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.


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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. Tsundere Pejo's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by schippie View Post
    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.
    I really hope they get us into Beta sooner than later but for the sole reason of making sure when they do release the game, it is as polished as possible.
  1. Jargan's Avatar
    Pretty good post that has a lot of people looking forward to MoP. I'm really glad they admitted that the game is boring and are working on new things to do. This is why I went to Rift (who wants to farm Dragon Soul for 5 more months?) After reading that and playing Rift for 2 months, I feel like their goals for MoP are to make the game more Rift-like (not a fanboy, that's just my opinion). Get content out faster, make new kinds of content rather than a new BG/raid every few months.. These are things Rift (and other new MMOs to an extent) have done and why they are stealing subscribers. I hope they really are trying to bring their game back to the way it used to be. I'll buy MoP and hopefully it will have progressed as a game and not just added on.
  1. Kriistijan's Avatar
    beta in 3 weeks maybe?
  1. peggleftw's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Maximelene View Post
    No, seriously, I can't stop laughing !

    lmao, that bit made me laugh aswell, and the bit about how the water raid was skipped becuase it would have had no unique models and wouldnt be interesting, what about DS, did that have any unique models?

    ---------- Post added 2012-03-07 at 07:33 PM ----------

    also, its all well and good saying they want to get people out into the world and MoP will do just that, but they said the exact same thing just before cata, they actually need to find something interesting to get people out into the world
  1. Dreadlocke's Avatar
    I don't plan to buy MoP. I'm quitting now.
    Blizz has sufficiently demonstrated that they cannot fix the game the created, then broke.
  1. Chickat's Avatar
    This is really refreshing. I like how Ghostcrawler is actually admitting mistakes in some areas, unlike the last few blogs. Really pumped for MoP.
  1. Saluin's Avatar
    I am now officially hyped up for the Mists beta, the post mortem was a lot better than the last one we had
  1. Chickat's Avatar
    I think he said that they want to get bgs out more often? Maybe one or two of the*announced*3 bgs will come out in a content patch.
  1. Destructus's Avatar
    I don't really agree with their view on legendaries. The caster one was obviously too common but the other recent legendaries were just about right where they should be for the time it took to make them.

    I'd say around 2, maybe 3, legendaries per guild (based on whether in 10 or 25) made during the 6 months from that content release to the next raid content. We don't need to bring back RNGendaries like the vanilla/BC ones. That just makes things too rare and only rewards the super lucky.
  1. KClovesGaming's Avatar
    1-60 doesn't count during Cata. They shouldn't be allowed to count that. That's for leveling.People only care about end game content. But I will say that MoP looks much better already. Mainly from the few things that have been announced so far and the fact that GC actually admitted some things that didn't work. That's a nice change to see.
  1. snowcrash512's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by VanishO2 View Post
    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.
    I agree, and not in a rude way, we all want the next mmo to do what WoW did for us, and we equate that with being similar. The problem is then you just get a clone that cant possibly match 7 years of content at launch and people hate it because it doesnt have any identity of its own, its just a cheap immitation even tho thats what we tell them we want. The cycle keeps repeating itself.

    Of course on the other hand, SWTOR reallly realllllly does suck, so i will give them that point at least.
  1. Kryos's Avatar
    I hope they add public quests (Warhammer/Rift-style)
  1. Nelrock's Avatar
    Dunno why everyone is so "refreshed" at GC comments. It doesn't take much to regurgitate what people have been telling you for over a year. I'll feel "refreshed" when we see action instead of words.
  1. Voodookiller's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by SiegZero View Post
    Really happy with Ghostcrawler's take on some of Cata's problems. Glad to see they are at least recognized internally as well.
    They always find the problems... and say they will do this & that in the next expansion but its just same all over.... they said they didn't want us to sit in ORG & SW 24/7 & now they say it again for MOP. & ofc more world PVP but im not hoping to get it "fixed"
  1. kostor's Avatar
    The biggest design mistake in my opinion is neglecting Vashj'ir so much. It's the biggest zone in WoW (actually the only zone that is divided into subzones) with some of the most stunning environments, yet it only yields about 3 hours of gameplay. Once you have the quest achievement there is basically zero reason to go back to Vashj'ir (except maybe camping for the Poseidus Mount). Every other of the new Cata zones has at least one additional purpose than just leveling up:

    Hyjal - Firelands dailies
    Deepholm - Therazane dailies
    Uldum - archaeology farming (Tol'vir)
    Twilight Highlands - Wildhammer / Dragonmaw dailies

    Ghostcrawler explains why they canceled the Abyssal Maw. But I think it should have been made into a 5-player dungeon like originnaly announced at Blizzcon and could have been a nice addition to patch 4.2. I personally would have liked to have a daily questing area in Vashj'ir as well.


    Second big mistake in my opinion was the setting of the Dragonsoul raid. Dragonblight is a Wotlk zone and just feels wrong for Deathwing. They should have made the raid similar to Grim Batol (they could have recycled all the Grim Batol assets for the Deathwing raid just as easily as Dragonblight) and set the dungeon entrance to Twilight Highlands.

    Third big mistake was the "abandoning" of Tol Barad. I don't mean the PvP bosses or the honor farming with that but the fact that the rewards for the Tol Barad tokens were never updated. This lead to players doing the Tol Barad dailies only at the beginning of the expansion. Once you had all the rewards (which doesn't take too long, maybe a month) there was zero reason to do the dailies. The ganking which was always pretty fun died out as less and less people were doing the dailies. Tol Barad peninsula was the only thing in Cata remotely close to an open PvP area yet there wasn't enough incentive to go there regularly. This is even more sad as Wintergrasp rewards got updated with almost every content patch.
    Why not provide something like the new PvP epic gems which are on conquest point vendors since 4.3 for Tol Barad tokens?
  1. Sammonoske's Avatar
    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.
    Good news and bad news. Good that there will be fewer Legendaries. Bad that I get the feeling 10 and 25 still wont be balanced and will become even worse.
  1. Stevoman's Avatar
    They canceled Abyssal Maw because they found they were rehashing a lot..and instead put out DS, which except for two fights is nothing but one giant rehash? Please.
  1. Into's Avatar
    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.
    Then why did you shut people out? Not just people but you shut out the majority of people with Cataclysm, the question is: why? There has to have been some sort of developer meeting during WotLK when they were planning Cataclysm, someone must have uttered the sentence "BC was great, lets make BC 2.0 guys!"? Who is responsible for making such a quite frankly..idiotic decision? People bought Cataclysm in millions as evident by numbers but immediatly quit because heroics took too long to do and the queue times were abysmal for anyone but tanks. But then again doing the heroics was a horrid experience for them because you changed so much. Why? I ask again, they mention themselves that they hated the idea that there were massive amounts of players who wanted to play WoW but didnt, because they had nothing to do. They were locked out of content, and in the other extreme case the raiders were bored as they had run through everything. WotLK is the closest they have gotten to "not want to shut anyone out" and even that expansion could have been improved on. Why get away from WotLK to chase to chase some nostalgia trip dream that wasent that great to begin with? BC will always be special because it was the first expansion, but emulating it today in 2012 is not possible.
  1. Coldkil's Avatar
    Maybe F&F alpha won't be up this time due to the annual pass thing, so directly beta.
  1. Articuno's Avatar
    "Appeal to a broad audience"?! HOW MUCH BROADER CAN YOU GET THAN EIGHT YEAR OLDS?! My eight year old cousin has a level 40 paladin from back when the battle chest was $5.*This and the "we'll fix everything in the next expansion guys, we promise!" bullshit FOUR TIMES NOW is enough. $50 says there will be portals to every capital city in Pandaria (or at least Orgrimmar and Stormwind), there will never be a reason to leave Pandaria and there will never be a reason to leave your faction's city except for dailies by the time 5.1 comes out.

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