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Ion Hazzikostas Legion Interview

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Our BlizzCon interview with Ion Hazzikostas, Game Director on World of Warcraft and Patrick Magruder, Lead Software Engineer.

In the What's Next Panel you've mentioned that the Heroic & Mythic dungeons will be pushed up in difficulty. Is there going to be anything for newer players to catch up given the big item level gap?

Normal dungeons in 7.2 will stay exactly as they are, but they will drop a 825 gear, just like current Heroic gear. So if you're a freshly dinged 110 that will just help you catapult you up a bit faster, which is standard with how past patches have gone, making catch up and giving into the latest content more straightforward.

You talked about the new a new dungeon, can you shed some light on the encounters?

It's a four-boss dungeon Cathedral of Eternal Night. It's centered around climbing the Spire, so we're going to find is that we need to use the Pillars of Creation that we have obtained throughout the Broken Isles to unlock and gain access to the very depths of the Tomb where the felstorm originates and we're going to use those pillars in locations scattered around the entire structure. One of those locations is actually in the dungeon. In the raid, we're going to be going through different wings and plugging in the Tidestone or the Tears of Elune bringing the Aegis of Agrammar to the top of the dungeon. That's our objective. Inserting it into a receptacle that will unlock the first step to multi-part lock that will eventually lead us to the Avatar himself.

Gear especially, melee focusing on necks and rings, you said you wanted to make gearing better in 7.2. Currently, let's take the example of a neck piece. If it drops socketed you could find yourself sitting there passing up upgrades that are 50+ item levels higher, purely just because it is the better neck piece. Is there any plan to go back to including Agility, Strength and so on?

It's an option it's on the table. I think we honestly see this as little bit of our last resort, because lost in all the discussions is the fact in terms of their value as slots, rings and neck are some of the weakest individual slots compared to chests, legs, helm etc., leading them to be focused and have all the budgets spent in secondary stats makes them potentially more interesting, obviously potentially more imbalanced. But going back to the world they are the same distribution as any other armor pieces. Your ring unless it was something special, like a Legendary ring was actually one of the least important  slots in your character. We'd rather look first to large disparities in secondary stat valuation. For example, there are many specs for whom Mastery is the worst stat. If Mastery is your worst stat, we're doing something wrong. It's a custom-tailored stat for your spec, so there's probably straightforward tuning approaches and changes there, so I think that will help in this regard. I think this other thing we're looking at also in terms of how secondary stats on items scale in general. We've been much more aggressive upfront with how many secondaries appear at items, because we wanted to get people to a certain baseline level of things like crit and haste to make their characters feel better. Then the amount in the raid at which your secondary stats grow passed that, actually slows down as you go deeper into the expansion let's just start  looking at Nighthold gear, Tomb of Sargeras gear and beyond. That will also help shift balance back between primary, secondary and other slots. 

You talked about the Assault base and how it's going to work. Will it be similar to what we did in Suramar with the Nightfallen or will it be a completely different sort of mechanic?

As mentioned in the panel, it's going to be more like Patch 2.4, where the players worked together towards a common goal. They'll be able to choose which one they can work towards and as a group they need to work together.

Crash the servers some more?

Minus that part (laugh).

Isle of Thunder was rigid, this is truly going to be driven by players, so it'll be in response to player actions. You're going to be looking at the various abilities that a tower can give you, making decisions. You can do whatever you like to do and still get credit towards the common goal.

In terms of server stability, Legion has had the smoothest launch out of all the expansions. Is this the norm we can expect now? Was it due to technology upgrades, planning or did it went well basically?

A whole lot of work went into it. A lot of planning a lot of technology and we will continue to improve our server architecture and our systems to support the number of players in the game design. So it's not an accident?

Best accident ever? No. It's a result of a lot of really hard work. It's a process that began with post-mortem of Warlords and asking, how to ensure this not happen next time. It's also thanks to a lot of efforts contributed by our players on our beta realms. Something that we've not done in the past, we've simulated launch of the game. We invited a ton of people to our beta and said everybody go to Dalaran at 3 pm on this Friday, we're gonna flip the switch and some things crashed and things melted. We fixed those problems. We did it again and it turns out if you practice things and rehearse them they are more likely to go well.

 What's going on with Jaina the other Horde & Alliance leaders? The storm between Greymane and Sylvanas ended abruptly it can't be the end of it. We haven't focused around them for a while.

There are definitely simmering tensions between the Alliance and the Horde. Jaina is off doing her own thing, She will not be a a part of the Kirin Tor alliance that includes the Horde given her history with that happened at Theramore in particular. There's definitely no love loss between Greymane and Sylvanas and that's a conflict that will continue to play out I think what we're seeing in 7.2 as I said in the panel, this is not Alliance and Horde red and blue coming together and holding hands to vanquish Deathwing or the Lich King. This is a succeeding through perseverance and the will and determination of our class orders despite the lack of cooperation between the factions.

The Titanforged/Warforged it changed a great deal in Legion and we're at a point now where you can be siting there killing a world boss doing LFR or whatever and you can get these fantastic pieces of gear. Do you feel the system could be improved on given that right now let's say high-end players have to sit there, basically cross their fingers and pray that the perfect item that they need with the perfect stat rolls will roll that tiny chance of getting a huge upgrade? 

Of course it can always be improved. I think it's interesting though that you said "I have to". There is the possibility of randomness to help you out towards the possibility of that amazing Titanforged item. You know I saw some in trade chat linking a 895 socketed Raid Finder piece and it's like look, that person won the lottery! That's well over one million odds of that happening. The places where you get the best gear are still the hardest content. There's still killing Mythic raid bosses, clearing Mythic+10 dungeons and opening your weekly chest and people look forward to those moments. If you look at raiders in top guilds they wear mostly a mix of high-end gear and then occasionally maybe you might have that world quest piece that ridiculously Titanforged, but that's the huge exception to the rule and  I think overall, we're pretty happy with how it played out. We don't see players feeling obligated to run every trivial content or do every world quest that awards items, because theoretically, it could titanforge. Most people don't do that. Most people might do their Artifact Power world quests to get a guaranteed reward, and maybe do an item world quest if it's a relic, but that's the exception to the rule. So I think, by and large, the best gear comes from the hardest content. The best geared players of the world are the ones who are doing the hardest content if you can look at you know low progress or other sides that are like offering rankings for everybody by item level inconsistently, it's not the random guy who does LFR and got really lucky, it's the person in a top world guild so it's playing out in that way, but on the other hand, every player has his moments of excitement. That person that mostly has 840/845 gear from world quests or Raid Finder when they do get that ridiculous Titanforged piece it makes their day. It's not hurting the overall balance of the game and that person just had a great moment because of it.

Speaking a little bit on the world quest system and the scaling. The potential of doing the scaling across Azeroth is it on the table? If so, what would it take to make it done?

It's on the table, it's a lot of work.  It's something we'd love to do. It's a huge undertaking. We've build a lot of Legion around this scaling framework and the old content would needed to be retrofitted. I think  it's almost certainly something we're gonna do going forward and it's something we want to work on backward facing, it's probably something we'd ship in phases. It's a very big undertaking to just go do it all. It's both creature combat, dungeons all the itemization all those dungeons and quests. It's all doable it's just a question of finding the resources to make it happen without detracting from development and forward facing of cutting-edge content.

Will there be a system that allows Mythic Keystone rerolls?

I don't think so, I think you can level up someone else's keystone and see what that one turns out. I think the randomness of which dungeon it points to and the variations with affixes is designed deliberately to be somewhat disruptive to static comps to avoid the perception of a single-best composition (like in Warlords).It's hard to answer which comp is best given the affixes.All the different variables come to play and there can be different answers.

You talked about Hunters getting back traps, can you talk about utility of the other classes that's coming back?

No information to share, the Class team has discussed only the two additions they feel the most confident about and it's not like every class will get utility. We're happy with some of the classes' utility. 

In regards to micro-holidays, are there any plans to use them to honor events that happen within the community like World First Lich King kill? Perhaps introducing Timewalking in raids?

Leeroy Jenkins day? I see honoring notable events like Zul'Gurub Plague Day, but yet again it was Kalahad on Medivh server was the first one to ring gong, the very first Scarab Lord. It would be cool, because the story of World of Warcraft is one that has been shaped as much if not more by the players than by developers. That said, I don't think Timewalking is the right thing to do for raids. It's something we may explore in the future. There are some challenges as to how that fits into the existing structure, but would be fun.

On topic of class balance, is there any attention payed to the balance of difficulty and the reward?

We offer different playstyles, different preferences. Some people maintaining the uptime of buffs and debuffs other people like a more reactive proc-based rotation other people like something that's more   of a sequence or a priority-based thing and those can be easier or harder, but you want to offer out for all types of players. Certainly, community perception can often be driven by skill cap, I think Discipline Priests are great examples of this. They are probably one of the highest skill cap specs in the game, we've seen amazing Mythic+15 clears, but when someone isn't familiar with the spec and not comfortable with juggling offense and healing and tries to play it like a traditional healer can have a rough time so a lot of people go in dungeon groups with less-prepared less-experienced Discipline Priests and get negative impression of the spec, but then on the other hand, there are people making it shine. It's cool when a person can make it shine, but definitely a concern for us when it fuels a negative perception of the class and so we often worry more about the skill floor than the skill ceiling. You know if making mistakes can lead you to a place where you're just frankly terrible and can't perform the role then that's more of a problem than if the truly expert player has the room to distinguish themselves to very high end.

When it comes to Artifacts and alts, exchanging Order Resources for Artifact Knowledge will make alt-leveling less daunting. Are there any similar things planned that favor alts?

We'll be keeping an eye on it. You will be able to buy up Artifact Knowledge up to Level 10 for Order Resources from that moment it's back to world orders. It will close the gap tremendously. Catch up mechanisms are going to be implemented (like increased Legendary drop rate later in the expansion) so that players can more easily reach the current content when falling behind.

Are we reaching the point where the Order Halls are insignificant?

I think they still feel like a focal point of your class fantasy.

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      What would you consider the use case for it, and how will you react when its obviously either too strong or too weak for that use case?
      The Formless Void mostly exists for the purposes of flexibility, which is why all roles can use it. It requires a lot of planning, it requires you to coordinate and know who you plan on borrowing what Essence from, and for what situation, and make sure that the cooldown incurred doesn’t interfere with whatever the next situation you have to manage is.
      As a note, you can also borrow something from a player of the enemy faction. The targeting is very unrestricted other than the obvious - it has to be a player, they need to have an Essence currently slotted that is valid to copy (fully passives Major Essences are ineligible).
      Does the “Formless Void” essence require the correct role to copy an essence. For example, could you copy the tank Azshara raid essence as a dps to gain access to a defensive cooldown for a particularly nasty damage taken check, or could you copy a dps essence as a tank or a healer in order to push a particularly challenging dps check.
      You can borrow any eligible Essence, even if it is not normally available to your current role. For example, a Protection Paladin player can borrow a healer specific thing such as the new Spirit of Preservation, or a DPS specific thing such as Essence of the Focusing Iris.
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