods have had a major impact all over the world. They aren’t directly pulling any strings in Pandaria, however, you can still feel the cold grip of their influence, many thousands of years later. If you’re interested in the lore, you owe it to yourself to reach exalted with the Klaxxi faction to learn a little more about their origins.

Q. During your recent Cdev, you stated that it wasn’t an Old God underneath Tirisfal. Any chance you could give us any kind of hint as to what’s down there? Any tidbit of info would be awesome.

A. I hate to do this, but I didn’t want to leave you hanging without an answer. My answer is: We’re not saying. :o Not yet.

Q. Arathi Highlands has the potential to be a real epic convergence of a lot of stories, the Forsaken war machine was last seen setting up camp here, Stromgarde sits eagerly awaiting revival as well as being the last line of defense between the Forsaken and Khaz Modan, giving the Dwarves and interesting stake in it.

What are your plans with this zone, if any?

A. Agree completely. But, it’s unlikely we’ll revisit old zones once again. Until the next … Cataclysm …

Q. Why did Blizzard decide not to rebuild org and sw in this expansion?

A. I wish I had a better response to this, but the truth is that our team was focused on making Pandaria itself absolutely beautiful. Stormwind and Orgrimmar are complex pieces of architecture, and while there’s a great story reason to fix them, there’s no gameplay that results from that work.

I think we all want to see the gates of Stormwind patched up, but it’ll take some time. Apparently the King has a bad track record with the local masons…. ;)

Q. Would Queen Azshara lead an attack on the shores of Pandaria after the war between the factions is calmed down?

A. Queen Azshara – what’s she been up to there under the sea? Glorious things!! But… nothing that we’re going to see in 5.0. Pandaria is safe from her advances for now.

Q. Are Koltira Deathweaver and Sylvanas Windrunner showing up in Mists of Pandaria?

A. Sylvanas will DEFINITELY play a role in the Alliance and Horde conflict. We might not catch up with her until one of the later patches. We’ve been debating on whether or not we catch up with Koltira now or later… The guy’s in bad straights.

Q. Is the story of the Knights of the Ebon Blade over? Is Darion Mograine finally in peace? Why isn’t him the quest giver on the new Scarlet Monastery dungeons? It would be quite fitting.

A. There are many, many loose ends in the Warcraft lore, and often we pick them up later and run with them. What are the Knights of the Ebon Blade up to? Ahhhh… we’ll probably catch up with them eventually, when they’re doing something cool. (But not in Pandaria…)

Q. The last official timeline puts Wrath of the Lich King at Year 27. However, there is contradictory information regarding Cataclysm’s place in the timeline. Sources such as the Cataclysm manga, the Shattering, and Anduin’s age would seem to indicate fairly solidly that it sits a year after Wrath of the Lich King (Year 28). However, Matoclaw’s reference to the battle of Hyjal being “a decade ago” and the Deadmines intro quest that says VanCleef died five years ago suggest that it’s actually three years after Wrath (Year 30). What is Cataclysm’s proper place in the timeline?

A. This is the most red-shirtiest of questions so far! Congrats!

But it’s a good question.

Matoclaw was just estimating when she says “a decade ago.” It was closer to … what, seven years I think?

I can tell you that the quest team is definitely being a little ambitious with Anduin – we write him as though he’s 17 or so, but in reality his age is younger.

And since we’re being honest, we’re intentionally a little bit vague about exact time periods in-game. The content we put in will be played for years, so sometimes things get a little … spongy.

Q. What is your attitude towards the WoW development community? By that, I mean both addon authors and community developers that basically make their living off of the success of WoW (Curse, World of Logs, Wowhead, etc.)? I’ve always had the impression that Blizzard has been more of a stifling force than a supporting one. This is shown with purposely breaking addons (AVR is the first one that comes to mind), and recently with World of Logs claiming that it has become increasingly difficult for them to differentiate between different raid difficulties.

These developers, in my opinion, greatly improve the WoW experience. I’ve always used the amount and quality of fan sites as a metric to see how much community support a game has, and WoW is far ahead of the pack. Wouldn’t it be in Blizzard’s best interest to assist these developers rather than limit them?

A. I’m not the right person to answer this, but nobody on the UI team is here, so I’ll just chime in. We definitely support the add-on community as much as we can. Many mod-makers are able to contact us directly. It’s a high priority for the UI team, and for all of us at Blizzard. I wish I could give you more specifics, but it’s outside of my realm of expertise.

If there are specific issues or questions you have, we check the forums. :)

 

Ion Hazzikostas, Lead Encounter Designer

Q. Perhaps this has already been asked, but what’s the deal with the spam of ‘skills learned’ every time I enter a new zone? I assume that it was not intended, and that you’re working to fix it, but I saw just a few minutes ago that it hasn’t been fixed yet with the latest patch. Any chance you could explain it to me like I’m five what exactly is causing that? Unless no one knows, hence why it hasn’t been fixed yet, lol…

A. That is a bug and our engineers are working on fixing it. It should be something we can hotfix.

Q. What is the new feature in MoP you’re excited the most for?

A. Challenge mode dungeons. Our 5-player instanced content at this point is primarily consumed by randomly match-made groups through the Looking for Dungeon system, and it needs to be tuned accordingly (a lesson learned from Cataclysm release Heroics). Challenge modes offer us an opportunity to return to some of the really fun core MMO gameplay that will test the skill and coordination of groups of friends and guildmates. Crowd control, assisting, target prioritization, and so forth are essential to success, and because we’re normalizing any gear that is superior to level 90 dungeon blues, you can’t out-gear them, only out-skill them.

Q. Was there anything that didn’t make the cut for release but will pop up in a 5.x patch?

A. One feature we had mentioned previously, but which didn’t make it in for Mists launch, is the Proving Grounds feature. For those who aren’t familiar with it, the idea was to add what would be a type of single-player scenario that would allow players to both learn and demonstrate the core skills associated with a given role or class. You can think of them as something akin to Challenges in StarCraft II.

These might take the form of testing how long a tank can protect an NPC healer from a stream of oncoming enemies, or how much damage a rogue can deal to targets while avoiding awareness and movement checks of increasing difficulty. The hope is that the system will be a fun way for players to practice some of the skills that are essential for group gameplay, and for expert players to demonstrate mastery and compete for positions atop leaderboards, similar to our upcoming Challenge Mode feature.

Q. Is this feature still in the works, or has it been canned?

A. Still in the works. The question to which I was replying was asking for things that will hopefully pop up in a 5.x patch!

Q. The new LFR loot system is fairly anti-climatic. Did you all go through any other ideas?

A. We agree that the system could use some more visual oomph. Especially when you don’t win an item from a boss, you feel the lack of some of the ceremony of downing a boss that used to be present, with a bunch of Need/Greed loot dialogues popping up on your screen, reviewing the loot to see if you needed anything (or, let’s be honest, clicking every Dice icon that was clickable…) and then watching the rolls unfold.

There’s room for improvement there, and it’s something we’re continuing to polish.

Q. Question about the new LFR Loot system:

I really like the fact that whether or not you get loot is independent from other people in the raid right now. However I’m a bit curious if you could make the tokens you get tradeable.

Say I get a helmet token but I already have the normal or even heroic version of the helm for both my specs I just don’t need that thing.

I would love to be able to give it away, to a guildie if there is one (which promotes people running content together and help each other out) or even make the day of some random stranger.

I would really love to see this implemented.

A. The entire premise of the new LFR loot system is that your chance of winning loot is independent of absolutely all external factors. The moment you can trade items to and from your guildmates, that ceases to be the case.

And sadly, even if you would only use the ability to trade items to make the day of a random stranger in LFR, others would use it to have 24 alts funnel items to their main in a premade group.

Q. How does an encounter like Heroic Spine happen? The focus on burst DPS was brutal to many guilds and really harmed progression. Bring the player turned into bring the alt to stack rogues, mages, and other burst classes. This encounter left a sour taste in the mouths of hard-core progression raiders because of these design choices.

What went wrong?

A. One of the dangers when we tune a Heroic raid encounter to the razor’s edge is that we stress areas of our class design that aren’t as well-balanced (nor were they ever intended to be). We can promise that classes will do comparable DPS on a fight like Ultraxion. We can’t promise that every class will do comparable DPS in a 20 second burst window, a 40 second burst window, while cleaving two targets, while AoEing 8 targets for a minute straight, while damaging 4 targets that are all spread out, and so forth. (And a world in which those were all equal would be a rather boring, homogeneous world. We think it’s pretty cool for a Combat Rogue to get excited when a fight is going to involve two enemies tanked next to each other, or for a Fire mage to get giddy when thinking of Yor’sahj or Halfus.)

That doesn’t mean that we can’t tune brutally hard encounters, nor does it mean that we can’t stress specific class mechanics, but it does mean that we need to be careful to vary the types of mechanics that matter most in a given fight when we’re tuning it that way. It was really interesting to watch guilds progress on Heroic Ragnaros, to use a specific example. Guilds ran into a hard brick wall in phase 2 of the encounter initially, just trying to deal with Molten Elementals, and we saw some of them bring as many as 9 or 10 Balance Druids because they had the best burst targeted AoE in the game. And that got them to phase 3, where they promptly realized they had no hope at all of meeting the DPS check to avoid having more than 2 meteors spawn while stacking so many moonkins, because while their targeted AoE was excellent, their single-target sustained DPS while dodging World in Flames was not. And so guilds gradually brought fewer and fewer druids, adapted to handle Phase 2 in other ways, and ultimately ended up defeating the encounter with balanced compositions.

But if not for the Phase 3 DPS check, it’s safe to say that the first Heroic Ragnaros kills would have looked suspiciously like the first Heroic Nefarian kill… So there definitely were lessons learned from Spine: specifically the importance of stressing varied and conflicting mechanics at the same time, instead of just one.

Q. I always felt the Ulduar raid was the best design for including hard modes that were mostly built-in to the encounter versus the normal mode-hard mode toggle that we have now. Do we have a chance to see a return of the event-based hard mode design instead of a toggle?

A. The Protectors of the Endless encounter in the Terrace of Endless Spring raid in 5.0 works exactly like the Iron Council hard mode from Ulduar; if you defeat Protector Kaolan last on that encounter, you get “Elite” loot that is even more powerful than the normal rewards from the encounter.

It’s the sort of thing we’d like to continue to experiment with and introduce where it makes sense. For some of the Ulduar encounters it was intuitive (kill Freya while her protectors are still alive), but in other cases it was obscure (how many people would have discovered the Vezax hard mode without an achievement describing what to do?) or an outright trap (“Why is XT hitting so hard?”). We literally spent as much time arguing over how to trigger the Mimiron hard mode as we did designing the fight itself, before someone half-jokingly suggested, “what if we just put a big red button on the wall?”

So the toggle is here to stay, but we’re definitely keeping our eyes open for places where it makes sense to apply the Ulduar model.

Q. Will we see a return to multiple raids per tier, meaning more zones, that doesn’t mean more bosses, I mean, 2 raids with 4-5 bosses each will make things better in terms of environment variety, and having more… story per tier.. It will actually be similar to the current MoP launch plan in terms of raids and all.. having 3 raids to start with.. with a total of.. 6 + 6 + 4 =16 bosses, or even similar to the old TBC model of low amount of bosses per zone, but 2 or 3 zones per tier.

That would help with the issue that arises every content patch.. which is.. people being burned out.. they will still burnout, just not as fast. It also brings back the old feeling of having something to do and a place to raid after few months of a content patch, not the same old raid instance that has been run last week, and the week before, and the week before… you get the point!

A. We’re keenly aware of the importance of visual variety when planning and designing our raid content. Having multiple zones definitely helps with that, but there is still room for quite a bit of variation within even a single zone. One of the many cool things about Ulduar is that being in Mimiron’s wing felt like an entirely different zone than clearing to Freya, which in turn stood apart from Ignis’s forge and the entire outdoor section preceding him.

Q. Firelands and Dragon Soul were somewhat of a disappointment. There weren’t many bosses in either tier and the atmosphere of Dragon Soul was boring, even though fitting lore wise, since the environment was basically a Wrath zone. What are your plans for future MoP tiers in regards to environment, number of bosses, and number of zones? Will we ever get another Ulduar or T5 or will we be stuck with Dragon Souls and ToCs after the first tier in MoP (which looks solid just like the first tier in Cata was)?

A. We liked Ulduar and Icecrown Citadel too. Just because the 18 raid bosses in 5.0 are spread across three instances (plus two in the outside world) doesn’t mean that we’re never going to release another raid zone the size of Ulduar — it just reflects the specific stories we were trying to tell about the mogu, the mantid, and the sha in this first patch of the expansion.

In fact, our next raid zone after these may be right up your alley…

Q. It has become apparent to the WoW community since the beginning of Cataclysm that 25-man raiding guilds are starting to become a dying breed. The recent news that top ranked guild, DREAM Paragon, will be switching to 10-man raiding, has caused us to realize that even some of the best guilds on the planet are being faced with this crisis.

I myself have been keeping extremely up to date on MoP, and any posts that Blizzard makes anywhere for that matter. But one topic that I rarely see is the conversation about 25-man raiding.

I think that, at this point, it is extremely hard to deny that 25-mans are beginning to fade away. There are even quite a few servers that don’t have a single guild on it that runs 25′s, anymore! Obviously, yes, you can run LFR, but that just doesn’t do justice compared to the real thing. We saw a decline in 25-man raiding since the start of Cataclysm.

So my questions that I have for you are this: – What are Blizzards views on 25-man raiding? – Can anything be done to save 25-man raiding or make it more appealing? (Does Blizzard have something up their sleeves?) – What has caused 25-man raids to fade away?

A. In short, we’re not satisfied with the current status of 25-player raids. There are clear logistical challenges to sustaining a 25-player raiding group. It’s inherently 2.5 times as much churn, and thus 2.5 times as much recruitment needed. In terms of actual encounter difficulty, while we haven’t always succeeded, we feel that we can deliver on a comparable experience between the two modes: 10-player raiding often involves greater personal responsibility, while 25-player raiding is more complex on a macro level (more moving pieces). Even perfect tuning doesn’t compensate for the logistical difficulties, though.

Our hope and intent when introducing the parallel 10/25 structure in Cataclysm was that people would be free to pick the raid size that they prefer, but I’ll admit that in light of the organizational challenges of maintaining a 25-player roster, we may need a slightly larger incentive to make that choice a truly free and fair one. When you’re the guild leader of a 25-player raid group, and you realize that you only have 21 people regularly showing up, it’s much easier to just forge ahead in 10-player mode than it is to go through a fresh recruitment cycle to bolster your ranks. And if Mechanar taught us anything, it’s that players will always take the path of least resistance when the rewards are equal. (Note that this doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily the most fun path or what players would choose in the absence of any outside forces pulling them one way or another.)

A small step we’ve taken to that end has been to increase the amount of loot dropped in 25-player Normal mode in 5.0 to 6 pieces per boss, matching the Heroic loot rate as it has stood in Cataclysm. That’s something. But it’s not a true solution to the problem. It’s something we continue to discuss on a regular basis.

Q. A while back you guys said that “Runeforging will get some changes to make it less boring.” But we have yet to see or hear anything about this. Is this something still being looked into? Or was it scrapped entirely?

A. As with many things, if we can’t do something right, we end up not doing it (yet). We still aren’t close to satisfied with the Runeforging system as it currently stands, but we also didn’t have an overhaul to that system that we were happy with. It’s a feature we’re still discussing and working on.

Q. Currently in the shaman tree lvl-45 primary talents don’t really feel all that special or important..and can be actually ignored without much difference in playing the class, I know you guys nerfed call of the elements down to 3min totems to reset from 5minutes…Do you plan to make more changes to the shaman talents to make them a bit more interesting?

A. We’re certainly going to continue to iterate on the design of the talent system over the course of Mists. There are 198 talents. The odds that all 198 are perfect are rather slim.

With regard to that shaman tier in particular, the cutoff for Call of the Elements was changed to 3 minutes to prevent it from being mandatory as a throughput increase, or essentially demanding that it be paired with Healing Tide in the 75 tier. Beyond that, a shaman who drops Spirit Link to equalize his group’s health and then picks it up instantly for a 90-sec cooldown refund from Totemic Restoration, or a shaman who stuns his enemies with an expertly-flung Capacitor Totem via Totemic Projection, will probably be experiencing some meaningful gameplay difference as a result of his or her talent choices. That said, that tier is certainly a candidate for further adjustment.

Q. My question is regarding combat-enhancing racials. The existence of them limits the race choice for all the players that want to min-max their character. Wouldn’t it be better if all combat-enchancing racials would be removed and replaced with non-combat racials (like the Goblin bank for example). That way everyone can truly play the race they like.

A. Ultimately, we feel that racials such as goblins’ Rocket Jump, worgens’ Darkflight, or trolls’ Berserking both add interesting gameplay and meaningfully reinforce racial identities, though they are definitely harder for us to balance than Bouncy and Treasure Finding. We’d rather continue to focus on the handful of races that feel they have lacking combat racials, and improve those. The addition of the undead Touch of the Grave passive is one example of this.

Q. What happened to the raid/arena observer feature mentioned during BlizzCon 2011?

Almost every guild has at least two raiders more than their respective raid size (our 25 man guild had up to 40 raiders at one point). So we rotate and substitute from boss to boss. But having to explain the same boss mechanics for several weeks gets really troublesome. Could it be possible upon entering an instance, to mark the raid as observerable for guild members or even the public? These players could then fly around like invisible Eyes of Kilrogg watching the raid fighting bosses as a first-hand experience. Maybe add invisible walls after each boss to prevent dungeon exploring.

A. On the raid front, I think the trick would be making sure that it doesn’t end up becoming the most effective way to raid. One of the great challenges of raid leading is executing the mechanics of the encounter as required of your own specific class and role, while also keeping tabs on the macro-level raid assignments and the ways in which the fight is unfolding. Imagine how much better someone would be at leading a raid if they could do it entirely from a third-person POV. It’d almost be mandatory for competitive players, and while some raid leaders might not mind being relegated to the role of “coach” if it gives them a better vantage from which to scold people for standing in fire, we’d rather avoid encouraging that.

That said, some sort of built-in delay might avoid this issue. In short, there are technical issues to solve, but we agree that it’d be really cool.

 

Greg Street, Lead Systems Designer

Q. The FAQ says that CRZ will not be implemented for capital cities. How come Darnassus, Exodar, and Ironforge are being Cross Realmed?

Any plans to allow people who are on medium+ servers to opt out of CRZ? It’s buggy and is causing a negative play experience for a lot of people.

A. Cities should not be merged. If that’s happening, it’s a bug. It is also possible that you are seeing groups formed of friends who invited Real ID or Battle Tag friends to adventure with them. One of the benefits we get from CRZ is being able to quest with friends from other realms.

Q. I’m curious as to why WoW still doesn’t promote players actually playing together in an open world environment. You are interested in making CRZ bring the zones to life with more people, but yet nothing is done to promote actual player interaction.

Example: you’re doing a quest to kill 10 bears. you need to get the first hit on the bear, the “tag” for it to count towards your quest. Well, that’s all easy enough except when there’s 10 people trying to kill the maybe 15 bears in the area. Why can’t you make it so anyone who hits a mob gets credit towards their quest, and normal experience. Why are we PUNISHED when we quest with other people. and yes it is punishing, we get our experience cut down, we have to loot multiple quest items for gathering quests, which makes it take a lot, lot longer. Why can’t quest design change to promote people playing together instead of punishing them?

A. I think it’s a fair criticism that too often your response to seeing another player (even of the same faction) is negative because it means more competition rather than positive because it means more cooperation.

We’re concerned that just turning off mob tapping would lead to everyone just joining the raid in that zone to share experience. This was common back in the farming furblog days, and we don’t see any reason why players wouldn’t still gravitate towards the most efficient way to level. However, there are some other ideas we can explore to encourage cooperation without mandating it.

Q. What is the benefit to players on a PvE server of CRZ?

I expect any major addition to a game like WoW to have bugs. CRZ might have come with more than the usual quantity of them, but I’m sure that they’ll be fixed. My question concerns what is left when that is done – the long term impact of CRZ. For a player whose primary purpose in being out in the world is not world PvP, what good does CRZ bring? If it doesn’t improve gameplay, why is it in the game?

So far it has resulted only in trouble completing quests, difficulty farming mats for anything, a vast decrease in the likelihood of finding a rare spawn of any type, and an increase in the prevalence of trolls and bots in my daily play. This is true to the extent that I have quit going outside of the capitol and have restricted my play to instances.

Nothing that the players from another realm do on my server (or me on theirs) is different from an NPC that would run around botting nodes and killing rare spawns while occasionally yelling racist or homophobic slurs. None of the resources that they gather wind up going to my server’s economy. Neither they nor I am interested in creating a sense of community, since we aren’t sure whether we’ll ever see one another again and we can’t interact in a meaningful way anyway (trade/guild/AH.) I’m more likely to make friends with the guy I wind up next to at an Interstate rest stop urinal than I am the guy whose name I happen to see zipping by as we fight for whiptail.

I have yet to hear a response to this other than “Quit whining about competition.”

A. CRZ is intended to make emptier zones, especially low level ones, less empty. WoW is an MMO and we think it’s more fun when you see other players while you’re out adventuring (and perhaps even group up with them).

We understand some players have gotten used to the idea of farming nodes or rares without any competition, but we designed all of those features with a certain population in mind. At the end of the day, WoW isn’t a single player game.

CRZ won’t fix the economy for under-populated realms and it wasn’t intended to. It will make it easier to group with friends from other realms, or to help you make new friends (or just someone to quest with).

There are some bugs with the feature that we are working through, and we understand players can’t easily tell what’s a bug from what is intended. I also think CRZ has become a bit of a bogeyman, blamed for some bugs that it has nothing to do with. :)

Q. Why are full/high population servers suffering CRZ when they actually have their own population out and about in zones?

I was zoned out of my realm to another, time changed that’s how I know, and there was more than 15+ people from my server in this “new” zone. Surely we could have stayed on our own realm?

A. We have a target number of players for a zone. If you’re on a high pop realm, then in general you won’t get merged as often with other realms. However, CRZ is more static than say Dungeon Finder. The latter can spin up more instances as needed. With CRZ, we didn’t want realms to be merged and unmerged constantly. If you saw someone in Silverpine, we wanted the possibility that you would also run into them in Hillsbrad. Now that the system is live, we’ll gain a lot of data to help calibrate actual zone populations better. If our estimates were off and a zone is too full, then we’ll merge it with fewer realms or not merge it at all. But that will take some time to adjust — it doesn’t adjust on the fly.

Q. This is actually a bit insulting TBQH. You have flat out said that servers that already had a hurting economy will continue to hurt further. It is insulting more so to state that people did not have competition for rares before. There is a difference between competition and sheer impossibility.

Is Blizzard honestly willing to lose the amount of players they will in the name of this terrible idea?

A. I said that CRZ wasn’t intended to fill up the auction houses of realms with low auction activity. That wasn’t the goal of the feature, so blaming it for not achieving that goal isn’t terribly fair.

Q. Another problem with CRZ: You may control Wintergrasp in your realm, but when you fly to it, sometimes the other faction controls it. Made it impossible for me to level up my jewelcrafting, because I needed some plans from it.

A. Wintergrasp and Tol Barad aren’t intended to be merged together. Hopefully that was fixed today.

We understand that seeing rare spawns that end up not being there can be frustrated. We would like to have what you see in the air match reality.

Q. Can we get CRZ turned off during the Fishing Derby and STV Fishing Tournament? Fighting against your own server was bad enough, now you’re fighting against multiple servers, AND people jumping onto your server with the Shark/40 Fish already caught to win it as soon as it starts. CRZ is cool, and I like it, but the Fishing Tourny/Derby was already bad enough to win ONCE.

A. CRZ isn’t intended to affect fishing tournaments. We’ll get that fixed if the patch today didn’t fix it.

Q. I am eagerly awaiting the redesigned Orc and Human models because as said during Gamescom, if these first two are successful then you’ll move onto the other races. My question is thus: do you plan on keeping the animations the same or develop something different?

A. Part of doing new models would have to be doing new animations. The pandaren are just capable of so many more evocative or even charming animations than the older models with their older rigs can do. Obviously, that makes the task bigger, but that’s what we’d like to do.

Q. One of the most interesting aspects of WoW are the scrapped ideas, and seeing the remains in the game (Old Hellfire Peninsula, The Emerald Dream, the Azjol-Nerub zone, Old Mt. Hyjal, and Karazhan Crypts to name a few.) is one my favorite things to see in the game. Could every one of you tell me what are your favorite scrapped ideas, and could you elaborate why those ideas just didn’t lift off the ground?

A. Personally, Azjol (first as a zone, then as a raid) was one of the scrapped ideas I was saddest to let go. I love the idea of deepearth / underdark (Deepholm was cool, but really more of a single huge cavern than a network) and particularly coupled with the alien architecture of the nerubians. I was sad we weren’t able to do more with them in the LK expansion, but I hope we can revisit them someday.

Q. Are you going to finish the Neptulon storyline? He was taken by Ozumat in throne of tides and then, nothing. His fate is unknown

A. We weren’t happy with the way Abyssal Maw was shaping up. It managed to take on a life of its own in players’ minds, but believe me, if it had been an awesome raid, we would have shipped it. One of the hardest parts of this job is killing a feature you’re excited about because it doesn’t meet our quality bar. I suspect you’d see far more complaints if we had shipped a bad raid than not shipping one at all. We took the resources and put them back into Firelands and got a couple of extra bosses out of it.

Q. Dear Ghostcrawler, why do you love mages so much?

A. Because they are so, so pretty.

Honestly, I think it’s a bit of a cop out to assume that we buff the specs we like and nerf the specs we hate. That would be a pretty dumb strategy to keep players happy and I am certain I would have been fired long ago if that’s how we operated.

Q. Hybrid healing: In Cata, we saw this impact on teams mainly with Shadow Priests having infinite more survivability as they act as a second healer, Ret Paladins as well with 60k+ WoGs. In MOP, the healing output for Shadow Priests, Moonkins, Ele Shamans and other hybrids seems way out of control. I have played both the level 85 5.0 patch and level 90 beta arena, and the hybrid healing numbers hold true for both. The biggest factor is that these specs are already capable of the same damage as pure DPS, so having the ability to off-heal someone, or yourself, from 30%-100% in a couple seconds provides utility that pure DPS are not capable of. Most would agree that the healer should heal, the DPS should do damage, when you can do both it starts to get a little ridiculous. Having their heals not affected by PvP Power may be a good start, but in my opinion would need further tuning beyond that. Are you aware of the current state of Hybrid healing and do you have any plans to adjust it?

A. We have been discussing having PvP Power affect either damage or healing, depending on spec. If that’s too punitive, then it could affect healing by 50% of what it does for damage.

We understand there is a lot of concern about hybrid healing in PvP, and we’ll be keeping a close eye on it. Shadow, Ret, Ele etc. are intended to have some off-healing capability, but they shouldn’t be able to replace a healer completely.

Q. If you have the internal tools for simulation and know they are working properly, why not release them so players can use them?

A. A couple of reasons. First, there is a long history of theorycraft in this game. I think if we remove too much of the mystery and experimentation, then the game loses some of its charm. There is less motivation to try out different rotations or gems to increase your DPS if you know with near certainty even before you begin what your max DPS is.

Second, I feel like we’d have to monitor players using it correctly. Within seconds a bunch of “My DPS is lower than you said it is” posts (whether unintentionally or maliciously) would spring up, which we would then have to troubleshoot or verify.

Q. I was unsure about the changes to shadow priests but I have to say I love how the new playstyle. they only thing that worries me is the fact we don’t have any DPS cooldown apart from talented PI ( which overall is less DPS and not worth taking) what is the reason/thinking behind this?

A. We try not to design classes by filling out forms — where is this dude’s gap closer? Where is his DPS cooldown? That’s a great recipe for every class feeling alike.

That said, in addition to PI we also made the Shadow Fiend do pretty serious damage for Shadow.

Q. Could you talk about the process of balancing the PvE DPS? What types of data do you favor, and how if at all does encounter design affect class design?

I like many moonkin am concerned about the DPS numbers coming out of Simulation Craft for Moonkin relative to the other DPS specs. In the 5.0.5 results being generated moonkin DPS averages just above 100k DPS while 80% of the other DPS specs average at least 110k DPS, and the top classes are able to put out over 120k DPS. To be fair the Moonkin design should favor multi target fights over the standard Patchwerk simulation, but multi target fights aren’t so common that it justifies such a large DPS output difference in my opinion..

I realize that the Simulation Craft numbers are not perfect and I understand that you have your own tools that are likely more reliable and more accurate. However Simulation Craft has proven to be fairly accurate in the past. So I’m wondering what is Simulation Craft missing that also influences your design? What are we as players and theorycrafters not considering?

For example, Do you prefer rely on live data that can’t be available until MoP is released, and expect to make more changes (if necessary of course) after a week or two of actual game data?

A. The challenge for us for sims such as Simulation Craft is that we don’t know why it varies from our internal testing unless we poke around in the sims and essentially debug what they’re doing. As the guys who work on the sims will tell you (and I’m sure you know this), the quality of the sims has everything to do with how much blood and sweat the individual contributors put in. Some units of Simulation Craft are pretty accurate and others need a lot of work. You can go back and look at the results for say patch 4.2 or 4.3 and some of the numbers don’t match reality at all. Others do.

The most important numbers for us is what players are actually capable of doing on live. Those numbers are real. Those are the numbers players care about. Obviously we would prefer to have the numbers solid before an expansion or patch goes live, so we do a lot of internal testing, run our own simulations (which we know are correct), and look at the numbers players generate on betas or PTR.

I have a lot of confidence in my team to balance the game now. We have just gotten worlds better from where we were a couple of expansions ago. When we find problems now it’s often because there is a bug causing damage to be higher or lower than anticipated, or players figure out some new rotation or gear combination that we didn’t anticipate.

As you also know, different encounters tend to benefit different specs and play styles. That’s actually what we want, within reason. It adds interest and depth to the game when players can min max to an extent.

TDLR we think Balance DPS is in a pretty good place. If you disagree, please be as specific as possible when posting about it. Just posting a link to Simulation Craft or any sim isn’t very helpful in that regard.

Sims are great for making gear decisions or suggesting where you can alter your rotation. Historically, they have not been great for predicting how specs will stack rank.

(The stack ranks themselves are a little frustrating, just because some players will only look at where they fall on the stack, and not consider whether that position is statistically different from the others. There is a big difference between a delta of 15% DPS and a delta of 1.5% DPS.)

Q. I stopped playing WoW after WotLK and heard very mixed feedback about Cataclysm. Part of the reason I left was because of decreased difficulty (read: easier to get gear) aimed at making endgame content more playable for people new to the game (especially younger generations). While I understand this from a business standpoint, it alienated a lot of core players.

I’m thinking about coming back for Pandaria – can you give me a convincing argument that this new content would satisfy a player like myself?

A. The way I see it, our player base has just diversified greatly. In vanilla and BC, very few players had the expectation of raiding, but fortunately things like questing and making a bunch of alts still felt new and rewarding. These days, we have been able to encourage many more players to participate in dungeons and raids and PvP, which is fantastic, but those players come with very different skill and commitment levels. Making the game very easy would alienate players as would making the game too difficult. The answer we believe is to have different content for different kinds of players.

Someone like you might enjoy the heroic raids, particularly the optional elite modes for bosses in the Terrace of Eternal Spring. You also might try Challenge Modes. Challenge Mode dungeons, when shooting for gold especially, may very well be the hardest content we’ve ever offered.

 

Q. Old school raiders have praised the lessening from 40 man raids down to 25. Then, making the stepping stones to the larger raiding guilds, a BC player was expected to complete the current 10man raids. With the implementation of WoWs one-progression-raid being both 10 and 25man, I understand a player is able to practice on the small scale and then into a 25man raid. But this does expand the content of the game, and (much to the dismay of this 7-year subscriber) made the game about loot/gear.

In retrospect the 10/25 man Naxx of WotLK, without a separate stepping stone, was beginning of the end. Once through Naxx 10, there the only reason to do Naxx 25 was for the better gear – not new content, not to see the beautiful and complex raid environment that you built, not even to laugh at the doo_dad_door.

The tipping scale, my blue-posting friend, was LFG. While it increased productivity in guild, raised the amount of instance participation, and streamlined the game – you killed character accountability. Before LFG, a player didn’t have to be nice – but there were repercussions for being a bad human being. No one wanted to play with you! LFG has allowed people to show their true selfish nature, without consequence.

LFR was the final straw. Just take the previous two situations, and combine them – now a player gets to see content with zero preparation, and not care about anyone but his/herself. (this might as well be the TL:DR)

My question to you sir, is this the end of the slippery sliding slope? Have we hit bottom?

Thank you for making this beautiful, challenging, entertaining, enchanting game. Thank you for keeping the classes interesting (ex: changing hunters to focus from mana). Thank you for the return of bubble/hearth. Thank you for account wide titles, it’s nice to have my Hand of A’dal title back. Thank you for making enthralling characters, I cannot wait to see what lore unfolds.

A. I don’t think Raid Finder is a good substitute for having a group of friends to play with. I think it’s a good substitute for when your friends aren’t online or you don’t currently have a solid group or so on.

Raids with friends >> Raid Finder >> no raiding at all.

Q. It’s undeniable that 25-man raiding is dying. How/will Blizzard save it?

A. We want to make sure the loot you get is commensurate with the logistical effort involved. That doesn’t meant the loot has to be higher item level, but it could mean you earn loot faster.

We’re not trying to kill 25 raiding. I totally agree we haven’t yet done a good job of saving it.

Q. I lead a 10 man raid group and although we had a blast raiding throughout Cata, we found that our group was frequently sub-optimal when we ran 3 melee and 2 ranged. Sometimes during heroic progression we would sit an otherwise upstanding melee player in favour of any ranged DPS of an appropriate gear level. Even if the ranged player had lower DPS the encounter mechanics made a 3 range / 2 melee DPS set up significantly better for heroic mode progression. And I want to stress I’m not talking about min-maxing a group to try and eek out an extra 1% damage to get our first kill. At times during heroic Firelands (pre-nerfs), for instance, we were still finding it almost impossible to down bosses we’ve killed several times before without swapping out group members.

We’re gearing up to hit the ground running with raids in MoP, and we’re wondering if this same problem will come up again. My raiders are excited about the monk class, but feel we won’t be able to take any in a DPS capacity because we have a ret and a rogue as it stands.

Is the Dev team aware of the problems melee classes sometimes face on boss fights (particularly on heroic), and is this something you see as a problem? Or is the 3 ranged 2 melee arrangement just considered ideal for 10 mans and we should build our raid around this assumption?

TLDR: Are 10 man raids designed to run 3 ranged and 2 melee? Or will 3 melee and 2 ranged be viable in MoP?

A. We initially balanced melee and casters to do about the same damage, figuring that melee ability to do damage while moving would offset the caster target switching. Over time, we gave casters so many ways to do damage while moving that they just ended up dominating on any movement fight. (Melee still did great on static encounters.)

We now give an even bigger edge to melee DPS, knowing that on actual encounters the damage done will even out with the casters.

You should be fine mixing melee and casters in MoP. Let us know if you don’t think it is working out.

Q. Towards the end of Cataclysm, a lot of players went “on hiatus” upon concluding H DS, my guild included. We’re now looking at coming back a few people short of a full roster, and with some anxiety over what our guild of the last two years will look like once we reach raid-readiness. What plans do you have to keep the end-game relevant (read: challenging) and rewarding to hardcore players between content releases?

A. Getting content out faster is probably the best thing we can do. It’s okay if guilds that work really hard get a short break. It’s when that break grows long than players start to lose interest.

I know we’ve been saying “more faster, more better” for years, but it can often take years to turn a ship this big. :(

Q. Cataclysm introduced the concept of certain crafted items awarding multiple skill points for the profession, but this was only implemented with Cataclysm recipes. Are there any plans to go back and apply this to older ones?

A. Yeah. Check out what we’ve done with Cooking and Inscription specifically. They have some good catch-up mechanics, and we’d like to weave those into the older recipes if the systems prove popular.

Q. Cataclysm debuted Archeology, which had the potential to be an interesting side-profession (especially with the original “Path of the Titans” idea), but it easily has become one of the worst and most painful experiences I ever have had with this game. Flying from one side of Kalimdor to the other to dig up the same night elf commons you’ve been digging up the last 500 finds to get one Tol’vir mount is not fun. I understand you want the rewards to be difficult to obtain, but every single aspect of Archeology is left to pure blind, dumb luck, and its completely intolerable to see people who invest a little time to get what they want, and have people who have been digging for a near eternity, get nothing. Giving Archeology some sort of direction, eliminating some of the randomness, and actually rewarding the time you invest into it would make it so much better. Are my complaints valid? What are your thoughts on Archeology?

A. I agree that archaeology ended up with too much travel relative to the time you spend doing something fun. We have improved that in MoP with more dig sites per zone, and honestly Pandaria is a little more compact in general so you’ll be traveling less. You should also check out some of the Archaeology gameplay in the Seat of Knowledge in Pandaria. We did some cool stuff there (IMO) and we would like to do more.

Q. How will this “Obtaining more than one Legendary Gem” go when MoP is released? I am just interested in what part of the quest we have to repeat to get another gem.

A. You won’t need to repeat the quest. Think of the quest as earning the right to buy gems, at which point you can buy as many as you need (not necessarily for cheap). The gem itself is unique equipped. You can equip two sha-touched daggers, but only one can have the gem. You can have another gemmed sha-touched dagger in your bags.

Q. Would you ever consider adding a “Want To Buy” system to the auction house? Where someone could create a WTB (or buy order) by depositing gold for an item that could be fulfilled by a seller even while the buyer is offline?

Also, speaking of the AH, the web interface shows us the price for the other auctions for the same item before we post it. Is that something that could be added to the in-game AH?

A. We have discussed buy orders specifically for those big ticket, risky items like end-game gear or expensive mounts. They would be nice for anything expensive but low volume. We don’t think buy orders are needed for things like flasks or normal enchants that are pretty much always available.

We had buy orders on the MoP feature list, but had to punt it in order to get some other features out. This is a very common phenomenon for us. We often start and expansion with double or triple the number of features that we can reasonably do. We get around to doing all of the good ideas eventually.

Q. One of the things I always do right when WoW has just updated is look at all the new achievements. I love seeing achievements with funny names, and there have been some where I sat back and gave you guys an imaginary brofist.

My question is this:

What is the process behind giving names to achievements? Who comes up with them? Is it just whichever programmer is putting it in at the time? Is there someone employed as the achievement namer? How do you come up with the names? Which achievement puns have you laughed/groaned at?

A. We all contribute to coming up with achievement names. It’s fun. Kaplan used to name them all, then I named them all, but now everyone pitches in. Quest designers name quest achievements, encounter designers name encounter achievements and so on. It’s one of the areas of the game where it’s acceptable to be a little goofy.

Q. What is the single most memorable moment you’ve had with others during your time at Blizzard when it comes to WoW? Whether it is during a development process or while in game, what’s that moment that you just will never, ever forget and will always cherish?

A. At some event, I met a man who said he had trouble communicating with his teenage son. Somehow they managed to start playing WoW together, and through that they were able to start talking, at first about the game, and then about life in general. They still had trouble talking face to face, but the barriers were relaxed over chat or voice chat or whatever they were using.

We’re making a game here. We’re not going to save the world. I get that. But it was a really memorable conversation.

Q. I’ve been playing WoW since open beta 04 and I’ve noticed as the expansions have gone on, certain features continually get pushed to the side due to lack of development. World of Warcraft is a cash cow, why not just hire additional developers to create this content that keeps getting pushed off? (Dance Studio, other things you constantly mention that get put off to the side because you wanted other features to come first)

I understand a lot of development time has gone towards “Titan” it just makes me sad to see features being pushed off due to lack of development.

Also, with the release of Guild Wars 2 do you feel it’s going to be an uphill battle with how players are expected to pay the 14.99 monthly fee over their free gameplay?

A. We’re always hiring developers. We can’t hire them fast enough. But we are extremely picky about who we hire. A lot of Blizzard’s success has to do with our culture, and we risk diluting that culture if we hire too many people too quickly, who may not be able to absorb our values or (gasp) may not even believe in them. You can’t solve every problem just by throwing money at it.

If you know of good people, send them our way!

Q. I have never posted on reddit before… So this might be a stupid, off-topic question.

But, Ghostcrawler, are you a brony? I couldn’t help but notice that you have a Rainbow Dash icon next to your name instead of a blizzard icon.

It would be the best thing ever if you were.

A. That pony icon just appeared by magic, but it’s pretty much the best thing ever.

 
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