We recently began revealing the Scenarios you’ll experience at level 90 in World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria on our preview site. As the final tweaks are being made, we thought it would be a good time to sit down with Senior Game Designer Dave Maldonado and Game Designer Jonathan LeCraft for a little behind-the-scenes perspective on this unique new system.
Q: What do Scenarios bring to World of Warcraft that we haven't seen before?
Dave Maldonado: From a technological standpoint, almost everything in the system is new. Players are obviously going to see the World of Warcraft they know and love when they're running Scenarios, but all of the technology driving what we can do with Scenarios is new, and we took that as an opportunity to really indulge in new ways of interacting with the players, the NPCs, and the environment. It was a lot of work to design the technology, with a whole new UI, and new tracking systems and so forth, and while that programming was going on, we got to dream up and implement a lot of randomization and many new things for monsters to do and for the environment to do.
Jon LeCraft: With Scenarios, we can do even more than we could previously do with group quests, because even with phasing and all of our options in the outdoor world, there were a number of things that we still wanted to bring to the game. We can now change the environment and change the ways things spawn and change the behavior of enemies on the fly, and that opens up nearly infinite possibilities.
DM: My favorite example is the concept of a ship that you want to destroy by setting it on fire. So you could storm the ship, kill everyone on-board, and then burn it down. But what happens when you decide to sneak on to the ship, leave everyone alive, and set the fire while they're all standing around? In Scenarios, we have a lot of flexibility to imagine the different ways that players might choose to play, and have the NPCs and the environment react to that more naturally. The result is -- you're going to see all those NPCs on the ship jump off because it's on fire, and then look back at it in amazement. Other NPCs that were making deliveries to the ship before it became a floating inferno are going to react to the change in their world. Instead of trying to put the box that they're carrying on the boat, or despawning and disappearing before your eyes, or something else unrealistic, they're going to stop and gawk at the flames.
Q: We've seen Scenarios compared to dungeons a lot, yet you're comparing them to group quests. What aspects of Scenarios are like dungeons, and what aspects are like group quests, and what’s just new?
JL: For one, you're in a group and you start the Scenario by going into the Dungeon Finder, and if you aren't in a group, one will be provided for you. That's dungeon-like. Also, Scenarios have a boss at the end.
DM: The boss at the end brings everyone together.
JL: They're very different than the bosses you're used to, though, because Scenarios are designed to be completed by three characters of any spec.
DM: We're still tuning and discussing exactly how difficult Scenarios will be, but there are many major differences between Scenario bosses and dungeon bosses. Scenario bosses often can't be tanked, or tanking isn't very helpful. They can be easier than dungeon bosses, because they have to be feasible for three DPS players, but they can also be much more difficult than dungeon bosses, because they can have very high damage attacks that must be avoided by the players. These encounters aren't designed in a way that you can tank or heal through their massive attacks. You either pay attention to the signs that an attack is coming and avoid it, or you fail.
JL: Because there won't always be a certain number of interrupts, or a certain amount of aggro control or healing in a Scenario, these boss encounters rely on placement, timing, and pattern recognition.
DM: At the same time, there are many different things you can do to bosses in Scenarios. You can often crowd-control them, or stun them, or interrupt what they're doing. This would make them very easy to deal with in other circumstances, but they have a huge health pool and the ability to deal massive amounts of damage. Very few can be "tank-and-spanked."
Q: As World of Warcraft players, how would you describe the Scenario experience?
DM: Watching other players test Scenarios, and testing them ourselves, they’re really what I would call a “pure WoW” experience. They give you the option to do a lot more with your character than in other aspects of the game. In PvP, for instance, there isn’t a lot of room for experimenting, or using all of your spells, or even using most of your spells -- unless you want to get killed. In Scenarios, we see every class, every spec, and every style of play being viable. Furthermore, Scenarios are places where you get to experiment with how you move through the environment. There are all sorts of things you can skip, or choose to interact with that someone else might skip, and those decisions you make will have a noticeable impact on what happens next in that Scenario.
JL: I keep coming back to that. Choosing to interact with things is a constant in Scenarios. A huge ghost mob might be mind-controllable. An urn might be something that you can try to access, and it might drop a few gold for you while spawning a couple of mobs that you have to deal with.
Q: What’s coming next for this system?
DM: More Scenarios! We’ve got a lot of really cool ideas, and this is content that we hope to make even more of as we start producing post-expansion content patches.