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by Published on 2012-03-10 05:05 AM

Diablo 3 - Patch 14 Looking Good and Undocumented Changes

Diablo III PvP Update - PvP Arena System Postponed
Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
As we’re counting down the days until we’re ready to announce a release date for Diablo III, we’ve come to realize that the PvP game and systems aren’t yet living up to our standards. Today, we wanted to let you know that we’ve made the difficult decision to hold back the PvP Arena system and release it in a patch following the game’s launch. After a lot of consideration and discussion, we ultimately felt that delaying the whole game purely for PvP would just be punishing to everyone who’s waiting to enjoy the campaign and core solo/co-op content, all of which is just about complete.

While we work on making sure PvP lives up to its full potential, we hope you’ll find some consolation in the fact that soon, you’ll be having a blast leveling characters, finding items, learning the classes, and perfecting builds…and that when the Arenas do arrive, you’ll be all the better prepared for battle.

When the PvP patch is ultimately ready, it will add multiple Arena maps with themed locations and layouts, PvP-centric achievements, and a matchmaking system that will help you and your team get into fairly matched games quickly and easily. We’ll also be adding a personal progression system that will reward you for successfully bashing in the other team’s skulls.

We know a lot of you are looking forward to PvP, and we’ll be focusing our post-launch efforts on making sure the Arenas are as brutal, bloody, fast-paced, and awesome as we know they can be. In the meantime, we’re in the process of putting the finishing touches on what we think is a truly epic campaign and co-op experience for launch.

We’ll have a lot more info to share on the PvP system in the future, and we look forward to the moment we can get the game into your hands.

Mists of Pandaria Blue Posts
Originally Posted by Blizzard Entertainment
Spell Resistance Removal
There were two primary problems with spell resistance.

First, the mechanic was implemented in a really confusing way. We could describe it all here, but it would take paragraphs, so instead we invite you to look it up on one of the fansites. The way a point of resistance leads to decreased damage is not an easy system for even experienced players to understand. We certainly could have redesigned the system, but to what end? Gearing for resistance sacrificed so many other stats that it was really only beneficial on those fights that the designers decided ahead of time would be "resistance fights," which generally meant getting a whole set of Nature (or Fire or Shadow, etc.) resistance gear. It felt more like an annoying speed bump to being able to progress to the next boss, rather than a fun challenge.

Secondly, the various resistance auras were passive things you'd just throw up, and pretty easy for any group larger than 5 to have. In designer parlance, we balanced around the assumption of their presence, rather than them feeling like awesome bonuses when you got to use, say, Fire Resist Aura. There isn't a ton of interesting gameplay there.

As we said in the blog, in some alternate universe, we could imagine a World of Warcraft itemization design where resistances are nearly as meaningful as stats like haste or crit. In that game there would be a lot of mobs that cast spells or use magical attacks, and stacking resistance might be an interesting trade off to stacking Stamina and armor. In the abstract, resistances could be cool. They aren't currently very cool in the actual World of Warcraft. We could spend a lot of design attention to make them cool -- and maybe someday we'll take that challenge on again -- but for Mists, we'd rather spend more attention on making sure the talent tree and spec revamps are as cool as they can possibly be. (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)

Conquest and Valor Points Cap
There is often a razor’s edge between optional and mandatory. While earning a little more Conquest or Valor might feel like an option for a player who has some free time at the end of a week, it feels mandatory for a Gladiator-type PvPer or realm-first raider who wants to stay competitive with other players at that level. And of course, whenever we bring about the possibility of earning gear faster, we have to assume that players will take advantage of it. To use an extreme case, if you could complete all of your Conquest or Valor gear in one week (even if it took you nearly all of your waking time to do so), then PvP and PvE would have to be balanced with that level of gear in mind, in addition to the fact that players who quickly consumed the content by finishing their gear progression so quickly would then be looking around for something else to do.

We do try to balance time investment with skill in the game. If there was no reward just for playing (time investment), then only the most skilled players would win Arenas or BGs or kill raid bosses and there would be no catch-up mechanism for the rest of us. This would demoralize and discourage players from participating, and the highly-skilled players would have no one to oppose in the BG or join in raiding.

Of course, if we overly reward time investment, then the value of skill gets diminished, which is very unsatisfying. The design we typically follow is to give the most skilled players the opportunity to accomplish things first, but let other players get there by eventually acquiring the gear and familiarity to accomplish the same (boss kill / acquisition of desirable piece of armor / achievement).

But we don’t like it when players run out of things to do. That's something that is always on our list of things to do to improve WoW. We’re not sure that removing caps is the right solution. We have discussed ideas like having diminish returns on Valor and Conquest, such that you always could earn more, but at some point the effort per reward becomes less and less desirable. Maybe under that model very dedicated players could continue to earn additional points, without creating a new standard for everyone. It’s tricky though, because we have to go with an option that doesn't quickly slide into something that feels mandatory. (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)

Stat Changes Philosophy
I'd like to jump back in here to address a common concern we've been reading, which is that we're trying to oversimplify the stat system in an attempt to appeal to a broader audience.

One of our design philosophies is: simple to learn, difficult to master.

We don’t believe in obfuscating information just to create a barrier between players who understand the rules and those who don’t. We do like to have lots of depth to our systems however, and we’re totally fine with veteran or knowledgeable players knowing a lot of nuance, exceptions, and tricks to the basic rules. To use an older example, armor penetration wasn’t our most shining moment in item design. At the base level, it was pretty easy to understand (physical attacks do more damage). However, the way a point of armor penetration rating translated into damage was mathematically complex. And to make matters worse, it was such a good stat that it made sense to stack it even if you didn't understand the mathematical basis for why it was a good stat. Armor penetration was difficult to learn (what does it do?) but easy to master (it’s overpowered). You can make similar examples with "capping" block for paladin and warrior tanks.

On the other hand, haste and crit aren’t that hard to understand. Haste is "you can do more." Crit is "you do stuff bigger, but not 100% of the time." The depth comes from deciding if your play style is more about doing lots of stuff, or about occasionally getting bigger heals and hits. If you’re intolerant of randomness, then crit might be unappealing. If you run out of mana a lot as a healer, then spending mana faster through haste might be unappealing. Both stats can impact rotations as well, depending on individual spec mechanics. These are the types of stats we feel add a decent amount of depth to the system in terms of how you want to build your character, yet they're quite easy to understand on a fundamental level. (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)

Priest (Forums / Talent Calculator)
Mists of Pandaria Priest Development Status
Prayer of Healing can be used by Holy and Discipline once again. We realized that the goal of making Holy Nova an effective AE healing tool was problematic. It meant that we would have to change Holy Nova so thoroughly, that it was becoming a second Prayer of Healing. Remember: we aren’t even in beta yet, and we want to retain as much opportunity as possible to respond to player feedback throughout the rest of this process. Things will change for priests, and every other class, over the coming weeks.

There is some speculation that Discipline is intended only as a PvP spec or only as a tank-healing spec. Neither of those is our design intent. Both Holy and Discipline should be effective at group healing or single-target healing, and if we do our jobs right, both can have a role in PvP. The main difference between them is that Discipline relies more on absorption mechanics, such as Power Word: Shield, Power Word: Barrier, Divine Aegis and the new Spirit Shell. Holy priests should place more emphasis on heals over time and have more area healing mechanics (e.g. Circle of Healing, Holy Word: Sanctuary), but those are intended to offset the incredible benefit of absorbs and not to make Holy the only option for handling AE damage. We see both in use a lot in PvE in Cataclysm, and we intend for that model to continue.

So does that leave Holy Nova on the cutting-room floor, or is it just going to remain like it is now, useable by both specs, but never really used?
At this time, we don't have an update on Holy Nova for Mists of Pandaria.

Will Prayer of Healing still be restricted to affecting one group per cast or will it be a "smart" heal that prioritizes on health of those around you similar to Wild Growth?
It looks like Prayer of Healing is going to continue to work as it does today.

Give binding heal back to disc as well...
There is certainly a chance. At the moment, Discipline doesn't have Binding Heal because we want the specs to play differently (not just vary by Circle of Healing vs. Penance and similar spec spells).

This, friends, is why we need to be vocal about things as early as we possibly can.
I respectfully disagree. As I said above, there is a difference between feedback that comes from pure imagination ("I've not played this yet, but I can guess how it might feel") and feedback that comes from hours and hours of actual gameplay. The latter is much more preferable and helpful, and can only be gotten during beta testing.

We recognize that change is always scary. It’s probably impossible for us to make a change that is universally acclaimed by all players (or even just one group of players, such as priests). We try to make the best decisions for the class, and that includes seeking feedback from interested players, but these things are perpetually a work in progress, and not everyone can be pleased. (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)

PvP and Gear
I feel like I should take some time to better relay the development team's intentions when it comes to how PvP stats will work in Mists.

There are two important changes to PvP itemization coming:

1. We're splitting Resilience into an offensive and defensive component.
2. All players will have at least 30% damage reduction versus other players.

If you want to do more damage to other players in Mists, you have two options. You can get better PvE gear with more offensive stats, or you can get better PvP gear with slightly smaller offensive stats built in(because PvP gear is lower item level), but which will also give you more damage against players specifically. In today's game, stacking PvE gear is really the only way to do more damage to other players in PvP since Resilience only supplies a defensive bonus. These are completely made up numbers, but imagine PvE gear is 100% effective in PvE and 75% effective in PvP. PvP gear is 50% effective in PvE, but 100% effective in PvP -- despite its lower item level, it wins out over PvE gear when used for its intended purpose.

Here are some examples:

Ders the rogue: wears PvE gear.
Jillian the hunter: wears PvP gear.
In Cataclysm PvE, Ders does much better damage than Jillian in PvE, because her PvP gear “wastes” stat budget on Resilience.
In Cataclysm PvP, Ders does better damage than Jillian for the same reason. However, when Jillian hits Ders, he doesn’t mitigate her damage at all. The result is high burst damage on both sides.
In Mists PvE, Ders still does better damage than Jillian, because his higher ilevel PvE gear has more offensive stats. The difference is smaller however because Jillian’s PvP stats aren't part of the item budget.

The item level difference is the main distinction.

In Mists PvP, they both do about the same amount of raw damage to each other, with a slight edge for Jillian. Her power stat offsets Ders's PvE stats. Jillian takes less damage because of her PvP Defense (let’s say it’s 50% damage reduction), but Ders still has 30% damage reduction innately, so he doesn’t blow up either. Again the difference is smaller. If Ders wants to get serious about PvP, he’s eventually going to want PvP gear, and Jillian will want more PvE gear to do PvE.

Another way to think about it is that we are pushing PvP and PvE gear closer together with two changes: A player in PvE gear always has some base PvP defense (it's like a little PvP gear for free). A player in PvP gear can do more damage and healing than today in PvP because of the new Power stat (it's like a little PvE gear for free).

Right now, if you walk into PvP using PvE gear, odds are there are some dudes that aren't wearing any resilience at all that you can probably blow up. On the same token, even when fighting players that have resilience, your raw output is higher compared to them, because you have more raw dps (or healing) stats on your PvE gear.

In Mists, everyone will be a bit tougher, so even fresh PvPers aren't as likely to get insta-gibbed, making pure PvE gear less useful straight out of the gate. At the higher end, a PvP geared player will both do more damage in PvP and take less damage in PvP than a player in similarly powerful PvE gear.

So, right now, there isn't an alternative to using awesome PvE gear in PvP. A great PvE trinket beats anything from PvP. In 5.0 a trinket with PvP stats should beat out a PvE trinket in PvP.

Legendary items might be an outlier, because legendary items are legendary, and the additional item levels will probably make them competitive with PvP items. On the other hand, we also expect legendary items to be *much* more rare than they are currently, so they'll also be less of a factor.

When you state that PvE gear will have a higher item level than "equivalent" PvP gear, are you referring to normal or heroic raiding gear?
Perhaps I misunderstood the question? I'm referring to gear, in general. If we were to compare introductory PvE gear with introductory PvP gear, the PvP gear would have a lower item level, but would be stacked with lots of 'free' PvP Power and Defense that don't count against that items item budget. In reality, it would be just as, if not more powerful than the equivalent PvE item, but exclusively for the purposes of PvP.

Have you ever considered implementing a stat on PvE gear that's reminiscent to PvP Power and Defense, but for PvE scenarios? For example, a stat that increases damage dealt to non-player characters only?
In a way, this is already the case. There are stats that are of great value in PvE that are extremely sparse in PvP items, and also extremely weak in PvP. Hit is a good example.

That sounds great, honestly. I just wonder how committed you (Blizzard) is to this concept.
Well, we aren't particularly happy with the way some of these PvE burst trinkets (Cunning and Vial in particular) have worked out in PvP. Future trinkets aren't likely to follow the same model, though we do want to make trinkets powerful and interesting when we can. We can make PvP trinkets compelling by (just for example) doing things like offering proc or on-use effect to provide PvP Power, much as we already have equivalent PvE trinkets that proc strength or spell power.

If we still run into issues with out of control trinkets, then we have levers we can pull, like adjusting the internal cooldown, or reducing the spikiness of their output. Either way, allowing Cunning of the Cruel to be so dominant in PvP qualifies as a misstep.

I'm trying to get my head around it, would you say PVP power in a sense is like +100 damage against undead enchants, or more of a Res pen?
Think +damage, not penetration. Your PvP Power isn't less valuable if your target isn't already stacked with PvP Defense.

What about healers? How do they fit into this equation? Can healers just wear PvE gear?
PvP Power will increase the healing done to other players in PvP situations, so no worries there.

Should we expect PvP will involve a lot of 10%-->100% healing and 100%-->10% damage then?
We want healing to scale with PvP Power, but that doesn't mean that bonus healing has to scale at the same rate as bonus damage from PvP Power. Again, we have levers we can adjust to make PvP feel good.

I have a concern that the model you're suggesting won't be able to deliver on the two-fold promise of keeping 'PvE gear out of competitive PvP' and 'reducing the barrier of entry.'
That's an understandable concern, and it's true that as gear gets beefier tier by tier, it gets harder for new players to step into the fray, but even then, the innate defenses coming in Mists should help a lot. We're also aiming for the power curve from un-geared to geared level 90 player to be flatter than it currently is at 85, which should also help.

We want the PvP community to grow, so at least one of the goals here is to let players cross over more easily into PvP than they can today. That said, we're not expecting a just-dinged level 90 player to step into a 5.3 BG and smash face against dudes in stacked PvP gear. I'm pretty sure that's not what you guys want either. We do want someone who's moderately geared to have a much better chance in Mists than he or she does in today's PvP environment, though. (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)

Fan Art Update
The World of Warcraft Fan Art Section has been updated with six new pieces of fan artwork.



by Published on 2012-03-09 02:07 AM

Diablo 3 - Diablo 3 Patch 14 Information

Mists of Pandaria Buff and Debuff Design
Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
We recently released an update to the Mists of Pandaria talent tree. Since the expansion is still in development, these updates represent a snapshot of where we are at any given moment and not a final design where we step back and say “Ladies and gentlemen, we have achieved perfection. Let us not change a thing.” If you’ve been playing the game for a while, you’ve probably realized by now that we never think we’ll hit perfection, and we probably never will.

One design that we haven’t focused on much yet is the plan for various group buffs and debuffs. Some specs have their buffs in place and some do not. Rather than trying to describe each omission, we thought we’d just dump the whole design on you here. As with the rest of the expansion’s systems, we’re not even in beta yet, so there’s plenty of time for things to change.

First, some underlying design goals, so you might understand where we’re coming from. Our main goals for group buffs are:


  • Make you feel more powerful when grouped with other players.
  • Give you lots of freedom to invite whom you want. This gets to be a problem when there are too many mandatory buffs spread out among too many specs. . .
  • …But not offer too many incentives to class stack. If you can achieve every buff with, say, only three players, then there might be a tendency to fill all of the other slots with whoever is best for a particular situation. Some class stacking is inevitable at the cutting-edge level, but to some extent, the players on the cutting edge of raiding enjoy extreme min-maxing. For the rest of us, we try to make sure you can finish all of the encounters without feeling like you need a huge roster of folks waiting in the wings for their one fight.
  • We tend to be more generous to DPS specs, since groups -- especially raids -- already have ample reasons to bring tanks and healers.
  • We generally don’t want a DPS spec to have to switch to a different spec in the same role just to bring a different buff. An example would be a Combat rogue who has to go Assassination just for a buff. In our experience, players are less likely to switch from a ranged to a melee DPS spec just for a buff, so DPS shaman and DPS druids might bring different buffs.

And finally some notes on the categories below:


  • The list only includes what we consider “traditional” buffs, such as Prayer of Fortitude. It doesn’t include utility like being great at snaring, battle rez, knock backs, high DPS while moving, and other mechanics. Those ultimately all factor into a raid or Battleground comp as well.
  • The matrix is a little more complex than it appears. A paladin, for example, can only offer one Blessing at a time, while a warrior can only do one shout at a time. You can’t assume one character can cover every buff or debuff listed below at the same time.
  • Some of these are active (you must cast them, like Prayer of Fortitude) while others are passive. Note that totems no longer bring passive buffs as a rule.
  • You’ll see several categories consolidated or gone. Bleeds no longer made sense, since everyone who cared about bleeds already buffed themselves. Magical resistance we just removed from the game, though there are some abilities that provide magical damage reduction.
  • We are still likely to use the design that hunters, especially Beastmaster hunters, can fill in for missing buffs or debuffs by using certain pets.

As always, we’d love to get your feedback on this design.

Buffs

Stats
Effect: +5% Strength, Agility, and Intellect
Example: Blessing of Kings
Brought by: Any druid, any monk, any paladin

Stamina
Effect: +10% Stamina
Example: Power Word: Fortitude
Brought by: Any priest, any warlock, any warrior

Attack Power
Effect: +10% melee and ranged attack power (which will be the same value again)
Example: Battle Shout
Brought by: Any death knight, any hunter, any warrior

Spell Power
Effect: +10% spell power (there will no longer be a 6% version)
Example: Arcane Brilliance
Brought by: Any mage, any shaman, any warlock

Haste
Effect: +10% melee and ranged haste
Example: Improved Icy Talons
Brought by: Frost and Unholy death knights, any rogue, Enhancement shaman

Spell Haste
Effect: +5% spell haste
Example: Moonkin Aura
Brought by: Balance druids, Shadow priests, Elemental shaman

Critical Strike
Effect: +5% ranged, melee, and spell critical chance
Example: Leader of the Pack
Brought by: Guardian and Feral druids, any hunter, any mage

Mastery
Effect: +5 mastery
Example: This is a new category
Brought by: Windwalker monks, any paladin, any shaman

Debuffs

Weakened Armor
Effect: -12% armor
Example: Sunder Armor
Brought by: Any druid, any rogue, any warrior

Physical Vulnerability
Effect: +4% physical damage taken
Example: Brittle Bones
Brought by: Frost and Unholy death knights, Retribution paladins, Arms and Fury warriors

Magic Vulnerability
Effect: +8% spell damage taken
Example: Curse of the Elements
Brought by: Any rogue, any warlock

Weakened Blows
Effect: -10% physical damage done
Example: Previously Demoralizing Shout; now Thunder Clap
Brought by: Blood death knight, Feral and Guardian druid, Brewmaster monk, Protection or Retribution paladin, any warrior (any tank)

Slow Casting

Effect: -30% casting speed
Example: Mind-numbing Poison
Brought by: Any death knight, any rogue, any warlock

Mortal Wounds
Effect: -25% healing received
Example: Mortal Strike
Brought by: Arms or Fury warrior, any rogue, any hunter

Greg “Ghostcrawler” Street is the lead systems designer for World of Warcraft. He was unsuccessful in convincing the rest of the class team to change Arms warrior mastery to decreased falling damage taken.
by Published on 2012-03-07 05:31 PM

Mists of Pandaria Beta is around the corner
Yesterday, people who bought the WoW annual pass had their copy of Diablo 3 showing up as Active on their Battle.net Profile. However, this wasn't the only change and for a short time people could also access the Battle.net Account Management page for the Mists of Pandaria Beta! Including the beta box icon already hosted on the battle.net website: https://eu.battle.net/account/images...ult/3d.png?v24


I already said that I don't expect the alpha/beta to be out before the NDA lift on the press tour on March 19th, but I wouldn't be surprised to see it soon afterward. Stay tuned, things are starting to look great!


Cataclysm Post Mortem -- Greg “Ghostcrawler” Street
Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
As part of our World of Warcraft: Cataclysm post mortem series, we sat down with World of Warcraft Lead Systems Designer Greg “Ghostcrawler” Street to talk about his thoughts on World of Warcraft: Cataclysm.

Q. What were your main goals going into Cataclysm?

A: Westfall was a seven-year-old zone with seven-year-old trees and seven-year-old quests. It naturally felt old. It felt tired for players going back to level up an alt, and it wasn’t inspiring for new players coming to the game. We just felt like it was time to give all of those old 1-60 zones some attention again. Beyond that though, we wanted to update the classes at low level as well. The spell flow, by which we mean the level you get certain spells, just hadn’t aged well. You would get some very group-focused buffs at low level and some powerful leveling tools at high level, which would have made more sense reversed. There were some specs that just weren’t functional at low level before because they lacked the damage abilities or tools to effectively solo. Similarly, we took a look at all of the quest rewards at 1-60 because some specs just didn’t have adequate itemization to support them.

A second goal, from the systems design point of view, was to improve the class talent trees. We thought the trees had become bloated with filler instead of legitimately interesting talents. We also embraced the notion of class specialization to a much greater degree, by letting you choose your spec formally at level 10.

We also knew we needed to provide more content to players focused on maximum level, which meant we couldn’t just re-do 1-60, but we had to provide questing zones, class mechanics, and new PvP and PvE content for players who would be at level 85 too.


Finally, we wanted to deliver all of this content more aggressively. We know players can only wait so long for something new to do before they start to get bored. This has been a goal for some time, but it has been a challenging one for us. When you compare the graphic fidelity of a raid like Firelands to an older raid like Molten Core, you can imagine how it takes both more time and more people to make a raid these days. That’s exactly the opposite of what we want to be doing though, which is providing players content at faster rates.

Q. What do you think worked best in Cataclysm?

A. We’re really happy with the 1-60 revamp. Each zone looks amazing, we improved their quest flow, and they all have a story that has a (hopefully) meaningful climax, often with a blue item reward. Zones that didn’t have much going on before have an actual plot now, many of which are related to Deathwing’s return. We also did a better job of integrating the dungeons in a zone into the questing experience for that zone, so you feel like you have a good reason to explore them.

We really like how having players choose a spec at level 10 worked out. I’d say nearly every single design decision we make ends up being at least somewhat controversial in that some players agree with them and some players disagree with them -- that’s just the reality of having such a large and diverse player base. But choosing a spec at level 10 was as close to universally acclaimed by players as anything we’ve ever done. It just works. You get a meaningful choice early on, and powerful, useful, and fun abilities to go along with it. It leads to each spec having a stronger sense of identity, even at higher level.

We’re pretty happy with the level 80-85 content that we offered. The zones looked great and the stories were good. We offered several new dungeons, raids, and Battlegrounds. Late in the cycle of Cataclysm, we introduced Raid Finder, which provided a new type of content to players who historically weren’t raiders. We’re at the part of the lifespan of the game where some original features no longer have the cachet they used to -- you can only roll up so many alts, and by this point you might very well be done with achievements or convinced yourself that that type of gameplay isn’t for you. When we can offer a whole new way to play the game -- in this case provide raids to non-raiders -- it’s a big win.


Transmogrification is another one of those features -- it opened up an entirely new avenue of gameplay. One of the great things it’s done, aside from giving players more tools to personalize their characters of course, is make a lot of old content relevant again. Now players are doing old raids and dungeons looking for Transmogrification pieces, and that’s really cool.

I could name a few smaller features we thought worked out as well. The Justice / Honor badge system in Cataclysm cleaned up the crazy system from Lich King. All things considered, we’re happy with the healing model. We encountered issues with mana being in short supply at lower gear levels and conversely too abundant at the higher levels, eliminating much of the challenge for healers when the content is supposed to be the most difficult, but overall the model did what we wanted, and we’ll be refining it in Mists.

Q. What didn’t work out as planned?

Everything else! Seriously though, we tend to be our own harshest critics, so it’s actually easy for us to point out things that didn’t work out as expected.

While zones like Uldum and Deepholm look fantastic, they didn’t fit together as well as we’d have liked. In the planning phases, we didn’t think that having scattered end game zones would be a big deal. It turned out to feel a lot weirder than expected. Players ended up teleporting to nearly every destination, and it gave Cataclysm a disjointed feeling, detracting from that feeling of exploration and discovery. We learned that giving players a land to explore, a sense of place, is valuable. Ultimately, the scattered zones and the portals both served to kind of shrink the world, when we want to make the world a place you want to go out and be in. We’re definitely looking forward to getting back to a continent in Mists. We underestimated how important that was.

In addition, while we liked that each zone has a story, questing ended up being too linear. It didn’t feel like you could fly into a zone, find some quest givers, and explore. Instead, you kind of had to start at the beginning and follow all the quests to the end, and if you didn’t like a quest, well, you had to stick with it to get to the next one. We want zones to have an identity, flavor and a story, but we don’t want to railroad players through a zone either.

The difficulty at which we pegged our heroic dungeons and raids was controversial. They were designed to be about as tough as the dungeons were back in Burning Crusade, but the game has changed since then. Coming out of Lich King, we’d gotten the message loud and clear from players that they wanted tougher challenges. They liked the convenience of Dungeon Finder, but they missed using their crowd control and survival abilities and having to strategize about how to beat a given encounter. We designed the Cataclysm heroics with that in mind, and the players who wanted challenging content were thrilled.

The problem was that we had this whole group of players who felt like they couldn’t make any progress on their characters. Even if they wanted to end up raiding with their friends, they couldn’t earn the gear they needed to get into those raids (especially in the absence of Raid Finder). I don’t believe that the instances were too hard; it’s obvious there are players who enjoy that content. I believe the problem was that there were no alternatives. With such a diverse community, the goal is to have experiences that players from all over the spectrum can enjoy. We don’t want to shut anyone out. So, we’re addressing that with Challenge Modes in Mists. You’ll have normal and heroic mode dungeons, and then Challenge Modes, for players who are looking to prove their mettle. Likewise, you’ll have normal and heroic raids, and Raid Finder for players who don’t enjoy wiping on a boss week after week until they can master it.


While choosing a spec at level 10 felt great, we weren’t very happy with the rest of the talent tree overhaul. We definitely pruned some dead wood from the trees and got rid of some talents that weren’t a lot of fun, but players felt like they weren’t getting anything out of the bargain. Having simpler trees is a good goal, but it would have felt better if players felt like they got something cool in return for losing some boring fluff. Unfortunately, as is the case with many compromises, this one didn’t fully solve the original problems it was intended to solve, while it created new ones.

Fundamentally, taking into account what we’ve learned about talent trees over the years, we’ve come to the conclusion that the talent tree model where you pick up tiny performance increases here and there (and where there’s, mathematically, nearly always a ‘right’ answer and a ‘wrong’ answer) is not a great model. The Mists talent design is a major revamp that should fix this problem once and for all. Talents should be meaningful game-changers. At absolute worst a given talent may be the right one only situationally, and at best, players will have a lot more customization to make their play-style stand out. Furthermore, the fact that you’ll have more flexibility to change your talents should help keep gameplay fresh, even with that character that you play most often.


I feel like I should mention Abyssal Maw again. As with many cancelled features, it somehow took on a life of its own in the minds of players. Believe me, though -- you just don’t cancel things that you think are going to be awesome. It was three bosses inside Nespirah, with no unique art. The reason it was originally appealing to us was because we had so many Vashj’ir assets that we could use. But by the time it was time to do the work, we felt like we (and many players) had Vashj’ir fatigue. Now don’t get me wrong -- I loved Vashj’ir. I was an oceanographer, remember? Vashj’ir delivered on the promise of an underwater zone, but we feel like most players were ready to be done with it by the time they had quested through that. (Individuals will feel differently -- it’s that diverse player base thing again.) Firelands received a lot of new art, from bosses to environments, and we just didn’t feel like Abyssal Maw was going to compete. Who knows, though! We haven’t totally given up on the idea of cool underwater experiences, so maybe there’s potential we’d visit it again someday. (For my money, the zone I am personally saddest about cancelling is not Abyssal Maw; it was the Azjol-Nerub quest zone in Wrath of the Lich King.)

Speaking of raids, we also weren’t particularly happy with how accessible legendary items became in Cataclysm. Multiple characters in a single raiding guild were getting, and worse, expecting a legendary weapon. Legendaries are supposed to be rare and exciting, not a bar you fill up like some reputation grind, and certainly not something you feel entitled to get because it’s “your turn.” Dragonwrath in particular was usable by a large variety of class specs, which coupled with the guarantee to completion, just made them too ubiquitous. In the future, legendaries will be more legendary, perhaps so much so that not every raiding guild will have one. In that model, there might be those who almost, but not quite, complete one, but there will also be those who finish one and feel truly honored.

I have mixed feelings about Archaeology. I feel like it’s a good addition to professions and offers more, and more varied, gameplay than our existing professions. Still, it’s clear that some players wanted more. We wanted Archaeology to be hard to complete. We didn’t want it to be one of those professions you can max out by buying up mats at the Auction House. But random reward systems whose long-term goals are more interesting than the short term ones can feel grindy. Archaeology had too much travel time. It could be punishingly random, especially for players who imagined that it would be a guaranteed delivery mechanism for Zin’rokh (which was never the intention). Players missed a lot of the lore, which was delivered in the Archaeology journal and not as part of the survey or digging experience. We think the Mists of Pandaria expansion will be really good for Archaeology. Players will be focused on a couple of new races on a single continent, so travel and randomness will be reduced automatically, and leveling Archaeology should be a bit more convenient since there will be more opportunities to dig at a single site. We have other tricks up our sleeve too.


Q. What lessons have you learned and what are some of your top goals for Mists of Pandaria?

There are four big goals for Mists:


  • Get players out into the world. We don’t want to totally eliminate convenience, so it’s fine to queue for some features from capital cities, but we also want players to see other players out in the world, questing, trying world bosses, engaging in PvP, and just travelling from place to place.
  • Give players plenty to do. It’s a sad feeling, and a real failure on our part, whenever someone says “I want to play WoW this evening, but I just don’t have anything to do.” Like I said above, achievements and alts were great in their time, and we’ll continue to support them, but we understand the need for new ways to play as well. The new expansion will have entirely new systems, like scenarios and challenge modes. We are designing the initial zones to have features similar to the Molten Front daily area, so you don’t feel like questing is something you finish at level 90 (and so you don’t feel like daily quests are synonymous with ‘boring’ or ‘grind’). We want to make the Pandaria factions interesting. We want Exalted to be something you earn for bragging rights, not something every player has. We are adding a lot of mounts that will be hard to get, and awesome-looking armor that you’ll want just for transmogrification. We’re considering ways to let you increase the number of Conquest points you can earn per week or a way to translate questing into bonus loot from instances. We want to hide lots of cool little things all over Pandaria. Some will offer your character more power and some won’t. And if you really like achievements and alts, well hopefully we’ve got you covered there too, with account-level achievements and a new race and class.
  • Appeal to a broad audience. I’m always surprised by the number of players who want the game to be easier and the equal number who want the game to be harder (and can’t understand why anyone would disagree with them!) We approach the issue in a different way -- we think that what all of those players are really saying is that they want content for them. Message received. We’ll be offering Raid Finder versions of all of our raids going forward. We’ll be offering brutally difficult challenge modes of dungeons for players who thought the Cataclysm heroics were too easy. We’re experimenting with some tricky boss encounters for players who loved the hard-mode Ulduar achievements. We want to provide more cross-over between PvE and PvP, for those who are interested, so that it doesn’t feel like you have to play two different games to progress your character. We want to continually add new Battlegrounds, so those players have fresh experiences to look forward to. We’ll provide players with ways to upgrade their gear incrementally, while reserving tier sets for actual boss kills.
  • Get great content out faster. Enough said.


************

We hope you’ve enjoyed this entry in the Cataclysm post mortem series and that this has proven to be an enlightening opportunity to take in our perspective on what worked, what didn’t, and some of what’s coming. If you missed the chance, you can join us in looking back at Cataclysm by checking out the other entries in the post mortem series with Lead Encounter Designer Scott Mercer and Lead Quest Designer Dave Kosak.

Now it’s time to look forward, since we have more to share about World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria coming on March 19. Stay tuned!

Discuss the latest Cataclysm Post Mortem here.
by Published on 2012-03-07 12:03 AM

Update - New Scroll of Resurrection is now Live

Scroll of Resurrection –Resurrected Soon!
The official announcement is here and people coming back to the game will get:


  • A single character boosted all the way to level 80.
  • A free upgrade to Cataclysm, regardless of the expansions you already own.
  • An optional free character move/faction change.
  • 7 free days of game time.

On the other side, people who recruit friends will be rewarded with a new Spectral Gryphon or Spectral Wyvern mount depending on their faction!


Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
The Scroll of Resurrection is currently on cooldown, but will be resurrected soon. Once it’s available, you will be able to earn a free faction mount when you use a Scroll of Resurrection to bring a friend or former guildmate back to World of Warcraft, but this offer will only be available for a limited time. Any active World of Warcraft non-trial player can send a Scroll of Resurrection. To be eligible to receive a Scroll of Resurrection, your friend must have previously purchased at least one month of game time at any point in the past, and your friend’s account must have been inactive since March 4, 2012 or earlier.

Once your friend accepts your scroll and pays for at least 30 days of game, you unlock your choice of the following rewards:


  • A Free Spectral Gryphon for an Alliance character
  • Or a Free Spectral Wind Rider for a Horde character

And, to enable you and your friend to play together in Cataclysm’s newest content, any friend who accepts your Scroll will also receive the following epic benefits:


  • A single character immediately boosted all the way to level 80 -- DING!
  • A FREE upgrade to Cataclysm -- regardless of your friend’s original box level
  • An optional FREE character move -- to your realm and faction so you can play together
  • 7 FREE days of game time -- available immediately

A few other prerequisites apply -- such as a free upgrade to a Battle.net account for players who haven’t played since 2009 or earlier -- so be sure to check out the FAQ below for full eligibility details.

We’ll provide an update once the Scroll of Resurrection is ready to be cast on your friends. Keep an eye on the World of Warcraft official Community site for more information.

Scroll of Resurrection FAQ

Basics

How do I send a Scroll of Resurrection to my friend?

There are two options for sending Scrolls of Resurrection:


  • While in-game, open your Real ID friends list or guild roster; any characters or accounts that are eligible to receive a Scroll of Resurrection will have a special button next to them. Click that Scroll of Resurrection button to generate the email invitation. You’ll also have the option to include a personal message to your friend inviting them back to the game.
  • From your Battle.net Account Management page, click on the World of Warcraft account that you would like to send the invitation from and select Referrals Rewards- Scroll of Resurrection will be an option in that menu. Once clicked, you can enter the name and e-mail address of the friend you’d like to resurrect and include a personal message along with your invitation.

Eligibility & Limitations

Who can be sent a Scroll of Resurrection?
To be eligible to receive a Scroll of Resurrection, your friend must have previously subscribed to World of Warcraft for at least 30 days and their account must have become inactive on or before March 4th,2012.

If your friend’s World of Warcraft account has been inactive since December 2009 (or longer), your friend must first associate their World of Warcraft account with a free Battle.net account before they can receive a Scroll of Resurrection. Tell your friend to see our Battle.net Account FAQ for information on creating a Battle.net account and merging their WoW account. After your friend has set up their account, you should be able to send them a Scroll of Resurrection normally.

Can I resurrect one of my own World of Warcraft accounts?
If you have at least one active World of Warcraft account, you can send your inactive accounts Scroll of Resurrection invitations.

How long is the Scroll of Resurrection invitation good for once I send it out?
Your friend has 30 days to accept the invitation. The offer will expire if not used within that time.

Is there a limit on the number of Scroll of Resurrection invitations that I can send out?
There is a limit of one Scroll of Resurrection invitation per day per World of Warcraft Account on both the web and in-game. This makes an effective limit of 2 Scroll of Resurrection invitations per day per account if you use both sending options. There is no limit on the number of lifetime Scroll of Resurrection invitations that an account can send.

Can I invite someone who has never played before with a Scroll of Resurrection?
Scroll of Resurrection can only be used on players who once had active World of Warcraft subscriptions. For a similar offer for friends who have never subscribed to World of Warcraft, please see the Recruit-A-Friend FAQ.

Sending the Scroll of Resurrection

What benefits are there to sending a Scroll of Resurrection?
You will receive an exclusive mount when your friend who accepted the Scroll first renews their subscription and pays for 30 days of game time – the Spectral Gryphon for Alliance characters or the Spectral Wind Rider for Horde characters.

How do I redeem my mount once my friend subscribes?
Visit your Account Management page and click on the Scroll of Resurrection option. Under the History/Status tab, you will see Claim Mount button when you are able to redeem the mount. Choose the realm and character on which you want to receive the mount and it will arrive in your character’s mailbox.

Note: The mount can only be redeemed on one character per Scroll.

When do I receive my mount for resurrecting a friend?
Your friend must accept your Scroll of Resurrection invitation and renew their subscription for you to qualify for the mount. In order to qualify for the mount, your friend must renew their subscription after accepting the Scroll, and pay for at least 30 days of game time.

Can I earn multiple mounts on my account?
Yes! This reward will be given to you for each friend who accepts your invitation and meets the re-subscription criteria.

Can I track the invitations I send out?
After your friend accepts, you will be able to view the status of the invitation on the History page in the Referrals & Rewards section of your Battle.net Account Management page.
Who will receive the sender reward when several people send the same person Scrolls of Resurrection?

Who will receive the sender reward when several people send the same person Scrolls of Resurrection?
Only the player whose invitation is accepted will receive the sender’s reward. If the recipient gets several invitations, it will be up to them to choose which to accept. A recipient can accept a maximum of one Scroll of Resurrection per eligible World of Warcraft account.

Accepting the Scroll of Resurrection

What benefits are there for accepting a Scroll of Resurrection invitation?
The Scroll’s recipient immediately receives a FREE digital upgrade all the way to World of Warcraft: Cataclysm. Additionally, the Scroll’s receiver can permanently boost one character to level 80 so that they can jump straight into the adventure for their 7 days of FREE game time!

Note: The digital upgrade and level boost will only be available for scrolls sent during the 90-day promotion period. Players who accept a Scroll of Resurrection that was sent after the promotion period ends will still receive 7 days of FREE game time, but will not be eligible for the digital upgrade or level boost.

I just accepted a Scroll of Resurrection. How do I level boost my character?
Log in to your Battle.net Account and click on the resurrected license. Once you’re on the Game Management page, click Claim Rewards and select the character to level along with their spec. The next time you log in, they’ll be ready to adventure in a sundered Azeroth!

How does the boost to level 80 work for the Scroll’s recipient?
After accepting the Scroll, the recipient can choose one character to boost to level 80. The character’s spec will be chosen by the recipient prior to completing the level boost and the character will also be given appropriate talents under the chosen spec. The character will be placed in his or her faction’s capital city and will be ready to adventure immediately. This means that the character will be granted all class skills and spells up to level 80, a flying mount and riding skill, and a green quality set of level- and spec-appropriate gear for leveling.

Any gear that was on the character prior to the level boost will be mailed back to the character via in game mail.

Hunter pets will not be given a spec, so level boosted Hunters will need to spec out their pets normally after logging in for the first time.

Note: Active quests may be abandoned when a level boost is performed. If a quest is abandoned in this way, you will be able to pick it up normally from the NPC who originally gave you the quest.

Can I only level boost one character? What happens if my main character is on a different realm or faction than the friend who invited me?
If the character that was level boosted is on a different realm or faction than the character who sent the invitation, you will be eligible for a free Character Transfer and/or a free Faction Change to bring you to your friend’s realm and faction.

Note: Existing limitations apply for Faction Changes and Realm Transfers under the Scroll of Resurrection system. Please see the Faction Change and Realm Transfer FAQs for details. In addition, players on an RU server will not receive a free Realm Transfer if the friend who invited them is from an EU server.

How many times can one person accept a Scroll of Resurrection?
After March 5th, 2012, accounts are only able to accept one Scroll of Resurrection per eligible World of Warcraft account– if your friend has already accepted an invitation after March 5th, they will not be able to accept another for the same World of Warcraft account, but may accept invitations for other eligible World of Warcraft accounts.

Is there a way for me to boost a character to 80 without a Scroll of Resurrection?
The ability to boost a character to 80 only comes when you accept a Scroll of Resurrection invitation.
by Published on 2012-03-06 07:45 PM

Update - People are wondering how newly level 80 characters will be able to do anything with their level 10 or level 20 gear. The answer is probably in the new ilvl 232 uncommon armor sets + weapons introduced a while back on Patch 4.3 PTRs. However, this is pure speculation and we should probably sit tight and wait for the official announcement.

Scroll of Resurrection Revamp - Free lvl 80 Character and more!
The new Scroll of Resurrection revamp seems to be on live servers and includes a free level 80 character and a free character/faction change for the person you're bringing back to the game! We will probably get more information from Blizzard very soon.

We can only assume that the Spectral Gryphon and Spectral Wyvern Mounts teaser from yesterday means people doing the recruiting also get nice perks.

Thanks to Kaeh for his forum post!

by Published on 2012-03-06 02:17 AM

Update - We just received the following message from Blizzard - "Soon we fly together again…"



Cataclysm Post Mortem - Dungeons and Raids with Scott “Daelo” Mercer
Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
As a part of our post mortem series on Cataclysm, we sat down with World of Warcraft Lead Encounter Designer Scott “Daelo” Mercer to hear his thoughts on Cataclysm dungeons and raids.

Q. What were your main goals going into Cataclysm?
We really wanted to make sure we were creating new challenges, strong mechanics, and cool creatures while staying true to the expansion and the themes we wanted to carry out. The three raid dungeons came out well and we had a lot of fun bringing the story of Nefarian and the Twilight’s Hammer to life. We were also able to add some dynamic mechanics in Throne of the Four Winds, which featured players moving across multiple platforms.


Q. How did this evolve over the various content patches?
Zul’Gurub and Zul’Aman were entertaining raids with diverse mechanics, and they translated well when we converted them into Heroic dungeons for patch 4.1. Interesting mechanics and features that once were restricted to raids are now finding their way into our five-player dungeons.

Adding the Dungeon Journal in patch 4.2 was also a major step forward. We wanted to be able to share more information in the game so that players wouldn’t feel the need to go look everything up on external websites. While those sites are great at what they do, we felt like we needed to try to alleviate the need to go out of the game to find the information players wanted to see.

The addition of Raid Finder in patch 4.3 also opened up more opportunities for players to be able to experience our raid content. The feature has proven to be extremely popular, and not just with people who had given up on raiding. Many players use Raid Finder to gear up their secondary characters, gain Valor for the week, or just because it’s fun.

Q. What do you think worked best?
We’ve been reasonably successful with our tuning across all four raid difficulty modes. There were a few warts here and there, but we delivered on the idea that 10-player and 25-player raids could exist at a similar difficulty. We also had some memorable dungeons and cinematic moments in Cataclysm. I’m particularly fond of the interactive bombing run in Grim Batol involving the red drakes. Players really got a sense of the epic scale of Grim Batol, and how well they performed in the event could make clearing the rest of the dungeon much easier.


With our improved tools and the experience we’ve gained over the years, we’ve become better at finding ways to explain the mechanics of our encounters. Our bosses do a better job of warning players of incoming threats. In Dragon Soul we also began to better inform players of mechanics that caused them to die. Providing a better understanding of the encounters to players is an important goal. We feel that losing to a boss and not understanding why is frustrating, just as beating a boss and not understanding why you won is not as satisfying.

Q. What didn’t work out as planned or expected?
Initially, we started off the Heroic dungeons at too high of a difficulty. The difficulty level rather abruptly changed when compared to the Heroics players experienced at the end of Wrath of the Lich King. This major change caught many players off guard, and frustrated some of them. The difficulty also increased the effective amount of time required to complete a dungeon to a longer experience than we wanted. With the release of patch 4.3 we’re now in a much better place. We’ve always talked about being able to complete a dungeon over lunch, and the Hour of Twilight dungeons get us back to that goal. End Time, Well of Eternity, and Hour of Twilight all provide epic play experiences to our players, but at the real sweet spot of difficulty, complexity, and time commitment.

Q. Was there anything that surprised you about how players reacted to a particular encounter?

Not particularly. Something we’ve learned over the years is to expect the unexpected. The community is very creative and intelligent. The most important thing for us is that players are having fun. They often find interesting ways of approaching things that maybe we didn’t expect, but as long the creative solution is still fun for everyone, we usually don’t have a problem with it.

Q. What have you learned from Cataclysm and what are some of your top goals for Mists of Pandaria?
We learned we could create a crazy encounter like the Spine of Deathwing. It took a lot of hard work from the whole team and it was a difficult design challenge to tackle. How do you orchestrate a fight on the back of a gigantic flying dragon without inducing nausea? How do we make sure you feel like you’re on Deathwing? Delivering that experience was really important and everyone wanted the opportunity to work on it. What was really great was that we launched the story of Cataclysm with the cinematic that showed Deathwing having his elementium plates being put on, then we end the expansion with those very same plates being torn off. It gives some real closure to storyline.


For Mists of Pandaria, we will continue to provide new dungeons and raids while also presenting interesting new types of content in the form of challenge modes and scenarios. Players will also be introduced to new enemies in the Sha, Mogu, and Mantids. Making those creatures come to life will be a lot of fun.

Q. Do you have a favorite dungeon or encounter from Cataclysm?
There are so many. The Conclave of Wind was a great one. Working out interesting mechanics that allowed players to go from platform to platform was a lot of fun and the environment felt really epic. A fight like that was a goal of the encounter team for a very long time.

Blackwing Descent was another favorite and working out the mechanics for the Atramedes fight gave us a lot to think about. How do you create an encounter with a blind dragon that fights? So we gave him sonar and showed the interaction with a sound meter on the player’s UI.


In Bastion of Twilight, we really got to sell the corruption angle on Cho’gall which made for another really interesting fight.

Q. Is there a certain mechanic that you always wanted to do but couldn’t do prior to Cataclysm?
Not really. There are so many cool ideas to work with that I never feel held back. It’s easy to be creatively inspired by the people around you and their energy. It’s never a problem of coming up with ideas. It’s usually deciding which ones we want to go with next, but the possibilities are endless.

Q. Do you have a “dream” dungeon or encounter that you’d like to create if you had the opportunity?
I’ve never felt that I haven’t been able to do the things I want to do. Everyone on the team is completely dedicated to giving us unlimited opportunities to make epic and awesome experiences. But, if I have to mention something, it would be huge giant death robots. We had Mimiron in Ulduar, but you just can’t have too many death robots.

Thank you for your time, Scott.
You’re welcome.

Discuss the latest Cataclysm Post Mortem here.

Darkmoon Faire Issues
Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker)
February’s Darkmoon Faire achievement progress status was cleared prior to the launch of March's faire. Any achievements that were started but not completed have had their criteria reset. Completed achievements are unaffected. We previously announced that this was resolved for this month and going forward, unfortunately, that did not happen and this is still being investigated for a resolution.

The following achievements are most likely impacted:

Darkmoon Defender
Darkmoon Dungeoneer
Darkmoon Despoiler

Regrettably, we are not able to restore any progress you may have made during February's faire. We understand the impact this may have had and sincerely apologize for any inconvenience caused.

Curse March Gaming Bracket Challenge - Round 2!
The March Gaming Bracket Challenge presented by Curse and Alienware is a tournament that pits video game characters against one another for multiple rounds of voting!

Each week in March we will be matching up characters from all ends of the gaming universe; from Skyrim to Starcraft, WoW to Minecraft. Selection of the characters that make it through to the next round is up to you since your votes decide who rises up and who falls in this arena! You can see the full bracket here.

Each week we are giving away one Alienware X51 (US residents only), so don't forget to enter to win and vote for your favorite characters.



MMO-Report
The MMO Report has a special episode about RIFT this week!


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