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by Published on 2015-11-09 12:49 AM

Blizzcon 2015 Recap
Lots of new info this year! Be sure to read each post, watch videos, and stay tuned for the class blog changes coming this week. Be sure to check out the Blizzcon Gamepedia wiki.

Opening Ceremony

World of Warcraft
  • Legion beta begins in the weeks following Blizzcon
  • Legion Cinematic was released
  • Warcraft Movie
    • The movie trailer was shown during the Opening Ceremony.
    • There was a press event with Duncan Jones, Chris Metzen, and some of the movie cast
  • Legion Releasing by September 2016
    • The regular version costs $50 and Digital Deluxe costs $70.
    • Pre-purchasing gives you a Level 100 Boost and at least one week early access to the Demon Hunter class.
    • You will need a level 70 character to create a Demon Hunter and you can only have one Demon Hunter per realm.
  • Artifact Weapons - Blog posts for all of the Artifact Weapons include models and a little bit of story.
  • World of Warcraft: Legion - World and Content Overview (Official Recap)
    • The Broken Shore has a 20 Alliance and 20 Horde (40 Player) scenario that begins right after the cinematic.
    • Demon Hunters have a unique starting experience involving Illidan, who creates a Felsaber epic mount for you.
    • There are four leveling zones that can be done in any order, as they scale.
    • There will be endgame world questing content that aren't strictly daily quests.
    • Legion will have two raids, one with 7 bosses (Emerald Nightmare) and one with 10 (Suramar Palace) with Gul'dan as the final boss.
    • Legion Challenge Mode dungeons keep becoming harder as you defeat them and the rewards keep getting better. Complements or replaces raiding.
  • World of Warcraft Cinematics - The Road to Legion
  • There was a Community Amphitheater Discussion that wasn't on the Virtual Ticket. Lots of good info, so be sure to read the recap.
  • World of Warcraft: Legion - Game Systems
    • Artifact power comes from quest bosses, rare spawns, rare drops, dungeons, raids, battlegrounds, arenas. Used to unlock traits.
    • Hunters and Druids get special transportation networks in their halls, warriors have a sparring arena.
    • Class themed Death Gate style spells to get to your class hall.
    • Talents will have less theme rows, more meaningful choices, more spec specific talents, hundreds of new talents!
    • Recipes have ranks, 1-3 star recipes. Rare, make you more efficient at crafting things. Less materials, shorter cooldown.
    • Lots of things to do with professions, shouldn't be running out of content.
    • Transmog - Clean up bank and inventory some more. More customization. A collection system.
    • Wardrobe - As soon as item is bound to you, appearance is unlocked. Once it is unlocked, you can get rid of it. Account wide! Have to be able to equip item to unlock it.
    • Outfits - Make item sets, store what you look like now, link outfits to other people even if everything isn't unlocked.
    • Hiding shoulders allowed!
    • Weapon enchants, shirts, and tabards for transmog!
  • World of Warcraft Q&A
    • The flying achievement will exist at launch, but you won't be able to complete it at launch. You can start progressing on it though.
    • A solution won't make it for launch, but some way to communicate with a cross-server group is something they are working on.
    • No new battleground, focus is on the new PvP progression system.
    • It would be ideal if you could be in multiple guilds at some point, one for PvP, one for Raids. Maybe a secondary guild system? Still in progress.
    • Legion will allow you to use all the specs, no longer limited to dual spec, each spec remembers your action bars and such.
    • Karazhan will be relevant in Legion. The secrets we need to beat the Burning Legion are in Karazhan. Karazhan could be a 5 player dungeon in Patch 7.1.
  • The Cutscene - Behind Blizzard's In-Game Cinematics
  • Engineering Community Amphitheater Discussion
    • Lots of cool stories, including why we are stuck with the current backpack size.
  • Legion Class and Systems Community Amphitheater Discussion
    • The team is fixing the boss movement issues in Patch 6.2.3. Thank the engineers!
    • In Legion healers can do a lot more damage than they could before when you choose to spend globals and resources on it.
    • You should be able to level as a healer.
    • The transmog system will include old quests that have been removed
  • Misc

  • Overwatch Pricing
    • Overwatch - $40, PC only, includes all of the heroes. Widowmaker skin bonus for pre-orders.
    • Overwatch Origins Edition - $60, PC, Xbox One, and PS4. All of the heroes, bonus skins, rewards for other Blizzard games. Baby Wintson Pet for WoW.
    • Overwatch Collector's Edition - $130, PC Xbox One, PS4. All of the Origins Edition content plus the soundtrack, an art book, and Soldier: 76 statue.
  • New Map and Trailer
    • Hollywood is the new Overwatch map, set in a fictional version of Hollywood.
    • A new gameplay trailer was released.
  • New Heroes
    • D.Va - Former pro-gamer turned mech pilot.
    • Mei - Former Climatologist. Uses lower damage frost based attacks, has an ice block like ability, ice wall, blizzard.
    • Genji - Hanzo's brother. Throws Shuriken, deflects attacks, charges forward, and uses a katana.
  • Whats New in Overwatch
    • There will be no support for Macs
    • Release will only have 21 heroes, no announcement on additional heroes or pricing for anything after that.
    • New heroes are coming to beta next week.
  • The World of Overwatch
    • Working on a series of animated shorts and comics to tell the story outside of the game.


Heroes of the Storm
  • Announcement Trailer
  • Hero Deep Dive
    • There are more than 200 characters on the list of potential heroes.
    • Lunara, King Genn Greymane, and Cho'Gall are the three new heroes.
    • Cho'gall is one hero controlled by two players.
    • Cho'Gall will be given to everyone that bought a Blizzcon (or Virtual) ticket.
    • If you party up and play 2 games with someone who does not have Cho'gall, they will unlock the hero for free as well.
    • If you play 4 games as Cho'gall with someone else, you will get bonus gold!
    • The Arena is a new mode will let you pick from 3 random heroes, then play on a new small single objective map. The game is shorter and has less restrictions than normal games now.
    • Towers of Doom is the new map, allowing you to destroy enemy towns to take them over and damage the core.
  • New Hero Skills and Talents
  • Battlegrounds Panel, State of the Game, BlizzCon Day 1, Greymane, Lunara, Cho Talents

Diablo III
  • Blood and Treasure - New Content and Features for Reaper of Souls
    • New zone - Greyhollow Island, Adventure Mode only.
    • The Eternal Woods and Royal Quarters were expanded for Adventure Mode.
    • Patch 2.4.0 is going to revamp, revisit, or revise nearly every one of the 24 class sets in the game.
    • Set Dungeons - Once you complete and don the full six pieces of any given class set, you'll receive a clue to track down an ancient dungeon designed just for you and your set.
    • Empowered Rifts, New Legendaries, More Stash Space, Season Journey Revisions, and more!

BlizzCon Costume Contest Winners
Lots of great costumes this year, including the four winners below.

by Published on 2015-11-08 01:30 PM

Legion Class and Systems Community Amphitheater Discussion
Several of the developers came to chat after the Game Systems panel today. This did not appear on the Virtual Ticket.

Originally Posted by Blizzard Entertainment
  • All of the caster Artifact weapons that look they are 1H do have off-hands.
  • The further you are behind on the Artifact as you go through the expansion, the easier it is to place new traits into your Artifact. It is pretty quick to get mostly caught up when switching specs. If you are trying to maintain off-specs you can do that to a certain degree. It only becomes a burden if you are trying to keep many specs all topped off at once.
  • Alts will also have catch up mechanism for Artifacts.

  • It used to be a bigger problem to have a melee heavy raid in the past. The problem isn't solved right now, but it is better than it used to be. Having lots of melee does make it a little harder to learn a new boss. The data shows that people switch specs more from melee to ranged than ranged to melee because of that perception. Melee does need to do more damage than ranged on Patchwerk style fights to deal with the problem.
  • Timewalker raids are cool idea, but their time has not yet come. Maybe in the future. The team is talking about revisiting some of the old raids in a new way.
  • The team is fixing the boss movement issues in Patch 6.2.3. Thank the engineers!

  • Healers should always have something to do. In Legion when you are doing group PvE content you will notice that you can do a lot more damage than you could before when you choose to spend globals and resources on it. When you are overgearing the content, the damage you do in your spare time will go from close to meaningless (now) to being a useful contribution to the raid (in Legion).
  • You should be able to level as a healer, so when you are playing solo you should be able to do substantial damage. Druids having Thorns again will help, things attacking you will take substantial damage.
  • Absorbs are a little bit less powerful, have longer cooldowns, and there are less of them in Legion. Paladins won't be causing absorb shields anymore, as their mastery has changed. Discipline mastery has also changed.

  • Active mitigation is still a big part of what you do, but it went in too strong. If you messed up the active mitigation you died, so it mattered too much.
  • Active mitigation should be designed to where the expert player can get more out of it but the newer player isn't awful. It is less about managing your resources and more about using the right button at the right time and the magnitude of the effects are going down a little bit. It is still a very large part of what tanks do.
  • All of your long cooldowns like Shield Wall will count as if active mitigation is running while they are running.
  • Tanks have buttons that give tank or offense functionality, but the team is tried to do more things that have both. If you are trying to DPS really hard as a tank, that should translate to being a good tank at the same time.
  • Resolve is gone. The abilities that relied on it have been redesigned to not rely on it anymore. For Brewmaster, the active mitigation buttons either give you a gigantic Stagger buff or cleanse your Stagger. You want to use them in tandem.

  • People say that there is nothing to do in Warlords, but that isn't really true. There is nothing to do that gives a rewards that you care about. In Legion, the goal is to make the outdoor world, quests, dungeons, and raids all have things that you care about so that there are reasons to do them at max level.
  • The transmog system will include old quests that have been removed. There is a chance a few quests were modified that shouldn't have been, but they will handle those on a per quest basis.

Classes and Fantasy
  • The team is putting a lot of focus into improving the fantasy of each class, so you really feel different, unique, and caught up in your class's fantasy.
  • Visuals, animations, and sounds for many classes have also been improved.
  • Survival, Shadow, Demonology, Subtlety, Combat, Discipline are all getting big changes.
  • The team originally was going to keep the changes under control, but this ended up being one of the expansions with the most changes to classes after development got going.
  • When we see the beta, players shouldn't look at balance yet. There hasn't been numbers tuning. Give feedback on the play style and fantasy instead.
  • If a few classes are too strong, the team doesn't want to buff everyone else to that level because all of the encounters would have to be adjusted. Over the years they have tended to do this anyway, which makes older content easier and easier. The power inflation isn't great.
  • Nerfs get a lot of attention and the buffs (which there are more of) don't get nearly as much attention.
  • When every spec has something unique, distinct, and different that only they can do, it accentuates the idea that you are special to the world.
  • There are enough numbers being rolled in combat that any RNG evens out, it is more about there being a little bit of unpredictability to respond to in combat.
  • Lots of the major glyphs that are being removed are being added in to the core ability.

  • Currently there are a lot of rows that offer you three similar options to choose from, making it feel like it doesn't matter what you pick. This is going away by moving them into different rows, so you could take multiple mobility talents or multiple AoE healing talents. Really hardcore players may change their talents from encounter to encounter to get different capabilities.
  • There will be more impactful talents. Rogues have five rows with straight throughput improvements. Every spec has four or five rows of straight throughput improvements.
  • The additional spec specific talents help class fantasy and help to make them feel more impactful. In Legion around 2/3rd of the talents are spec specific.
  • Some talent rows now have multiple types of talents rather than all of them being the same. For example, a row could have a new ability, proc, or passive rather than three new abilities. This lets you control how complex or simple your gameplay is. Fury is a good example, as the core rotation with no talents is very simple, but there are a ton of options for added engagement through talents. You can take five additional active abilities you would use in your rotation (not long cooldowns).
  • The team will try to address the need to switch specs per encounter with talent choices.

Death Knight (Forums / Skills / Talent Calculator)
  • Death Knights had a lot of balance changes over time. They had unique mechanics, like DoT snapshotting with Unholy. Those things have gone away now, so part of what made Unholy special is gone.
  • Something they are trying now is Festering Wounds. When the Death Knight hits a target, they will apply debuff and when they use a different ability that wound will pop. You might hit them and apply three or five, or pop three of them all at once.
  • The fantasy of a Death Knight pulling corpses from the ground to do their bidding is great, but in the game it doesn't feel like that when you are playing, so the team wanted to give them a unique mechanic.
  • Talents may give them multiple pets, different pets, stronger pets.
  • Frost is still very similar to live and Blood is somewhere in the middle.
  • Blood Death Knights having the different rune types is part of what made it easy to play. You would just push whatever buttons were lit up, as the runes controlled what you could use. Now you will have more options and control over how to use your runes.

Druid (Forums / Skills / Talent Calculator)
  • Resto and Feral druids got minor changes.
  • Moonkin is inspired by the current state of the spec, but is now a brand new spec.
  • The current spec is based on a cycle of moving a bar back and forth on your UI. You are spending your time playing with the UI rather than the game.
  • The moving back and forth on the bar is going away, replaced with abilities that build and spend a resource with different strengths and weaknesses.
  • It should still hit the main Moonkin fantasy, as it is still heavy on DoTs, still has Moonfire, Sunfire, Starfall, and all of the unique Moonkin things.
  • Innervate is returning, but not to Resto Druids. If they had it, they would want to use it on themselves, which isn't very interesting.
  • Innervate is coming back to Balance Druids as their specific utility, so they won't have Stampeding Roar anymore.
  • tampeding Roar will be for Feral and Guardian only.
  • A powerful single target version of Mark of the Wild is coming back for the Resto Druid cooldown.
  • Rejuvenation in Cat Form is going away.
  • Predatory Swiftness is staying.
  • Feral isn't seeing a ton of changes, but they are getting lots of new talents.
  • The base Druid has less skills from the other three roles, but there is a new talent row that allows you to pick Balance, Feral, Guardian, or Restoration, and get a whole suite of abilities for that role and it makes you actually good at it. You get much more than the watered down version you had before and you get to pick which one you are good at instead of okay at all of them.
  • You could be a Guardian druid that switches to Cat form to do more damage when you aren't the active tank. You can also be a Moonkin, as if you take the Balance Affinity talent as Guardian, you get Moonkin form.

Hunter (Forums / Skills / Talent Calculator)
  • Most Marksmanship hunters are taking the Lone Wolf talent on live, so the team decided to go ahead and remove the pet in Legion. You can still be ranged with a pet as Beast Mastery.
  • Survival Hunters have lots of cool mechanics right now and many of them have become Marksmanship talents in Legion.

Mage (Forums / Skills / Talent Calculator)
  • Frost and Arcane mages got minor changes.
  • There is a Mage group that is very critical to influencing the course of Azeorth and directly fighting the Legion that is being reformed. They are getting a secret sanctum in Dalaran.

Monk (Forums / Skills / Talent Calculator)
  • Storm, Earth, and Fire is supposed to make Windwalkers really good at three target damage, even when the targets aren't grouped up.
  • Windwalker single target damage was a little bit too low for a while during Warlords, they brought it up some, but it is still not one of the best performers.
  • The new Storm, Earth, and Fire is something they are doing to solve how hard it is to use the current version.
  • Someone looks at the skill and doesn't understand how it works and decides they will figure it out later. This is bad because it is important to doing good damage as a Windwalker.
  • The new Storm, Earth, and Fire is being simplified and made more intuitive. It will be a simple toggle, somewhat similar to Blade Flurry.
  • You turn it on and split into three, turn it off and you recombine into one. They won't attack the same target as you, but they will find something nearby to attack. You do lose the customizability of assigning targets, but it will do something useful at all times.

Priest (Forums / Skills / Talent Calculator)
  • The new Atonement mechanic is very different than the older ones. It is a mix of using damage and healing abilities to mark allies with a buff as you heal them and then heal those people as you damage enemies with Atonement spells, so you have to weave both together at all times.
  • Discipline may be one of the more complex healers.
  • Disc priest's endless PW:S spam had to go! It was bad for them and bad for everyone.
  • Shadow Priests don't have Flash Heal or Heal anymore, but they do have Shadowmend, which is a new spell that is twice as good as Flash Heal in terms of how much it heals for, but over the next 10 seconds half of that heal fades away. If the target takes damage it comes off of the Shadowmend damage first, so if the target is constantly taking damage it is a really strong heal.
  • Both Shadow and Discipline will have Shadowmend.
  • Shadow will also keep PW:S.
  • Holy priests used to have the biggest single heal in the game and the team wanted to move them back in that direction.
  • Chakra is gone
  • They redesigned the way the Holy Word: Serenity system works.
  • Holy Word: Serenity is now the biggest single target heal in the game, it has a substantial cooldown but will heal roughly half of the health bar of the target. A crit would be a full heal.
  • Holy also will have Prayer of Healing and Discipline will not.

Rogue (Forums / Skills / Talent Calculator)
  • Combat rogues felt very generic, so the name of the spec is changed to Outlaw.
  • This gives a new direction for the class fantasy, drawing inspiration from movies with different types of outlaws.
  • There is a column of pirate themed talents, such as cannonball barrages and grappling hooks.
  • The team considered getting rid of Killing Spree, but sometimes rough edges are cool. It is now a talent, so you can take it or other AoE talents. It always ports you back to where you started now.

Shaman (Forums / Skills / Talent Calculator)
  • Shamans have mana, but it doesn't do anything for them. Mana is gone unless you are a Restoration Shaman! It has been replaced with a new resource called Maelstrom. It is built up through using abilities and then used on certain abilities. It is somewhat similar to the Demon Hunter resource but themed for Shamans and what they do.

Warlock (Forums / Skills / Talent Calculator)
  • Demonology has gone really far off track from where the core fantasy is.
  • The team looked at Demonology and took some inspiration from what exists today, but mostly started from scratch.
  • Demonology is going to be completely different, which is going to require a lot of iteration and feedback from players.
  • There is no way to enslave dreadlords permanently, but they have talked about a talent that lets your enslaved demon last longer or making it permanent, but there are significant balance concerns.
  • It is much more focused on summoning demons and empowering them.
  • You still use Shadow Bolt as a generator.
  • Hand of Gul'dan is a spender which drops the meteor, but also summons one imp for every Soul Shard you spend on it, up to five.
  • There is a rotational ability that summons a pair of new demons, Dreadstalkers.
  • There is a new rotational Demonic Empowerment, that will buff the demons you have out, giving them a Bloodlust like buff.
  • Lots of talents that summon demons as well, one makes Curse of Doom summon an imp when it pops.
  • Another talent makes the Dreadstalkers you summon come with imps riding on them.
  • No female Felguard in this expansion. Creating and animating new models is very expensive.
by Published on 2015-11-08 10:18 AM

Engineering Community Amphitheater Discussion
WoW, Heroes, Battle.Net, and Overwatch engineers talked and answered questions. This was not included on the Virtual Ticket. If you enjoyed it, let Blizzard know!

Originally Posted by Blizzard Entertainment
  • The Overwatch team was putting together a demo of Overwatch in China, but they had forgotten they couldn't show anything with blood. The game had to be patched over weak wifi in China to get rid of the blood. The team realized that there was one point in the code where the client determines if you shot another unit or the environment, a simple if statement. They realized they could change one byte of the executable to get rid of the blood. They wrote an executable to load the game client, find the byte, flip it, and save the modified client. It worked and Chinajoy got their Overwatch demo.
  • At Warlords launch, things were a little rocky. The team had all of the hardware they needed, but because WoW is an older game, each blade had to be dedicated to certain parts of the game. The team set up the blade configuration to what they thought would work well, but they weren't very particular about what kinds of blades were in each pool. They didn't have enough of the high memory blades allocated to instances, so they were running out of memory. Running in your garrison would spin up a new instance, resulting in hundreds of thousands of instances. It took the team around 8 hours to go into the datacenters and pull blades, add memory, and move blades between clusters. This result in some downtime, but when everything came back up it was much more stable. After that there were just software issues.
  • The Heroes of the Storm engine is the Starcraft engine, so when the team wants to make changes they have to consider all of the user created mods that may be using the functionality. They can't change things that would harm user mods in the Arcade. The team built lots of chains and shackles but everyone is okay with it. Thankfully no one leaves Team 1, so all of the people working on it are familiar with things.
  • The original WoW developers decided that there would be an array to hold your inventory. The first several entries are things that end up on the paper doll, your head and leg slots and such. After that comes your inventory. At some point they wanted to add a bank to the game, so they added that to the end of the array. Players shouldn't be able to access their bank anywhere in the world, as it would break the code. This was handled by adding lots of statements in different places in the code, defining what the array position was where the inventory ended and where the bank begins. This value was hardcoded all over the place, but it isn't just a simple search to find them all. Some math logic may rely on it being constant. If you want to add slots to the backpack, who knows what you are going to break? It becomes very buggy and error prone, and likely that you are going to make a mistake. This mistake would break the game in a way you don't like. As a result, they would have to put amazing engineers that could be working on new features on a task to look through thousands of lines of code to find all of those cases, as well as the QA department testing every edge case in the world to ensure the change doesn't break anything. This is how we ended up with a fixed size backpack.
  • The team would rather fix things when they come back to work on related new features. When they worked on cross-realm zones, they rethought how they handed off players between realms. They ripped out lots of the old code and redid it, resulting in being able to add features in the future without having to worry about 16 slot backpack style bugs. This allowed for seamless instancing for garrisons, along with some new things in Legion that have yet to be revealed.
  • All of the games are like legacy code that the Battle.Net team has to support. When the team wanted to increase the number of friends you could have on Battle.Net, they had to go and find all of the places where there was a constraint in the games. The UI in all of the games may have constraints on how many friends you can have and see. All of the games have to be patched to support any new features or changes. The team can never do anything that would require all of the games to patch simultaneously, so changes have to be backwards compatible to some effect.
  • It's reasonable to assume the WoW team is looking at new technologies, including DirectX 12. No timeline or announcements yet though.
  • Heroes of the Storm is a very data driven game. The design team comes to the systems team and wants to do something fun like a hero that is controlled by two different players (and show it off at Blizzcon). The team panics a little bit, thinks about it, and then gets it done.
  • Engineers don't ever want to tell design no. Designers are amazing at what they do and have great creative ideas, so no one wants to tell them no. Especially when the designer will find their own way to do it. There is a picture that gets passed around of a trash can with a iron sitting on top of it. The iron is turned on and there is a coffee pot on top of it, with spaghetti in the coffee pot. Problem solved, they can make spaghetti.
  • It is really important to figure out where the designers feel pressure when designing the game and try to make that pressure go away. As soon as you have a designer looking at a dialogue box with 128 checkboxes, they are no longer thinking about the awesome experience they want to deliver, they are thinking about what the difference between LEAVE_WORLD_CANCELS and ENTER_WORLD_CANCELS. (Where is the player when they are not in the world?!)
  • Overwatch has strike teams, where lots of people from different disciplines come together to work to get a feature done. With Overwatch, that is usually a hero. They get a gameplay engineer, engine programmer, designer, animator, and effects artist to make Hanzo. They have to bring in the Sound team which is always stressed. Everyone works together to perfect the gameplay, get feedback from each other, feedback from the entire team, and finally feedback from the rest of Blizzard and beta players. A lot of this interaction comes from sitting down and playing through what you are working on together.
  • There are two types of heroes in Overwatch: D.Va and not D.Va. They only started working on her a few months ago, not realizing it would take all of those months to get her done.
  • The team decided that the designers would eventually ask for something like a rocket that you fire and then control, so they got ahead of it and wrote some code to do that kind of gameplay. Junkrat came along and they thought they had it covered and everything was great. It turns out that all of that had to be redone for D.Va. Bugs came up like jumping out of the mech, but it is still behind capturing the payload, moving along. Another bug resulted in the camera going to 0,0,0 when you jumped out of the mech, leaving you with controlling nothing.
  • Engineers and designers have complementary goals. The designer's goal is to ensure that the highest number of players get the best experience. The engineer's goal is to ensure that no one has a bad experience. Think about all of the edge cases and make sure your code can cover them.
  • Appear Offline not being ready comes down to some legacy code. It is hard to design it in a way that remains consistent throughout the games. It isn't really hard technically to do. What do you do when your friend is appearing offline but they are in front of you in the game world? Appear Offline really means "I want to hide from my friends so I can play D3 rather than go and raid", but when you are both standing in front of the auctioneer...
  • The team uses lots of standard industry tools like VTune, as well as internally developed profilers. There is lots of automation to test things, like putting 10 heroes in a one lane map and having them fight each other to compare performance over each build. Heroes get changed from build to build, but it gives you a general performance trend and catching catastrophic mistakes.
  • Overwatch uses similar profiling tools.
  • Any time you are optimizing code there are trade-offs. Your knowledge about optimizations, the time it takes to write optimizations, how maintainable your code is going to be, and what constraints you are going to put on the engineers and content team to solve problems.
  • The team has had to make tons of optimizations that took the form of talking to artists to simplify collision geometry. There is no flat surface in a body, so optimizations are needed for performance.
  • When the team is trying to solve a design problem, they consider the fantasy they are trying to create, not what is the solution they are trying to write. They want to consider the player experience they are trying to craft.
  • At one point in his previous life as a HFT engineer, @kurtismcc saved 120ns on a hash function and people were thrilled. It was a big win.
  • The WoW team spends a lot of time looking at if it is faster to read static data out of a table to speed things up by 4-5x, then pat themselves on the back. Then they will do something like launch Warlords, spin up hundreds of thousands of instances, and find out that when you want to shut an instance down you have to crawl over a linked list to find the one you want to shut down. Someone decided hash tables would take too long so they put it in a linked list.
  • The teams have likely written five our six profilers to meet the needs of each team.
  • Blizzard has identified that they really want to make games stay online longer. They want to think less about engineering like something they throw over the wall and more along the lines of achieving three nines. They have been trying to achieve this internally, especially with WoW, but they are dealing with an older live infrastructure. Battle.Net also has a lot of older infrastructure. The team recently tried to get to a one hour patch cycle and they got down to 1h 45min in NA and 53 minutes in EU. They are getting faster and it would be nice if they could live patch WoW without maintenance one day.
  • There is a lot of static data that drives the game, so patch days require copying a lot of that data in very inefficient ways to a lot of places. They are working on improving that process. A lot of maintenance is inefficiently pushing updated code, binaries, and data to remote data centers. After that they need to do live testing, as until recently testing environments haven't been as great as they should be. They also have to take down and bring back servers in a specific order. The team has development environments where they test everything, but that all has to be replicated in the live environment and hope testing accounted for everything.
  • There are lots of people that enjoy VR at Blizzard, but they work on amazing game ideas, not adding amazing tech without a good idea. When and if they come up with a good application for VR, they will explore it. If VR will help player immersion it would be cool.
  • The team uses Perforce on the Overwatch team, as well as proprietary source control software they wrong for art assets.
  • Battle.Net uses Git for all of their code and Jenkins.
  • The WoW server team uses Subversion still, but there is talk of moving to Git where there is lots of shared code.
  • Team 1 uses Git, Perforce, Jenkins. (Not Leeroy)
  • The WoW UI team looks at the source code to figure out what functions do and occasionally use WoWPedia. There is some documentation for server side Lua, but client side not so much.
  • The Lua engine that runs on the server side is worse than not having documentation, as it actively scrapes the code looking for new functions to add so that designers have more flexibility. This means you end up with 17 functions named teleport and having no idea which one is the right one. If it is bad for addon developers, it is much worse internally.
  • WoW doesn't use a ton of agile development. A few of the teams are moving to scrum like things. Blizzard doesn't have a lot of consistency between teams internally.
  • The Overwatch team was worried about datamining. We found the Progression system 2.0 and even though you can still see it in the Blizzcon demo, it was something they killed 2 days before beta. They realized they didn't like it at all. They did it on such short notice that they left behind some remnants.
  • The WoW team knows that as soon as they put data on the CDN we will pull it and go over it with a fine tooth comb. When they were talking about changing over the system to the new content delivery system, they talked about encrypting every single thing to keep anticipation as high as possible. Encrypting everything would mean that they can't patch them, so you would have to completely redownload that content, so the team decided not to encrypt everything.
  • It is challenging to create a locked down and secure environment that allows for rapid iteration. Iteration is very important in both engineering and game design, so it is sometimes given priority over locking things down.
  • Blizzard games operate at a scale where an innocuous decision will come back to bite you really hard. You want to let players do the /who query in WoW to see who was online, but players were hitting the server really hard. Servers were spending 85% of their time answering the queries because there were so many players online. A good example of the n squared problem. The team has to be sensitive to things like this, as there aren't population bounds like the other games have.
  • Legion is rewriting a lot of code so that you subscribe to changes and get them pushed to you, resulting in more responsive servers. During Brewfest, the ram racing quest wasn't very fun, because you could never see the buckets. The server would only update your area of interest every 5-6 seconds, so you would arrive to the bucket's location before it updated and loaded the bucket. The team is trying really hard to improve that in Legion, but it is a lot of work.
  • Team 1 - SC2 and Heroes, Team 2 - WoW, Team 3 - Diablo, Team 4 - Overwatch, Team 5 - Hearthstone.
  • The teams all want to be on mobile more. Hearthstone has shown that Blizzard can do mobile well. Lots of people wanted to do Garrision missions on mobile devices and the team is aware and wanted that too.
  • Blizzard does code reviews across most of the teams and is taking advantage of modern C++ features to make code more readable. Readability and maintainability is an important value for them. Products have to live for a really long time, which is why it is important.
  • There is a cheap solution and a right solution and the team supposed to do the right thing, even if it takes longer. You don't want to have to come back and fix things that were done poorly.
  • There is a tension between wanting to understand code vs rewriting code that might look messy. If there is code with clearly defined ways to extend it, that is code that is great, even if it is legacy code.
  • Overwatch had a lot of people signing up for a constrained beta test. One of the things they want to see is how the code works in different network environment. One person at Blizzcon was playing from Chile and he let them know that it was playing great. The team has even trying playing over a tethered phone and it worked well.
  • Open beta weekends are good for crashing servers and exposing bugs. The D3 beta weekend exposed a bug that sent lots of games to a D3 server after it came back from a crash because it appeared to have no load.
  • Technology choices that you can get off of the shelf are generic and don't always solve the problems Blizzard encounters when developing games. The team would rather work with constraints they have built themselves rather than constraints someone else built into a tool.
  • If there was open source code to solve a problem on the WoW server team, they would use it. If you look at the legal descriptions in the client you can see a lot of the open source licenses from libraries that they use. They try to not reinvent the wheel.
  • Having a completed game is a valuable experience if you are looking for things to put on your resume. Passion for learning and variety in what you have done is also good.
by Published on 2015-11-08 07:56 AM

The Cutscene - Behind Blizzard's In-Game Cinematics
Originally Posted by Blizzard Entertainment
  • The machinima team started doing trailers back as early as Burning Crusade. They quickly realized they could do more than just trailers and took on the Wrathgate cinematic next.
  • In 2010, the machinima department was part of the in-game cinematics department, which made all of the content for the Starcraft 2 story mode.
  • After Wings of Liberty, the team had made upgrades to their tools in preparation for Heart of the Swarm. The Diablo team wanted an announcement trailer for the Demon Hunter, so it was assigned to the machinima department.
  • A Cinematic Director works with the game team and creatives to get together and come up with the story that is going to take place in the gameplay experience or online. The story is then brought to artists, working with storyboard artists to block out the scene, layout artists to get the characters in their poses in the environment, as well as animators, lighters, compositors, and effect artists.
  • The director has to ensure that the truth, spirit, and flow of film are maintained during each step of the process.
  • The team has grown from 2 to more than 20 people.
  • Machinima artists work with the technology that makes everything work, as well as the creative side that makes everything look awesome.
  • Once the team has an idea of what assets they want to use, they have to find them. The team can use the regular game development tools, as well as a tool that allows them to browse the existing models. Once they have selected a model, they can change the textures if needed.
  • Once assets are pulled together, the other artists work on improving them so that they fit the cinematic and are high quality.
  • Game characters are the base for the characters in the cinematics, but in game they are optimized for situations where there are lots of characters on screen.
  • The team takes the game character and rounds out the edges and makes them higher quality so they still look good when viewed close up in the cinematic. This is done to all of the character, but especially the hands and faces. The topology of the face is important, as the characters need to be able to act when the animators work with them.
  • The lead animator brings characters to life though movements and performances.
  • Skin weighing plus additional bones meant that the Pandaren were able to emote much more than the older character models.
  • The team was about to work on the cinematic with Garrosh, so they decided to improve him without breaking the look of the game. They took the older model and made a new face rig, giving us Garrosh 1.5, which hasn't been seen before the panel. The game team happened to be making the new character models at the same time, starting with the Orc. The team took the new Garrosh and used the new face rig, creating the Garrosh we saw in Siege of Orgrimmar cinematics. This was the start of more expressive animation for in-game cinematics.
  • Compositing may be working with hundreds of layers at once on hundreds of shots, so it gets complicated really fast.
  • The team starts by looking for a visual style that complements the story. They then work with the in game shots, adding layers like atmosphere, fog, effects, colors, and fire. Warlords added per pixel lighting which was helpful for Gul'dan's cup.
  • WoW doesn't use a lot of lighting in the shots, but Heroes of the Storm does.
  • Heroes of the Storm trailers are 99% straight from the game, including the effects, background, and character models.
  • Heroes of the Storm was getting ready for closed beta and wanted a trailer for each hero. One new artist was tasked with creating all of the trailers. The too he used was a modified version of the Starcraft 2 editor, made especially for Heroes of the Storm.
  • The tool allowed for sculpting of the ground, painting textures, placing trees and objects, and summoning NPCs. This allowed him to cut from Camera 1, to Camera 2, to pan across to another hero, and fade out.
  • There are now 4 artists working on Heroes of the Storm machinima, allowing for lighting and compositing, custom models, and animations. This was first done for the Eternal Conflict trailer, as well as more recently in The Arena trailer.
  • In January 2014, the team was also working on Warlords of Draenor. Their plan was to make as many cinematics at launch as all of the other expansions combined. Alliance and Horde specific cinematics had worked well before, so they did it again with the first zone finale cinematics. Both are identical in the general concept, but the details are different and fit each faction well.
  • The Garrosh vs Thrall cinematic was the most challenging cinematic that Terran Gregory had ever worked on. There was a very complex and emotionally rich backstory between Thrall and Garrosh. Writer's block isn't always not knowing what to say, in this case it was having so many options and being paralyzed with choice. He knew it was going to be a battle to the death, so they started with the fight sequence. There used to be observers on the sidelines, almost as if they were in an arena. The observers were removed, giving the scene a different vibe. One on one is different than when you are around strangers. If this was the first time Garrosh was able to talk to Thrall without having to maintain any mask, what would really come out of his heart. They realized it was about abandonment, his father, Thrall leaving him to be Warchief. The final voice over came out amazing. While we could never forgive Garrosh for the things he had done, he was not a character that was beyond sympathy. It was a satisfying death for one of Warcraft's greatest villains.
  • Yrel's horns and hair were a unique identifier, as well as a customized gear progression to show her journey. Her gear became nicer over time, starting out with a simple modified Aldor set from Burning Crusade. She went to a Paladin set for Talador.
  • Garrisons needed a reward when they leveled up. Something flashy but not too long, giving you a little ego boost. The team worked with assets from the game while it was being developed, as well as their custom camera system to get smooth curves. The same methods were used for the Shipyard.
  • The team started with Yrel's game model, making the horns exactly like the concept, but they didn't look great when she wasn't looking straight ahead. They were then adjusted to work well with other camera angles. Her armor was then uprezzed and 3D armor was added to give her an actual breastplate rather than painted texture.
  • Yrel had to give a very emotional performance while not saying many lines, so expressiveness was important. Her game model was turned into a movie star!
  • Yrel's cinematic was quiet and subtle rather than the usual overly epic cinematic. It had to be compelling with very little dialogue in under 2 minutes. The team started by showing her looking to Velen for answers, but she doesn't realize the answers are within her. The final shot shows her hope and determination, which you see later in the Battle of Shattrath.
  • Garrosh vs Thrall is the more standard epic cinematic, but it is also a very intimate moment.
  • Warlords was a ton of work for the team, 6 sequences, 274 shots, all due in 6 months. The team developed a comp template that allowed artists to sit down and hammer out some stuff really quickly, making them functional really fast, increasing throughput.
  • Lords of War required a real 3D package for the first time. Real lights, real shadows, and they created dark and brooding sessions.
  • The team showed a small Legion in-game cinematic storyboard teaser at the end!

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