MMO-Champion - WoW's 8th Anniversary, Pilgrim's Bounty, Ion Hazzikostas Interview, BWC Recaps
Witch Doctor 1.0.5 Updated Guide, Fan Creation of the Week: Making of "The Demon Hunter", Blizzard News

WoW's 8th Anniversary
WoW's 8th Anniversary event is also now live, so be sure to check your mail for the Celebration Package and a familiar letter. You can get the WoW's 8th Anniversary achievement by logging in by December 1st.



Pilgrim's Bounty
Pilgrim's Bounty started this morning. Don't forget to eat at the tables to pick up The Spirit of Sharing!



Interview with Ion Hazzikostas
We had the opportunity to talk to Ion Hazzikostas (Lead Encounter Designer) at the Battle.net World Championship event.
Originally Posted by Blizzard Entertainment
Q: Patch 5.1 is almost live on the servers now and mostly has quest content when it comes to PvE. What’s the status of Patch 5.2 and is there anything exciting players should expect from it?
A: Patch 5.1 also has scenarios, the Brawler's guild, and pet battle enhancements, so there is a lot more to it other than the quest content. The quest content is pretty meaty, something like 100 new quests in Krasarang Wilds. There is more to Patch 5.1 than just the quests. As far as Patch 5.2 goes, we are definitely hard at work on that. That is where the next big raid instance is going to come, so that is something that my team is primarily occupied with now. We don't really have specific details to announce or discuss about it right now, but it is something we will be talking about in the very near future.

Q: Challenge modes were one of the biggest additions to the game with MoP, are you happy with how it turned out? Is there any improvements or rewards coming in future patches?
A: Yes, it is a really cool feature and I think that it is something that is still building momentum with players. Players find that they have exhausted some of their avenues to get gear or make their character stronger in a given week. They reach a point where they are getting their upgrades from raids, and you are limited on how often and how much you can raid. You can do your one lockout a week and that leaves you with free time, making challenge modes something that is interesting to explore. Early on, because they don't give actual power upgrades, it was hard to justify spending time on something that isn't going to make your character stronger when they feel like they have to keep running dungeons for upgrades or doing dailys.

Ultimately, the challenge mode dungeons are there to give groups of players who want an old school dungeon MMO feel with crowd control, coordination, teamwork, and tight execution some of the gameplay they are looking for. At this point, our primary mode of dungeons is through the LFD system and with random matchmaking you can only push difficulty so far before it starts to cause social issues. If you learn something, that is one thing, but it doesn't necessarily guarantee the four people you are grouped with will know that and you can often feel like you are failing, not through any fault of your own, but because of the random people you got assigned to. That is frustrating. Clearly we have backed away from some of the difficulty we saw in Cataclysm launch heroics but challenge mode dungeons take that to a whole new level.

Q: Are there any tweaks coming in future patches?
A: Quality of life stuff mainly. We are going to be making a change in the future that resets cooldowns when you reset a challenge mode or start a new one, long cooldowns like Bloodlust or Battle Res and things like that. We allow you to reset a challenge mode mid run through the interface. That way, you screw up the second pull and you can just reset the instance and try again. If you used Bloodlust on the first pull and feel like you are going for a competitive time, then you have to stand around for five minutes waiting for that cooldown to come back up. That's not so much fun. In the future it is a feature that we plan to continue to support and expand.

One thing that we thought about is what new challenge mode dungeons we can add. One potential place to explore would be going back and creating challenge modes for some of our older dungeons. Imagine a level 90 challenge mode version of Shattered Halls, Arcatraz, or some of those dungeons.

Q: The legendary quest continues in Patch 5.1 with upgraded sha-touched gems. Can we expect anything more from this patch or will we have to wait for Patch 5.2 to see things get more exciting?
A: I think Patch 5.2 is going to have more substance in terms of the legendary progression. Patch 5.1 will advance the storyline. A few players who have already completed their legendary gem have already discovered the cliffhanger where Wrathion tells you about the arriving fleets, conflict between the Alliance and Horde that is going to come to the shores, and some of the work that needs to be done. Patch 5.1 is going to let you see Wrathion's involvement between the Alliance and Horde conflict and you get a slight power bump from helping him out with that, but really the bulk of the quest line lies ahead of us.

Q: Patch 5.1 contains an extremely interesting questline involving the Black Temple and a lot of warlock lore, is there anything more you can tell us about this? Is this quest for all classes or just for warlocks?
A: The Black Temple thing in Patch 5.1 is a Warlock specific class quest and it is building up to something. It was datamined as a scenario, but it is not a scenario. It is just a small one off class quest for Warlocks. When it makes sense for the lore and assets we are trying to introduce, it is cool to have these little one off quests like we added for the Monk as they level up with skill challenges. It is just something nice we thought we would do for the Warlock class. It is not a big deal.

Q: Is it finally time for Blizzard to bring green fire spells to the game?
A: Maybe.

Q: You brought back world bosses in the game, do you feel the players reaction was positive?
A: Somewhat. There were definitely a lot of lessons learned from the experience of the world bosses. I think at this point I would say we are completely satisfied with the way that Sha of Anger has worked out. Sha of Anger was meant to be a replacement for Baradin Hold or Vault of Archavon. Instead of it happening behind closed doors in an instance you are seeing it happen in the outdoor world. Players who are questing through Kun-Lai Summit get to see a group of 30 or 40 players fighting a huge shadowy creature; that is a cool experience. It is a frequent respawn and not very hard, so pretty much everyone who wants to kill Sha of Anger does.

Galleon was intended to be more analogous to our Vanilla world bosses like Kazzak or the green dragons, where it is highly contested and spawns infrequently. That has kinda worked out, but not as well as we hoped, and we have some changes we are going to make next time we try that sort of thing.

There were two main problems with it. First off, it was too easy. Killing Galleon is more about getting the tap when he spawns and being there, rather than any kind of challenge. One of the key features of Kazzak or the green dragons was that most groups on a sever couldn't kill the boss. Even if you let them pull the boss they were still going to wipe because just because everyone panics and only the best guilds on the server could actually do it.

Also, he is in such a highly trafficked zone that whenever he spawns so many people flock to the area that is causes some technical issues. When you have 150 people in the same spot all using AoE spells, unless you have a super computer, your client performance isn't great. That ends up not being a great experience for players. I think more remote and more challenging are what we are likely to do with our Galleon style bosses in the future. Our Sha of Anger style world bosses will probably stay pretty much the same.

Q: Do you plan to add more of those in future patches?
A: Yeah.

Q: Is there an encounter in the expansion that wasn’t as successful or impressive as you thought it would be?
A: Overall I am really happy with how the encounters have turned out. I think there were some bugs or tuning issues on a few fights, like the Heroic mode of Imperial Vizier Zor'lok that came out in Heart of Fear last week. It has some tuning issues that made it the hardest boss in the instance, despite it being the first boss, so it was a little bit of a brick wall for some guilds. We made some quick adjustments and got it to where we want it to be within a couple of days. Other than that we are hearing great feedback from our players and people on LFR, Normal, and Heroic are having a good time.

Q: More and more people seem to be losing interest in 25-man raiding, do you plan to make it a little more interesting in the future or are you happy with the current system?
A: We love 25 player raiding. We also love 10 player raiding. We have people on the team that do both, depending on who they are. We aren't really satisfied with the state of 25 player raiding right now. Our goal when we made the raid changes at the start of Cataclysm that unified the 10 and 25 player lockouts was to let players choose the raid size that they preferred and make it a fair choice.

At the time, we were responding to feedback from many players who preferred 10 player raiding and felt pressured to do 25s because they offered such better loot. The reality, something we failed to properly account for, is the logistical burdens of maintaining a 25 player roster. Those burdens are borne almost exclusively by the officers, raid leaders, and guild leaders of those groups. Those pressures are such that it tends to cause those groups to splinter into 10s. Before there was the carrot of 25s give you the best loot in the game, which was enough to get guilds to push through those stresses by recruiting more or making it work.

Now it is easy to say, well, we only have 21 people on at raid time, let's just do 10 mans instead of cancelling the raid. Then you go down the road to transitioning to a 10 player guild. It isn't a reflection of what our players want, but what is simplest for the guild leadership. We are looking at trying to better incentivize 25s, recognizing that for it to be a fair choice, there needs to be something to compensate for that additional logistical burden.

Q: The proving grounds features was mentioned a couple of times before the release of the game, is there anything new on this side?
A: It is something that we are excited about and something that we are still planning to introduce. We don't have a specific release date for it at this time, but it is something that we want to do.

Q: Was the Brawler’s Guild the first iteration of it?
A: The Brawler's Guild isn't really the same thing. It is basically single player boss fights, really cool PvE gameplay. It isn't designed to instruct or test or rank players. It is designed to just be a fun challenge. Proving Grounds has a twofold purpose of letting players learn things like tanking and healing in a more comfortable setting, without having to inconvenience other players or letting them down, but also allow the high end players to test their skills and have a leaderboard. The Brawler's Guild isn't that, but it is really cool!

On a fundamental level, our game is about playing DPS from level 1 to 90. That is how you level and how you kill things in the outdoor world. The first time you decide that you want to tank, you are probably going to tank at four other people's expense, and we would like to fix that.

Q: Scenarios are in a weird place right now, the concept seemed interesting but the lack of rewards caused most players to somewhat ignore them in the long run. Should we expect something new on this side?
A: The rewards for scenarios are being improved in Patch 5.1. In the future, hopefully in the not too distant future, we are looking in to allowing scenarios to reward players for skillful accomplishments within the scenario, such that you feel pressure to complete it fast enough or do bonus objectives to get an extra reward. That way it remains engaging but also rewarding for players of all different playstyles, depending on what gear you are coming in with and things like that.

Q: Is there something you wished more people noticed or did in Mists of Pandaria? An interesting element that a lot of players missed?
A: There are tons of secrets in Mists of Pandaria, whether it is the rare spawns or hidden treasure. Our players have done an awesome job of ferreting those things out, so that has been pretty cool. Thanks to sites like MMO-Champion it is very hard to have secrets in the game anymore as it turns out. Datamining is a thing.

Overall, feature wise I would say I look forward to more people checking out challenge modes. They are the most lucrative source of Valor. I think a lot of people have this idea that they aren't Paragon, Blood Legion, or one of the top players in the world, so this isn't for me. Even doing a Bronze Challenge mode is going to give you more Valor for your time invested than pretty much anything else you can do. As players shift from a mindset of doing tons of daily quests to get valor to actually being mostly done with their dailys and looking to get valor from other sources, I hope that more and more players check out the challenge mode system.

Q: Without spoiling too much, do you have any awesome raid mechanics coming in the future?
A: Yes.

Battle.net World Championship Recaps
Bashiok went to China for the World Championship and provided a nice recap of each day. ArenaJunkies also was there providing updates. You can find detailed scores and match results on ArenaJunkies.

  • $105,000 - North America: "Bring It" - Mage Warlock Shaman
  • $45,000 - Europe: "Yaspresents" - Mage Warrior Shaman
  • $27,000 - Korea: "LG-IM" - Mage Warlock Shaman




Battle.net World Championship Concludes - VODs Available

Battle.net World Championship Event Pictures
Blizzard has a nice album of pictures from the Battle.net World Championship on Facebook, head there to see them all.


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