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Douyu Interview with Ion Hazzikostas - Class Balance, Legendary Refunds, & Mythic+ Rating System
24/04/2021 à 14:49
Raider.io Chinese Community Liaison and
Douyu streamer LingHunFuSu
(aka Neo) interviewed Game Director Ion Hazzikostas, translating questions on behalf of the Chinese World of Warcraft community. Although the interview was just released on the Chinese streaming platform Douyu, it was actually conducted shortly before the PTR began, so some of the information covered has already been revealed through datamining and testing over the past couple of weeks. As usual, the Game Director doesn't give away any big reveals himself, though his answers grant some insight as to Blizzard's design process, while acknowledging community concerns. Topics ranged from adding a third Demon Hunter spec to the upcoming Mythic+ ranking system and the possibility of refunding legendary gear. Our recap below includes highlights from each section, or you can watch the
full interview on Doyou
It would be nice to expand guild systems again, but they're unlikely to go back to Cataclysm style perks which dissuaded joining or creating new guilds.
TBC and 9.1 are very unlikely to launch at the same time, despite the close proximity of their test phases.
Character copies are better for identifying bugs than templates, due the increased complexity of tracking real character's items, quest progression, etc.
Many of the World of Warcraft systems have been updated in recent expansions, but the guild system has not been updated for a long time, will the dev team consider adding some new guild benefits or new features in the future?
Yes, guilds are a central part of the wow experience, for so many people your guild is your group of friends, it your family in Azeroth. we recently updated our guild in-game finding tools to make it easier for players to search for guilds or guilds to recruit players, but we would like to do more in term of activities or rewards for guilds for playing together. I think we're unlikely to go back to something like what we had in Cataclysm where you could level up your guild. What we found there is that it's an exciting set of rewards for guilds when we first introduce the system, but after a year or two, new guilds have a very hard time getting started, because no one wants to start a new guild when you're missing out on all the rewards for being in an established one.
Many players noticed that recently the release of 9.1 Chains of Domination to PTR is almost simultaneously as the TBC Beta launched, is this done on purpose? If it’s on purpose, would Blizzard consider releasing new World of Warcraft content one at a time to avoid possible time conflict for players？
Well obviously we will have more information to announce about specific release dates for Burning Crusade Classic and for Chains of Domination. I can tell you that it's very unlikely that we're going to release both of those right at the same time, we know there are many players who would like to experience both. They're very different projects in terms of their testing needs, and we need to begin the PTR or the Beta at the appropriate time to give the teams working on those games all the time and all the feedback they need to ensure a good outcome. So, while we want to avoid too much collision between the two, we also understand that there are many players who only play Classic, and there are many players who only play Shadowlands, and we don't want to punish one group in order to avoid a conflict for the other, while still trying to make sure that each game has some time and space to breathe on its own.
I'm curious, in 9.1 PTR, there will certainly be copy-character options, will there be new character templates on the PTR?
I'm not sure yet. I don't think right when the PTR goes up - we may add that option later on during the PTR. We tend to prefer to just use character copies because in terms of the feedback and bug reports that we get, we actually get much better and more accurate reports when it's real characters with all of people's quests and inventories from the live servers, as opposed to a template that we created that doesn't have all of the complexities that real players do.
Mythic+ rating system
is coming, very similar to Raider.io and intended to help players identify who they want to group with.
The Mythic+ rating system may count Tyrannical and Fortified separately, to encourage players to master both rather than just the easier one.
The system could also potentially replace Valor upgrade achievement requirements with overall rating thresholds, so that players don't have to complete each dungeon at a specific level.
Would like to give players more control over the group finder - specific dungeons, completion vs timing, etc. Wary of too much matchmaking, since group composition is so much more important in WoW than other games.
Several affixes disrupt melee more than ranged; Storming and Spiteful have already seen some adjustment, but are still being specifically looked at for Season 2.
Not announcing the new seasonal affix just yet - internally they test two or three different affixes before picking the best one, and they are still finishing that process, but should have something to share very soon.
No new affixes other than the seasonal Domination, would rather focus on improving the existing ones first.
Mythic plus is one of the core progression content now. More and more players love it and spending a lot of time on it, but there is no other special reward for pushing high keys, will there be an official ranking system for the Mythic plus in the future? and maybe award the high-ranking team with some title like Sinful Gladiator? And will there be other rewards for time high keys, for example, like 20+?
Yes, we also love Mythic+ and it's amazing seeing the community embrace it. It's been incredibly amazing seeing some of the top Chinese teams break all the records and showing the world how to do Mythic+ properly. There are some incredibly high keys and so it's fun to watch. And yes, we want to have some high end recognition in the same way that in PvP, the very very top players have Sinful Gladiator and we have the Hall of Fame for raiders. We do agree that M+ should have something similar, in Chains of Domination coming up very soon, coming to PTR within a week, we're actually looking to introduce an in-game Mythic+ rating, so that you'll be able to have a score, you'll be able to see other people when they apply for your dungeon groups, and have a progression again similar to how PvP works, and I think that will help.
We all curious about how did the dev team come up with ideas like “Storming” and “Spiteful”, especially melee players curious the most. These two affixes are nightmare to melee players, they have to watch out for the hurricanes or the little purple mob that can two or three-shot you while they have to deal with the boss or fight mechanics. On the opposite, ranged players have less pressure when facing these two affixes. Will there be more tuning about “Storming” and “Spiteful” in the future?
Yes it's something we're actively discussing for season 2. We've made some changes for to spiteful already via hotfix to reduce their melee range, make them wait a little bit longer before they start chasing, hopefully to make it less punishing for melee, but we agree that between several different affixes - sanguine drops pools on the ground that ranged don't really have to worry bout but melee do, quaking can really be a problem if you have multiple melee in one spot - there should be a better balance of affixes there, and we're looking specifically at the design of our newest affixes, storming and spiteful, for Season 2.
This should be an interesting question, will there be a matchmaking system for Mythic plus in the future? Like match "similar level" players through a built-in ranking or scoring system and do Mythic plus together. This could be very complex to achieve, but it sounds very fun.
It's something that comes up a lot, we hear this in PvP also - people who wish there were some kind of rated solo queue system. The approach that we've taken so far and I think we continue to focus on is to try to make it easier to find people of a similar skill level, with similar interests to do this content. We think there's a lot more that we can do with the group finder, and even just making it easier to without addons to see their rating and experience of people who you're grouping with will help, but ideally you should also search more easily for specific dungeons, difficulty levels, to specify whether you want just to complete the dungeon, or whether you want to push the key higher, and what type of group you're looking for .I think all of these factors can help people find each other more easily. The big concern with matchmaking is that WoW is, unlike a lot of other games that have matchmaking, where in Overwatch and in a MOBA like League, you might play different champions, different heroes. In wow you are your class, and that's not something you can change, and composition matters tremendously for group success. So if we randomly match you with teammates that don't seem like a good combination of classes or who you would prefer, I don't know that that's going to be the most fun experience, and so we prefer to give players control over who they group with, but we also want to make it easier for them to find friends and companions.
Looking back at the question for the Mythic+ ranking system coming to 9.1, could you break down a little bit about what the score would be like - how the system would match your score with competing high keys or low keys?
Sure. We're actually still working out all the details, and we want to iterate on it over the course of the PTR, but honestly for those who are familiar with what Raider.io does, it's not too different. The idea is a base score per dungeon based on the level you completed it, with a small bonus if you completed it well ahead of time and your total score is a product of the range of dungeons that you've done. We do want to add separate scores, separate bonuses for doing it on Tyrannical and Fortified, to encourage players to complete both versions as opposed to just pushing on Fortified week and taking it easy on Tyrannical. There's different types of skillsets required for both. We also want to tie this into things like the requirements to upgrade your gear with Valor points, or achievements like Keystone Master or Keystone Conqueror. Instead of just being "do all dungeons at +10 or do all dungeons at +15", it could be more "just get your score/rating to 2200", kind of like it is in PvP.
About the Chains of Domination, many players know that the new seasonal affix will be domination, but we don't know any other details about it - could you explain any more details about Domination?
Not right now unfortunately. We actually have two different things that we're trying. The way we do this, we develop two or three different affixes and test them internally - we have our internal team go through, play with them, give feedback, and then based on which one seems the most fun in practice, that's the one that we go ahead with. We're still finishing that process - we have a couple of good ideas, but I think we'll be ready to share that with the world very soon. We're just not quite ready yet.
Other than spiteful and storming, are there going to be any new affixes coming in 9.1, or will just Domination be the only seasonal change?
The new seasonal affix, and then I think I mentioned earlier, we'd like to take a look at the way some of the existing affixes work and then improve those before we add new ones. Adding new affixes is something that we're always excited to do, but we don't think that storming and spiteful are perfect yet, and so we'd rather put our energy into improving those.
Class Balance & Design
Internal class data mostly matches what players see on Warcraft Logs and Raider.io, but community perception is an important aspect, and it doesn't matter if things are technically balanced if community perception doesn't allow players to find groups and have a good time.
Melee and Range favoritism won't always be equal, but should be a back and forth. Right now, it feels too ranged favored, which is something that should be addressed in class mechanics and encounter design.
No plans to give every class a buff like Battle Shout or Horn of Winter - every class should bring semi-unique benefits, but they won't all be group buffs.
No new Spirit Beasts yet, but exciting things for
Hunters to look forward
to in Shadowlands.
Adding a third Demon Hunter spec felt like it might have diluted the essence of the class fantasy - splitting it up between the martial and the magical. They may add a third path if a great idea comes along in the future, but there are currently no plans to do so.
In the current expansion, some classes have their “group buff specialties,” such as warrior’s battle shout, priest’s fortitude. Still, many players miss the good old-time in Warlord of Draenor when all classes cast their group buff spells before the boss fight, such as Horn of Winter, cast by Death Knights, Gift of the Wild for Druids... So will these spells return in the future?
We're not currently planning on giving everybody a buff. One of the challenges here is we want classes to feel a bit different from each other, and when everyone has something, yes it's cool to be apart of that ceremony of seeing all those buffs go on before you pull the boss, but at the same time it can start to feel kind of too much the same, so we want every class to have some unique benefits and reasons why people in your group or raid are happy to see you there, but that's not always going to come in the form of a passive buff to stats.
The balance between Melee specs and Ranged specs has always been controversial. No matter from boss and dungeon mechanics, to seasonal affix, it seems like the dev team favors ranged specs more than melee. Does this meet the original design expectations? What were the reasons for these balance designs between melee and ranged, and will there be more adjustments in the future?
Yes, this is something that really the class design team talks about a lot. We want melee and ranged to have advantages and disadvantages, and I think its natural when the obvious strength of range is that you can stand at a distance and strike your enemy even if you have to move or move away from some mechanic or something on the ground. It's very easy for encounter designers in dungeons and raids to make encounters that are punishing for melee. So we think there's more that we can do in terms of class mechanics and how we approach the design of our encounters so that there's some situations where you feel happy to be in melee, and actually the ranged have the harder time. We don't want it to always be equal, but there should be a back and forth, and we agree that right now, melee are probably suffering more than they should be.
It is quite apparent that many Beast Mastery Hunters love their pets instead of their character, and it has been a long time since there was a new model for the rare spirit beast. We are now in Shadowlands, the realm of the dead, so will the dev team take this opportunity to come up with some new model rare spirit beast?
Well we've only begun to scratch the surface as to what the Shadowlands has to offer, and yes, we know that Hunters very much love their animal companions, and we've always looked for opportunities to introduce new exotic ones, and so, nothing specific to announce right now but I think as you see the Shadowlands continue to unfold, we think Hunters will be happy with what they have to look forward to.
Demon Hunter is one of the most popular classes in World of Warcraft and the only one with just two specs to play with. Will there be a third spec of Demon Hunter in the future? Or will there be any new classes in Shadowlands or later expansions? Since Legion, there have been no new specs or new classes to World of Warcraft.
Definitely not during Shadowlands. We will not be adding new classes or a new spec during Shadowlands, but anything is possible with expansions in the future. For Demon Hunter in particular, the reason why it has two specs is we wanted to make sure that we weren't diluting or weakening the fantasy of the specs just to fit the number three. We knew we wanted to have a tank spec and a DPS spec, and I think we had ideas in designing the class of one DPS spec that maybe was more about the fel magic, the demonic energy, and one spec that was more about the pure melee combat, but it felt like that was taking the essence of what a Demon Hunter was, of what Illidan could do, and splitting it in half - making it half as cool. So we wanted to let players have both of those things merged into one. If at some point in the future it makes sense and we have a good idea for a third path that would really feel unique, that's something we certainly could do, but we don't have any plans right now.
Catch Up, Legendaries, and Rewards
9.1 will include a lot of catch up mechanics so that new players and alts can play with their friends and experience current content without spending weeks getting up to speed.
The Great Vault's
fallback option isn't rewarding enough, though there are no specific changes to announce yet.
Refunding or reforging legendaries with new stats is something they're willing to look at, but they want to avoid a situation where players continually refund legendaries to switch between content types, rather than crafting multiple legendaries for different aspects of the game.
No current plans to make switching covenants easier, and the cooldown for switching back and forth is likely to remain. Patch 9.0.5 already made some balancing adjustments, and it's ok if some covenants have different strengths and weaknesses, but they don't want balance to be so one sided that players to feel like they only have one choice.
Blizzard removed the bonus roll system in Shadowlands and replaced it with the brand new great vault system, but many players felt that the bonus roll still beat the great vault, allowing players to pick one item out of 9 possible options. In the future expansion, will the dev team consider let players pick maybe 2 or 3 out of 9 options? Or will there be any changes to the great vault at all?
I don't have a specific change as to the great vault to announce right now but we've definitely heard that feedback and we know that while there's some randomness to it, we want to make sure that it feels like a satisfying reward. For sure, we think we can do better with the fallback reward - I don't think that the Stygia that we currently offer really feels satisfying. Ideally, in a past expansion it would have been something like artifact power. Ideally, even if you don't get the item of your dreams from your vault in a given week, you still feel like you're getting some really useful reward that's getting you closer to a goal, and we can do much better there.
Many players noticed that The Ember Court of Venthyr is a bit hard to play with compare to other covenants, will there be any changes in the future? Even farming anima got buffed in the past patches. Still, the effort is relatively small when a set of transmog or a mount requires a couple of thousands anima or 25 thousands of anima, will there be more tuning about it in the future patches?
Yes, so on the second part of the question first - we're actually in the process right now as we speak working on a hotfix that will give players access to increased anima drops from all sources - what we're actually doing is we're adding a couple of achievements for having all of your features in your covenant sanctum at rank 1, rank 2, and rank 3 respectively - these are things like the Adventure Table or the Teleport Network, or the Ember Court - if you have all of them at rank 1, you gain a bonus to all anima gains from world quests, dungeons, raids. you get them to rank 2, an even bigger bonus, and same for rank 3. So we want to give players a chance to get more anima more quickly, so they can save up for some of these things that feel too expensive right now.
In Shadowlands, for a variety of reasons, many players build the wrong legendary or simply choose the wrong secondary stats, will there possibly be a refund or disenchant system for Legendary items to reduce the cost of replacing one?
That's an interesting question. We don't have any current plans along those lines right now, but it's something that we can look at, providing some way of either changing your secondary stats or getting a partial refund. The thing we'd want to be careful to avoid is a world where it feels too easy to make one legendary for one situation (PvE), then disenchant or change it to a different one to go PvP, and you don't really feel like you ever need to build a collection. But I agree that making a mistake there feels like it could be frustrating, and we should do more.
What do class designers or the Blizzard balancing team look for when they are balancing classes? Is it the feedback from players in the forum? Or maybe third-party websites like Warcraft Logs and Raider.IO? Or does the designer personally try to play some "weaker classes" as reported, and then decide if the balance should be made?
Honestly, it's all of those things. I think the designer personally playing the class is not deciding if it's strong or weak, but to gain more insight into feedback as to it
bad. Sometimes a spec might be able to create the numbers, but it could feel frustrating to play, or there's something that feels very random, or just awkward, and that's the kind of thing that playtesting will give us the best insight to guide our changes. In terms of balance, we obviously are looking at how popular the different specializations are, we have some of our own internal data, but a lot of it matches what the community is looking at, because at the end of the day, the community is looking at Warcraft Logs, they're looking at Raider.io representation, and that's what leads raid leaders and dungeon pug leaders to decide who they want to invite to their groups. At the end of the day, if the community thinks that a spec is not good, and they don't want to bring them to groups, well... it doesn't matter what our data says internally, we need to work to change that community perception, because otherwise people who play that spec can't play the game the way they want to, they can't find groups and they can't have a good time.
It is hard to not notice that the current gameplay of an alt character is not that “friendly” to have. Players have to go through repeated covenant quests, farming anima, doing the dangerous Maw quests, and not even mentioning it takes at least 5 weeks for an alt character to upgrade their legendary from level one to five. So will there be more alt-friendly system in the 9.1 Chain of Domination?
Yes. Chains of Domination will definitely add a lot of catchup mechanisms, both for alts, but also for returning players, for new players who are joining Shadowlands and hitting level 60 for the first time. It's going to be much more important for you to be able to get into the new content, to get a legendary without having to wait weeks for it, so that you can play with your friends and experience what everyone else is doing. So that will benefit both new and returning players, and alts.
In Shadowlands, each class can pick one out of four covenants at a time to play with. Many players felt that the limit of switching covenants greatly weakens the gameplay of each class. Some classes can only play one spec due to their covenant choice because after they switch specs, the covenant will no longer be the best one in PVE or PVP. Will there be more freedom of switching covenants in the future? Maybe not as easy as switching specs, but players would expect less consequences and questline.
Unfortunately I have to say that we don't currently plan on making it easier to switch. The current system where you can switch relatively straightforwardly, but if you want to go back and forth, there is a questline and cooldown between them - that's likely to remain. The thing that we're most interested in hearing feedback on is more about these situations where you feel like you're locked into one choice for one spec and a different one for another. We made a lot of changes in a recent 9.0.5 patch to improve the balance between the different covenants, but we know we have more work to do there, and that's something that we want to continue to work towards so that they have different strengths and weaknesses... and maybe one is slightly better here or slightly better there, but you never feel like you
to be this or you have to be that.
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