MMO-Champion - MoP Beta Around the Corner, Cataclysm Post Mortem by Ghostcrawler
Mists of Pandaria Beta is around the corner
Yesterday, people who bought the WoW annual pass had their copy of Diablo 3 showing up as Active on their Battle.net Profile. However, this wasn't the only change and for a short time people could also access the Battle.net Account Management page for the Mists of Pandaria Beta! Including the beta box icon already hosted on the battle.net website: https://eu.battle.net/account/images...ult/3d.png?v24


I already said that I don't expect the alpha/beta to be out before the NDA lift on the press tour on March 19th, but I wouldn't be surprised to see it soon afterward. Stay tuned, things are starting to look great!


Cataclysm Post Mortem -- Greg “Ghostcrawler” Street
Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
As part of our World of Warcraft: Cataclysm post mortem series, we sat down with World of Warcraft Lead Systems Designer Greg “Ghostcrawler” Street to talk about his thoughts on World of Warcraft: Cataclysm.

Q. What were your main goals going into Cataclysm?

A: Westfall was a seven-year-old zone with seven-year-old trees and seven-year-old quests. It naturally felt old. It felt tired for players going back to level up an alt, and it wasn’t inspiring for new players coming to the game. We just felt like it was time to give all of those old 1-60 zones some attention again. Beyond that though, we wanted to update the classes at low level as well. The spell flow, by which we mean the level you get certain spells, just hadn’t aged well. You would get some very group-focused buffs at low level and some powerful leveling tools at high level, which would have made more sense reversed. There were some specs that just weren’t functional at low level before because they lacked the damage abilities or tools to effectively solo. Similarly, we took a look at all of the quest rewards at 1-60 because some specs just didn’t have adequate itemization to support them.

A second goal, from the systems design point of view, was to improve the class talent trees. We thought the trees had become bloated with filler instead of legitimately interesting talents. We also embraced the notion of class specialization to a much greater degree, by letting you choose your spec formally at level 10.

We also knew we needed to provide more content to players focused on maximum level, which meant we couldn’t just re-do 1-60, but we had to provide questing zones, class mechanics, and new PvP and PvE content for players who would be at level 85 too.


Finally, we wanted to deliver all of this content more aggressively. We know players can only wait so long for something new to do before they start to get bored. This has been a goal for some time, but it has been a challenging one for us. When you compare the graphic fidelity of a raid like Firelands to an older raid like Molten Core, you can imagine how it takes both more time and more people to make a raid these days. That’s exactly the opposite of what we want to be doing though, which is providing players content at faster rates.

Q. What do you think worked best in Cataclysm?

A. We’re really happy with the 1-60 revamp. Each zone looks amazing, we improved their quest flow, and they all have a story that has a (hopefully) meaningful climax, often with a blue item reward. Zones that didn’t have much going on before have an actual plot now, many of which are related to Deathwing’s return. We also did a better job of integrating the dungeons in a zone into the questing experience for that zone, so you feel like you have a good reason to explore them.

We really like how having players choose a spec at level 10 worked out. I’d say nearly every single design decision we make ends up being at least somewhat controversial in that some players agree with them and some players disagree with them -- that’s just the reality of having such a large and diverse player base. But choosing a spec at level 10 was as close to universally acclaimed by players as anything we’ve ever done. It just works. You get a meaningful choice early on, and powerful, useful, and fun abilities to go along with it. It leads to each spec having a stronger sense of identity, even at higher level.

We’re pretty happy with the level 80-85 content that we offered. The zones looked great and the stories were good. We offered several new dungeons, raids, and Battlegrounds. Late in the cycle of Cataclysm, we introduced Raid Finder, which provided a new type of content to players who historically weren’t raiders. We’re at the part of the lifespan of the game where some original features no longer have the cachet they used to -- you can only roll up so many alts, and by this point you might very well be done with achievements or convinced yourself that that type of gameplay isn’t for you. When we can offer a whole new way to play the game -- in this case provide raids to non-raiders -- it’s a big win.


Transmogrification is another one of those features -- it opened up an entirely new avenue of gameplay. One of the great things it’s done, aside from giving players more tools to personalize their characters of course, is make a lot of old content relevant again. Now players are doing old raids and dungeons looking for Transmogrification pieces, and that’s really cool.

I could name a few smaller features we thought worked out as well. The Justice / Honor badge system in Cataclysm cleaned up the crazy system from Lich King. All things considered, we’re happy with the healing model. We encountered issues with mana being in short supply at lower gear levels and conversely too abundant at the higher levels, eliminating much of the challenge for healers when the content is supposed to be the most difficult, but overall the model did what we wanted, and we’ll be refining it in Mists.

Q. What didn’t work out as planned?

Everything else! Seriously though, we tend to be our own harshest critics, so it’s actually easy for us to point out things that didn’t work out as expected.

While zones like Uldum and Deepholm look fantastic, they didn’t fit together as well as we’d have liked. In the planning phases, we didn’t think that having scattered end game zones would be a big deal. It turned out to feel a lot weirder than expected. Players ended up teleporting to nearly every destination, and it gave Cataclysm a disjointed feeling, detracting from that feeling of exploration and discovery. We learned that giving players a land to explore, a sense of place, is valuable. Ultimately, the scattered zones and the portals both served to kind of shrink the world, when we want to make the world a place you want to go out and be in. We’re definitely looking forward to getting back to a continent in Mists. We underestimated how important that was.

In addition, while we liked that each zone has a story, questing ended up being too linear. It didn’t feel like you could fly into a zone, find some quest givers, and explore. Instead, you kind of had to start at the beginning and follow all the quests to the end, and if you didn’t like a quest, well, you had to stick with it to get to the next one. We want zones to have an identity, flavor and a story, but we don’t want to railroad players through a zone either.

The difficulty at which we pegged our heroic dungeons and raids was controversial. They were designed to be about as tough as the dungeons were back in Burning Crusade, but the game has changed since then. Coming out of Lich King, we’d gotten the message loud and clear from players that they wanted tougher challenges. They liked the convenience of Dungeon Finder, but they missed using their crowd control and survival abilities and having to strategize about how to beat a given encounter. We designed the Cataclysm heroics with that in mind, and the players who wanted challenging content were thrilled.

The problem was that we had this whole group of players who felt like they couldn’t make any progress on their characters. Even if they wanted to end up raiding with their friends, they couldn’t earn the gear they needed to get into those raids (especially in the absence of Raid Finder). I don’t believe that the instances were too hard; it’s obvious there are players who enjoy that content. I believe the problem was that there were no alternatives. With such a diverse community, the goal is to have experiences that players from all over the spectrum can enjoy. We don’t want to shut anyone out. So, we’re addressing that with Challenge Modes in Mists. You’ll have normal and heroic mode dungeons, and then Challenge Modes, for players who are looking to prove their mettle. Likewise, you’ll have normal and heroic raids, and Raid Finder for players who don’t enjoy wiping on a boss week after week until they can master it.


While choosing a spec at level 10 felt great, we weren’t very happy with the rest of the talent tree overhaul. We definitely pruned some dead wood from the trees and got rid of some talents that weren’t a lot of fun, but players felt like they weren’t getting anything out of the bargain. Having simpler trees is a good goal, but it would have felt better if players felt like they got something cool in return for losing some boring fluff. Unfortunately, as is the case with many compromises, this one didn’t fully solve the original problems it was intended to solve, while it created new ones.

Fundamentally, taking into account what we’ve learned about talent trees over the years, we’ve come to the conclusion that the talent tree model where you pick up tiny performance increases here and there (and where there’s, mathematically, nearly always a ‘right’ answer and a ‘wrong’ answer) is not a great model. The Mists talent design is a major revamp that should fix this problem once and for all. Talents should be meaningful game-changers. At absolute worst a given talent may be the right one only situationally, and at best, players will have a lot more customization to make their play-style stand out. Furthermore, the fact that you’ll have more flexibility to change your talents should help keep gameplay fresh, even with that character that you play most often.


I feel like I should mention Abyssal Maw again. As with many cancelled features, it somehow took on a life of its own in the minds of players. Believe me, though -- you just don’t cancel things that you think are going to be awesome. It was three bosses inside Nespirah, with no unique art. The reason it was originally appealing to us was because we had so many Vashj’ir assets that we could use. But by the time it was time to do the work, we felt like we (and many players) had Vashj’ir fatigue. Now don’t get me wrong -- I loved Vashj’ir. I was an oceanographer, remember? Vashj’ir delivered on the promise of an underwater zone, but we feel like most players were ready to be done with it by the time they had quested through that. (Individuals will feel differently -- it’s that diverse player base thing again.) Firelands received a lot of new art, from bosses to environments, and we just didn’t feel like Abyssal Maw was going to compete. Who knows, though! We haven’t totally given up on the idea of cool underwater experiences, so maybe there’s potential we’d visit it again someday. (For my money, the zone I am personally saddest about cancelling is not Abyssal Maw; it was the Azjol-Nerub quest zone in Wrath of the Lich King.)

Speaking of raids, we also weren’t particularly happy with how accessible legendary items became in Cataclysm. Multiple characters in a single raiding guild were getting, and worse, expecting a legendary weapon. Legendaries are supposed to be rare and exciting, not a bar you fill up like some reputation grind, and certainly not something you feel entitled to get because it’s “your turn.” Dragonwrath in particular was usable by a large variety of class specs, which coupled with the guarantee to completion, just made them too ubiquitous. In the future, legendaries will be more legendary, perhaps so much so that not every raiding guild will have one. In that model, there might be those who almost, but not quite, complete one, but there will also be those who finish one and feel truly honored.

I have mixed feelings about Archaeology. I feel like it’s a good addition to professions and offers more, and more varied, gameplay than our existing professions. Still, it’s clear that some players wanted more. We wanted Archaeology to be hard to complete. We didn’t want it to be one of those professions you can max out by buying up mats at the Auction House. But random reward systems whose long-term goals are more interesting than the short term ones can feel grindy. Archaeology had too much travel time. It could be punishingly random, especially for players who imagined that it would be a guaranteed delivery mechanism for Zin’rokh (which was never the intention). Players missed a lot of the lore, which was delivered in the Archaeology journal and not as part of the survey or digging experience. We think the Mists of Pandaria expansion will be really good for Archaeology. Players will be focused on a couple of new races on a single continent, so travel and randomness will be reduced automatically, and leveling Archaeology should be a bit more convenient since there will be more opportunities to dig at a single site. We have other tricks up our sleeve too.


Q. What lessons have you learned and what are some of your top goals for Mists of Pandaria?

There are four big goals for Mists:


  • Get players out into the world. We don’t want to totally eliminate convenience, so it’s fine to queue for some features from capital cities, but we also want players to see other players out in the world, questing, trying world bosses, engaging in PvP, and just travelling from place to place.
  • Give players plenty to do. It’s a sad feeling, and a real failure on our part, whenever someone says “I want to play WoW this evening, but I just don’t have anything to do.” Like I said above, achievements and alts were great in their time, and we’ll continue to support them, but we understand the need for new ways to play as well. The new expansion will have entirely new systems, like scenarios and challenge modes. We are designing the initial zones to have features similar to the Molten Front daily area, so you don’t feel like questing is something you finish at level 90 (and so you don’t feel like daily quests are synonymous with ‘boring’ or ‘grind’). We want to make the Pandaria factions interesting. We want Exalted to be something you earn for bragging rights, not something every player has. We are adding a lot of mounts that will be hard to get, and awesome-looking armor that you’ll want just for transmogrification. We’re considering ways to let you increase the number of Conquest points you can earn per week or a way to translate questing into bonus loot from instances. We want to hide lots of cool little things all over Pandaria. Some will offer your character more power and some won’t. And if you really like achievements and alts, well hopefully we’ve got you covered there too, with account-level achievements and a new race and class.
  • Appeal to a broad audience. I’m always surprised by the number of players who want the game to be easier and the equal number who want the game to be harder (and can’t understand why anyone would disagree with them!) We approach the issue in a different way -- we think that what all of those players are really saying is that they want content for them. Message received. We’ll be offering Raid Finder versions of all of our raids going forward. We’ll be offering brutally difficult challenge modes of dungeons for players who thought the Cataclysm heroics were too easy. We’re experimenting with some tricky boss encounters for players who loved the hard-mode Ulduar achievements. We want to provide more cross-over between PvE and PvP, for those who are interested, so that it doesn’t feel like you have to play two different games to progress your character. We want to continually add new Battlegrounds, so those players have fresh experiences to look forward to. We’ll provide players with ways to upgrade their gear incrementally, while reserving tier sets for actual boss kills.
  • Get great content out faster. Enough said.


************

We hope you’ve enjoyed this entry in the Cataclysm post mortem series and that this has proven to be an enlightening opportunity to take in our perspective on what worked, what didn’t, and some of what’s coming. If you missed the chance, you can join us in looking back at Cataclysm by checking out the other entries in the post mortem series with Lead Encounter Designer Scott Mercer and Lead Quest Designer Dave Kosak.

Now it’s time to look forward, since we have more to share about World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria coming on March 19. Stay tuned!

Discuss the latest Cataclysm Post Mortem here.
This article was originally published in forum thread: MoP Beta Around the Corner, Cataclysm Post Mortem by Ghostcrawler started by Boubouille View original post
Comments 303 Comments
  1. Lore Lord's Avatar
    This interview acutually got me thinking that MoP might not be that bad and might get me to start playing again. The previous Cataclysm Post-Mortem left a really bad taste in my mouth and made me think they hadn't learned anything, especially the part about 5-mans being something that should be doable in a 10 minute lunch break. Ghostcrawler, on the other hand, pretty much singled out all of the main probelms I had with Cataclysm, mainly linearized questing, easy reputations that everyone gets to exalted just for playing for 2 weeks, and lack of cosmetic rewards people get just to show off. He also recognized that a lot of people, myself included, really liked the Cata heroics at launch and were significantly disappointed when they were nerfed. However, I'm not sure challenge modes really fix the problem. From my understanding, challenge modes aren't a third difficulty, but thing liked timed runs which are really just achievements that aren't in the achievements tab. I want the challenge to be getting the bosses down, not seeing how fast I can roflstomp the entire instance like I was in WotLK. Another concern I have is that Ghostcrawler is just one developer. Ghostcrawler was the one who, despite player complaints, said that heroics were fine where they were and weren't going to be nerfed pretty much less than a week before the nerf patch was announced. Ghostcrawler's views of where they went wrong might not line up with the vies of the majority of the developers, and I am worried that other developers might see things like more difficult reputations as a bad idea.

    The other worrying thing is many of his points, particularly more to do in the world, are announced for every expansion and never happen. So, while I am excited to read that Blizzard knows where they went wrong, I am overall not very optimistic that they will actually be able to fix it, especially since any change will trigger half the player base to demand the old way back.
  1. VanishO2's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by resare View Post
    I, for one, really like Deepholm. Mostly because it started in the Maelstrom and then you end up flying into it. While not connected normally, it didn't feel disconjoined simply because it was effectively under/in the maelstrom. I liked the art design, I liked the map design, I liked the quest design. IMO Deepholm was one of the best zones in the entire expansion and it's a shame that Streetcrawler used it as an example of a failure, which means we'll probably never see a place like it again. My only real complaint is that it's an 83 zone that (in the end) gives you rep for one of the most important factions in cata (namely for the shoulders). So if a player completely bi-passed it while leveling, will have to come back to rep grind, as the shoulders enchants are not BoA.
    For some reason they think that another plane should be right at your door instead of... well... another plane.
  1. treclol's Avatar
    This is, most likely, Ghostcrawler's best post ever! He has a very sober view on what went right, what went wrong, and where the game should be heading in order to appeal to everyone, both casuals and hardcore players alike. All in all, if these issues are adressed as good as they were described here, I have every reason to be most excited about MoP!
  1. Depravitty's Avatar
    You win this round Ghostcrawler.
  1. Deviltrigger's Avatar
    Is the active Diablo 3 thing only showing for the US and not eu? *I have the annual pass but the diablo 3 section just says coming soon and nothing about mop on the page.
  1. Dasn's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by AnthonyUK View Post
    bad instance design - DS 5 mans
    lolwut. *DS 5 mans are great.
  1. Dald's Avatar
    I said this before Cata went into beta. Cata is a placeholder expansion.
  1. Yig's Avatar
    HIdden easter eggs all over pandaria to seek out! Awesome! I love dynamic world content like that. I am pretty hyped to see the new things we'll have to do.
  1. BLSTMASTER's Avatar
    I just wish the other post-mortems would have been as critical of their own work as this one has been... *Something working well isn't what people would be interested in as much as something that the developers think they could/should improve on.*BTW, what does a 'lead system designer' do exactly? (really asking :/)'lead quest designer' is a title that is pretty self-explanatory, but 'lead systems designer' sounds like it could be a whole lot.He talks about a lot of different aspects of the game, so what does/doesn't he overlook? (Asking because there is no mention of PvP at all yet. Is PvP not his thing?)
    EDIT: Really enjoyed the post and agree on most points. I just hope they actually deliver and gain some people's faiths again. (I personally am pretty happy w/ wow atm, though something better is always good )
  1. Pandapuncher's Avatar
    Omg Greg, you hit the nail on the frikkin head, now follow your own advice
  1. Athinah's Avatar
    Why do I have a feeling that if we did not get the pass that we have almost 0 chance of getting into the beta this time around?*
  1. palladiamors's Avatar
    What, nothing about completely ignoring players feedback during Cataclysm beta? Seemed like that was a pretty big problem to me, and with the dip in subs, I'd say plenty of other people agreed. Also, nothing about how so many people have a problem with the new talent system they are suggesting? But hey, who cares what the players want, right? Lets dumb this sucker down!
  1. Kennycommenter's Avatar
    I saw the Diablo III management on my Bnet page earlier this morning, and I swear, every time i visit my account page, when it lists all my games, i see an option that disappears within a second under Diablo III. I'm guessing that was the MoP Beta management they took down. I just find it so funny that it's there, but not really. I'm more excited now than ever for the beta! C'mon beta!
  1. Alceus's Avatar
    Woah, GC suprised me like hell. never expected this.
  1. Marlamin's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by kostor View Post
    One thing is sure. There will be a lot more beta servers than in the previous WoW betas. Around 1 million people bought the annual pass.
    For now there was just one, Mekkatorque.
  1. Faldric's Avatar
    The four big goals for Mists.....well if that isnt the same stuff they already promised for cataclysm. fool me once shame on you fool me twice shame on me
  1. Rioo's Avatar
    "Get great content out faster. Enough said."They keep saying that, year after year, and yet we get smaller instances filled with old boss models and environments, and some content patches that don't even have a raid in them.
  1. AnarchyEU's Avatar
    He didn't mention character models, now I'm worried they won't be updated in 5.0/Mists
  1. VanishO2's Avatar
    "So, we’re addressing that with Challenge Modes in Mists. You’ll have normal and heroic mode dungeons, and then Challenge Modes, for players who are looking to prove their mettle."

    As soon as ppl start with the QQ about content being denied to them, since they can't faceroll the timers for the challenge, they'll start messing with Challenge modes until it's completely destroyed like heroic raiding.

    "Likewise, you’ll have normal and heroic raids, and Raid Finder for players who don’t enjoy wiping on a boss week after week until they can master it."

    Since Blizzard alread said that the way it is since FL nerfs will be the way for MoP, read the last part as "until we nerf it one month later".

    "Get great content out faster. Enough said."

    Guess we'll see the patch 5.1 with the old favorite revamped ICC converted into a 5man heroic joke in the end... great content... faster... right...

    "It was three bosses inside Nespirah, with no unique art. The reason it was originally appealing to us was because we had so many Vashj’ir assets that we could use."

    After dealing with upgraded BWL (BWD), Molten Core (FL) and all the re-used stuff from Dragon Soul... he throws that to us and he wants us to accept it... If they find the Vashj'ir assets not unique, there is nothing telling them that they couldn't create new ones. Ah yes... probably the "small development team with poor resources..." excuse.

    And better remove the legendary from the game alread. It's not working anymore. Right now it became a free season faceroll for the class that receives it. Ppl don't want to put the time on it anymore so it could become legendary as they want. It needs to be easy to get and fast or it's not worth. And all the other players from other classes will just complain that they're on the receiving end against legendary players on pvp. Each tier now needs to have one, there is a list of classes, in order, that should get the next ones, discussions all over the place, etc. Just remove it from the game from now on. Shadowmourne was the last one with the "legendary" feel on it since you had to deal with new stuff from 3 of the most dificult bosses from the place (or wait the nerfs) while also killing them (and could fail at 1% of the boss dying from the debuffs while the raid kills it), unlike Dragonwrath and totally, by a lot, unlike the rogue daggers that you just pickpocket a boss and then grind itens, while alread getting the a good part of the final effect on the 1st version. Anyone remember rolling around a simple Shadow's Edge that was worse than 1st boss drop? Yeah...

    In the end, more of the same... he talks about a game that is not the Cataclysm we played and won't be what we'll get for MoP.
  1. Crushima's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Findme View Post
    Nothing about dead empty realms, nothing about 25 and 10 man raiding. All answers are really like the one once given for the Cata launch, more yadda yadda, faster yadda yadda. If you translate it to common language it's saying: Please keep paying, all will be better with the next expansion, sorry but i don't believe a single word, these same promises were given at the start of cata, and we all have seen what it was.
    Then stop playing and whining here.

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