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. Maximelene's Avatar
    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.
    No, seriously, I can't stop laughing !
  1. Horseface's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Vektorix View Post
    Compared to the Dungeons & Raids post-mortem the other day, Ghostcrawler's sounds like a real person, expressing real opinions. Was refreshing and felt honest. I might not agree with everything he had to say, but I feel like we could have a dialog about it and have it feel productive.

    Unlike Scott "Daelo" Mercer, who just sounded like a PR flack.
    Agree 100%

    ---------- Post added 2012-03-07 at 08:48 PM ----------

    Quote Originally Posted by Heywoods View Post
    This port-mortem note by ghostcrawler is really refreshing after the terrible taste that was left in my mouth from the raid encounter post-mortem post. As someone who appreciates pvp/pve I am really excited for mists. Good things in that post.
    That's because GC speaks the truth, the raid post-mortem was a big wall of bullshit, if I remember right Daelo even praised how "good" ZG/ZA revamps were and shit like that. Well obviously players felt awkward when he praised some re-used bullshit.
  1. BriggsBU's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by BLSTMASTER View Post
    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 )
    My understanding is that he oversees the design of the underlying systems in the game. Things like how combat flows, how the economy flows, etc. He doesn't deal in the specific content (IE, the design of a raid or the auction house) but he designs the underlying systems that those things use. He and his team are the ones that come up with the algorithms to convert Crit Rating to Crit chance, ensure that there are no means of duplicating items or gold, control the physics and how your characters move, etc. Their work is more behind the scenes but is the building blocks for everything you see.
  1. Generalklink's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by dokhidamo View Post
    This is your last chance, Blizzard. Your last chance! I'll be in that beta, and I'll be working as hard as I can to make sure you live up to those 4 ideals. If you fail to, I'll be gone like the ghost of Christmas X.
    And go where?*

    Every MMO (I'm looking at you SWTOR) I try to switch to sucks and I keep comparing it to WoW.*

    I have to come back to WoW since as boring it may become, or how pissed off I get, Blizzard knows nobody else can make a game like they can.*
  1. IsaacM's Avatar
    MoP will absolutely slay. Cant wait!
  1. Faldric's Avatar
    It was three bosses inside Nespirah, with no unique art.
    Following that logic they should have skipped Dragon Soul also, I dont see unique art in there.
  1. Herecius's Avatar
    This was a FAR better post than the last one. Nice to see Ghostcrawler writing stuff that's at least worth reading, instead of the PR-puff piece that was the last post mortem 'interview.' Seriously, Blizzard, fire whoever wrote the last piece of trash. You don't need PR mongers like that who don't know how to write in anything but purple prose.
  1. nekobaka's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Horseface View Post
    Agree 100%


    That's because GC is honest, the raid post-mortem was a big wall of bullshit, if I remember right Daelo even praised how "good" ZG/ZA revamps were and shit like that. Well obviously players felt awkward when he praised some re-used bullshit.
    And after all the hostility GC has received from players, particularly those who couldnt handle the truth, I am glad GC is still who he is and not letting emotions(Zarhym, Bashiok) or marking BS(recent Blogs from others) interfere with his ability to communicate to the players in a constructive way.
  1. VanishO2's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Generalklink View Post
    And go where?*

    Every MMO (I'm looking at you SWTOR) I try to switch to sucks and I keep comparing it to WoW.*

    I have to come back to WoW since as boring it may become, or how pissed off I get, Blizzard knows nobody else can make a game like they can.*
    No company will make a carbon copy of WoW for you.

    You stated the problem, you want to play WoW, you're just trying another MMO because you want to hate Blizzard. You'll play Hello Kitty Online and say it sucks because you cant get legendaries, valor points, pvp ratings, can't create a blood elf paladin, etc. on it.

    You want to keep playing WoW, but you also need it to be from another company because you need to hate Blizzard.

    You "suck" (no offense), not the other games.
  1. Korgoth's Avatar
    Oh how much I was hoping this was news Ghostcrawler was dead. But its yet another stupidly pointless PR post by the worst dev in MMO history.*
  1. ltm's Avatar
    Wait, so they scrapped abyssal maw because they didn't want to reuse assets and yet still released DS?
  1. lokna's Avatar
    to me this is another post to make promises that won't see the light of day. The promised all those things that are in here expansion after expansion.

    I'l believe it when i see it not sooner.
  1. Bitlovin's Avatar
    Much, much better than the previous post-mortem, which basically was a tone-deaf PR piece that said "everything we did was wonderful, no problems, YAY!" At least GC will honestly say they have areas to improve on.
  1. ringpriest's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Vektorix View Post
    Compared to the Dungeons & Raids post-mortem the other day, Ghostcrawler's sounds like a real person, expressing real opinions. Was refreshing and felt honest. I might not agree with everything he had to say, but I feel like we could have a dialog about it and have it feel productive.

    Unlike Scott "Daelo" Mercer, who just sounded like a PR flack.
    I have to agree. While I do not like many of the changes that have been made to the game under Ghostcrawler's watch, this post-mortem was worlds better than the previous one.
  1. Repefe's Avatar
    The self criticism is really nice to see, but one thing are hints and promises, Blizz excels at those, and other delivering on them. Lets hope they do more than just promise.
  1. tusker's Avatar
    Easily one of the better post mortems and a good post by GC. Actually makes me look forward to MoP even more if they're able to deliver on the things he mentioned.
  1. Throrion's Avatar
    This is a really nice post. The part about alts not cutting it anymore strikes particularly true. I leveled all the alts I wanted to during the 1 year gap with no content at the end of WotLK after 3.3. I imagine that's why WoW kept me engaged in that period while Cataclysm has seen me playing quite a bit less, because there simply isn't as much to do once you have the high levels you want. They're really gonna need to start looking into alternate ways of keeping players occupied because many of their older players will have had their fill of some of the most time-consuming aspects at this point.
  1. Pejo's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Seolla View Post
    "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."I hope they DON'T do this, or find another way to do it. *Linking any activities to be helpful for raid will only make those activities become mandatory for raiders instead of optional. *Things like the new pokemon system, the challenge mode that only rewards transmorg gears, etc, are great: we can do them if we want, but we aren't potentially gimmping ourselves for raid if we're not. *But if the activities helps out for raid, such as farming for flasks/potions vanilla-style, then they become mandatory for serious raiders and it will just be extra burden.
    These extra benefits that "raise" your cap will most likely be things like the Weekly raid quest that we had in WOTLK to get people going back to older raids. This is also how I expect them to push world pvp by having a weekly quest where you must take over the opposite faction's city.
    Quote Originally Posted by MikeA View Post
    Can someone clarify this for me? The item squish, is there anything new about that, whether it will happen or not. Or has nothing been said about it?
    Nothing has been said on this as of yet, expect an update in mid March.
    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.
    They have already stated they are happy that 10/25 are moving towards being equal in terms of difficulty (not perfect but its a lot better). They have also commented that they are working on how to fix dead servers -- it is a lot harder to fix than you think. A lot of people don't want to give up their server even if it's dead, they don't want to lose their name/guild/etc. They just released SOR yesterday that will allow people to transfer to a friend's server if that is a reason why you quit.

    Main point is there is no quick fix. If you have an idea on how to fix it, feel free to post it on the WoW forum.

    Edit:
    Promises
    Please read the article again, GOALS. This is the same shit every expansion, they have goals yet people cry they were promised. One thing is mentioned at Blizzcon and now it becomes a promise. They very rarely promise just in case they can't deliver.
  1. Kiasari's Avatar
    finally some encouraging news
  1. schippie's Avatar
    I found this a really honest post from GC.It highlighted most of the problems Cata had. Now i only hope they actually in MoP adress these.And i also hope the beta is announced to be march 20th. Would be amazing to get the next expansion way sooner then most expect it to launch.

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