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WoWJun 30, 2016 1:00 pm CT

Legion PVP Q&A with Brian Holinka liveblog

Today’s Legion Q&A is all about PVP with Senior Game Designer Brian Holinka. Watch it live on Twitch or, if you can’t, follow along with us here — it will be starting soon!

Q: Where do things stand in regard to class balance in beta?

A: We’re not in a place we’re happy with right now. Obviously the class design team has made a lot of changes, but we’re doing a lot of tuning work. Artifacts are not necessarily tuned as well as they’re going to be. We have a PVP multiplier for every spell — something we’ve never had — which lets us easily adjust problem abilities specifically for PVP. Now we’re really starting to change balance for specific spells. Right now 80+ spells have PVP modifiers.

You’re going to see us doing a lot more tuning. That’s our focus. It will get in a better place leading up to launch.

Q: Why is PVP loot being exclusively rewarded by random strongboxes with no alternative? 

A: It’s almost like the personal loot system. If you win a battleground, skirmish, arena, you get a box that can include gear or potions, marks of honor, etc. We’ve moved away from the gold/silver/bronze strongboxes. Gear has a chance to increase in ilvl depending on how lucky you are.

We wanted to go away from a vendor system because we felt like it was a pretty flat experience. Earning a bunch of currency, grinding away, getting a piece of gear… those initial things felt very good, but over time it’s pretty boring. When things are less predictable, it’s a little more exciting. We want to have a little more predictability. But at the same time we’re sympathetic to the fact that players are used to a predictive system. We’re adding systems to protect against bad luck. When you get a piece of gear it reduces the chance you’ll get that same slot again. Being a little less predictable lets us create gear that’s on par with the PVE system.

When you walk into PVP, it will set you at an ilvl 850. Then we look at your item level and scale up from there.

Q: Is PVP going to award titanforged gear?

A: Yes. Whenever you’re awarded a piece of gear it has a chance to be warforged or titanforged.

Q: Will gearing up with PVP gear and using it in PVE be viable?

A: It will be different than in Warlords. If you’re good at PVP you’ll have gear you can take to good PVE content, but it’s not such a gimmie anymore. The new system is all about ilvl and it gives you good ilvl gear. It lets you supplement what you normally do in PVE with PVP gear.

Q: Will old PVP gear be available for gold like previous gear?

A: With the new transmog system we thought it would be boring if you could just go to a vendor and unlock every PVP look ever. One of the things coming out of the strongboxes will be marks of honor which can be used to buy old PVP looks. This is for all previous PVP gear.

Q: Now that PVP gear is equalized for all players, what’s the incentive to do rated BGs or arena?

A: The average player will be motivated by gear and honor. Every bracket in the game rewards honor, and they all have a “first of the day” bonus which doubles your honor. Rated brackets all offer about 50% more honor, so if you’re interested in honor it’s a very efficient way to do it. It’s also an efficient way to get higher ilvl gear; the chance to get ilvl boosted items is higher in rated systems, and increases with higher ratings.

Q: Will PVP season lengths be tied to raid tier lengths?

A: It is and it isn’t. Seasons are going to be tied to raid tears because that’s what our production schedule is. That’s when we create new armor sets and increase ilvl. However we think PVP seasons would benefit from being a little shorter than typical raid tier lengths. A lot of players like the beginning of the season when the meta’s changed and the end of the season where they’re trying to get their titles. The middle is less exciting.

So we’re doubling the number of seasons. About 10 to 15 weeks. About half-way through every raid tier a new season will start.

Q: Why don’t the PVP templates and talents activate in all PVP situations like duels or world PVP?

A: Honor talents do activate in all PVP situations. Any time you’re hit by another player or hit another player those talents activate. PVP templates don’t activate out in the world. Those stat templates are 850, so if you could move up in power to ilvl 850 just by someone tapping you, people would do that to increase power level. But templates probably should activate during duels and we’ll look into that.

Q: Why can’t players tune stats in PVP templates?

A: It’s one of those tradeoffs. We felt we could provide a lot of character customization in item talents. There are secondary stats for some specs that are problematic, like mastery, which can be too bursty. It’s a lot cleaner to say all stats are set by us. I could see a world in the future where we create honor talents that increase certain stats over others and people who want that should let us know.

Q: With the new PVP tuning “knobs,” should players expect to see more specs tuning through the expansion?

A: With templates, we’ve typically made it reflect ilvl 850 gear, but in some places we’ve reduced some stats but increased others. If a certain spec is dying to often, we can increase their stamina. When PVE is tuned, we can tune strength in PVP independently. We can tune spells independently, too.

I’d like to see us doing balance changes more often. Now that we can do it without effecting PVE in any way it gives us a lot more freedom. Previously we’d have to rewrite how a spell works, QA it… but these systems let us change a number from 20 to 30 and we can send it out.

Q: What’s the reason for gating PVP talents?

A: We wanted compelling rewards in the honor system. We wanted people to get something that feels great without it being gear all the time. For a reward to feel good when you get it, it will probably feel bad when you don’t have it. We’ve tried to soften that blow especially for people who are prestiging and lose all their talents. In the first 10 levels we give you one talent in every row and the level of honor to get there is very low — you can get there very quickly and get you to “full power.” The rest is about customization and situational options.

There are some tradeoffs to a system like that, but we think it feels good.

Q: Will PVP talents change every season or will changes be made to it if necessary?

A: Yes, we certainly plan on looking at the PVP talents on a regular basis and replacing things that aren’t fun or people aren’t using. But we aren’t going to just replace every talent every season.

We don’t reset talents between season, but we do add prestige levels each season. The first season will have four. If you don’t care about prestige rewards and keep honor level 50 you can.

Q: Any new battlegrounds coming?

A: It’s been too long I agree. In Warlords a lot of the PVP focus was on Ashran. For Legion our focus has been on creating new honor talents. We have two new arenas coming. An old favorite is getting a facelift fairly soon.

We have not done a good job with battlegrounds. We already have a lot of them so to add new ones we should cycle out old ones. But we need more.

Q: Will you take a more aggressive stance against cheating in rated PVP?

A: We care a lot about it. There’s a lot of conversations going on about how to communicate what we’re doing, that we do care. We have a full-time team looking at what players are doing, how players are misbehaving. We’re reviewing a lot of our policies about repeat offenders. When someone is dedicated to cheating in our game, we don’t want them in our game. Don’t cheat. We are looking for you. Notorious cheaters, we keep an extra eye on them.

Another thing about these cheats is to find ways to prevent them. We’re looking at ways to prevent that stuff at all times.We don’t want the only answer to be punishing people.

A big part of the battle against people using these scripts is to keep them from knowing what we’re doing, which is why we may sound cagey about this. We try to keep it to ourselves and not show our hand too much.

Q: Why remove engineering toys from random battlegrounds?

A: This is probably just an oversight. The PVP stat system is new in Legion and a lot of that was removing enchants, etc. Engineering toys are kind of enchants on gear. I don’t think that was really intentional and perhaps they’ll be back in the future.

Q: As someone inexperienced in PVP but interested in playing during Legion, how have you managed to make PVP accessible but satisfying for veterans?

A: The PVP stat templates normalize gear and make it a lot more accessible from a power curve standpoint. Then prestige levels will be put in different buckets. We have a good bucket of people who have not really done PVP yet, so we’re going to put them all together and let them figure things out before putting them in with others.

Q: What is your vision for tanks going forward? Will we see them being competitive in 3v3?

A: You have to select a role in advance and it won’t be possible to bring two tanks or two healers into a 3v3 anymore. We’re watching for situations like with Gladiator stance at the beginning of Warlords, where it felt very powerful. If you’re a tank in Legion and want to go into arena and have funs with your friends, you can, especially if you’re a good tank. In rated battlegrounds I’d really like to see tanks as your front line. Kind of how you see in a lot of Heroes of the Storm games where the tank is the front line. That would be a cool place; I don’t know if we’re there.

Q: Will you ever consider making old PVP zones like Wintergrasp queueable or like Ashran?

A: These were meant to be world PVP zones for that period of time. Ashran was the Warlords PVP feature — it will still be relevant in Legion but we’ll let it slip away in the future. But I understand the nostalgia. We’re talking about it. There are some cool new PVP experiences through the world quest system.

Q: Are there any plans to revisit old battleground layouts?

A: This is something we have to be super careful about. There are people who love these old battlegrounds and have forever. You have to respect that. Changing them, you have to do it a way in which it feels the same. But sometimes a change is necessary.

Q: Are there any upcoming changes to fix mobility issues in PVP? Nerfing melee mobility instead of buffing casters?

A: People generally say “melee mobility” and I feel like they’re talking about very specific specs. The ones where mobility is very high, it’s a part of their core fantasy. A monk rolling and flying serpent kicking, etc. However now we can compensate that with PVP tuning. If a class is high mobility the damage has to go down.

The spectrum of damage that mobility provides has to be a little less in PVP than PVE. Certain spells, like Shadowstrike in Subtlety Rogues. In PVP the power of that ability is the teleport — the damage is much lower in PVP than in PVE.

Q: With arena master gone, will there be another achievement or title to take its place?

A: 5v5 is leaving — it’s not representative of the arena experience and it’s not popular. But we don’t want to just remove it from the achievement. It’s moving to legacy. We should have another achievement to replace it.

Q: Where is non rated play compared to rated play? 

A: They’re both very important. We aren’t trying to drive people to rated play, but we think it offers players more. But it’s totally fine if people want to play random battlegrounds and skirmishes. The system benefits hardcore players who want all of these tuning knobs and a more balanced game, but we’ve added more for others, too.

Q: What will world PVP be like? Will raiders have the advantage?

A: We don’t want them to.

Q: Will mage cooldowns become undispellable?

A: That’s one of the tools we’ve used to balance in the patches. Depends on the specific abilities.

Q: What kind of rewards will we get for prestige?

A: Honor level is 1 to 50 and the reward level changes for each prestige level. At 50, you get a wyrmtongue “groupie” who follows you around and tells everyone how awesome you are. Second prestige get a quest for a new artifact appearence. Then a mount. Then a banner that gets more ornate as your prestige level improves, very faction-oriented. Then a title. We’ll add new stuff every season.

Q: Will we ever be able to make cross-faction parties for BGs and arenas?

A: I don’t see that. Horde and Alliance is so important to what makes Warcraft specials that we don’t want to remove it.

Q: Are you concerned with people using burst cooldowns versus skillful play?

A: It’s cool to have bursty classes and it’s cool to have situations where where sustained pressure is very high. We don’t want a situation where the game only matters every three minutes. It’s important to be able to put pressure on.

Next week there will be another Legion Q&A at the same time talking about quests with Craig Amai — forum posts to collect questions will be online soon!

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