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Vanion.eu Q&A with Ion Hazzikostas - Negativity, Itemization, Rise of Azshara Plans
27/01/2019 alle 21:08
World of Warcraft Game Director Ion Hazzikostas held a Q&A interview with the German World of Warcraft website Vanion.eu, talking about negativity, itemization, crafting, comparisons with Legion, War Mode, and plans for Patch 8.2: Rise of Azshara, which you can watch or read through our recap below. For those who may remember, a similar interview was held with the
Greek Community last month
, with interest in more frequent communication and discussion with smaller groups and communities.
It's no secret that the current mood of the community is not the best, and as a fansite we've seen negative comments about almost every aspect of the game. Why do you think it has gotten so extreme since the release of Battle for Azeroth?
Not easy to answer, but it's something that they spend a lot of time thinking about and actively occupies a lot of their time. With ~300 people working on WoW, they read comments on Reddit, Twitter, fansites, etc, and have seen the feedback, passion, pain, and anger expressed by a community that cares about what happens within the game. No matter what, they want to stress that they do care deeply about the state of the game.
One challenge of that (touched on in the
) is the huge diversity of players. It isn't that the developers are out of touch or don't understand, and it isn't the complaining player's fault; if someone only cares about high end PvP, it's ok to be upset over changes which affect them and shouldn't be expected to care about another group of players, but the developers want to consider how change can affect other groups of players who may have opposing views, as well as thinking about how those changes may affect the game in the long-run.
As to why; it's not an excuse or deflection, but the internet in general is polarized and prone to extreme viewpoints. It's easier to express anger and opinions, more prone to argumentation and less about finding common ground or places of agreement, which you can see across a wide range of subjects. That said, the developers are learning from mistakes made at the start of Battle for Azeroth, a lot of work to correct them has been done already, and more will follow. There's still a lot to be proud of in Battle for Azeroth; Battle of Dazar'alor has had a great reception so far, and the expansion has a bright future ahead of it, with the majority of BfA activity still to come.
One of the bigger community complaints is with end-game itemization; on the one hand there needs to be catch up mechanics for new players and alts, on the other it feels like there are no advantages for intense day to day players. Why so much change between early expansion itemization and today's?
The game has been this way for the last 10+ years. Classic & Burning Crusade were a different era, changed largely in Wrath of the Lich King (Trial of the Crusader). Going back to the last question regarding diverse groups of players, it's important that gear, power, and progression matter, but they also want the game to be accessible to new or returning players. In Burning Crusade, guilds complained bitterly about having to go back to old content to get attunements in order to keep new players up to par, which made it much harder to recruit and get into raiding as a whole. If you come back and want to play Battle of Dazar'alor today, you may not be able to jump in immediately, but it's much easier than spending 3-4 months farming Uldir and Mythic+ first. Tides of Vengeance adding those catch up mechanics well ahead of Dazar'alor's delayed launch isn't a philosophy change, it was just caused by conflicting holidays. In 8.2: Rise of Azshara, the raid will likely release with or very shortly after the patch.
Why aren't there more currencies and vendors for gear, similar to buying Azerite?
It's not something they've completely moved away from; there's a place for loot you get randomly from a boss, and for guaranteed progression from other sources. Titanite Residuum helps, but they could probably do more for the raid and dungeons, while Conquest serves that purpose for PvP, allowing you to work toward guaranteed rewards which complement end of match and weekly chest loot.
If you could change two or three things prior to Battle for Azeroth release, what would they be?
Interesting question, which depends on how far they can go back! A lot of what they did in Tides of Vengeance reflects regrets and lessons learned from launch - things like Islands and Azerite armor. Going back even further, there are fundamental issues with Azerite which players pointed out, and they're already looking to pivot away from and correct in Rise of Azshara. They're happy from a customization perspective of making items with more depth to allow you to choose bonuses, rather than secondary stat distributions; that's an interesting and successful system, but the progression and unlock of those traits with Artifact Power isn't. In Rise of Azshara they want to keep those things permanently unlocked and have a different avenue for progression in the Heart of Azeroth itself.
There are a lot of new and interesting raid mechanics in Battle of Dazar'alor, what's your favorite fight in the new raid?
Probably Opulence or Mekkatorque. The split raid dynamic of Opulence is reminiscent of Thorim and has cool environmental flavor, while Mekkatorque is just a fun fight with a new aspect of communication and coordination as you're frantically calling out each other's shutdown sequences.
What can you tell us about the smaller Crucible of Storms raid, can we expect it to open with patch 8.1.5, and what can we expect out of the rewards since it's not a higher raid tier?
Crucible serves as a bridge between Dazar'alor and Rise of Azshara, not necessarily directly with 8.1.5, but likely soon after. Rewards item level isn't quite finalized, it may depend on where the player base is at a whole, but it's only a two boss raid so it won't completely replace Dazar'alor either way.
Faction Assaults combined with War Mode are really fun, and prior to 8.1, War Mode wasn't very fun. There are still issues like sharding, not being able to filter Looking for Group by War Mode, or summon friends who are/not in War Mode. Any further plans to improve the system?
Those are all challenges, but some are also restrictions which enable the system to exist in the first place. If it were server based, the imbalanced servers would cause PvP to cease to exist, because they're dominated by one faction or the other, causing the other faction to avoid those servers, and perpetuating the imbalance. War Mode gives everyone a chance to decide if they want to PvP or not and the system tries to create relatively balanced shards pulled from multiple servers. There's definitely inconvenience, but what it enables is worth it.
The custom section of the Looking for Group tool requires you to put in War Mode information manually, but using the default setups (clicking the green eye next to your quest tracker), the Looking for Group tool automatically filters War Mode status for outdoor content, while ignoring it for instanced content. The challenge of custom groups is that they can be anything, so they don't know if it's instanced content which ignores War Mode anyway, but it all could be better documented.
Legion focused on class identity, order halls, legendaries, artifacts, and many players were pretty happy about it. There's little like it in Battle for Azeroth, a lack of the identity and character development. Why did you decide to change this between Legion and Battle for Azeroth?
Part of it is storyline; Legion began with the factions failing, and the class Order Halls rising to fill the void, making it an expansion focused on class identity. Battle for Azeroth is more focused on faction identity, what it means to be Horde or Alliance, and things like racial identity through heritage armor. Class identity remains important, it's just not the focus of the expansion; they are still making improvements to visual fidelity, and finding ways to make each class feel special to play is something that they're always looking to do. Players tend to view World of Warcraft through the lens of the class they play, and that's important, but it isn't always the central focus of every story they're telling.
From Warlords to Legion, a lot of talent trees changed from utility rows based on player preference to throughput rows with fewer utility. How has that worked out as a design decision and is it something you'd consider revisiting?
Not sure there was a conscious decision to move away from utility. Throughput rows gives players a chance to control their strengths/weaknesses and customize their rotation a little bit, whether they prefer proc driven gameplay, passive bonuses, or want to add another ability to the rotation. Giving players those choices lets people find the thing that feels best for them within the given specialization, while for higher end players, it allows them to customize in order to excel in given situations. For utility, they've tried to avoid mixing it with throughput, since those don't usually feel like good decisions and throughput usually wins. They're also trying not to homogenize classes too much - one of the dangers of utility is if everyone has access to everything, then individual tools feel less special.
They've pulled away from some talents which have given classes abilities that were traditionally weaknesses; Monks and Demon Hunters are on the high end of mobility, while Paladins and Death Knights are on the lower end of the spectrum and though they still have mobility talents like Divine Steed and Death's Advance, mobility isn't supposed to be their strength and having too many options takes away from their identity.
Speaking of talents, why were so many baseline abilities and passives made into talents?
This was the product of a philosophy that was at the time focused on reducing the number of abilities in bloated spellbooks. The problem of adding new abilities to classes with each expansion over 10+ years is that classes end up having 30-40 abilities in their spellbook, that players didn't have keybindings for, and were often very niche. As they removed things, they've tried to give players choice, so that if they like those abilities they could keep them via talents. Today, they don't think classes have too many abilities, it isn't a problem they're trying to solve in Battle for Azeroth, so they're more receptive to moving abilities back baseline where it makes sense.
Can you tell us more about Mechagon in patch 8.2, is it a new mega-dungeon, or zone, or what can we do there?
Mechagon is a second zone, smaller than Nazjatar, which is the main zone in Rise of Azshara. It includes a mega-dungeon similar to Karazhan in Legion, but they're not saying much more right now. 8.2 will go on the PTR shortly after 8.1.5 is out, at which time there'll be more to reveal regarding the story, rewards, and what you'll be doing there.
Can we talk about Mechagnomes and allied races?
It's exciting to see people speculate about allied races, and they haven't finalized every decision, so it's exciting to hear feedback from the community, but nothing concrete right now!
At BlizzCon it sounded like Nazjatar will include something new every day, could you give us some examples?
Unfortunately not yet, the focus is on 8.1.5, but there will be a lot more to talk about soon. The goal of Nazjatar is to learn from everything they've done in previous outdoor zones and improve upon the best of all of them.
Treasure chests and rares in Battle for Azeroth are boring and not really rare as they were in previous expansions. Will there be any more "real" rares in the future that will be more exciting?
Agree with the criticism; treasure was better in Warlords of Draenor, although there were some issues with finding a single pixel that was a ring at the bottom of a riverbed, but it was a better system that they'd like to move back to. Regarding Rare mobs, there haven't been true rares since Mists of Pandaria; even in Warlords, cross-server groups opened up a lot of gameplay, but led to server hopping in order to find rares. People wouldn't actually look for rares, they just camp the spawn location and look for groups which have them up. It's something they'd like to experiment with again in Rise of Azshara and beyond, because it is a cool feeling finding and defeating a rare mob that drops something interesting, but it shouldn't be trivial.
Are we going to see something like the class-specific solo challenges from the Mage Tower again in the future?
It's something they'd love to do again in the future, but don't want it to become formulaic with every expansion. It's important to have a good reason for it, a reward that fits into the context of the world, but they're definitely not done with that kind of solo challenge. The Mage Tower was a huge success, and something they want to do again.
Heroic Warfronts were announced at BlizzCon for 8.2, can you tell us more about the differences? Warfronts are an interesting concept, but too easy and straightforward to be fun, we don't think it's even possible to lose!
It's possible, although extremely unlikely. The Warfront experience on live today is basically an LFR encounter; that's the audience and tuning. The gist of Heroic Warfronts is more like a normal mode experience, for a premade coordinated group for a group of friends to do together. It won't be a challenge for a Mythic raid group, but they do want to make it a more involved and coordinated experience. More information will come once Rise of Azshara hits the PTR.
Will there be a new Warfront in Patch 8.2?
None planned for Rise of Azshara, only Heroic Warfronts.
What about the Barrens Warfront speculation?
Nothing is planned. That was a very early internal prototype, when first beginning development of Battle for Azeroth, which served as a test bed before any of the new areas were created. Most things were taken out and never even made it into Alpha testing, but a few strings remained and were found by datamining.
Any further plans for crafting? We've never heard a player say World of Warcraft has a good crafting system. It's kind of boring and useless without many perks or rare recipes.
It's an area they're looking to prove, but nothing specific to share right now. Historically, the most successful crafting professions in WoW are the ones that have things to sell - Alchemy and Herbalism work pretty well, though Blacksmithing, Leatherworking, and Tailoring are more difficult because the gear competes with other gear obtained in the game. If you can get crafted gear better or equal to raid gear, there's not much point to raiding; if it's weaker, then crafting feels useless. What they've tried to do is tie crafting into materials obtained from dungeons and raids, such as farming Tidal Cores to craft new pieces in 8.1. Still, it's an area with opportunity for improvement and possibilities for progression; the fantasy for being a Blacksmith and being a different or better Blacksmith than other players is something they're definitely falling short in and would like to do better.
Zone design in Kul Tiras and Zandalar is beautiful, but traveling back to the old zones feels like a completely different game. Arathi and Darkshore overhauls were nice, can we get more?
It almost is a completely different game when some of those zones are 10 years old! The big challenge is that redoing old zones is a huge undertaking which takes resources away from making brand-new content for the current game. They're always looking for reasons or excuses to do it, such as a meaningful piece of new content in the old world (Warfronts), and they'd like to continue it for select zones over time, but it's hard to imagine deciding to update old zones over creating new ones; it wouldn't be in players best interests overall.
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