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Exclusive Interview With Ghostcrawler!
13.06.2010 um 02:01
"No, you can't have a pony."So last week I had the chance to sit down with everyone's favorite Systems Designer,
, and ask him a few questions.
I collected the questions using
, and presented them to GC in a one-on-one setting. Perhaps his answers will inspire you, perhaps they will infuriate you—Mr. Street is nothing if not controversial. But nonetheless, here are the answers, straight from the crab's mouth!
I have tried to preserve as closely as possible the conversational style of the interview, directly from the transcript. If we sound awkward, well...we're geeks. Cut us some slack.
Join us for the full text after the break!
Malgayne: Okay! So the one question that everybody asked over and over and over again, and got requoted half a dozen times, is—people seem to feel like trying to balance PvE with PvP is working to the detriment of both. And there seems to be a lot of pressure from the people I was talking to, who were asking to have the PvP and the PvE abilities sort of "subdivided", so that it has one effect when you use it on a player, and one effect when you use it on a mob. That doesn't seem to be something that you guys are interested in doing. Can you talk a little bit about why that might be?
Yeah—Basically our philosophy is that WoW is a very complicated game, and it's the kind of game that is hard to pick up on your own without kind of a "support network" of friends to kind of show you the ropes, like "Oh no, you're doing it wrong"—
Malgayne: Or websites.
*laughs* Yes, definitely websites. And we just think the idea of seeing
with a tooltip that says "In PvE, does this. In PvP, also...slows you, or does totally different things", it gets to be really hard to remember. It's hard enough for a guy like me to remember all the spells there are in the game as it is, and once you think of everything as having two versions—and then every talent has to affect them differently, and then maybe set bonuses or trinkets or other things have to affect them differently...it just seems like a nightmare. Now you can make the other argument that trying to come up with one system of balance for both is
a nightmare, but on the other hand I think we've done pretty well—
Malgayne: But that's a nightmare for you, rather than for the players?
Exactly. We'll take the nightmare. *laughs* I mean, they'll say it's a nightmare for them when their favorite class is underrepresented in PvE or PvP or something like that, but really what we're trying to do—and with like, the passive talent trees we're putting into Cataclysm, we're trying to give ourselves better tuning mechanisms to be able to make easy changes. One of the things we're often up against is: Say we're going to make a patch. We want to, for example, buff mages. We have to do something that both does what we want it to do, and, you know, isn't buggy. It's not a good time to mess with, you know, "Hey we're going to add a new talent", or "We're going to put in this untested tech that makes this other thing proc" or whatever, because then we're just going to be fixing our own patches over and over again. So we have to be so strategic that we often can't make the changes that we really
to make, and we know "this is still going to leave Frost Mages underpowered in PvE, but we can't do anything else—we just physically, technically can't make the change we want." So what we're trying to do in Cataclysm is build in a lot of hooks to let us constantly tweak, and when we see something is too low we can dial it up a little bit, or dial it back a little more.
Malgayne: And make it easier for you guys to make changes on the fly?
Yeah. I mean, often we know what we want to do and we just can't do it, so we're trying to get to where it's easier to make some of those changes—
Malgayne: Or can't do it in a stable—
Right. We can't do it in a risk-free manner, or we can't wait three months while we test this stupid talent just to make a patch or something like that. And we do diverge PvP and PvE when it can't be helped and there's examples all over the place. There's a ton of those things, and then players will be like "Well, if you did it here then why don't you just open the floodgates and do it everywhere?" but...we really want it to be one game with PvE and PvP components, and not two different games in the same package.
Malgayne: And for PvE and PvP skills to transfer, at least to a certain degree?
Yeah. So players know what they are, and so there's some chance of one type of talent build working with the other, or something like that.
Malgayne: Yeah, I can understand that. What else have we got here...oh! Something that a lot of people have been asking about—and maybe you know the answer to this, maybe you don't, but—what's going to happen to the quest-based achievements when Cataclysm resets all the quests? Things like Loremaster of...Eastern Kingdoms, or whatever—
I can tell you how I
it's going to work, which we may end up changing, but our plan for right now is if you have the achievement, it won't go away. We don't like taking achievements away from players, generally, so if you ARE Loremaster you'll keep that. What we'll do is change the criteria themselves, to match the new quests. So if you haven't done it yet, you'll still be able to do it and get the Loremaster achievement. If you've already gotten it you're done. We might add—you know, we want to make sure we add some new content, since players who really like achievements tend to devour them. So we want to make sure they have enough new stuff to still pursue. The guy who might end up getting screwed is the guys who's like—halfway done, since unfortunately a lot of those quests are just going away, so if they're on say 20 quests in the old world, and Cataclysm ships, then all 20 of those quests may just be deleted, and then they just have to start over. So there may be a
bit of loss of progress there. Those have been a challenge to try and solve, Loremaster and the exploration achievements...
Malgayne: Yeah, I can imagine. A lot of people asked me about professions. There seems to be a lot of feeling that levelling a profession to max only really got you, maybe either a really nice vanity item, or maybe one key piece of gear for raiding but that was it. And most people were picking them for the single-slot bonuses that the professions grant. Do you prefer it this way, or are you planning on making changes to it in Cataclysm?
We are making a lot of changes. We want to avoid the point at which, "Oh you're a tank? You have to be a blacksmith. If you're not a blacksmith, you're dumb." Cause then we take the choice away. So we want to make sure players still have the choice of what profession is just more
for them. We are doing a lot to the professions in terms of—we want to make sure while you're levelling up, that you don't have to like—take time out of all your questing to grind up your tradeskill a bit. We want to make a lot of the materials as you're levelling easier to get, so you shouldn't need like, six different crazy rare materials to make this blue item that's going to last you for two levels. We want to make sure you can make more blue items leveling up.
Malgayne: I remember. For me it was the
Yeah! You're like "I finally made them! Oh...and now I've replaced them."
We're doing a few crazy things, like a lot of the items you make when crafting will have random stat properties. Not as random as like, "of the Wolf", but kind of...in the sense that you know it'll have Stamina and Crit on it, but then maybe the numbers will be a little higher or lower, or maybe they'll have some different stats than you expected.
Malgayne: So making the same item over and over, you might get something better?
Exactly. "Oh, this one is really good!" At the high end we still want to let the tradeskills provide the starter gear for PvP, and there'll also be some crafted versions for PvE. And then we want to update those over time, so that players—even once we're in the 4.3 patch, there'll still be reason to pursue that stuff. What we did this time around is that we just kind of stopped them, and we didn't add a lot of new content later on to fill in the gaps. We don't ever want that gear to be best in slot, at least not for very long. I mean, there are some exceptions, like
Darkmoon Card: Greatness
and stuff like that, but overall we don't want the two-handed DPS guy to feel like, "Well, gotta be blacksmith to make my sword, otherwise I just won't be competitive." Cause like I said, you're just taking the option away from players.
Malgayne: What about making profession gear that's tradable to other—like BoE profession gear, what's the "slot" that you envision that taking up?
We generally like the—particularly once it gets to the raid level of the gear that requires the material from the zone, or whatever—we like that stuff being tradeable, because then you don't feel like "Aww...I was a leatherworker, but now you made this awesome enchant...I've gotta go become an enchanter to put it on my gear" like that, so we like that the tradeskill guy benefits monetarily, or perhaps has an easier path to getting that item, but then they can make it for their friends or their alts or whatever. We just kind of think that model works better.
Malgayne: Lots and lots of people were asking about raising the character limit per server.
Malgayne: That's a very common question, especially since you've got twelve races now instead of ten, but only ten slots.
Yeah. Um...there are—it's funny, there are really mixed views on that on the team. Some are like well, why don't we just do it, people are asking for it? but then others are like, players
they want it, but do they really want it? Or are they just like, camping on a bunch of names for alts and stuff like that? Are they
playing all of those 10 characters pretty regularly? And I think where we left it is, we were going to do some pretty hardcore research to try and figure out how many players are really at that cap, and are they at that cap legitimately, or do they have like, six level ones they never play, or something like that.
Malgayne: I know one person who managed to complete her goal—one of the developers on the Wowhead team (This would be
, for those following along) has completed her goal of having a level 80 character of every class.
Wow! Very impressive.
Malgayne: She has it on her profile on the website, written up as though it were an achievement.
*laughs* Well, someday we'll offer an achievement like that. We'd have to be able to handle achievements at the Battle.net account level first before we can make things like—
Malgayne: Is that something that you guys are trying to move towards? Cross-account achievements?
Oh totally. It really sucks to get like, a really hard achievement and then feel like you're supposed to go do it again on your alt or something. That's just terrible, so...we want achievements to eventually all be account-level—you get the achievement, and maybe it would say which character you got it on—
Malgayne: Like the guild achievements.
The guild achievements kind of do that too, yeah.
Malgayne: I had one question—only one person asked it, but I found it very moving so I'm repeating this one—Because you get all these questions about "What are you going to do about this?" "How are you going to implement—" etcetera. I'd like to know what you personally, as a gamer rather than as a Blizzard employee, would really like to see in the game.
What would I really like to see in the game...
Malgayne: If you were sitting in
chair, what's the question you would most want to hear the answer to? *laughs*
Most of the things I really want to see in the game, I try to get
the game, so...*laughs* Account level achievements is something I'd definitely like to see. I'd like there to be less of a barrier to entry for players, like—I had this experience a lot, even before I came to Blizzard. I'd be at a bar or something, talking about WoW, because I'm a geek and that's what I do, and some guy at the next table: "Oh, you play WoW? Awesome! What server—awww..."
Malgayne: "You mean you're Alliance? What?!"
okay—but the like, "Hey, let's play sometime! Oh, we
, because we're on different servers." I'm not gonna server transfer to play with this guy I just met, but having some way of being able to actually do that more often—like, a great example is, I can't play WoW with the guys I work with, because we all came from different guilds, we all have our group of friends and we never play with eachother. It would be great for there to be more accessibility there.
Malgayne: Yeah. Having random dungeons and such is one thing, but it really helps to be able to like,
somebody—even from another server—to be able to play with.
Right. There are a ton of problems with that—it breaks down the concept of a community, there's no reason to have a guild if you can just play with random people, there's no—notion of the "Server First" guy who got
or whatever, if everything's blended together, but...as a player, there's a lot I could see wanting to do that.
Malgayne: Let's see, what else do I have here...oh, okay—this is my personal question, because I do a lot of community stuff. It feels like Blizzard sort of...changed their community-level PR approach a lot when you started posting on the forums.
*laughs* Probably unwillingly,
I started posting on the forums.
Malgayne: Well that's part of what I wanted to ask about! Like, whose idea was that? Was it a plan or did it just sort of start happening? Do you feel like it was a success, or has it become a part of your day that you're just like, "Oh god, now I have to argue with the forum trolls again"?
I guess it was my idea? I mean, I worked in the industry for ten years before I came here, and I was used to kind of having that interaction with players. And I always valued it—I mean, a lot of times people will be sitting around like, "do players like this spell? I don't really know." And I'm like, "well, let's go
them if they like the spell or not." I mean, we have them right here. And that was always something I got a lot of value out of, so I started doing it a lot on the Lich King beta, and then the Lich King beta started coming to a close, and I'm like "hey, is it cool if I keep posting?" And they said "well, let's kind of see how it goes." And I know it's caused some headaches every now and then for people, but I think overall it's positive, and we all like it—and if it wasn't working, we would have stopped doing it. I still enjoy it. I mean, I don't let it take over my life—I do most of the forum reading and posting in my free time, or off hours, or over lunch, cause I've got plenty to do at work. *laughs* But it doesn't ever get to be a drag. It's a little bit of a drag right now, because it's so
—you know? A lot of people are waiting for new information, so there's not a lot of really interesting discussions going on, and those interesting discussions are the ones that make it all worthwhile for me. Like, I can sit there and answer questions forever for players who just want me be the "PR Bot" spitting out, "what's your plan for warriors? Well, let me tell you our plan for warriors", but...I really like the back and forth, where players challenge some of our assumptions, or think of things in ways we hadn't considered before, and stuff like that. Because then, selfishly, I can take that back to work and we can talk about it and make changes based on it. Like, "hey, these are problems the players think the game has, is there something we can do about it?" So that actually, I think, ends up making the game better. So that's why I stick with it.
Malgayne: I know you guys are in different departments. What sort of a relationship do you have with the regular community team?
Oh—I work really closely with them, just because you know—I post a lot, they post a lot. And I work a lot with them on the things they put out. When they write up an article on, "hey, we're going to talk to you about the professions" or "we're going to introduce the new talent trees for Cataclysm", I'm working with them a lot. We meet all the time. Their office is almost directly above mine in the building, so I work with them quite a bit. Different developers work with them different amounts, it kind of depends on—almost all of the Blizzard developers pay a lot of attention to the forums, they just don't post like I do, so...they read it, and they care, and people think "oh, well, the professions forum is a black hole, and no one ever reads what goes in there." That's just wrong. People know what the players are saying in the community. And that goes not just for our forums—we obviously don't
in forums that aren't ours, but we read them all, so we know. We have a pretty good idea of how the community feels, and often we agree with them, even if we can't always go and instigate change that second—if people think there's a big problem, chances are we do too.
Malgayne: Well I've caught a couple of usernames in our database which are registered to @blizzard.com email accounts, and I've looked at them and gone "Aww...they're never posting!" I even have a special "VIP" account that I can flag people as, and we originally
it for you guys, but nobody's ever used it—so now we're using it for other websites, and other people that we're talking with.
Malgayne: So one more question, and this is probably the single most frequently asked question on
of the forums, across
and all the different places I asked and that's, um...where's our moose?
*laughs* Well, we already had the best zone for introducing it, which was
. I mean, that's the lumberjack, Canadian zone, which would have made a lot of sense for a moose.
Malgayne: Yeah, it's a shame.
We don't have a great moose zone in Cataclysm. We have a great camel zone...
We have a great seahorse zone. Um...
Malgayne: Well, it depends on whether it'd be a pet or a mount.
Oh, I think it'd have to be a mount. They're big.
Malgayne: Or possibly a new hunter pet. Depending on how you did it. You could get some really interesting moose abilities.
You know, it's been built up so much now, I think we'd have to do it very cool. It couldn't just be like—
Malgayne: You couldn't just throw it in there.
Yeah, it has to be a big deal.
Malgayne: Maybe a TCG item or something.
Yeah, we'll save it for something cool.
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