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Live Q&A with Ion "Watcher" Hazzikostas - #WarlordsQA

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Icy Veins will be providing complete coverage of today's live Q&A with World of Warcraft Lead Game Designer Ion "Watcher" Hazzikostas. Details of the Q&A will be added to this post throughout the Q&A, and available for review afterwards.


You can watch the event live at http://www.twitch.tv/wow beginning at 2:00 p.m. PDT today (Saturday, June 13). Questions and answers will be added to this post as the event progresses!


The Q&A is now over - an approximate transcript follows. Please note: This is not an official transcript. Some answers may be abridged.





Q. Curious about the 6.2.x implementation of the flying achievement. Is it scheduled for after 6.2 for development reasons, or to allow the world to be seen without flying?


A. Draenor is largely flyable - people with ability_priest_angelicfeather.jpgAviana's Feather, etc. can attest to that. You can get around in three dimensions just fine. There were bugs we wanted to fix to give players a smooth experience, and we put off fixing them when we decided not to allow flying initially. We need to do that work now.




Q. Now that flying is coming back, how long will the rep grinds take and can they be done all at once?


A. There is one core reputation per faction, one for the Arrakoa in Tanaan, and one for the Sabreon. All of them can be done in parallel using daily/weekly quests. The "most gated" is the faction reputation, which should take 2.5-3 weeks of daily quests.




Q. If the Pathfinder achievement model for flying access goes well, do you see this being the plan for unlocking flight going forward?


A. We see this as a blueprint that could be used going forward, where you're tied to the ground initially. Being able to fly once you've explored thoroughly makes sense.




Q. Why add flying at the last moment? Personally, I like the game without it. Why the change of heart?


A. This was a hard decision. There's a certain amount of cynicism about the decision, as if we had always planned to add flying back. WoW has a large team, and the decision was made by the team as a whole. When we saw the feedback on "never flying again" versus not flying in Draenor, we realized that it felt like we were taking something very valuable away from players. We're satisfied with the way that the compromise has been received.




Q. Why are current reputations all mob grinds? Can we get a more modern reputation system?


A. We're not going to defend them - they're completely mob grinds. They were added late in the development process. We weren't going to have reputations at all, but we used them for the Trading Post, etc. It's unfortunate that it set the perception of reputations back as a whole many years. The 6.2 reps in Tanaan represent a more modern system.




Q. Apexis dailies feel like they take forever and I just skip them. Any plans to bring back normal dailies?


A. Dailies definitely have a place. We did that thing we so often do where we overreact and swing too far in the other direction - "World of Dailycraft" in Mists of Pandaria, for example. We approached Warlords development wanting to find a different direction. The way we looked at it was it offered more flexibility - instead of being asked to kill a set number of cannons, you get to an area and just need to deal with the enemy through choice and freedom. Two places where we failed were removing quests entirely, losing story and context, and secondly the reward structure was a complete miss.




Q. Draenor was a blast, but the end-game lacks world content. What's your philosophy on this moving ahead?


A. We're very proud of the level of questing in Draenor. We would have structured things like Apexis/dailies differently if we could go back and do it again. Some of it flows from the Garrison system - we approached Garrisons wanting to make sure we were rewarding the system adequately. A variety of playstyles should benefit from Garrisons, followers, etc. A lot of systems tied into the Garrison, and a lot of those things were served by the Garrison - gathering professions, for example.




Q. I feel WoD has been geared towards one character play, and players with alts are burning out.


A. Burning you out is not designed. Alts have become increasingly popular as World of Warcraft has evolved and leveling has gotten smoother. Where we come down on the general issue is that it's awesome, but we want alts to serve themselves (e.g. second character for PvP, etc.). Where it becomes more concerning is where people feel multiple alts should exist to serve one character (e.g. multiple garrisons to manage for one "main" character's benefit). On missions, we're looking into some diminishing returns on an account-wide level (like gold missions). That should help to alleviate the pressure from six times as much gold from six times as many garrisons (no nerf to a single character's garrison).




Q. What have you learned about what didn't work with Garrisons and why no one leaves it?


A. A lot of it has to do with the rewards. Garrisons are the path of least resistance to things you want. You can log on for five or ten minutes and feel like you're doing something, and that's fine.




Q. There has been criticism of the point-click-wait Garrison gameplay. How is the Shipyard content differently?


A. It's more condensed, and there is less micromanagement. We didn't increase item levels for followers, etc., because we didn't want people to re-do that work. Shipyard missions have more individually impactful rewards.




Q. Will future expansions have something like Garrisons too?


A. The Garrison as you know it in Draenor is something that is rooted and tied to Draenor. That is going to stay in Draenor. We might use the system again in a new form in a future expansion.




Q. There has been a truly massive decline in raiding guilds. Do you feel that changing the raiding paradigm was a good idea?


A. Fixed-size Mythic was a challenging transition. Many of them merged or recruited, some have struggled along the way. There are a number of high-profile guilds that have disbanded, but that has happened in every expansion/patch (e.g. Death and Taxes in Sunwell). The glue that keeps guilds together tend to be a small number of raid leaders and officers, and when those people move on, guilds break up. 10-30 player scaling is a huge success, and has tons more participation - on the other end of the spectrum, the Mythic raiders have gotten a better experience out of a fixed size, rather than us failing to balance 10 and 25 equally.




Q. Is Mythic raid difficulty justified when such a small percentage of players even attempt it?


A. It is something for people to aspire to, and something for the best players to differentiate themselves with. It's useful to be able to answer the question, "Who is the best?" At the same time, Mythic consumes a very small percentage of the resources that go into making a given raid. If we cut Mythic, it would reduce the amount of time that goes into making raid zones by 5-10%. People doing normal, LFR, etc. are the reason we're developing raids.




Q. Why limit Timewalking to certain bonus time periods?


A. The structure of rotating bonus events isn't to force people to do certain types of content. It focuses some of the purpose of Timewalking. It makes it a more condensed activity that is there to help gear up alts, but also makes it fit in better with other new dungeons.




Q. Why are dungeons becoming irrelevant?


A. There was no reason to go back to them. Mythic dungeons represents a way to some extent of salvaging that and giving players a reason to go back to running dungeons. They keep dungeons relevant. That works for 6.2, for dungeons going forward we need something else. We didn't keep Valor because running the same dungeons for progressively better rewards felt wrong.




Q. No new dungeons, but Timewalking, Adventure Journal, etc. - is this the plan going forward?


A. It would be terrible if we said we weren't going to add new dungeons. That's also not a reason not to add Timewalking or the Adventure Journal. They're not in direct competition.




Q. Why are you nerfing Demonology into the ground?


A. Because we don't want you to play Demonology. We have some concerns with how Demonology plays as a spec, and what's required to play the spec well. If you look at a guide like Icy Veins, it's an incredibly complicated heirarchy. Warlocks who preferred Affliction or Destro gravitated to Demo. It's all Demonology Warlocks at the highest level. We didn't want Warlocks to feel like that was the spec they were forced to play.




Q. Do you feel that ability pruning went too far?


A. Honestly, I don't. In some cases, I think that you can argue ability pruning didn't go far enough (Shaman, for example). We're not designing rotations to be complicated when you're fighting a target dummy. A lot of the changes we want to make are about improving the fantasy of the class - being a 'Fire Mage', for example. Rogues suffer as much as anybody from lacking distinct animations. We think we can do better than that.




Q. How do you see throughput healers enjoying the game in a world dominated by absorbs?


A. It's less dominated by absorbs than it was in Mists. There's less healing where people are either "full or dead". The niche of absorb-centric healing is one that we need to scale back going forward. It's not something that's changing in 6.2, but if you have any raid comp, you probably should have one Disc Priest plus something else. I think Holy Priests are in a great place, but the problem is if you only have one Priest, they should be Discipline. Disc Priest provides a unique benefit that often comes actively at the fun and enjoyment of other healers.




Q. Professions are really boring and constrained in Warlords.


A. The mixture of Garrison-centric gathering professions and time-limited cooldowns took away from the feel of being a craftsman. In 6.2, we're massively increasing the yield of people's personal cooldowns to make it more impactful relative to your Garrison. In general, when it comes to professions, things that make you go out into the world are better.




Q. What's the ideal Mythic fight length? Were some too long?


A. There's no one answer to this. We see fight length as determined by the nature of the fight and mechanics. Fights with consistent mechanics shouldn't be longer than 5-6m unless it's an endurance fight. If it's cyclical, you can probably stretch it out longer. For a classic, three-phase, multiple ability encounter, that's where you see it stretch out to 10+ minute lengths. Brackenspore was an endurance fight; keeping the moss in check, keeping up with adds, etc., it was a long fight. Mythic Mar'gok was just too long - that's the product of the extra phase after what was already a pretty full and thorough fight. Once we get to the 15m fight length, that's more than it should be. Seeing a brand new phase that you're going to wipe to and have to learn at 13 minutes is rough.




Q. Why do you keep making everything so convenient? Do you feel the game is becoming too convenient?


A. We don't want inconvenience and nuisance to be the things that stop you from doing something, while being mindful of the downsides of convenience. If we offer teleportation too freely, that tends to shrink the feeling of the world. A risk of something like LFD is that it reduces some of the social interaction of using trade chat for 90 minutes. The premade group finder is a strict improvement over spamming trade chat for 90 minutes. In general, we want to identify things that are preventing people from enjoying the game in a way they would like, but there is something to be said for removing too many barriers.




Q. Do you feel artistic integrity arguments carry any weight after the Twitter/S.E.L.F.I.E. patch?


A. Twitter integration isn't something that came away from the creation of outdoor content. It was something a couple of programmers worked on to integrate the API into the game. It's a convenience for players who already use Twitter. It's optional, and if you don't care about Twitter, you don't even know it exists. The S.E.L.F.I.E. cam was a fun side project from one designer and one programmer who came in and did it on a couple of weekends. A lot of the things that have come into the game were the product of an individual's initiative. We should have called 6.1 something like 6.0.5 instead, to soften the expectations. There's a reason the patch didn't have a formal name, like Landfall, because it wasn't advancing the story at all.




Q. Why are Tier 18 PvE and PvP gear sets recolours of each other? Doesn't really help player identity.


A. The only thing that differentiated players in MoP in terms of skill or difficulty was colour. It wasn't reasonable to expect people to have colour as the signifier of that. We moved to a world where there is one set of armor for 'average' accomplishment, and one set for 'extreme' accomplishment, and colour distinguishes content (PvE/PvP).




Q. Why are there no agility weapons that drop off Archimonde? All of the agility classes don't get 735 weapons.


A. We looked at how itemization worked out in Highmaul and BRF and realized that the kills later in zones become progressively less and less meaningful, because they already have items of that level. Plenty of guilds skipped end bosses entirely - e.g. skip Imperator and go straight to BRF. We want risk and reward to be somewhat commensurate. Itemization overall would be less interesting if we felt forced to have complete coverage of every weapon slot on Archimonde and Mannoroth.



Thanks for following along live if you did! The complete Q&A recap will be edited slightly and left online here for your review.


Coverage of the live #WarlordsQA event! Come see all the details here.

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