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WoWJun 13, 2015 3:55 pm CT

WoW developer Q&A liveblog

Grommash Hellscream

The live Q&A with developer Ion Hazzikostas will begin in just a few short minutes, at 2 p.m. Pacific. You can watch it live on Twitch, but if you’re unable, we will be liveblogging the event right here. Even if you can watch live, feel free to discuss the event live in the comments below! Our updates will be in Central time.

This will be our first liveblog here on Blizzard Watch, but we hope this will go smoothly! You will need to refresh the page to see updates and updates will be in descending order — oldest at the top, newest at the bottom. Please note that we will be paraphrasing as necessary. These answers are not to be taken as verbatim quotations.

Q: About the implementation of the flying meta achievement. Are there development reasons for a delay in implementation? The meta will be in patch 6.2, but it won’t be truly enabled until a 6.2.x patch.
A: Draenor is largely flyable, but there are some bugs that need to be fixed before flying is truly enabled. Patch 6.2 would need a delay to fix all of those bugs to make flying smooth. They didn’t want to delay the patch.

Q: Now that flying is coming back, how long will the three rep grinds take? Can they all be done at once?
A: If you’re doing your dailies on a regular basis, it will take about three weeks. If you don’t do them every day, it will take longer.

Q: Could this flying meta be used as a model in future expansions?
A: Yes. They’re going to see how this goes and learn lessons for it, but it fits what they want. You spend time grounded to see the content, then unlock the ability to fly once you’ve seen what there is to see.

Q: Why add flying at the last moment?
A: There were players who enjoyed not flying and there were players who thought not giving flying back was a lie — stringing players along. It was a hard decision for the team, but ultimately decided it wasn’t fair to keep flight’s status murky and unclear. Feedback in the aftermath of the no-flying announcement resulted in them reconsidering. Realized they were taking away something valuable to many players and explored a compromise. Community Manager Lore adds that communication on the fact was murky, too, and they could have been clearer about the process. Hazzikostas agrees, says there was no malice, and even among the development team they were still discussing it and uncertain.

Q: Why the current reputation mob grinds? Not very interesting.
A: Hazzikostas says he won’t defend them, won’t argue they’re fun. The reputations were added late, didn’t initially feel they fit into the model of Warlords of Draenor content, but thought they’d be useful hooks for including cosmetic rewards. Agrees they set back reputation a few years; we’ve moved past mob grinds. Tanaan Jungle reputations won’t work that way. Tanaan Jungle has more variety: some daily quests, some hunting rare mobs, not straight up AOEing down orcs.

Q: Apexis dailies take forever and get skipped. Will traditional dailies come back?
A: Yes. Hazzikostas admits Blizzard overreacts sometimes — they heard Mists of Pandaria had too many dailies, then tried to do no traditional dailies. Apexis dailies have promise, but they didn’t execute correctly. They felt daily quest structure was too narrow, whereas the Apexis dailies were essentially the old style dailies in a sandbox — they built the areas the same ways. Whereas you might have previously had a daily quest to kill a mob and destroy cannons, the apexis dailies had the mob and the cannons in that area and you could choose. However, Apexis dailies lacked direction and story — and a proper reward structure. “Oh wow, I don’t even want any of this stuff.” Rough quote, but that’s the essence of it. Tanaan Jungle has more direction, Apexis Crystals have more purpose.

Q: Questing in Warlords was a blast, but endgame lacks world content: gathering, questing, story, so forth.
A: Hazzikostas goes back to previous answer — some overreaction in design. “One of the potential missteps” was making sure garrions provided sufficient rewards for everyone. Every system tied into the garrison, and many of those systems were previously supported by the open world, such as gathering and crafting. Much of this content is still in the world, but garrisons made those things easier and more accessible to get without leaving the garrison. They see this is a failing they need to fix.

Q: Draenor seems focused on the one-character playstyle, damaging alts and burning people out with things like garrison upkeep. Intended?
A: Burnout definitely not intended. Hazzikostas says he’d prefer alts to be self-contained, but concerned about the perception that alts should support mains. For example, having at on of alts to make gold from the garrison. Potential nerf to the amount of gold you get from garrisons at the account level. Not saying people should get excited about nerfs, but they think the diminishing returns will relieve some of the pressure of garrisons — shouldn’t feel the need to have a half-dozens garrisons for linear gold increases.

Q: Have you learned about what doesn’t work with the garrison and why players don’t leave?
A: Ultimately has to do with rewards. Garrison is the path of least resistance for the things players want. While they do like that you can log on for 5-10 minutes and accomplish something (missions, work orders, buildings), it isn’t good if you log in with hours available and don’t know what to do. They’re actively trying to shift rewards back out into the game world: gearing, professions, and so forth in Tanaan Jungle. Gatherers need to get Felblight from Tanaan Jungle, can’t get it in the garrison. Raid missions skewed risk/reward as well — raid missions gave you gear a tier above what you were running, you might have 6-7 pieces of heroic gear before your raid ever progresses to heroic. TL;DR: Garrisons over-rewarded players.

Q: There has been extensive criticism of point-click-wait gameplay of the garrison. What sets the shipyard apart?
A: More condensed, less micro-managey. Fewer boats going on missions less frequently for more impactful rewards. There’s criticism of gameplay, but the developers don’t reject that kind of gameplay fully, and some people do enjoy it. Nothing inherently wrong with the gameplay. However, causing players to feel they need to check in every 30-45 minutes is damaging to gameplay.

Q: Will future expansions have something like garrisons? Or is it purely a WoD thing?
A: The garrison as we know it on Draenor is rooted on Draenor. It’s going to stay there, you aren’t carrying it anywhere else. The core gameplay — is there a form of the idea (followers, building an army) that could be preserved? Yes. Will it be exactly the same as Warlords garrisons? Absolutely not.

Q: “Truly massive” decline in raiding guilds. Is shifting the raid paradigm still believed to be a good idea? Mythic change, etc?
A: Hazzikostas doesn’t think he would agree with “truly massive” line. Yes, famous raiding guilds have broken up, but that always happens. Example being Death and Taxes in Sunwell. The glue that keeps guilds together is a small handful of people who run the guild and when they eventually move on, the guild falls apart. Hazzikostas thinks changing the raid paradigm was a good idea. Scaling raids, cross-realm, the new raid sizes worked well. At the high-end, raids can be tuned for a specific guild size rather than 10 and 25, and makes progression at the high end clearer.

Q: Is mythic (precise tuning, unique art, unique mounts) justified when so few people run it?
A: There’s some value to finding and giving rewards to the players who are the best. However, Hazzikostas argues very little development time goes into specifically designing mythic, most of it goes into creating the zone overall. In the grand scheme of things, it’s justified to give high-end players a proving grounds.

Q: Why limit timewalking to certain bonus time periods? Why limit players from doing what they enjoy to certain times?
A: Solves the problem of how Timewalking fits alongside other content. Should it compete with existing content? If they release a new expansion, will people keep running Arcatraz instead of the new stuff? If Timewalking gave worse gear than new content, nobody would run them. As a bonus activity, they can offer better gear during the event without competing with new dungeons.

Q: Dungeons went obsolete quickly in Warlords. Plans to prevent that in the future?
A: Hazzikostas says that’s another regret with Warlords. Dungeons didn’t have any lasting rewards, there was no reason to go back to them after the first few weeks. “To some extent” mythic dungeons are meant to salvage dungeons, giving players a reason to go back to them now. Mythic dungeons are harder, but not aimed for mythic raiders — normal mode raiders, LFR raiders can run them. That’s for patch 6.2. Going forward, they know they need a better solution. One of the reasons valor was eliminated because it felt strange that while dungeons got easier and easier for you to run as expansions went on, valoe earned you better and better rewards. The trick is to find a way to scale the difficulty of dungeons so it always feels like you’re doing something relevant.

Q: So no new dungeons, but rehashed old dungeons with Timewalking and the Adventure Journal? Model going forward?
A: Timewalking isn’t meant to replace adding new dungeons, it’s just a feature they wanted to add. Shouldn’t be seen as getting Timewalking instead of other dungeons. Adventure Journal is a totally different thing, meant to give some direction to new or returning players. Players who haven’t been playing all along won’t necessarily know what new patches have added or what the most recent, useful thing is. The Adventure Journal will give them that direction. For no new dungeons, Hellfire Citadel took priority, only so many art assets that can be made in a specific amount of time. To include dungeons as well, patch 6.2 would be delayed even further. Timewalking didn’t take much extra work to get into this patch.

Q: What role do you see Timewalking filling when you can get better gear through honor and LFR?
A: LFR gear is comparable to Timewalking gear. You can chain Timewalking dungeons, but you can only do LFR once per week. Honor isn’t for everyone. Timewalking can be “altapalooza.” Timewalking is also relevant to raiders because the bonus event quest can give you an extra bonus roll in raids.

Q: Why are you nerfing Demonology Warlocks into the ground?
A: “Because we’d rather you didn’t play Demonology.” Demonology was a very powerful spec to the point players felt they were forced to play it — most warlocks in Highmaul were Demonology. However, it was also very complex, and players who felt they had to play it sometimes became frustrated with the complexity. In the future, Demonology will be revisited and see design changes. Hazzikostas apologizes for people who loved Demo. The fact that players who liked afflication and destruction felt forced to play demo was a problem.

Q: Did ability pruning go too far? Some rotations too simplistic, etc.
A: In some cases, it didn’t go far enough. Some classes still have redundant abilities. That said, some classes had the wrong classes pruned — some feel they lost iconic, class-defining abilities. Not trying to make a Dance Dance Revolution perfect rhythm game, trying to make gameplay that has more going on. If the rotations are themselves difficult to pull off, the average player is going to have a much harder time dealing with other aspects of combat — changing targets, movement, situational awareness, which are parts of gameplay just as important as spell rotations. Going forward, they’re going to try to improve the fantasy of playing things such as fire mages, rogues, and so forth. Sometimes that’s a spell issue, sometimes it’s also animations. Rogues don’t always feel like a badass due to lacking animations.

Q: Where do throughput healers fit into a world dominated by absorbs?
A: Absorbs aren’t as dominant as they used to be. Disc priests and the niche of absorb-healing is one that needs to be scaled back, though. Not happening in patch 6.2, but essentially any raid comp needs a disc priest right now. Holy priests feel they’re underpowered, but Hazzikostas feels they’re actually in a great place. Problem is if you only have one priest, they should be discipline for absorbs. Discipline provides a unique benefit, often at the expense of the other healers who enjoyed the sastiscation of moving health bars up. Discipline prevents them from ever going down. Absorbption is an interesting mechanic, but might go too far right now. Disc/Holy dynamic is the same as Demonology warlocks — Disc and Demo were both so good, everyone felt bad by comparison.

Q: Professions really boring in Warlords of Draenor. Any changes planned for future expansions?
A: Again, garrison rewards were at fault here — work orders, so forth. Lost the feeling of being a craftsman. In patch 6.2, the yield of personal cooldowns will be significantly increased. Your own crafting will be more meaningful. Felblight is only out in the world, so you need to go get them.

Q: Ideal length of a mythic fight? Were any too long? ex. Imperator, Brackenspore, Iron Maidens.
A: No ideal fight length. Some are meant to be short, some are meant to be endurance fights, some are phases that switch back and forth, some are multi-phase fights like endbosses — endbosses are where they run long. Brackenspore was an endurance fight. Imperator was probably too long. When a fight gets to 15 minutes, it’s longer than any fight should be. Overall, though, Hazzikostas feels tier 17 was pretty good on fight length.

Q: Why make everything so convenient? Is the game getting too convenient?
A: Tough question, because they don’t want things to be inconvenient or irritating. That said, there can be drawbacks of convenience — freely teleporting all over the world can reduce impact of the world. Dungeon Finder’s convenience might break down social interaction, but Warlords of Draenor’s premade group finder is an improvement over standing in trade chat for 90 minutes yelling for a group. There’s something to be said for being wary of making the game too convenient, but also want to avoid it being tedious.

Q: Do artistic integrity arguments carry weight after the Twitter selfie patch?
A: Artistic integrity arguments always have merit. Twitter integration didn’t take away from outdoor content, a couple of programmers integrated Twitter and it wasn’t a priority. It was just convenience for WoW players who already use Twitter, an optional thing they can do in-game. No harm in it, didn’t take away from content creation. The Selfie Camera, though, was a fun side project for one designer and one programmer, coming in on the weekends to make a cool toy to go with Twitter integration. Hazzikostas argues there is artistic integrity in that — World of Warcraft should be a game where these designers can pursue fun passion projects. Toys, easter eggs, hunter pet taming challenges — they’re passion projects for individuals on the design team. Selfie Cam wasn’t a trade off, didn’t prevent any other content. Hazzikostas recognizes patch 6.1 was light on content, though, and maybe should have been a patch 6.0.x patch. Calling it 6.1 was misleading. They wanted to get a bug fix patch out that had some quality of life improvements — there was a reason it didn’t have its own special name, it wasn’t a big story content patch.

Q: Something about armor sets
A: Hazzikostas went over 10 years of armor history in roughly 30 seconds and lost me. Whoops. My bad.

Q: Why doeesn’t Archimonde have 735 agility weapons? Some specs can’t get the highest ilevel weapons.
A: iLevel is going to gradually increase throughout the dungeon and not everyone is going to get 735 gear in every slot — and not everyone is even going to kill Archimonde. It wouldn’t be compelling itemization if Archimonde then needed to drop a maximum ilevel piece of gear for every single slot. You’re going to be competing with people who have access to the same items, so if rogues don’t have a 735 weapon, you won’t be compared to rogues with a 735 weapon. (Kind of a convoluted answer here. My words, not Ion’s.)

That’s all, folks!

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