A while back it was mentioned that there would be a legendary in patch 4.3. A lot of us have been kind of expecting an agility one-hander. Anything new on that front?
GS: Yes, you're right! It is a pair of agility one-handers, and they are, in fact, daggers, and they are Rogue-only.
Rogue-only, interesting. So, a Legendary for just one class.
GS: Yeah. Yeah, we haven't done anything like that before, but we thought it would be fun to try to tie the weapon's proc and the quest line itself to rogue mechanics. Like, we know that the person on the quest will be able to stealth and pickpocket and they'll have combo points, and they'll be able to slowfall, and we thought it would be fun to really tailor things to the rogue specifically.
It always causes a ton of controversy when people are like “Oh, I was expecting... it's time for the Feral legendary” or whatever. It's a really hard thing to balance, and hopefully, eventually, we'll get around to giving everyone a legendary, but we don't want it to be too predictable, that takes some of the fun out of it. We try to keep players on their toes a little bit.
One more thing I should mention is that the mechanics are such that Combat rogues will be able to use the two daggers just as fine as well.
Okay, so regardless of spec, if you're a Rogue you're gonna want these things.
GS: Yeah, exactly.
A few weeks ago, tank threat generation was given a huge buff, the idea being that the tank rotation would be refocused on survivability at a later date. Should tanks be expecting those changes in patch 4.3?
GS: No, no... they're pretty severe changes and I was scared if we put something that major into 4.3 some players would love it and some would really hate it, to change something on them that dramatically right in the middle of content. So that's something we'll probably save for a future expansion, but it's definitely something we've been thinking about a lot.
What made you decide to push the threat hotfix before the rest of the changes could be implemented?
We had decided a while ago that we were going to make a fix to threat in 4.3. We were just getting really frustrated by all the tales of... it's funny, because the community really latched onto this as a Dungeon Finder fix but we always viewed it as a problem we were seeing players having in raids, and even heroic raids, where no matter what the tank was doing, someone, perhaps a DPS Warrior or Death Knight, was creeping up on them and then we'd have to have Hand of Salv rotations and things like that, and we were talking about “Okay, what threat dump are we going to give the DPS Warrior?” and it just made us sit down and say “You know what? Is anyone really having fun with this system?”
I mean, really good tanks that are good at keeping threat were having fun, but anytime they were losing threat, it was not fun for them, and it certainly wasn't fun for the DPS to have to always feel throttled and have to, you know... I remember this Feral Druid who said “I can't attack Al'akir for 16 seconds because if I do, I'll pull threat off of the tank” so he would just sit there and do nothing for a while. And we were like, you know, that doesn't really fit the model everyone's trying for now, which is pop Bloodlust on the pull, and everyone pop their trinkets right away on the opening...
So anyway, long story, once we decided we were gonna make the threat change, we were like, you know why should we wait? Let's just do it now and try to fix some of the problems players are having in Firelands.
Okay, so it was kind of a “People aren't having fun with threat right now, so we'll just get rid of this right now, and then give tanks something extra to do a little bit later on, but right now we need to solve this issue.”
GS: Yeah, and as you know, the truth is that good tanks weren't really having to struggle too much. You know, if you fail to press your Shield Slam or Crusader Strike at exactly the right millisecond, you're probably not going to lose threat anyway, so I don't think we're really taking away a lot of gameplay. We were taking away a lot of gameplay that, you know, once upon a time might have been interesting, or everyone was kinda holding on to the theoretical idea of what “threat fights” could be, but it just hadn't really been a very exciting mechanic for a long time.
Any major class changes we should be expecting in 4.3?
GS: We are going to do a kind of a raid melee buff across the board. We're gonna take the attack power buff and have it apply more to melee attack power than ranged attack power. On a target dummy melee and ranged DPS is pretty comparable, but in the encounters over and over, melee players come to us and are like, “Why am I here? We could do better with another Hunter or Warlock.” And we're sensitive to that, so we want to make sure that melee feel like they have a place, and we're gonna do that by making sure that, when situations are optimal for them, when they have, say a Baleroc fight or something where there's not a lot of movement, not a lot of adds, that the melee really shine on those fights, because we know there will be plenty of other opportunities for everyone else to shine.
Right, it's always been kind of a battle of balance where when melee is stronger than ranged, then there's “the melee fights” when there's not much movement. How do you guys approach that theoretically in terms of trying to balance out movement in encounter design when you're trying to figure out if a spec needs a buff or not?
GS: We actually do model DPS rotations on the move. We have... we can cheat a lot more in the game than we let players do. We can do crazy things with automation that we prevent players from doing. So, it's easy for us to test out pretty simple movement, like “how much damage can you do while moving, while pursuing a boss?” It's a lot harder to replicate all the mechanics that go on in a fight like, say, Majordomo where you're running in and running out, and in those cases we rely a lot on raid parses that come out from actual players, so we can see “Well, the Ret Paladin looked good when he was up against a Warlock on a static boss, but on a fight like this, they're just falling behind.”
Will we be seeing epic gems in 4.3?
GS: Great question, and yes, you will! The way we're hoping to set it up, and we kind of have this working but things could change before we go live, is when you kill a boss on normal or heroic mode, each player gets a geode, and when they open the geode there's a chance they may find an epic gem inside. If not, it'll have blue gems or something like that. We really want it to feel like an individual reward, and not something that the raid leader gets to have fun in deciding who gets the gems, or they all go to the guild bank or something. We really want it to feel like an individual reward.
They'll be somewhat rare. It may take the entire content cycle before someone has replaced every red gem they have, but they won't be so rare that you won't see them.
How is that going to work with profession bonuses? Blacksmithing with its extra sockets, assuming that you could get ahold of a full set of epic gems, seems like it would all of a sudden become the best profession.
GS: I think the epic gems are like 10 stat points over the current ones, so it's a nice boost, but hopefully it won't push everyone towards Blacksmithing.
So you'd only end up with like 20 extra Strength as a Blacksmith.
GS: Yeah, something like that.
So recently, Ragnaros has been hotfixed, and now there's the big tier-wide hotfixes coming up as well. What's the thought process that you guys use in determining when bosses should be nerfed? How do you come to the conclusion that, say, “X amount of guilds have killed Ragnaros, we need to nerf him. X amount of guilds are still working on Heroic Shannox, we need a zone-wide nerf”?
GS: We gather... I would call it a staggering amount of data on boss kills and number of attempts and things like that. We look a lot at how many new kills have there been for a particular week, like okay this guild couldn't kill Shannox before but killed him this week. The flows to those curves tend to be pretty steep at first because, you know, the really talented guilds roll in and kinda clear everything quickly, and then they start to slow down over time as you might expect, you know, not everyone gets a new boss kill every week, and then at some point they really start to plateau, and that is, the raiders now are just not moving. And we know that we risk losing raiders. They may not unsubscribe, but they may just stop raiding any time they hit a brick wall for too long.
Now, if you're Paragon, and you don't mind making 300 attempts, that's one thing, but a lot of raiders don't have that staying power. They're willing to wipe on a boss for a few weeks, but not for months and months and months for a boss that's early on in the tier. So once we start to see those boss kills fall off, we go in and selectively nerf things that players are having trouble with. We kind of want everyone to feel like they have finished Firelands before 4.3 comes out. That doesn't mean that every guild in the world needs to have killed Heroic Ragnaros, but we do want them to feel like they were making steady progression, and it wasn't like “Well, we killed 7 bosses, then we did 1 boss on heroic, and then we couldn't ever kill that second boss on heroic for 4 months.” I mean, that isn't fun, so we try to make sure that everyone feels like they're always making some level of progress.
So, with these nerfs coming into place... I know you guys don't like giving out dates, but should we at least be expecting to see a 4.3 PTR soon? Personally, my guild is 6/7 heroic. Should we be expecting several months of just one boss to work on, and then just farming the instance?
GS: Obviously it's going to depend a lot on when 4.3 comes out. Our hope is that we can make our patches faster and faster than we've done in the past. So, smart players might see that we're nerfing Firelands now and think that means that Firelands is coming to a close soon, but usually our patches are on PTR for a while, so there should be plenty of warning based on how the PTR is going of when that will actually end.
I have a theory about the Deathwing fight. It's been kind of alluded to a bunch, but never really spelled out, so I'm hoping you can help me out here. It seems like the idea is that the Deathwing encounter is actually going to be multiple encounters, and you'll be facing him at different points.
GS: You're on the right track. So, Deathwing is basically two bosses in this raid. He's boss number 7 and boss number 8. Boss number 7 is the fight where you fight on his back, so you're having to deal with him, and he's obviously there in the fight, but he's not sitting around breathing fire on you or things like that. Boss 8 is the final showdown with Deathwing, and this fight as well has many many phases. The first thing you do is fight one of his... so, back up a little bit. At this point, Deathwing is definitely hurting a little bit. His armor is falling off, all the raw corruption inside is kind of exploding out of him, and he's now something halfway between a dragon and an old god minion. He's kind of... we call him “C'thulhu Deathwing” at this point.
So you're fighting like, a tentacle, and then once the tentacle is down you fly kind of Skywall raid-style to a next island, and now you're fighting one of his claws, and then you move to another one and you're beating down a wing. And he's attacking you this whole time; he's spitting fire at you, he's breathing, he's got this big scorpion tail that he's jabbing you with, but he's so large that you're just knocking down a piece at a time until finally you've beaten every single part of him, if you're awesome enough to do that, and defeated him once and for all.
Awesome! So there's encounter number 7, that's on his back, and then encounter number 8 is hopping around through different parts and fighting off Old God corruption as well as bits of Deathwing. So there's 6 other bosses before that?
GS: Yes, that's correct.
Okay, so total of 8 encounters in 4.3.
GS: Yeah. The first several bosses are around Wyrmrest Temple. At this point, all of Deathwing's forces, from the old god minions to the Twilight Hammer, to the Twilight and Black Dragons, are all attacking Wyrmrest, and the players are on a strike team to kind of... this giant elemental comes lumbering across the landscape and you guys gotta take him out before he breaks Wyrmrest down. And you do a little bit of that for a while. Then, the forces actually get to Wyrmrest itself, and... I believe boss 5 is a gigantic Twilight Dragon that's flying around the top of Wyrmrest breathing on you while the players are defending the Dragon Aspects and trying to kill this dragon.
From there you get onto a gunship and are chasing Deathwing, and the High General, the commander of all the military forces of the Twilight's Hammer, comes down Rend and Gyth style and leaps off his drake to fight you on the gunship. And then you go on to the Deathwing fight, and then you go on to the Maelstrom fight.
Awesome! That sounds absolutely amazing.
GS: Yeah. We've never done a raid like this before. Our raids have almost always been a long hallway with trash, and then a boss room, and then another long hallway. This one is so different. It's very event driven. It's more scripted than location-based. A little bit like Hyjal, but even then you were kind of like, “Okay, we're in the Human area, and now we're going to the Orc area.” This one is a lot more like the bosses are coming AT you.
So I'm assuming then it's going to be in basically an instanced version of Dragonblight, outside of Wyrmrest Temple?
GS: Yeah, exactly. It's a modified Wyrmrest Temple that's under siege.
So I guess this is kind of an acute question, but... where do we zone in?
GS: No, it's a really good question, something we had to struggle with. We're doing three 5-player dungeons and a raid in this patch, and all the entrances are in Caverns of Time. Even though the raid itself takes place in “the modern day”, it made sense just to be there with the other portals. And since the players are allied particularly with the Bronze Dragonflight through this patch, we thought it made sense just to have that as the entrance to the raid.
Is there anything you can tell me about the 5-man dungeons?
GS: Yeah, they're really cool. Kind of like what we did with Icecrown where they built up to the actual assault on Icecrown Citadel, these are kind of telling the story of how the players get the Dragon Soul, which is this powerful artifact they need to defeat Deathwing. And the way they do it is they go back in time to the War of the Ancients, where Azshara was still a Night Elf, and the demons were coming out of the Well of Eternity, to steal the Dragon Soul. And because they're kind of screwing up time at this point, Nozdormu tells you at the end, “Okay, we totally messed up time, don't worry about it, I'll go fix everything, you guys just take the Dragon Soul and go.”
And then, in the next dungeon, you have the Dragon Soul, you hook up with Thrall, and together you're trying to reach Wyrmrest Temple -- this is another instanced version of Dragonblight -- while all the various minions of Deathwing and the Twilight Hammer, and ultimately the leader of the Twilight Hammer, who we haven't seen yet, try to stop you from doing that. So it'll hearken back a little bit to the Escape from Durnholde style of fight, but of course all new.