Having WeakAuras or having DBM is pretty much required and it creates this artificial gap between causal players and hardcore players. It's kind of a two-part question; number one, does like the team design these Heroic and Mythic encounters for addons, same with Mythic+, and the second part is, are we going to see more of these features incorporated into the game?
That's an awesome question, it's something we spend a lot of time, especially recently, debating. We design acknowledging the existence of addons - I think we have to. Sometimes we're actually designing and implementing mechanics in ways that are going to try to work around addons - whether it's entering the code to disarm the bomb on Mekkatorque, or the Among Us game on Lords of Dread, and fixing stuff to plug loopholes that people've found, because we know that we have this idea which could be really fun gameplay, but if an addon solves the whole thing for you, then what's the point? So we have to acknowledge its existence.
Ultimately, we're tuning raid encounters in particular with two goals - one, it should be fun. Goal number two is that it should provide an appropriate progression experience for the difficulty and where it is in the raid. Like a Heroic boss that's late in the tier, ultimately we want that to take like 10-15 wipes to beat, maybe a couple nights. Ideally, a good progression experience for a Heroic guild is to spend your first night making good progress, getting to the start of phase 3, you come back the next night, tighten up your execution, you get the kill - feels good, feels like you earned something but it's also not super frustrating. If you walk in and you kill the boss in two pulls... that's a let down, we didn't really get to feel the progression experience that you're looking for. The reality is that people are using addons - and so if we build an encounter that was theoretically completely doable and targeted at assuming you don't have addons at all, and aim for that difficulty target, people are going to use DMB and WeakAuras and go in, simplify mechanics, and have an easier than intended time, so we have to acknowledge it in that world.
Do we want you to feel like you have to download third party addons to succeed in the game? Nope, none of that feels good. Over the years, we've tried to incorporate aspects of that functionality in our base UI, even sometimes it's just design, making telegraphs better or using the energy bars of bosses, mana bars, or other ways of signaling "hey when this bar fills up a huge ability is going to happen" so you don't need a timer to let you know to prepare for it. Information is something we want to continue to improve and provide in our game. I think that's a core function of encounter design, the problem that we've seen, and that we don't really know how to solve frankly right now, is that over the last few years especially, addons have moved out of informational and into more and more computational, and that's the kind of thing in that solving the problem for you doesn't feel like a thing that... that'd be bizarre for our own UI to do. Random example we were talking about in the office last week, Wrath Classic's coming out later this year, eventually they'll get to Icecrown Citadel - random encounter from Wrath that came to mind was Blood Queen Lana'thel in Icecrown Citadel - really simple fight, couple of mechanics, almost Patchwerk level, but the one signature mechanic of course was "gotta turn into a vampire, bite other people so you don't get mind controlled" - back in the day, I as a raid leader anyway, I think most people kinda called that out on the fly. You have some rough sense of "these are our top DPS, bite the healers last, see what happens" and it's fun, you have frantic callouts, and it could be hard - sometimes you wipe because you have to go from 8-16 and people got confused. I can guarantee that when Wrath Classic Lana'thel comes around, it's going to be "get a weak aura, list the people in your raid from top to bottom in terms of DPS priority, everyone installs the weak aura, and when you become a vampire all it's going to say is bite this person" - no one has to speak, no one has to do anything. That's not great all around, that doesn't feel where we want our raid encounters to land and in some ways it stops us from doing cooperative mechanics and coordination that's fun.
And I think that all of this was always possible, people just never did it. Addons back in the day like bigwigs and stuff actively tried to avoid trying to make strategy recommendations, it was purely informational. So maybe there's like an alternative timeline where guilds had been doing this stuff 12 years ago, the same way AVR got locked down, or back in Classic cast canceling addons and decursive got changed, maybe that change would have happened. But now we have a decade worth of addons, including things you use to play your rotation better and all the rest that are all built on that framework, so it's not clear what the path forward is. I think we would have to do something that restricts what addon API can access - at least in raids and dungeons, maybe try to offer more of the proc tracking/class mechanic stuff in our base UI and maybe get to a place where we can design encounters from the ground up - still hard, still meant to take a couple dozen pulls on heroic or a hundred pulls on a late mythic end boss - we're not talking about nerfing stuff or making it easier, but we'd have to make those changes in concert. It's a lot to tackle, and I know for a lot of players, "hey we broke the thing that you rely on, that makes the game feel more accessible to you" isn't exactly a good message to swallow either. So no easy answers, but it's something we're thinking about a lot.Yeah I think so, I remember very clearly back in ICC where AVR got disabled and then also didn't that happen also in Nighthold with Star Augur and Exorsus too?
Yeah, different ways of putting 3d stuff attached to nameplates.So have you all ever thought about actually disabling the combat addons? Have there been conversations about that or is it just kind of an idea?
I mean... it's an idea that we've had conversations about. The challenge is like... the fundamental piece is "can addons tell what buffs and debuffs you have on you and members of your group have on them?" If we say no, ok cool we've just broke all raid frames, everything that you use to even just baseline tracking uptime of your Slice and Dice or whatever, you just want an addon that makes that easier to see? We broke all of that. That would be pretty ruinous for a good chunk of our player base to do suddenly. So I think we want to figure out a better path forward, but it's not clear.I think that makes sense. Will we be seeing some of those improvements and implementations of some addon features in that new UI which will be coming out in Dragonflight?
Yeah, absolutely. This is something that I guess we didn't really get a chance to touch on it in the deep dive
. Crash Reed who is one of the UI designers speaking in that deep dive, one of the things that he's worked on is kind of trying to replicate what a lot of people do with weak auras, which is centralizing information about buff uptime, debuff uptime, cooldown tracking - kind of pulling that information towards the center of your screen, so that the default UI experience, we can flag abilities for your class as things that you should be able to track very visibly. We can even show externals; if you're a tank and someone puts Pain Suppression on you, Pain Suppression duration should be right there on the middle of your screen under your character if you opt to have that on, next to your Shield Wall or whatever else, because that's helping you manage your own ability usage. So again, of course a pro tank with weak auras is going to customize things just for them, but we want the default out of the box experience to be much much better, and we know that it's not realistic to design mechanics that ask you to track uptime of a buff, when that buff is a flashing thing in the corner of your screen 12 inches away from where your eyes are focused otherwise. We need to do better, Dragonflight's UI isn't just aesthetic, it's trying to tackle that too.Yeah I'm excited to see that, I think that's something that's long overdo, and I know almost everyone uses something that's' similar to that too.