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Q&A with Blizzard developers

Posted by Michael "Zechs_" Radford 1 year, 44 weeks ago
Blizzard's development team recently gave a lengthy Q&A about World of Warcraft. Strap yourself in and grab a snack, because this is a long one.
bloodelf_240.jpgQ: You've mentioned that Challenge modes might include additional pulls and even additional mechanics not seen in the heroic versions. Anything more you can share about this? Will it apply right from the first (bronze) challenge mode?
A: Challenge modes will certainly include additional pulls and mechanics, but it will not be level/rank based. Your first attempt will likely take some time and you should expect to finish bronze. From there, you’ll be able to utilize the pulls/mechanics available to try and speed up your runs and get the higher ranks.

Q: Do you plan to implement more new functions in the BG UI, like tag as team button, categorize BGs by type (CTF, Payload, Murder Ball, etc.) to make BGs even easier to get into for MoP?
A: No current plans to adjust any of the Battleground UI features.

Q: Challenge modes: Having normalized gear is an awesome idea as this mode can really remain a challenge no matter how high the ilvl of the pve gear is at any given moment. Are challenge modes going to be nerfed over-time, or do you want to keep it as a permanent challenge?
A: We don't plan to nerf them. There might be situations where the dungeon itself gets a nerf across the board, which could have an impact on the challenge mode version, but in general challenges shouldn't have a lower barrier to entry as time goes on. They're not built under the same design philosophy as raids.

Q: What are you doing in order to try and ensure that players no longer play for a short while at the start of a season and then sit on their ratings to get gladiator? This causes issues because there are quite often very few players playing at higher ratings because of this and it creates a repetitive experience of fighting the same teams constantly.
A: It's really difficult to measure this type of thing right now, but we don't ordinarily see large numbers of players making a habit out of achieving a rating and sitting there successfully without playing.

Q: Ever since the transmogrification feature has been added to the game, players seem to be more concerned with their character’s appearance. Since so many tabards give such good buffs, players feel “obligated” to use them, even if it ruins their character’s look. Having said that, do you have any plans for adding an interface option to “Hide Tabard”?
A: The reason we haven't allowed tabards to be hidden is because the very idea of a tabard is to allow the wearer to proudly display the faction or guild they're representing. With that being said, we know that tying bonuses to tabards creates the feeling of a mandate to wear some of them. We're fixing this in Mists by removing the whole concept of tabards providing reputation bonuses. Reputation and factions work a bit differently than those in past expansions. Beyond tabards which provide reputation bonuses, there aren't really any other tabards players should feel obligated to wear for an extended period.

Q: Does the current account-wide achievement/mounts/pets tech allow you to also have account-wide attunements if desired in the future? (Although we don’t have attunement questlines anymore).
A: We don't have any plans to bring attunements back, nor is there any intention to somehow share quests across characters. There are points where we have to draw the line and say "this is something you have to earn at the character level." We don't want to pull too much meaning from the act of rolling alts.

Q: Looking back, are you happy with the moment at which the debuff was introduced in Dragon Soul? (Some players feel it happened too early.)
A: Yes, we're happy with the point at which the debuff was introduced. The timing of each nerf was completely data-driven. As we see participation and progress start to flatline across the board due to raid groups hitting "brick walls" on particular bosses, we introduce a nerf to encourage them to come back and keep trying. Each time we do this we see Dragon Soul participation increase exponentially compared to previous weeks.

The most advanced raiders who can work through a single progression block for weeks a time, or who aren't stopped by such blocks for very long, will probably never see eye to eye with us on these nerfs. They perceive it as nerfs to content that's already doable. But as we've said in the past, it's not reasonable to ask the majority of casual riders who'd like to progress through normal (and maybe some Heroic) to wipe on the same boss for weeks or months at a time without giving up. It's better for the overall community for us to make goals feel more attainable over time before they become discouraged and stop playing, particularly during long content lulls like the one between Dragon Soul and Mists of Pandaria.

Q: Players on low population realms are very concerned that the cross realm zones won’t alleviate their troubles. They point out that the cities will still feel empty and the economy will not be improved, and they do not see that guild recruitment will become any easier. Do you have any plans to address these concerns?
A: We recognize that the cross-realm zone feature won't solve all population and balance issues. With that said, we're anxious to see what effects it does have, and we'll be monitoring realm population and faction balance very carefully.

Q: What's the reasoning behind removing the Auction House from Pandaria?
A: Firstly, we want to ensure our servers are stable. The Pandaria hub will be a very crowded area. Ultimately, we think the model for TBC and WotLK worked okay, so we don't foresee any major issues with requiring players to return to capital cities to use the AH. This also helps keep the capitals from being ghost towns.

Q: With regard to Void Storage, do you have any plans to alter the price, the amount of storage provided, or which items are restricted?
A: We have no plans to alter Void Storage with the launch of the expansion.

Q: With cross-realm questing coming in MoP, will elite quests be re-introduced?
A: No, we don't have plans to bring back elite or group quests in Pandaria zones. Scenarios are designed to somewhat replace the need for those quests, while also providing a matchmaking, cross-realm option to solve the problem of players not being able to find groups for elite quests if they miss the initial game release leveling rush.

Q: Many raiders ask for more recognition (feats of strength, achievements, cosmetic rewards, pets, mounts, titles, etc.) for completing dungeons before debuffs are enabled. Have you given this anymore consideration for Mists?
A: Yes, this is what the new "Cutting Edge" feat of strength is intended to accomplish. This feat of strength will only be obtainable when players complete the content before any debuffs are introduced to nerf the content, or before the next raid tier becomes available. We'll see how it goes, but the idea is to stick with this type of reward structure for future raid tiers.

Q: Can you elaborate on how the raid progression (gear-wise) will look in Mists of Pandaria? Some players wonder if having LFR right from the start means we might see a progression system that requires players to start on Tier 14 and progress from there, or if there’ll be new heroics and gear that will allow players to bypass older raid tiers, as in Cataclysm and Wrath of the Lich King.
A: Each new LFR tier will have an increased minimum ilevel requirement, so there will be sort of a natural progression path there further in the lifespan of the expansion. Players will conceivably run Heroic dungeons to gear up enough to hit the minimum ilevel for the first tier of LFR, then collect enough gear to be eligible for the second tier of LFR, and so on. That said, it won't be mandatory for every player to progress this way, particularly if they run normal or Heroic raids. We're not yet ready to talk about the potential for additional Heroic 5-player dungeons with higher ilevel requirements coming in future Mists patches.

Q: Some players are concerned that, eventually, we might end up nerfing Challenge mode dungeons. Do you see this as a possibility in the future?
A: We can’t guarantee we’ll never touch these dungeons, but the idea is for them to remain hard and not really get easier over time. There is a chance however -- which we’ve stated in the past -- that we might nerf the dungeon itself across the board, meaning it might affect the Challenge version. We just can’t promise we’ll never touch the tuning of Challenge modes once they’re live, but they don’t share the same design philosophy as raids (where we sometimes add a debuff to increase participation and progression). We think most players stand a chance at completing Challenges with a bronze medal, but we don’t intend to “lower the bar” for silver/gold over time.

Q: Players are concerned that PvE trinkets are once again going to cause a hassle in PvP. Do we have any plans to ensure that PvE gear will not cause imbalance in PvP?
A: Players will be sacrificing a lot in Mists if they take PvE trinkets for PvP. PvP power is just a really good stat and, when placed on PvP trinkets, is intended to balance against the quality of their PvE counterparts.

Q: Since we started adding additional stats to trinkets many are happy with this and hope that it will make the PvP trinkets more appealing than their PvE counterparts. However with this change and the Elite gear being 7 Ilvl’s lower than Heroic gear, there is a fear that Heroic gear will dominate. Why does Heroic gear have a higher Ilvl than the Elite gear? Players feel that the Ilvl for these should be similar or at least not have such a large difference in stats.
A: The difference in item level exists because PvP Power doesn't count toward the stat budget of a PvP item. So the PvP stat will more than make up that difference when compared to "equivalent" PvE items.

Q: Some people still find it frustrating that they are not able to practice Arena matches with new compositions or strategies without putting their rating on the line or creating a new team with their new team composition -- also, Wargames do not offer you a wide range of team compositions to fight against. Are you tired of us asking about this?
A: It's highly unlikely we'll ever add Skirmishes back. We know some people loved them. The operative word is some. They were used by a near negligible percentage of the playerbase, and offering development and design support for that system isn't trivial either.

Q: Players with heirlooms in low level BGs can, quite frankly, trounce anyone in questing gear, and this is highly frustrating for new players and those who don’t have heirlooms. Seeing that ‘twinks’ were moved to their own BG queues for also having a massively unfair advantage over regularly geared players, are you considering doing something about this situation too?
A: Heirloom gear is basically the equivalent of rare-quality items at any given level. It doesn't feel right to nerf them somehow in PvP when people can run low-level dungeons for similar gear. Players competing with heirloom gear in Battlegrounds will still continue to gain experience if they don't branch off into the "twink" queue.

Q: From a lore aspect, how do you feel the three dragon soul dungeons turned out? Some players were surprised to see Benedictus’ story play out the way it did as no one really anticipated seeing that twist.
A: We originally wanted more story hooks to really highlight Benedictus's betrayal. Unfortunately, we didn't end up having the time to build his character out as much as we had hoped.

Q: Did the Horde have a protagonist role in Cataclysm? A small amount of players felt as though they weren’t really in the limelight even though Thrall played an important role in the story. However, all that didn’t quite appear to be in the name of the Horde.
A: The Horde had a lot of story, character, and even territory advances in Cataclysm. In fact, we typically hear from our players that Cataclysm felt too Horde-centric, even if Thrall wasn't technically working on their behalf.

Q: Are there any plans to continue the Koltira/Thassarian storyline in the future?
A: We were really happy to establish some hooks there with those characters and would love to revisit them at some point down the road.

Q: In BC, 5-man dungeons were replete with missions that appeared to be heavily lore-centric; this was not felt too much with Cataclysm. Is there anything in the pipeline to add more lore-based and engaging content in regular dungeons for current or future content?
A: We don't feel like dungeon quests really served the purpose they were meant to. They didn't really help advance the story and sometimes just added an unnecessary feeling of gating. These days we try to do a better job of telling the story of various dungeons by nicely tying the lore to the zones in which the dungeons reside. A great example of this in Mists of Pandaria is the quests in Valley of the Four Winds really paving the way for what's happening in Stormstout Brewery.

Q: Are there plans to implement a new set of Children’s Day “pets” for Children’s Day? This update occurred in Wrath with the Wolvar and Oracles but did not occur in Cataclysm.
A: We don't have immediate plans for this, but since we've created pandaren children it seems that it'd make sense to eventually add them into Children's Week.

Q: Can you explain our stance on the difficulty of the leveling experience? Many players, having been around for some time, feel that low-level content is too easy beyond level 20 and should increase in difficulty over time (they cite lack of elite packs, no more group quests, gear optimization, etc).
A: We agree that the low-level experience is a little too easy at times. We wanted to make sure we weren't scaring new players off, but we don't want to bore people either. There needs to be some fear of death. We've been going through and working to increase spawn points and try to make the world feel more dangerous in certain places (particularly 1-20). We don't want to make it frustrating, but people should notice in the 85-90 zones that much more attention needs to be paid to how their characters are positioned, what other creatures are around them, how many creatures they can take on at once, how creature pathing could put them in harm's way, etc.

Q: Would you consider having LFR ever share lockout with normal or Heroic modes?
A: It's something we might consider, but we don't have any immediate plans for this. There are too many logistical issues to sort out to make this function in a logical way, and it's just not worth tinkering with right now.

Q: Some players had great experiences with things such as the Chess Event in Karazhan and the Ulduar Siege encounter in Wrath patch 3.1. Are there any plans to add additional interactive encounters such as these in future raids?
A: Whenever it makes sense we'll certainly try to do more unique events like these. They're a lot of work, but they're definitely a lot of fun too. The chess event, for example, was an idea one developer worked through on his own time and had a decent mock-up ready to present to the dungeon encounter team. He saw it through and it was awesome, so we added it to the game.

Q: Would you consider adding a white color skin for worgen (maybe an albino version)? Some players would really like to have white fur and the best they can have at the moment seems to be light grey.
A: Sure, we'd consider it! We have no plans right now to implement additional worgen color options.

Q: Regarding LFR, is it your intention to make LFR completely uninteresting for hardcore raiders so that they don’t ever want to go there with their main characters? Some people dislike the idea of having to go through LFR to get some upgrades and claim that even if the chance of getting and upgrading gear is smaller than before, most guilds will always go there if there is any chance at all of getting the slightest competitive advantage from it.
A: While we would prefer that LFR not be part of the progression path for people who are doing the content on normal/Heroic with organized guilds, we understand that competitive raiders will take every possible advantage, and that when everyone is starting in dungeon blues, they will take any possible upgrade they can get. We’ve made adjustments to the loot system that curb some of the more onerous practices (i.e. doing a dozen guild runs to optimize LFR loot allocation). We’ll structure the power level of future tiers’ LFR loot so that it doesn’t replace Heroic gear from the prior raid, and we’re continuing to discuss other solutions internally to limit the pressure for competitive raiders to run LFR. That said, there are some positive community effects when groups of guildmates hop into the LFR queue, and are able to lead and share knowledge about the encounters with the core LFR audience.

Q: Would you consider reintroducing rewards for 2v2 (high rating gear and gladiator title)? Those people in the community who only cared about Arena in 2v2 feel that PvP got a bit less interesting after that change.
A: You can still get the majority of the PvP rewards from doing 2v2, so that concern feels a little embellished. But we do still feel that the extra coordination and strategy necessary for 3v3, and especially 5v5, make it worth giving those teams access to the titles, mounts, weapons, and the new prestige sets -- new sets in Mists that look cooler, but don't have better stats than their Conquest counterparts.

If players prefer 2v2, that's awesome. We feel their success is appropriately rewarded when compared to 3v3 and 5v5.

Q: When will we update the Zergling Leash model to get it more in-line with the HotS models?
A: We have no plans at this time. It’s not a simple model port from game to game.

Q: Quite a few players miss class quests. A thing that is often pointed out is that class quests were very rewarding when it came to class lore. Players would like to see class quests return in some form. What are our thoughts on this?
A: We love class quests and even have some cool monk quests in Mists. The problem is they just take a lot of time on the part of our quest designers and we have 11 classes now. But we do plan to have some really awesome legendary quests as the expansion progresses.

Q: Players would like to see more different faction specific quests, especially ones related to faction lore and goals. People mention that they would like to see a greater emphasis on the position and meaning of belonging to a faction, and they think more faction quests could help with this. Is this something we would consider?
A: Many of the Pandaria zones have faction-specific storylines. There are also some great faction-specific dailies and Scenarios that build a lot of Horde/Alliance conflict planned for patch 5.1. The need to generate some very compelling faction-specific quests in Mists is, in part, why we’ve had less time to focus on class quests. We’re trying to do what we feel will be most valuable to most players.

Q: Do you plan to improve the guild finder tool/interface in order to make it easier for people to connect to guilds and vice versa. It could be nice with improved guild listings and better advertisement opportunities for guilds so it will be easier to sort and match the needs and requirements of both guilds and people seeking a guild.
A: We don’t know how much people are actually using it. We’re working to get better metrics on that. If we see a reasonable value in dedicating resources to improve it, we’ll go for it.

Q: People would like to see more ways to teach other players how to become better at PvP, especially in the battlegrounds. Many people feel that game really needs more tutorial systems and tooltips that could help newcomers or "weak/unskilled" become better players. What are your thoughts on this, and is it something you would consider for the game?
A: We want to make an effort to make BGs easier to learn. At some point we want to do Dungeon Journal-type entries that explain the lore and basic strategies of each map. Eventually we’d like to elaborate on that by having fly-through videos that demo what each BG is all about. We might do more queue separation as well based on gear quality, if we can avoid inflating wait times.
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