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Greek Community Q&A with Ion Hazzikostas
13/12/2018 à 19:14
World of Warcraft Game Director Ion Hazzikostas held a quick Q&A interview with the Greek World of Warcraft community today, which you can watch the video of, courtesy of Enternity.gr, or read through with our recap below. For anyone keeping track, this was just a bonus, the
previously announced Q&A
will still be held on tomorrow on Friday the 14th, at 11:00 am PDT. The questions in
actually submitted before the expansion launched
in August, although they're just as relevant to the current state of the game today.
Ion, you have Greek ancestry. how has your Greek heritage affected you in your work at World of Warcraft? How often do you visit your yiayia (grandmother) in Athens and when will we have the chance to get some of her recipes as a food buff at WoW?
Ion's father is Greek, and told him stories of ancient mythology as a child, which inspired his passion for fantasy worlds, exploration, and imagination, which certainly helped his interest in World of Warcraft. He visited his yiayia (grandmother) in Athens regularly while growing up, though his Greek is now rusty having not had the opportunity to travel back in quite some time. As far as food goes, you never know, but there are a lot of different cultures which have been featured one way or another in WoW, Greece hasn't been one of them yet, and while there's nothing specific to announce, that could always change.
With the introduction and continuous development of the Mythic Plus system, it seems that there isn't a lot of interest in joining a guild and raid heroic/mythic anymore, which leads to the disbanding of guilds. Mythic Plus dungeons are great, but are there any plans to give some new incentives for people to enter or create new guilds and raid as a group (e.g. Guild halls with unique rewards and bonuses to be gained)?
Definitely concerning, excited about opening up high end coop with a lower barrier to entry. M+ is great, but at the same time it's important that raid incentives and rewards are unique. Despite that, there's still a lot of interest - there are just as many Mythic Uldir guilds overall as Mythic raiding guilds in the past. Removal of raid class sets hurt raid incentives, which is a problem needs to be solved going forward in BFA to make sure there are unique benefits and rewards for going into raidings. Ideally, each path of end game progression (M+, Raid, PvP) should have distinctly compelling rewards.
Going into Battle for Azeroth, there is a big change in Mythic Plus. Gear swap is not allowed anymore. What are the thoughts behind this change? Gear swap in Mythic Plus has been a huge factor in BFA and many times it would determine if you will end up timing the key or not. For example, healer swapping gear for specific pulls to do more damage.
This is something the dev team wanted to change during Legion, but not a change they were willing to make mid-expansion. Strategies were too reliant on swapping gear, especially legendaries. A single Mythic dungeon is viewed similar to one raid boss encounter, and that's why you can't change talents or respec mid-dungeon, even if you're out of combat. Choices regarding best talents or gear is most interesting when it's weighed against the entire range of situations the dungeon offers (AoE v ST, defensive choices). If you can reoptimize for each individual boss or trash pull in the dungeon, those choices become easy to make - collect the right gear, setup macros and continually change on a case by case basis. Ion believes there's more high level decision making depth when you make that choice once up front - success is more moment to moment than re-optimizing between each pull.
The three PvP characteristics are burst/mobility/CC. How should they be balanced in a spec and which class is tougher to balance while preserving its unique characteristics?
Ion is not an expert on the nuance of PvP balance of individual specs, so it's hard to say which is harder or easier to balance, but at a high level, at least one more characteristic is defensive/survivability. There's also room in the game for sustained pressure (DoTs) rather than just burst; sustained pressure will wear down healers and allow burst classes to secure a kill. A weakness in one area should be made up for by strengths in another - less mobile specs may be tankier and harder to kill because they're going to be pressed often, and if you're more mobile, you can evade threats, so you should go down more easily when locked down. It's tricky to give 36 different specs their own unique combination of such a small number of factors, but as much as possible they want each spec to have clear strengths and weaknesses. You can't be so weak in any one area that you're unable to function, but they'd rather increase strengths than mitigate weakness - make people better at what they're best at, rather than making everyone average at everything by bolstering weaknesses.
What are your plans on future stat squishes? Have you considered working on a new system since stat squish is more like a temporary solution?
WoW won't need another squish for at least another expansion, and with the work they've done for BFA squishing should be a simpler process. BFA made a one time rework of every creature, item, and ability in the game from 2004-2018, converting them to a system which can be more easily tuned, so any squishing should be easier going forward. Squishing is done to keep numbers from spiraling out of control; it's important that every expansion has a power range where highly geared raid players are stronger than those who just hit max level, but numbers reaching the millions or tens of millions due to power inflation while still leveling through previous expansion just causes everyone to deal with larger numbers which are harder to deal with and compare without any real benefit. Though it is continually discussed, there is no feasible system right now that removes the need for squishing entirely; it isn't the most elegant solution to the problem, but it's important that power continually increases in the game - each raid tier should be harder and give better rewards than the last. Rewards need to be meaningful, but that has to be balanced against years and years of content inflation, while also keeping numbers manageable. Someday a brilliant solution may present itself, but for now, squishing is getting the job done.
Why did some of the classic raid buffs (Mark of the Wild, Blessing of Kings) not make a comeback like Arcane Intellect and Fortitude did?
The team looked to bring back classic buffs because there's something nice and ceremonial about buffing players before a boss - feels like powering up and getting ready to go into a fight, as well as a social element in making your allies stronger together than on their own. It also allowed some classes to bring some extra utility, value to their presence, and more reason to be brought. Paladins and Druids traditionally had those raid buffs, but in the Legion/BfA environment, they already bring a lot of utility and have little problem with representation in dungeons or raids. There's benefit from having buffs, but they're only going to add abilities when classes need it; in the future if Paladins and Druids are seen to not offer much to a group, they might consider adding more to them, or more likely enhancing the unique benefits they already bring.
Loot has always been a major factor in WoW. It could be a reward or breaking point for a player/guild. Over the years, there have been many changes to how loot works and drops. In recent expansions, we have the warforge/titanforge systems that can be extremely rewarding in some cases and disappointment in others. you decided to keep the system in Battle for Azeroth and, in addition to the personal loot that you are going to apply to all modes, which means that someone who wants to min/max a character will have to grind all modes every week with the hope of looting a titanforge upgrade. Have you considered a cap applied to the loot that drops in lower difficulties?
Warforge/Titanforge really originated in Mists of Pandaria, but has expanded to become a gamewide system. Years ago, loot was harder to come by period; in Burning Crusade, guilds would be killing Gruul every week for years, long after they were raiding Black Temple, in the hopes of getting a rare and powerful trinket (Dragonspine Trophy). It was amazing when it finally dropped, but if you didn't raid or continually farm these bosses well past their content cycle, you had no chance of getting those still competitive items. Over the years they've been more generous with loot, drop rates are higher across the board, personal loot, trading, and bonus rolls give you more chances to get items, and they expect players to get the items they want out of a raid zone over the course of a few months - it's very rare to never see any particular items drop. Warforge and Titanforge keep some level of interest and growth in farming content - if you're working on Mythrax and aren't a race guild, you've probably been doing Uldir for a few months and probably have 8 or 9 kills on earlier bosses, so most of your raid has the items they want from those bosses, and you end up mindlessly going through the motions just to get back to Mythrax without your raid getting much stronger week after week. WF/TF create more opportunity and excitement which can both make an immediate difference and reward you for killing bosses you've already seen and done. In a world where loot is more common, WF/TF help retain some moments of excitement. They don't want Mythic players to feel obligated to do Normal/Heroic every week for the slim chance that something will Warforge to the point of being an upgrade, but at the same time it's exciting for people primarily doing Normal/Heroic to have that possibility. From what they've seen, most players aren't feeling obligated to do so; one of the things that led to it in Legion was set pieces (chasing Titanforge from previous tiers), and clearing old raids for better chances of Legendaries. The vast majority of groups raiding Mythic today don't do Normal, and most don't even do Heroic at this point. It's up to the players to decide how to spend their time to get the most rewards, and the devs are trying to craft the systems of the game so that challenging content is the most rewarding - a Mythic raider should be better off doing high level Mythic keys with their spare time than doing lower raid difficulties for a 1% chance of an amazing Titanforge being an upgrade.
I am studying for my MSc (masters of science) in Applied Economics, and I am currently working on my final project which is about Loot Distribution Systems in MMORPGS games. In another Q&A session you had in March 15 this year, you mentioned that we can reasonably expect personal loot to be the only option for raids in BfA, and you argued that intentionally stacking gear on specific characters within a guild makes it harder to design challenging content for everyone. Many players, especially in high-end guilds, would argue that master loot systems allow the leadership to reward players who demonstrate maximum consistency and effort, and they are also a valuable tool for raid optimization, like gearing their main tanks for maximum threat or maximum mitigation, for example. Are there any plans for catering to these player needs, like changes in the way personal loot works, or is less player input in the loot distribution process really the way to go, and why do you feel so?
Still a hot topic throughout the raid community, and it will be disappointing to some raid groups, but Blizzard is happy with the way Personal Loot is working out so far. What they've seen in Uldir across entire groups is that the best geared guilds are still the ones doing the hardest content most efficiently. The benefits to removing personal loot are threefold:
On the lower end of organization, a lot of guilds churn through a steady stream of trials; if you're looking for a guild in WoW, you may end up trialing a lot of places, and guilds with Master Loot tend to reserve that loot for members, which meant trials got nothing, causing those trials to stagnate; while this is a social dynamic for players to solve, in practice it's worse from a loot perspective than simply running pickup groups. For a raid officer or loot council, Master Loot is amazing because you get to decide exactly who gets everything, of course those people like Master Loot, and no other system would create that kind of control. For the majority of players, however, that came at the expense of a lot of reward that came from just playing the game.
On the other end of the spectrum, the very high end, it's no surprise that top guilds will run multiple raid groups in parallel with 4 or 5+ alts to funnel gear to a handful of mains. This effectively quadrupled or quintupled the rate at which they could gear up the raid compared to a regular group that did not. Over time this lead to guilds outside of the top few world race competitors, up to world top 100 and beyond, to run at least some split raids for more loot. This made it very difficult for the developers to create and tune encounters which are both challenging to the world first guilds over the first week while still being a fun and satisfying experience for the Mythic raid guilds that followed. When going into a Legion raid, Methods item level would be higher than what typical guilds would have a month later. Normally the best guilds in the world would be doing it undergeared, but when they're overgeared it's tough. Not having that option as available in Uldir, the first few fights were able to be very stern challenges for those top guilds, but also allow hundreds of guilds to kill those bosses over time, without the need for massive nerfs or progression changes. This change majorly affects the top end guilds, but also trickles down - if your guild wants to try to get into the top 100 Hall of Fame, they don't need to feel forced into having all of their members create and raid with multiple alts in order to funnel gear, you can just focus on gearing up your main roster and maybe some backups. You should be playing on your mains to get loot on your mains.
The third benefit is that it lets the team itemize in a different way. When master loot was an option, they still needed to design loot tables around the possibility of master loot, which meant niche items that may be useful to only a few people (ranged weapons, shields, 2-handed caster axes for Shamans) were rarely made because they had to assume that those items could drop regardless if those players were in the raid. In a world of personal loot, they can better cater to a wider range of itemization - more fist weapons, range weapons, shields, and more, because it doesn't matter if the item is only useful to one specialization out of 36, they know that item will only drop for that one specialization if it's present.
Finally, recognizing that for tight knit social groups that weren't abusing Master Loot, it was nice to be able to freely share, trade, and allocate loot, so it's impossible to deny that something has been lost by removing Master Loot. For the majority of players, however, it's a step in the right direction, and once you get past the first few weeks of loot progression, trading to undergeared players or newly rolled alts is a lot easier. This breaks down a little bit where you don't want item level upgrades because they aren't actual upgrades, but that's a symptom of a larger problem that they're trying to fix - where possible item level should be a good guideline for whether or not something is an upgrade. It's an ongoing conversation, but frankly Personal Loot is here to stay, and the focus should be how it can be improved rather than rolling back to Master Loot, as the benefits have outweighed the downsides thus far.
Any chance for solo queue in arenas or ranking systems for Battlegrounds? Battlegrounds seems boring right now with no reward. Also always matching with players of low skill or with players that lack the necessary drive to win makes things worse. It would be awesome if we could see a comeback of Tiers or Ranks that would make players work up a sweat and, also, Transmogs like Grand Marshals that would give people reason to actually focus on winning.
The devs feel pretty good about how the Battle for Azeroth ranked system, with clear tiers as you work your way up toward Gladiator has worked out. There are clearly increasing rewards with some great items out of it, with some of the best availability of powerful PvP gear relative to raid gear that we've seen in a long time, and so within the rated system there's a very clear progression. Random BGs and Skirmishes are not meant to be a competitive environment, just for players to hop on, run around, and play; of course they want you to care about winning, but that's always going to be a more relaxed environment. For rated arenas and battlegrounds, the reason solo queue is not a great fit for WoW relative to other games is the extent to which WoW is composition dependent, and that's not very flexible. An Overwatch or Heroes team can switch as needed, but matchmaking with reasonable queue times and skill levels/matchmaking and synergistic group compositions which work well against other reasonable group compositions wouldn't be as feasible with solo queue. Something would have to give, likely leading to very long queue times, which would be frustrating, or wild mismatches in skill or bad compositions without the ability to change classes on the fly the way you might on Overwatch. Instead, the devs are focused on improving tools in the game (group finder, communities) which will make it easier for players to find like minded groups and partners, emphasizing the MMO group aspect.
The Flex Mode was added to WoW with the aim to facilitate easier raid groups. other than in Mythic, every other raid difficulty support flex groups, which means that it's easier than ever to make truly competitive groups for every circumstance. I believe that the raid difficulty system could be tweaked, merging LFR and Normal with the other difficulties levels remaining as they are. This way we can avoid unneeded content repetition and narrow down the level gap so that stat squishes aren't needed as often as they are today. What are the chances of something like this happening?
Ion and the other devs currently believes that the number and structure of difficulties is the right fit for WoW. For someone who does Mythic, Raid Finder and Normal are just casual difficulties, but they serve very different audience. Normal is a mix of friends & family and pickup groups, and it may be hard for a Mythic raider to understand that there are hundreds of thousands of WoW players around the world who spend an entire tier progressing through Normal difficulty, while still being a satisfying and rewarding experience; those groups don't recruit, they don't kick players for not being as good, they just enjoy playing with their friends. LFR doesn't provide that satisfaction, it's not a progressive or social experience, and in Mists of Pandaria (pre-Mythic difficulty), Normal was frequently too difficult and unsatisfying for those groups. Raid Finder exists for people who can't or don't want to dedicate themselves to set time or groups - it's not meant to be a lasting social experience, just a chance for people to quickly see the content with whatever time they have available. Those are two different purposes and audiences which they don't think it's feasible to merge without letting down one or the other. From there, Heroic is for more organized groups which do value performance and composition, they might actively recruit rather than take what they have, and Mythic is for people who want to raid at the most challenging level.
They've tried to set up incentives so that groups can focus on two difficulties at most. A Mythic raider won't focus on Normal; they will do Heroic when a new tier comes out, but typically won't do Normal more than once or twice. In terms of the gear gap of 30 item levels per tier, it allows players doing Mythic now to get upgrades from Heroic in the next tier while doing new content and learning new bosses, particularly those guilds which end the previous tier at only 6/8 Mythic, rather than full clearing early like race guilds. If Heroic in the next tier isn't a source of upgrades, they spend weeks learning new fights with no rewards, and they're not meaningfully getting more powerful to help them progress. In order to preserve that relationship, they need a gear gap between tiers, and 25-30 is working well; balance feels good while progression and rewards feel meaningful from one tier to another.
During Legion we saw long quest lines for the first time, quests that unlocks new recipes for professions and those quest lines were engaging and fun experiences. On the other hand, some recipes like alchemy flasks had a different system that required the player to craft a ton of them, hoping that they'll get a proc for a rank 3 recipe. A player with a rank 2 recipe and someone with an early super lucky proc rank 3 means hundreds of thousands of gold difference in earnings. A system as this one, based on luck alone, is certainly flawed as it has negative impact to the economy of the server and the overall gameplay experience. What will your approach be on the issue? Will we see a different solution than the random proc system? Maybe a system similar to the legendary items' progressive drop rates?
Every expansion has taken a slightly different approach to professions, typically themed and rooted to each expansion whether it's tied to the Garrison in WoD or quest driven in Legion. Part of it is delivering mechanisms and ways for crafters to differentiate each other. What makes one blacksmith different than another? For a long time it was having different recipes, largely accomplished through rarity - in classic not many smiths could make Arcanite Reaper because it was so rare. A world where everyone can steadily progress to everyone making everything hurts crafters economic advantage, it makes all crafters into the same. In the past, jewelcrafters could use currency to buy the plans they wanted, allowing them to differentiate from one another, and the dev team would like to find more ways to create differences between individual crafters. Obviously if you never get the thing you want that can be frustrating, so some kind of bad luck protection may be necessary, but a route they're more likely to take is enough meaningful variety in recipes that a crafter might not get the rank 3 they want, but they get a different, equally rare one that still allows them to make money at a market advantage, while a different alchemist can make something else. As long as dedicated crafters can get a competitive advantage, it probagbly works out overall, on the general topic of crafting, they can probably do a lot better overall. It serves a purpose in the economy, but they'd like to do more to give players an opportunity to feel the identity of a crafter - unique and powerful advantages to being a blacksmith or alchemist. They aren't quite there yet, but differentiating players is something that they're working towards.
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