by Ten Ton Hammer, Curse.com, and MMO Gamer
by Jeffrey Kaplan and Tom Chilton, Co-Lead Designers for World of
Last week, the internet was awash with new information on
Blizzard’s upcoming expansion for World of Warcraft
titled Wrath of the
. Although lots of general information was
divulged to top media outlets, including Ten Ton Hammer, there really
wasn’t too much in-depth information presented to the
gathered press. Thankfully, Ten Ton Hammer’s Cody
“Micajah” Bye was on the scene – along
with MMOG aficionado sites Curse.com and MMO Gamer – and this
trio presented Wrath of
the Lich King
’s co-lead designers, Jeffrey
Kaplan and Tom Chilton, with a whole variety of interesting questions
that led to a number of interesting discoveries, including the first
mention of Legacy Items!
If you enjoy this interview, make sure you check out our in-depth
overview of the Death
, and our 10 brand new
How did you decide to
pursue the dual (10 and 25 person) raiding system? Was it in response
to a community desire? Or was it something that you saw in the numbers?
A concept drawing of
the Death Knight.
Jeffrey Kaplan: No,
we wouldn't do anything we saw from the numbers. I think when you look
at statistics you can bend them any direction you want to make a case
for or against anything. I think it was really an evolution of a lot of
things. You touched on one of the things which was community reaction,
another thing was that we were really just trying out the Heroic system
with Burning Crusade and getting a feel for it and what we could do
with it and what would be successful and what wouldn't be.
Touching on that, how
drastic are the encounters going to change between 10 and 25 man,
because like Naxxramas Four Horsemen may not really be viable in a 10
man, meanwhile 25 it may be more so.
At the same time, Karazhan in and of itself was a bit of an experiment
to treat a 10 person zone like a full-blown epic raiding zone and see
how that could come off. And it came off pretty well and was very
popular, and then Zul'Aman was an evolution of that. We determined that
"Ok we did this kind of good entry-level 10 person raid." People
treated it as raiding, came up with strategies for fights, got stuck on
bosses for a week or two, and I think Zul'Aman really showed that we
could do pretty elite raiding at that point and pretty hardcore and
epic fights. Fighting a major storyline character like Zul'jin and
defeating him with 10 people. It came off okay.
And then on the flipside of the coin there was a lot of discontent from
the 25 person raiding crowd about having to go through Karazhan, having
to kill Nightbane. (They were saying) "Hey we're a 25 person raiding
guild, that's what we want to do, why are you forcing us to do this
other content?" The goal with the 10 and 25 thing is not that we want
to have sort of easy mode and that's 10, and then hard mode and that's
25. We really do just want to have two separate, clear progressions.
And even within those we want to have easy 10 and 25 raids, and then
medium 10 and 25, and hard 10 and 25. We want to have progression
So it seemed like an overall good decision, it also seemed like a way
that we could get a lot more people to experience the content, and not
just feel like "Why are you making this stuff? It doesn't make any
sense to us. Who are these people who go in there; I never see them."
So it gives us a way to sort of address a lot of issues at once.
Kaplan: Yeah the
Four Horsemen's actually just a gnome on a puppy dog now. *laughs* It's
just Mr. Bigglesworth and we put him in that room.
So, are 40 man raids gone
for good? 25 seems a little low for Arthas.
No - we definitely recognize that as a challenge to us as a development
team; something we need to overcome. What we've been doing is analyzing
all the fights in a place like Naxxramas, and trying to come up with
what was the heart of what made Naxxramas cool, or the Four Horsemen
cool. Was it the fact that you needed lots of tanks? Is that what made
the fight cool? Or was it the fact that it took a high level of
coordination, the stacking buffs, the movement, and really trying to
find the essence of each encounter.
And we'll have to do different things between 10 and 25. Already the
Four Horsemen doesn't work in 25 person raiding; we're gonna have to
make some changes to the encounter. But what we don't want to do is
just come up with the gnome on the puppy dog, or like we don't want to
just gut the encounter and start over. We want to hit whatever that
core was of the initial 40 person Naxxramas, and then come up with a
version that doesn't force weird class composition in the 10 and 25.
One other note about Naxx that I've been trying to communicate to
people too is, it's gonna feel very different anyway, even if we hadn't
done the 10 and 25 thing because of where we're placing it in the
raiding progression. It really is that entry-level raid now, so that
means it has to be tuned to be more at the bottom of the curve rather
than at the top of the curve where it was before. So Naxx will be
pretty accessible in both the 10 and the 25 man versions. And later on
as we get deep into Ulduar and some of the deeper raid dungeons after
that, that's when it'll start to get crazy again.
Kaplan: That's a
great question. I don't want to say 40 man raids are gone for good,
because if we ever felt like the quality of the gaming experience would
be better if we did a 40 person raid, we would do it. Conceptually, I
don't know what the right number conceptually is that would defeat
Arthas. I could make the same argument for Illidan or Zul'jin. Why are
these powerful guys dying to so few? What I hope, and I'm sure the
community will correct me if I'm wrong, because they are excellent at
doing that. But what I hope is that, in the essence of those
encounters, we've captured something that was epic.
And for those that were present, sure you might hear "Yeah Illidan
died to 25 people and that sounds weird or wrong," but for anybody
whose been there and killed Illidan, "Man was that an epic moment", and
that's what we're hoping to deliver on. I want anybody who fights
Arthas, whether it's with 10 or 25 or that one guy who figures out how
to solo him - God forbid - to say "Man, that was the most epic fight
that I've ever been a part of."
How are you guys handling
Death Knight in PvP? It seems like - I wouldn't say an overpowered
class - but you're introducing a whole new system with the runes and
that sort of thing. How do you guys blend the Death Knight into the
current classes as far as PvP goes?
Kaplan: That's a
really good question. I was thinking of that when we were watching Tom
do the demo, and I'm like "Man this is gonna freak everyone out" when
he showed the pull ability, or the Chains of Ice, or the Death and
Decay with the fear going off. I mean, you can see some of the arena
implications behind that... But even if we hadn't introduced the Death
Knight with Wrath of the Lich King, if we were to show you the talent panes right
now for the remaining classes, and the new abilities that they're
Resilience was introduced
in The Burning Crusade. Can PvP players expect anything new with this
Sort of the class balance as you know it today is going to change
pretty drastically without the introduction of the new class. Because
we're adding 10 new talent points, new tiers across all three trees for
every class, we're adding those new core abilities, and we're also
retuning some of the old abilities. Some of those you can probably
notice in there, like take a look at Warrior Rend or Thunderclap. There
are ones in there that are like old abilities for classes where they
didn't use them or felt they were ineffective. We're going to have to
rebalance PvP in this expansion anyway, so if anything it's the perfect
time to introduce the Death Knight, and then make sure it just works
within that balance.
Kaplan: We haven't
finished completely itemizing PvP. Resilience is here to stay, we like
the statistic. I don't think we'll be adding anything else to
Resilience at this point, it's a pretty powerful statistic, and I don't
know if we'll be adding any additional PvP-specific things. Itemization
is still up in the air in terms of what exact stats will be PvP desired
and PvE, but Resilience is a very clear PvP stat at this point and
we're going to continue on that trend.
Staying on the topic of
PvP, you're adding your first open world zone in Northrend. Some would
say Hillsbrad is the first open world zone, but on that subject are the
open world PvP zones going to be exclusive to expansion content, or are
you thinking about going back and adding them to some of the unused
areas in the old world?
Kaplan: Well, that's
a great question. I think before we commit to adding open world PvP to
the old world, we really want to see how Wintergrasp plays out. We have
a really good idea how we want it to play out, and what mechanics we
want to work there, and what we don't want it to degenerate into. So we
have some pretty good ideas behind that, but before seeing it play out
in action we don't want to immediately go back to the old world and
affect some of those areas. I hope though that we've proven, like in
the patch where we addressed Dustwallow Marsh, that it's on our agenda
to hit lots of old world areas whether it's PvP revamps or PvE revamps,
and just taking a hard look at the old world and keeping it viable,
keeping it cool. It's one of our favorite areas; we put so much time
into building it so it's sad when people move on from it.
How are you handling item
inflation and that sort of thing in the upcoming expansion? I know with
each expansion you have to increase the power level to make players
want to get it, but is there a certain point where it becomes
ridiculous when you get to higher levels and the shoulder pads can't
get any bigger, and the swords can't get any wider?
I'm really excited about Stratholme for that reason actually - the
Caverns of Time Stratholme event - I think it's great not just for the
Warcraft III players, since it's based on the culling mission, but just
for all the hardcore WoW guys who spent a lot of time at 60, doing a
lot of Stratholme runs, it's gonna be cool to see the city pristine as
Kaplan: Our artists
have assured us that we haven't even seen the beginning of how big
shoulder pads can get. *laughs* We would say that to them, we were like
looking at something, "Man that's awesome, but that's the shoulder
pads you get when you get off the boat," and then our artists say "Dude
don't worry about it, we can go bigger than that."
Isle of Quel'Danas was
honestly probably the best introduction to the game patch-wise; the
world event, Magisters' Terrace, Sunwell Plateau, all of that... can
players expect events similar to that in Wrath of the Lich King?
In terms of item statistics, we planned out World of Warcraft from the
very beginning with the inflation in mind, knowing we were gonna have
to inflate the item curve and the power curve of players as the game
went on. What we didn't do is just plan 1-60, we planned it out very
far. It's always shocking to players, and they sometimes look at it as
a mistake in the game where they say "What's going on? The items are
inflating!" It's next to impossible to just come up with items that are
exactly equal in power but for whatever reason you'd want item X rather
than Y. So we don't look at the item inflation as a shocking surprise
that happens, it's no different from us giving 10 new levels to the
We planned for it, and we're hoping we can do a better job of smoothing
out some of the bumps. Examples are making sure that the green items as
you're questing up or the random world green items aren't
over-optimized or split too many ways, making sure that the dungeon
blues are better than the quest blues so that when you go into a
dungeon that has more risk involved to it you feel rewarded better for
it, making sure that Heroic dungeons exist on their complete separate
tier. We're also obviously going to make 25 person raids far more
rewarding than the 10 person raids to keep that sort of prestige to
that, and then in the PvP spectrum - Season 4 is a good example where
really the top gear all has rating requirements on it and you really
need to earn that prestigious gear. There will be lesser gear that you
can earn out of that system that won't have rating requirements, but it
won't be at the insane power level as the current arena gear.
And the same goes for the Honor gear; it will be brought much more
in-line with the other tiers of content of things that you'll be
experiencing. So there won't be these crazy jumps of, you know...
"Should I do Black Temple or should I hang out in Alterac Valley and
get a pair of boots?"
Kaplan: I hope so.
We do want to do an event to kick off Wrath of the Lich King; it will
be different than Isle of Quel'Danas, but I think why Isle of
Quel'Danas feels really good to players right now, is we've sort of
embraced the philosophy. We've always thought along these lines but
we're really trying to prove it through what we deliver in patches,
that there isn't a right or wrong way to play WoW. It's not that WoW is
about the hardcore 25 person raiders, or WoW is about the guys who like
to do dungeons, or WoW is about the guys who like to solo and do
quests. All of those players exist in WoW, and none of them are right
or wrong, and it's our job to make sure that they're all getting
content, and that they feel their way of playing is right and
supported. I really hope that that's what Isle of Quel'Danas
represents. It really just proves that there's kind of something for
everyone out there, and that philosophy is going to translate directly
into Lich King with how we're itemizing, and how we're building content.
And in terms of the event, we also want to do a "kick off Northrend"
event too, and then more events where areas build up. I think that's
cool. Players feel like they're contributing. We always wrestle with
the dynamic event idea; players in MMOs always go "I want to go into
the village and burn it down, and from that day forward the village is
always burnt down," and like the guy who comes a week later "Dude,
where's the village?"
"Oh it was epic, we burned it down!"
"Well I wasn't there for it!"
But an event like this, you feel like
everybody, even if you miss the event, you gain from it having happened
rather than feel like something was taken away from you.
Probably the number one
complaint when speaking to the average WoW player who logs on an hour
every night, maybe raid with their guild on the weekend, is once you
get 70 their daily existence in the game consists of: farming primals,
farming reputation, or doing daily quests, and they seem to feel
that's slightly monotonous. Do you personally feel that that's a
problem in the game, and if you do, do you have any plans to address it
Wrath of the Lich
Kaplan: Yeah, I do
think that it's a problem, and it's a very true statement like you
said. What I really hope is that getting level 80 is not the end, but
just a milestone and a very momentous milestone. I think some of the
issues with The Burning Crusade is that the barrier to entry to some of
the endgame content was very high, and it made it hard for players who
were doing this nice leveling segue through the game.
Once they hit the end of the line, they didn't feel like they could
make a nice smooth progression through anything. Everything felt like
a brick wall to them. I want to try to smooth out that progression that
takes place when players hit the endgame. Even in the daily quest
example, which I think is a great example for players who don't want to
go PvP, or they don't want to do 5, 10, or 25 person content, they just
want to play by themselves and do quests.
I think we can do a better job with the daily quests. The daily quests
that I've really enjoyed lately are things like the fishing daily, the
cooking, the battleground, the dungeon dailies because they have
randomization in it, so you don't feel like you're in a set pattern of
activity every time you log in. I would rather players do daily quests
for money than farm primals, which is a very repetitive sort of
behavior. So I think we can do things to smooth out what feels like a
grind, and make it not the same every day that you log in. That's when
it becomes an issue, is when you log in and do the same activity every
time, because certainly when you're leveling up that's not your