On November 3 at the World of Warcraft Q&A at BlizzCon 2018, players questioned panelists Alex Afrasiabi, Ion Hazzikostas, John Hight, and Chris Robinson. Many of the questions deserved a bit more time to fully answer than we originally anticipated, and in the end, eight attendees were left without the chance to ask their questions. Here are the questions that didn’t make it in time, along with our answers to each:
Over the course of the last 14 years, we've killed many Warcraft villains. What is your strategy for introducing new characters and threats to this universe?
While many of the iconic villains in WoW over the years were first established in the RTS games (Illidan, Arthas, etc.), WoW has been introducing new characters and threats since its earliest days (such as Onyxia or the Defias). We’re keenly aware of the need to begin building up future threats even as we confront existing ones. A major villain shouldn’t come out of nowhere and be a surprise. We plan our expansions out far in advance, so that we can begin foreshadowing and weaving narrative threads to connect them. Garrosh Hellscream is an example of a character born within WoW and built up to eventually become a major villain and then a catalyst that led directly to Azeroth’s confrontation with the Burning Legion. If you look carefully, there are seeds that have been planted and clues that point to who central foes might be in the future.
When will the WoW Mobile App ever be complete?
If you mean “complete” in the sense of integrating the social features currently missing from the app, like guild/community chat and the calendar, that’s actively being worked on and we’re aiming to get that functionality added in the coming months. Due to some tech infrastructure changes in Battle for Azeroth, we had to basically rebuild the existing Companion App from the ground up, but we’ll end up with a more robust foundation as a result.
Do you have plans to make more reputation rewards account-wide?
We feel that it’s important for characters to retain a certain element of distinct progression. Part of making an alt can be having a fresh set of goals and rewards to pursue once you’re starting to run out of accessible goals on your main, so we don’t make reputation globally account-wide. But some players feel compelled to re-earn reputations in a way that’s frustrating and we want to do what we can to help alleviate their specific concerns. We’re addressing some of that in Tides of Vengeance:
Transmog appearances that have rep requirements will be unlocked account-wide once earned. You won’t need to re-earn a specific reputation on an alt if you want to use their tabard as part of your outfit.
The achievements that require a certain number of Exalted reputations will now aggregate progress across your entire account.
For Champions of Azeroth rep, access to the item level upgrades for the Heart of Azeroth will be account-wide. If you have at least one Revered character, any other fresh 120 alts can go visit Magni and collect all 45 item levels’ worth of upgrades right away.
What can you tell us about your future plans for pet battles?
Pet battles continue to be a fun system layered on top of the core WoW experience. As we introduce new zones and content, there will be new pets to tame or earn as reward. For players who are looking for a new challenge to overcome, we’re adding a new Gnomeregan pet battle dungeon in Tides of Vengeance. Beyond that, in the long-term, we’d like to take a fresh look at “PvP” pet battles to see if we can add a more structure to that system and elevate it beyond what is currently a niche pursuit.
Will gear ever return to the way it used to be with no warforging and titanforging?
Gear used to be only available from a handful of activities, such as raiding or rated PvP. Obtaining a specific piece of gear could be a months-long pursuit. As the quantity and variety of sources of gear increased over the years, increasingly the pacing of rewards wasn’t matching the pacing of the activity itself. By Mists of Pandaria, a guild progressing through a raid zone over the course of a couple of months could reach a point where they were fully equipped with gear from that tier, before having finished the zone. Lacking individual motivation or excitement about rewards when raiding, even if the encounters themselves were still fun, meant a lack of continued progression for the group. If you were stuck on Sha of Fear, there was no real expectation that your group would get any stronger week over week to help you overcome that hurdle. That gave rise to Thunderforging as a system in Patch 5.2, which evolved into the system we know today.
We like that Warforging preserves a sense of possibility to most encounters, and it allows a group’s overall item level to continue to increase steadily. It also creates moments of surprise and excitement across all types of players and activities. Of course, we understand that when an exceptionally lucky player gets a perfect Titanforged item from a Raid Finder boss, that can feel like it undermines Mythic content, but ultimately, that’s just a single piece of gear. Overall, the Mythic raider will be better-geared than the Normal or Heroic raider, even if the latter gets lucky once. We restrict the ability of pieces like weapons or Azerite armor to Titanforge, and we’ve reduced the chance of extreme Titanforging in BfA. We used to see players who felt obligated to run content they’d outgeared just for a chance at lucky upgrades, and we now see far less of this behavior.
Players will always want to use the best traits on Azerite gear for every situation. Why punish the player with a big gold cost to reforge?
We draw a distinction between items and character attributes like spec or talents. Usually you can’t change the former at all, or there’s a destructive process involved like replacing a gem or enchantment, or Artifact Relic in Legion. A healer trinket is a healer trinket, and can’t be morphed into a tank trinket if you want to switch from Holy to Prot. If you want to perform at a given level in both specs, you need separate trinkets of similar quality for each.
However, we’re mindful of feedback we’d gotten regarding spec flexibility. We want Azerite armor to be flexible, so that you could switch from Fire to Frost if you want to, or you could switch from Arms to Protection for a week if your raid’s tank was absent. Without some friction, the system would just turn into a secondary (and awkward) set of talents, and a mere cooldown could create situations where you switched from one trait to another, and then couldn’t go back at all without having to wait. We ultimately settled on a respec cost that started out very low (5 gold) and increased and decayed rapidly, such that periodic respecs would be essentially free, but swapping back and forth routinely would be unsustainable.
Nonetheless, mistaken choices or experimentation can quickly spiral out of control and leave even occasional respecs feeling overly costly. In Tides of Vengeance, we’ll be doubling the rate at which the respec cost decays, so it will go down by 50% every 24 hours. Additionally, given the changes to several Azerite traits and the new ones coming with the update, we’ll provide a one-time reset of all respec costs when the update goes live.
How will you motivate Mythic Raiders to raid, when Mythic Keystone gear can titanforge to such high item levels?
Aside from prestigious titles and cosmetic rewards, Mythic raiding remains one of the most reliable sources of high-end gear in the game, with more ability to target specific pieces via bonus rolls and trading. It’s no coincidence that the best-geared players in the game are, almost without exception, Mythic raiders who also do other types of endgame content. Historically, raiding was the only way to get the best gear in the game, but our goal today is to provide parallel endgame item progression paths for different playstyles (raiding, dungeons, competitive PvP) to reward skill, dedication, and organization in various forms. Ideally, each of those paths also offers some unique benefits that set it apart from the others.
How to you plan to accommodate new players who are overwhelmed by the size of the content?
On one hand, the breadth and depth of World of Warcraft is one of the game’s strengths. A new player entering Azeroth gets access to fourteen years of content, with entire worlds to explore and stories to unravel. But that same content can also be a daunting. Including a character boost with our recent expansions is one way of making sure that players can always leap directly into the latest and greatest content, but that’s far from a complete solution.
We’re taking a fresh look at our new player experience, with the goal of making it better reflect the quality and scope of the modern game. That’s a long-term project, but it’s an essential one as many brand-new players try out WoW for the first time every way, and we want to make sure we’re welcoming them into Azeroth and really showing off everything that is awesome about World of Warcraft.
Thank you all very much for taking the time to participate in the Q&A. It was amazing to see so many players come to the Darkmoon Faire and submit questions (and sometimes, comments) for the development team. We read every single one of them, and we really enjoyed talking with everyone we could in Anaheim.