World of Warcraft AMA Recap

If you missed the Reddit AMA with the World of Warcraft development team, here are the highlights.

If you're wondering what that whole AMA thing is, head over to our news announcement for an upcoming AMA we're hosting with Forged Chaos, the development team behind Trials of Ascension. The World of Warcraft AMA was on Reddit a few days ago, and I missed it because /r/wow isn't on my highly curated front page that mostly consists of cat and goat gifs. There's not a whole lot of room for gaming news on a front page when you have all of these other things. /r/goatparkour is one of the best things on the internet. Just take my word for it.

The AMA, as you would guess, is pretty lengthy. Even with one of the moderators putting the questions into a nice, digestible table, it's organized by occurrence, rather than information. Today, I'm going to do two things: organize the information and put in a TL;DR. That's “too long; didn't read” for you, Eric Campbell, hater of acronyms. In the end, we'll have all of the information in one place that's easy to get through!

TL;DR

We'll start off with the simple questions asked and answered that can be condensed into bite-sized chunks. There were a few really good, but lengthy questions with similar answers. Those are further below in the Long Form section!

Items and Stats

There is a new Heirloom system that will come with 6.1. The reason why primary stats were removed from gems and enchants is to give players more choices in the post-reforged world (therefore, Spirit and Armor were removed from food, gems, and enchants). Trinkets should currently be proccing from heals, as well as attacks, but the tooltip to reflect this change won't happen until a later patch. Blizzard hears you on Broken Bones and are looking into whether or not to change them over to currency to free up inventory space. They are hoping to change transmogrification items in a future expansion so that you do not need to carry the item with you.

Spirit is still the best secondary stat for healers. Also, healers are still being monitored, but we should see some changes soon™. Secondary stats are still being monitored, as well, as the team works on figuring out if there are too many, and if they missed the mark on “making stats fun” versus making them work.

Classes and Abilities

They like the way the charge system for spells and abilities works, because while you can plan your rotation and use abilities as soon as they come off cooldown, it's always nice to have that extra option. This gives them more flexibility moving forward. Like class quests? So does Blizzard. They're actively working on some that will highlight and reinforce class identity. Warlock specific changes asked, reply with the fact they're being monitored without any current plans to change them. The same response to the Shaman class is a bit more detailed and gets it's own part of the article below. Racial abilities are often mistaken as being over-powered because high end PvP players will go for one faction or another (however, the example showed that last expansion, the NA went Horde, but the EU went Alliance). Combat look and feel (such as how abilities look when executed) will continue to be reassessed, and possibly something to see improvement in a future expansion. Miss Avenging Wrath on your Protection Paladin? It was removed to have specialization variation. Blizzard is okay with the fact that all talents aren't created equal and that some are better for different situations. Miss Ancestral Vigor on your Restoration Shaman? It was deemed as a stop gap measure created to guarantee raid slots for the class in raids during Cataclysm and has been removed as the spec is now seen as functional.

Garrisons and Crafting

The team is aware that there needs to be more crafted goods made with core gathered materials, rather than the gated materials you can earn. This will hopefully be addressed in future garrison updates. While racially diverse garrisons (based on the race of your character...Undead would be totally badass) are a neat idea, they're likely to not happen. The team is super happy with the way garrisons turned out and hopes to use this model to create similar modes of gameplay in the future. The fact that your friends can't see some things in your garrison when they visit is a known bug, which should be fixed with 6.1. There are plans that they will continue to add in new garrison content with each patch and to keep the content fresh. One thing that is in the plans is to make garrisons easier on your alts (insert bear dances here). Want custom garrison music? That's also slated for 6.1. We likely will not have any way to access our garrisons through a mobile app (boooooo).

Salvage loot tables were a concern, which was explained. Tier 3 crates guarantee a Tier 2 drop and an additional roll for additional goods. While there's not much info yet, Alchemy updates are currently in the works. They're not sure if Teir 17 needs anything else added in, but they're definitely working on crafting for Tier 18.

Character Models and Artwork

There will not be new Worgen and Goblin character models, however, the new models that we do have will continue to be tweaked and updated. While these new character models are the primary focus for Warlords, the team does want to extend the updated models to things like bear form and pets. Speaking of pets, the bug where taxis eat them is in the works and should be addressed in a future patch. The class accessories idea is still alive and well, however, it will likely happen in a future expansion and not Warlords of Draenor. Dear Night Elves, your goofy run animation might see an improvement in an upcoming patch, possibly even 6.1.

Ashran and Player versus Player

The cap changes to Rated Battlegrounds and Ashran were to make them easier to obtain and more manageable. The team will admit that Ashran has problems (both in design and technically) and needs fixing. The issues people are experiencing in live aren't the same issues people experienced in beta, which means Ashran is still a learning process, like how to make Kronos and NPCs react better. Ashran now has cross-realm raids, which were previously held back until Blizzard was certain they would function properly and pull from both factions. Blizzard is working on ways to improve Ashran, but also ways to improve player knowledge of how to get the most out of Ashran.

Players on the new Oceanic Servers will not be getting their own bracket, for two reasons. Not only would the small pool of players mean horrible queue times, but Blizzard has found out that smaller brackets spent too much time win trading instead of competing.

Tol Barad and Wintergrasp were implemented with the idea that only one server was playing on them. It would be difficult to convert them. We'd rather create new content. They had their moment in WoW and it was glorious.

Class balance for PvP specifically will continue throughout the season. Think healing in PvP is too over-powered? Blizzard continually monitors this and adjusts as needed. Want more Battlegrounds? Blizzard does too, but they don't know when that's feasible at this time.

We had three big additions to PvP in Warlords: Skirmishes, Ashran and the Strongbox reward system. I think Skirmishes and Strongboxes have worked out really well, but Ashran has some definite problems.

With respect to class balance in Arena and RBGs, we're evaluating it and making adjustments when appropriate. It's important that in each new expansion, we give classes cool new toys. The addition of new talents/abilities/glyphs and changes to tuning really rattle the status quo in terms of balance. Our first focus is to ensure that the general gameplay environment is fun (i.e. people aren't invincible or dying in a global). Then we move towards balancing out outlier classes. But, classes are going to have things that feel "too strong." We just need to make sure they have weaknesses as well.

Community and Miscellany

Vodka is the #1 way that the team decides what becomes a toy. Shot > toy or not toy? > throw a dart at a board to see if it hits.

Blizzard is aware that the biggest complaint about Group Finder is that the groups shown is so small. They've been increasing the number shown slowly, while also monitoring performance. They're still working on ways to improve its functionality and usefulness, and will continue to monitor the feature. Another feature they want to add to the Group Finder is a way to make it easier for people to forge friendships from people they've grouped with.

Still waiting to be online and “invisible”? Blizzard says that the Battle.net team does have this in their to-do list, but they just currently have enough higher priorities to keep it on the back burner for the time being.

No Scenarios are slated for Warlords of Draenor, but possibly a future expansion due to popularity. Blizzard knows what this means for DPS, and they're working on alleviating queue times. One possible solution is to allow for an extra DPS (bringing the group total to 5 or 6, flex) for Heroics.

Did Orgrim Doomhammer actually survive? Such tease.

It looks like flying will not be in 6.1 now, but they're hoping to improve flight paths, so the most direct path is always used. They'll have more on this later, but if you are frustrated by the lack of flying in Draenor, they welcome feedback with examples of situations where this is a frustration point for you.

As long as the community continues to play World of Warcraft, World of Warcraft will continue to grow. How much do they pay attention to the community, you ask? “Hard to quantify, but a lot.”

Long Forms

Some questions were answered in details that go beyond a quick TL;DR. Here's the best of them!

Question (Shaman):

Shaman here, and I think my post will be somewhat lengthy, so I'll put my question(s) at the beginning to hopefully make it easier for you guys:

1) Do you agree that the Shaman class has lost much of it's identity over the years?

2) Do you feel that Shaman-balance should take the form of number tweaking, or is the sudden outcry for an all-out rework justified?

3) What would you like to tell Shamans who feel like second class Druids?

And now my post to put it in context:

So far I've been really enjoying the new expansion - it's my favorite since TBC. The lore, the quests, the cinematics, the soundtrack - everything is awesome. Yet I can't help but feel that people playing other classes are just having a lot more fun than me. All throughout leveling I watched as Ret Pallys and Ferals would two-shot their quest mobs, while I struggled to kill even a single mob before being forced to spam Healing Surge 4-5 times to get to full hp for the next mob. I kept telling myself it would be different at 100 - how else could I stomach the leveling experience? And then 100 came and went. My ilvl rose to 610, then to 630, but nothing really changed. I was consistently bottom dps (sometimes even below the tank) despite having all of the correct talents/rotations/priorities. I was even removed from Heroics a few times for having low dps, only to find when I went to the Shaman forum for help that many others were having similar stories.

Then the hotfix came and there was hope. Blizzard knows we're bad! Help is on the way! And to be fair, the hotfix did help; my dps was still towards the bottom, but by a smaller margin - and I was no longer removed from groups. However we are not yet fixed, and there is room for a lot of improvement - many Shaman agree on that. What we don't seem to agree on is how that 'fix' should be implimented. Some think we just need a few more spells buffed (Lava Burst and Storm Strike in particular). Some believe our class mechanics are inherently flawed and many of them need to be reworked. I happen to be a part of the second camp. I believe that over the years our class has lost a lot of what made it unique: Totems that augment combat (windfury, stoneskin, etc), Bloodlust being given to mages, Our old mastery being turned into a secondary stat for everyone, etc. Remember that we started out as the iconic Horde class - there was a lot about Shamans (and paladins) that really stuck out from the other classes. So it's a tough pill to swallow going from the Horde's flagship class to being the undisputed "worst hybrid" in the game. So I'm sitting here with my clunky outdated totems, my pitiful damage, and just a general sadness inside while I watch my brother class (druids) get FOUR specializations, varying talents between specs, massive damage and self healing. I'm no game developer, but here are a few of the things that make me feel the Shaman kit needs a tune-up:

A) Searing Totem. An ability on the GCD that looks pretty underwhelming, lasts 1 minute, and needs to be constantly re-applied to avoid missing free dps.

B) Earthquake. A very cool ability from a thematic standpoint, but pretty clunky in implimentation - especially after you made it invisible to the tanks while leaving the cast time and cooldown the same.

C) Unleash Flame/Unleash Elements. The worst thing about this spell is that it remains on the GCD despite having it's damage removed.

D) Talents. I don't think any other hybrid class has as much overlap between their talents as Shamans do. Elemental and Enhancement are drastically different in their design, so why aren't more talents unique to a specialization?

E) Talents (cont.) We have several talents that seem like they would be baseline passives for our class. The level 45 tier is especially frustrating. Totems are such an iconic part of our class - and yet we have an entire tier of talents dedicated to fixing their problems. I mean, Capacitor totem might as well not even be on your bar unless you're running Totemic Projection - but at the same time you can't run Storm Elemental unless you also run Totemic Persistence (unless you wanna lose your level 100 ability as soon as you try to Ground a spell). This just seems like outdated design.

Sorry for the long post. I tried to make this as constructive as possible and not fall into blame and general negativity, but I apologize if anything came off as too aggressive. I do appreciate your time, both for the AMA and (hopefully) for responding to my questions.

Answer:

(Wasn't dodging this question, just tackling some more bite-sized queries first....)

Alright, shaman.

1) Do you agree that the Shaman class has lost much of it's identity over the years?

Probably the biggest blow to shaman identity came in Wrath (2008) when most buffs were changed to raidwide and were generally standardized among classes as a result. There was certainly something cool about bringing unique buffs like Windfury, and having a large number of those buffs that you could call uniquely your own. But it was quite a bit less cool being the Fury warrior who was only a viable endgame raid DPS with a shaman in your party, or being the raid leader playing party Tetris and cycling Bloodlusts through the melee group, or the elemental shaman who didn't get a raid spot because the spec's damage output was mediocre and they were only worthwhile if there was an open spot in the warlock/warlock/warlock/spriest group. I don't think returning to that would be the answer.

So, yes, the shaman is no longer a buff-bot. What, then, is the shaman identity? We do see totems as remaining a large part of that identity, and tried in Mists to remove passive buff totems and refocus them as more concentrated and intense effects that do something powerful in the short-term -- Capacitor, Tremor, Grounding, Healing Tide, etc. (not going to argue that Searing fits into this model or is particularly sexy, though). I'd be curious to hear (from you, from everyone) what it is about the shaman class that most resonates (or resonated, in the event that you've lost that lovin' feeling) with you.

2) Do you feel that Shaman-balance should take the form of number tweaking, or is the sudden outcry for an all-out rework justified?

We've already made some numbers tweaks, and we'll make some more as needed. There's no question that Enhance and especially Elemental were weak during the initial days of Warlords, but at this point we're seeing both specs performing very solidly in dungeons as well as a range of encounters in Highmaul. We'll of course continue to watch balance as gear and strategies evolve, and watch PvP representation and success as the arena/RBG season really gets underway. In the short term, I would not expect a drastic overhaul. Drastic overhauls of classes are something we do rarely, and then almost exclusively with expansions and not patches. There are plenty of shaman out there who are having fun who don't want to log in to find their class completely changed overnight. But that doesn't that there isn't room for improvement. A number of the points above regarding talents are very valid, and there's definitely room for more differentiation through that avenue. And the Call/Persistence/Projection row is terrible.

3) What would you like to tell Shamans who feel like second class Druids?

Druids are cats/bears/turkeys/trees; you are mail-clad warriors of the elements. Have faith, and try to focus feedback in a constructive way that focuses on specific areas of discontent. We're listening.

Question (general):

First of all, thanks for taking the time to answer these questions in this point in time. Things must be really busy at the office with Highmaul released to the public and the world bosses giving trouble to EVERYONE. I have a couple of questions that trouble me a lot, they are the following:

  • Why does the amount of Missions decrease substantially when all the active followers are level 100? The amount of missions I could do before this happened were about 25 to 30 per day. Now I am limited to 3 or 4 missions, which leaves me with 16 to 17 followers doing nothing at all, making the barracks level 3 upgrade a bit pointless as well. This also brings a bit of a problem with the Salvage yard.

  • Is there a chance that we could have an option to stop moving background in certain dungeons/raids? Grimrail Depot causes 2 of my guildmates to have motion sickness when we are doing the second and third bosses, and it doesn’t help when that instance is needed for the legendary ring quest.

  • This is a lore question, but I think it could be game related as well, where on Draenor is Dentarg? I have not seen him at all.

  • Are there plans to expand the garrison further than level 3? The phase where the garrison is seems to be a little bit big for what they are.

  • How many of you actively play the game outside of work hours and now many reached level cap in this expansion? (My take is that I'd feel sick of seeing the same game on my work hours that I'd play something else on my free time, not related to the previous questions in terms of context.)

  • How long does it take to create, test and ship out a raid instance at this point in time? I remember watching the 10 year anniversary and hearing that Molten Core took a week to create is something interesting to hear.

Again, thanks for your patience and time. Keep up the good work.

Answer: 
  1. We were hoping not to have a bunch of irrelevant missions spamming up your mission list. We didn't plan well enough for the fact that those missions aren't really irrelevant when the salvage yard is OP. It's definitely an issue we talk about here, but solutions are complex and can have a lot of ripple-effect consequences on the rest of the system/game.

  2. Ugh, sorry to hear that. =[ Not sure that we have a quick/easy solution for that, but we'll take into consideration.

  3. Good question, I can't say I have a good answer that I wouldn't be making up on the spot.

  4. There are plans to do more with garrison building progression in patch 6.2. Details at a future date since we're still fairly early working on 6.2.

  5. Almost all of us I'd say. It's actually a very different experience playing at home with friends/family than it is playtesting at work, so it doesn't feel like "work" when playing from home. For example, even though I've run missions like crazy for the better part of a year, it has still been a blast logging in every chance I get to make sure my followers are being used efficiently. =]

  6. The anniversary video was talking specifically of the encounter creation part of it (a week didn't encompass the environment and creature art time). No doubt that was still a feat though, it was amazing to see it come together so quickly. Certainly, the production value of the raid encounters these days is significantly higher (environmental gameplay, visual effects, encounter mechanics, flex difficulty, etc) so it takes many more hours to make an encounter today than it did back then. So, lots of time!

Question (LFG & Community):

First off, You guys do great work and while you take a lot of heat from internet trolls, I hope you all know how much we really do appreciate you and all your efforts.

My question: LFG and LFR have significantly increased play-time vs. down-time, but as a result have also changed the way we experience the community in-game. It’s removed the interaction between players forming groups, and pairs them with people from other servers that they’ll never see again.

How do you feel about this shift over time, and have you thought about any new ways to inspire the growth of closer-knit communities and cameraderie, like your addition of the Premade Group Finder and Guild Achievements?

Answer:

We feel like it's crucial that we support both the "easy in, easy out" gameplay of dungeon/raid finder for players that are just in the mood to quickly run some content. However, the addition of the group finder is a first step toward improving the other side of the coin, as we also want the game to do a better job of fostering cooperative play and enabling longer-term relationships to be created. We have more stuff in mind for the future to continue to make this better/cooler.

The End.

Be sure to head over to this post right here if you want two nice tables of all of the questions answered. I skipped some “yep, that's a bug, will be fixed soon” questions.


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About The Author

Vendolyn's been playing MMOs since 1999, although Vendolyn in-game often becomes a long-term shelved alt. When she's not gaming, she's likely marathoning some questionable TV show or babbling about music to no end. She really likes goats.

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