Interview Overload

Ever read about an hour’s worth of interview transcripts about a game you’re not even technically playing anymore? I have! [emphasis added throughout]

  • “However, mounts are sacred–one of the only things left that’s visual prestige. So we do want to make sure we give them out for the right things, like the Challenge Mode achievements Tom spoke about.”
  • Re: Guild Leveling. Blizzard isn’t sure they will be increasing the level cap; they may just be swapping out abilities (i.e. Have Group, Will Travel is getting axed). Other big news here is that no daily/weekly XP or Reputation caps anymore.
  • “LFR has been huge for us–one of the most successful features in the game, similar to when we implemented the Dungeon Finder. We can watch the numbers exponentially grow–the number of people that are raiding now, compared to before 4.3, is incredibly dramatic–it’s so much more. We can’t tell you the exact percentage, but it’s massively larger. And not only that, they’ve continued to raid, and these are players that have never raided before.”
  • Re: Firelands dailies: “What didn’t work is that it’s staged out to take too long for the number of quests you need to do. I think that to get all the marks you needed to get was excessive amount of time.”
  • Blizzard doesn’t actually seem to know how the Beta will actually pan out, given that over 1 million people will be getting in.
  • You can (i.e. will) farm tokens to buy a consumable item that gives you, personally, an extra shot at getting gear from a boss. It works in LFR, Normal, and Heroic versions of raids. Yes, an extra shot at heroic raid loot. Yes, every heroic raiding guild will require it.
  • Blizzard nixed the whole “monks don’t auto-attack” thing. Called that one.

File under Missing the Point:

Q: In addition to the linear nature of Cataclysm questing zones, many players felt that it was hard to feel completely engaged in a zone due to heirloom/guild xp bonuses. They’d outlevel a zone before completing a lot of the major plot arcs. The revamped 1-60 content is complete, but was there anything to learn from this in designing future zones? Especially now that Pandaria has more zones than we first heard about at BlizzCon.

A: Well, actually, we are very deliberately trying to set it up so you can skip some amount of content on the way to 90. We feel those decisions make the World of Warcraft seem like a world. If you look back to original WoW, we had Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor, for players to quest in at any given time. There was an amount of choice in what you did–sometimes that choice diminished somewhat, but generally speaking, there were different options.

We’d like to capture that as much as possible, so not only is the quest flow itself a bit less linear, but also your zone choices is a bit less linear. That inherently means you won’t get to do all the quests on the way to 90, but it does mean that if you play the game on an alt, you have an option to do something new.

I think the problems you’ve described with heirlooms or guild xp bonuses and everything stacking becomes worse when it’s linear, because when you end that linear experience before you’re supposed to, it’s a lot more noticeable.

Actually… is Tom Chilton missing the point at all? Reading the response over again, it seems to me he wants WoW questing to get away from zones even having “major plot arcs” for heirlooms and leveling bonuses to trivialize. After all, isn’t the complaint that a person out-levels, say, Duskwood before finishing all the quests in the area? That is only a “problem” if one views the zone as something to be completed. If the zone is instead looked upon as a playground with different equipment – Raven Hill as a Merry-Go-Round, Darkshire as the swing-set, the southern portion as a series of muddy sandboxes – then “out-leveling” it does not make a whole lot of sense.

On the other hand, Chilton cannot have it both ways, right? Players are funneled into Duskwood from Westfall, and thus they encounter Raven Hill first; Darkshire’s issues are as much a part of Raven Hill as the other parts of the zone. Less linear is fine in theory, but there is a meta-narrative that has to glue these quests together in some way. And what about the people who come to enjoy a given zone’s zeitgeist? I love the idea of being able to skip entire zones (Wetlands and Arathi Basin are terrible for Alliance), but the issue at hand is not being able to stick with the zones you actually like. Non-linearity does not fix the issue of quests going gray.

Re: ZA/ZG

With Zul’Aman and Zul’Gurub, they got a worse reputation than they deserved. A big mistake was going from a tier of content that had 9 instances to run, down to a tier of content where you only have 2 instances to run and no raids. If you run people through the grinder of the same two instances over and over, it ends up feeling much worse. If you take any instance and say ‘these are the only two instances you get to run for many months,’ then that ends up feeling pretty bad.

Re: Community

Q: Last question–about community in WoW. There’s been a lot of changes with people coming back and playing together, and using tools like Real ID and Looking for Raid across servers. How do you balance player-created communities across servers with pre-existing raiding guilds, that are facing challenges now like downsizing from 25s to 10s or dealing with real life and scheduling conflicts among older members?

A: I think that is an important balance to try to achieve. Over time, we’ve gone in the direction of making the game accessible to a lot of different people, such as queueing up for dungeons and raids with friends–which have impacted these guild ties and such. So I think that for us, one thing we’re hoping to do is get guild community back with challenge modes, without excluding your average player from content. Certainly with challenge modes, we don’t plan for you to queue up. We feel that if you queued for a challenge mode in Dungeon Finder, that would cause a lot of problems. That guy being yelled at by his wife for 15 seconds will make everyone else pull their hair out and panic that they’re going to miss a medal. It’s an interesting opportunity for us to really emphasize both playing with your guild and friends without it feeling like the average player is missing out on seeing an instance.

Re: Raiding

Q: So you are in discussions about possibly changing how the raid lockouts work?

A: Sure. I think we’re gonna look at how the 10/25 person lockout worked as a shared cooldown. Was that the right decision, or do we want to do something different? I don’t really know what the right answer is yet. We haven’t decided.

And then we get to the Ghostcrawler interview…

Q: So I was playing the Monk a little bit, and I noticed a couple things that were different from Blizzcon. There’s no more dark Chi.

A: <some debate about how to actually pronounce “Chi”>

Q: So there’s no more dark Chi…

A: Dark balls.

Q: There’s no more dark balls, yeah. What prompted that sort of change?

A: [snip]

I am not sure if I mentioned it before, but I genuinely enjoy having Ghostcrawler around. He may be the face of the B Team, he may be a straight-up design troll in some respects, but hey… at least he has a face, yeah? In a world of Bobby Koticks and David Reids and faceless community managers, I am all for more Greg Streets and Curt Schillings, even if they get things wrong.

Q: […] Glyphs was one system I was looking at and trying to wrap my head around the changes. I think you guys had said something about this somewhere, but prime glyphs are basically gone now.

A: Yeah. We apologize for prime glyphs. They were a bad idea. At the time, we were worried that, say, a Paladin who didn’t have a glyph for Crusader Strike would be like, “What the hell? This is my most important ability! I need to glyph Crusader Strike! I don’t want to glyph… I don’t know, Turn Evil or something like that, because I want a glyph for Crusader Strike.” So we did that, and it ended up just complicating everything because now we have to imagine that, “Oh yeah, everyone has stupid prime glyphs that give them 5% damage or crit or something like that.”

See? After talking about a new glyph for Prot paladins that lets you aim Consecration (ala Death & Decay, but shut up), the followup is:

Q: <grinning> See the grin on my face?

A: <laughs> The Glyph of Divine Plea, which Divine Plea is Holy only now, changes it from a “for the next X seconds you’re a bad healer” to a cast time, and then at the end of that cast time you get all the mana right away. So you have to pay the cast time, and while you’re casting you’re not doing anything, but at the end of the cast time you get all the mana and there’s no self Mortal Strike that a lot of Paladins hate.

Want some more? Here was a show-stopper of an admission, from the answer to the problems with Legendaries:

I think part of that is because almost every raiding Rogue had an expectation of getting a legendary. That’s something I’ve talked about a little bit recently. So, one dark secret that players have probably all figured out by now is that Blizzard designers tend to careen from one extreme to the other, and so, when we decide something doesn’t work out, we go to the complete opposite, illogical extreme, and then we reel it back in a little bit. So, we were kind of reacting against the Warglaives model where, “You have a tiny percent chance of getting a legendary! Congrats!” to trying to make it a little more predictable, and the way we did that was with the style where you need so many parts, and the parts have a fairly predictable droprate, and eventually you’ll have your legendary, which then led to the opposite problem of they’re super predictable, people could point to a calendar day and say, “April 20th! That’s when I get my legendary!”

What sort of designer admits that? Bad ones? Good ones? Final quote:

Q: Interesting. So you did a blog post a while ago about the “Great Item Squish (Or Not) of Mists of Pandaria.” I noticed that the combat text was popping up and saying things like “14K” instead of 14,000 or whatever. Is that the route you decided to go with, like the “mega damage” approach?

A: Yeah, we went with the “not.” Mega Damage, here to stay. So we had this all in and working. We squished everything, and it was working. We had the whole thing implemented, and we sat down and tried it out, and, you know, Mortal Strike hit for 200, and Fireball hit for 150, and we were like, “This feels wrong.” We knew exactly how it would feel like, and we knew that our damage as a percentage didn’t go down, but it felt terrible. And we were like, “Okay, this is now super risky”, because we’re going to change talent trees on players, and even though we think it’s a great design, and we think players will love it, it’s a hard sell. And to do that, and have them hit really wimpy, I think even if players understood why we did it, deep down they wouldn’t like it.

So we decided to back off of that. We’re trying the solution with commas, and K’s, and M’s, and to be honest, it helps a lot, and our hope is, by 6.0 or 7.0, players are demanding the item squish, and by then it’s not controversial at all. It’s like a celebration when we finally do it.

Okay, so that is a lot to digest.

Instead, I think I’m going to play some more Mass Effect 3 multiplayer.

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Posted on March 20, 2012, in WoW and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. MS for 200? At 85? It hit harder than that back at 60. That must have been some squish. The answer there seems to say that the problem was the numbers themselves, when in my estimation the bigger problem is the slope. Even if you ended up at current cataclysm numbers, smoothing that slope out might have been worthwhile. The long term fix is to increase the level cap more with expansions, say by 20 levels instead of 5, so that you don’t have to make starter greens better than last tier epics. But then, they don’t seem to like leveling that much anymore so I don’t see them doing this.

    I completely agree with Street on prime glyphs. They were just a ‘get this or suck’ tax. Now can we get rid of profession bonuses?

  2. I don’t understand how mounts are still considered sacred ground when they are throwing them out left, right and everywhere at players, starting from reputationgrind to profession to SoR to bringing a friend to real money transfer.
    I know that there are still mounts only available for gladiators and certain raid achievements, but non-standard mounts are clearly nothing special anymore.

    • True, and even the super special mounts aren’t really that great anymore, because everyone has a unique mount now and unless you are keeping track of them you probably have no idea what this frost wyrm or that fire bird thing even signifies. I know when I see an interesting mount I go “oh, that’s neat” and then think nothing more of it. They’re like titles these days–no idea what they mean or why they’re impressive.

    • There was the double-irony that not only are mounts not particularly sacred (for the reasons you state), but it was also an implicit admission that gear isn’t about visual prestige anymore (probably not for a long time).

  3. I’m a bit confused by the dev comments on numbers. Sure the masses want ‘epic crits’ perhaps, but the real problem with the numbers isn’t the skyhigh levels they attain but the fact that they don’t match at all after level 10 with the content you are passing through.

    I agree with Matt about the scaling being off but it’s not about drawing a smoother curve or more regular progression. For me it’s about designing character power while leveling to stay in step with content or vice versa. The fact that you practically have to afk to get killed in open world content after level 10 (certainly before Outlands if not before Cataclysm) is a big, big issue (again IMHO).

  4. I don’t understand your first complaint. Unless they change the XP mechanics significantly, doing full zones would either result in too much of XP, too little of it or too much for some people, too little for others.

    Since running out of quests was something people complained about back in vanilla testing (AFAIK), they make sure players can skip some content. That hasn’t changed. The difference is, with Cataclysm one could skip either full zones (in cased you outleveled something that much) or the ending; in MoP we will be able to skip a quest line or two in the next zone and still get a conclusion for the other quest lines.

    • The complaint is about poor pacing when it comes to zone meta-narratives, i.e. the story that brings all the disparate questing together. You are correct in that the balance between too much XP and too little XP for the broad spectrum of players was/is difficult to handle. However, that’s why these guys get paid the big bucks.

      Chilton’s solution seems to be simply eliminating zone meta-narratives, or otherwise shortening them. While that “solves” the problem, it does so in a decidedly split-the-baby way.

      I actually prefer big zone meta-narratives, although not the extreme sort of linearity of Hyjal. The sort of opposite was Grizzly Hills which, while the zone was gorgeous and had excellent music, contained the most random-ass collection of nonsense quests I have ever seen packed in one zone.

      • It was a weird question IMO since they talked about outleveling the 1-60 zones too quickly but then asked how that affected future zone design. Was outleveling a problem in Cata zones? I hadn’t thought so. So I think his answer got a little odd because of that.

        So I think he took the question and talked about what he wanted to talk about, which was why they designed the Pandaria zones the way they did (pretty much ignoring the 1-60 stuff in the question). And the answer I read I liked. Combined with what he said in other interviews, I took it as, “Yes Hyjal was way too linear so we are making zones less linear than that while still having a story arc. Also, we know you want more zones to do at max level so we are making a bunch of zones which means you don’t have to do them all on the way to 90 and if you want to do them later or on an alt that’s fine.” Sure that means you might not see all the story on your way to 90, similar to BC or Wrath, but I think that’s a better model anyway.

        Your point about Grizzly Hills is a good one, so much wasted potential in that zone, and it’s possible I’m being overly optimistic in my view of what he said, but my view of it is that “less linear” doesn’t necessarily mean “no big zone meta-narrative”.