Ion Hazzikostas Interview
As Patch 5.2 comes to an end, developer interviews begin again! Today we are taking a look at an interview with Ion Hazzikostas (Lead Encounter Designer) by Convert to Raid.
Throne of Thunder
- The team is happy with how Throne of Thunder turned out, as it really delivered on the varied and large environments, fun encounters, great art, and an interesting race for World First.
- Lei Shen delivered on how great the final boss of a tier should be and is comparable to Heroic Ragnaros in terms of difficulty and structure.
- The difficulty ramp up between bosses was not as smooth as it could have been, especially going from Jin'rokh to Horridon. This is something that can be improved upon in the next raid, and was addressed with hotfixes this time.
- Throne of Thunder has a linear progression path, but many players missed the less linear progression that was seen in Ulduar and Icecrown. Giving players the option to work on another boss is helpful and there were areas in Throne of Thunder that could have been designed with this in mind.
- Ra-Den didn't work out completely as envisioned. The sense of mystery associated with a boss that no one knows anything about is nice, making the content a bonus prize for defeating Lei Shen. It was hard to balance and test without the regular player testing, which resulted in clever use of game mechanics to defeat Ra-Den. Normally hotfixes would have been used to solve the problem, but limited attempts made it a more complicated situation.
- There might have been slightly too much trash on Raid Finder difficulty, because there are no epic rewards that drop from the trash like Normal and Heroic difficulty. Trash is still an important pacing and environmental factor though, as you are progressing towards Lei Shen through his army.
- During Sunwell progression, raiding 20 hours over several days to get a world first on M'uru was unprecedented. Blizzard tried attempt limits or time limits to reduce the need to raid constantly, but it has always been an arms race between the top guilds to raid longer hours.
- Limited attempts in Icecrown resulted in using alts to practice encounters before doing them on main characters, increasing the amount of time top guilds spent raiding instead of decreasing it.
- The devs would like to see more organized raiding, such as the organized PuGs that existed before Raid Finder.
- There is a group of players that wants to do group raiding, but they aren't well served by the current difficulty choices. This would include the friends and family type guilds that don't remove players because they aren't performing at their best. In Wrath of the Lich King, 10 player normal difficulty raiding served these players well, but there is now a gap between Raid Finder and Normal difficulty.
- When 10 and 25 player had separate lockouts and different loot, they were really different difficulty levels as well. Things were somewhat easier in 10 player difficulty, as it had the lower tier of loot and should be more accessible.
- Now that both 10 and 25 player difficulty offer the same loot and have a shared lockout, there is a need to ensure the difficulty is similar for both raid sizes. This eliminated the lower difficulty 10 player raids, which left some players with no content to raid in a more casual organized group.
- Removing shared lockouts would just make people feel that it was mandatory to do the raid on both sizes every week to get gear faster.
- Raid Finder is great for letting players see content and progress their character with a more flexible schedule, but one of the best things MMOs offer is the cooperative social experience that is group raiding.
- The success rates on Spine of Deathwing and Madness of Deathwing upon release in Raid Finder were about the same as they are on Lei Shen today. The success rate quickly went up on Madness of Deathwing, going from 25% during the first few weeks to 60 or 70% towards the end of the expansion.
- Garalon was initially too difficult in Raid Finder difficulty, but hotfixes solved that problem.
- Before the Determination buff was added, if a group failed at an encounter a few times, there wasn't much hope that anything was going to get better. This resulted in some churn in the group and continued failure. The only way to solve this problem was making the encounter easier so that groups failed less.
- Determination allows the group to slowly make more progress on a boss, as well as give people who were thinking about leaving a reason to stick around.
- This worked as intended, as the number of people leaving after failed attempts is significantly lower now. This also helps to reduce the amount of partially completed raids that people enter after a long queue.
- Raid finder is designed to not be attractive to players that are doing most of the raid on Normal or Heroic difficulty, but for players that don't have a fixed raid group to play with.
- In the past, relatively few people were able to see Arthas, Illidan, and other end bosses in raids. Raid finder allows millions of people to see the entire story.
Future / Misc
- Patch 5.4 will have a raid that is similar in size to Throne of Thunder.
- The team started working on Patch 5.4 as soon as they were done with work on the Patch 5.2 PTR content.
- It would have been nice to have more dungeons while leveling in Pandaria, as there wasn't enough variety. This is something that can be improved upon in the future.
- Requiring a group for Heroic Scenarios was done to ensure some level of communication between players, making it possible to make the content more difficult and interesting.
Patch 5.3 PTR - Build 16958
Build 16958 will be deployed to the PTR realms soon.
Patch 5.3 PTR - Build 16954
Build 16954 was not a release candidate.
Originally Posted by Blizzard Entertainment
Originally Posted by Blizzard Entertainment
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