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by Published on 2018-09-20 08:32 PM

Battle for Stromgarde Warfront Available for Alliance

Season 15 Launch

Developer Insights: Days of the Frozen Throne with the Live Content Team

Game Design & Balance AMA - Recap

Overwatch Ultimate Genji Sword - Available for Pre-Order

World of Warcraft Diary Chapter Preview - Stepping on Toes
John Staats has sent along a chapter from his upcoming book as a preview! There is an ongoing Kickstarter for a book about Vanilla WoW development that is about to end early next week.

If you are interested in hearing more, John Staats (Level Designer), David Ray (Senior Tool & Database Programmer), and Kevin Jordan (Game Designer) are doing a Reddit AMA tonight!

Originally Posted by MMO-Champion
"I’m a programmer. I can push around the producers, but the level designers won’t listen to me."
— Jeremy Wood

Veteran programmer Collin Murray described Jeremy Wood, whom we hired straight out of college, as “a guy who is scary-perceptive for someone who’s never worked before.” It’s a universally perception that level designers don’t listen—that we build however we please, regardless of limitations set by the programmers. But let me take this opportunity to offer a bit of defense for my fellow level designers: We listen, but we also have other considerations. We’re the center of development’s Venn diagram. It’s our job to make locations render smoothly; while telling a story; while making the world beautiful and immersive; while providing areas suitable for gameplay. In serving our varied masters, we sometimes forget our limitations. When we discover something cool, concessions often must be made. Sometimes our hacks create more work for other departments, who help us pull off our tricks. It’s a balancing act of robbing Peter to pay Paul.

For instance, I once butted heads with the programmers over transparent water. Our opaque water wasn’t popular with the art team, and it prevented me from seeing my submerged temples in Blackfathom Deeps. I’d asked repeatedly for transparent water tests, but the programming staff said they were swamped with higher priorities and didn’t have time to fix “sorting issues”—which were graphical glitches when multiple transparent objects appeared in front of one another. If spell effects (which used transparent textures) were cast in front of transparent water, they would appear to be underneath the water’s surface. Not good, right? And sorting issues were a messy video card problem, and since all video cards worked differently, it was a major pain in the ass to correct.

However, I wasn’t convinced. I scaled-up one of our props that used transparent textures and used it as a mock-waterline to see how bad sorting would look—and the result wasn’t bad at all. The sorting issues were only noticeable when I channeled from the shoreline into the water. The “ribbon” VFX hiccuped when they overlapped the water, but it was utterly unnoticeable in the heat of combat. The entire dungeon team was so excited that we showed the producers, and Shane gave me his thoughts. “John, I know you’re super-excited about this, but you have to let us handle it,” he explained. It was a delicate situation, and he just wanted to be the one telling the programmers they were wrong. Everyone had been working late hours and Shane didn’t want to upset anyone. “I promise you,” he continued, “we’ll implement transparent water, but it might take a little time. Please, don’t tell anyone else.”

Shane was talking to me like this because I had a reputation for being a ninja and sneaking things into the build of the game that weren’t approved or on a task list. I’d always earned autonomy in the workplace by working longer hours than anyone else—and my situation at Blizzard was no different. I established a gentleman’s agreement with the producers that I could build extra dungeons on weekends and after hours if I completed tasks already assigned to me. I found trust like this to be liberating, empowering, and generally made my time on the job more comfortable. I ended up making so much content, the game designers urged the producers to treat me with a hands-off approach. Because I worked on whatever I wanted, people often came to me if they needed something major to be improved—or ninja’ed in. Since the producers were wise to my ways they always kept an eye on me to make sure I wasn’t creating work for other people.

But transparent water was a different story. This time I had gone behind the backs of programmers after they had doubled-down on insisting that they didn’t have time to fix sorting issues. In truth, the programmers were correct—there were sorting issues, but what they didn’t realize (and what my test had demonstrated) was that the sorting errors were mostly unnoticeable. Aside from myself, the programmers were working longer hours than anyone else on the team, so reversing one of their vetoes would be a touchy prospect. Shane was perfectly reasonable in wanting the news to come from him instead of a rabble-rousing level designer. I certainly didn’t want the heat, so I let Shane add the task to the programmer’s workload in his own time, so I promised to keep my big mouth shut. But what Shane didn’t do was tell the other level designers the same thing, and they promptly blabbed about the discovery to half the office.

Later that day, a group of artists came over to my desk and insisted that I show them this Promethean miracle of transparent water. I protested, but they weren’t having any of it. They told me the whole team already knew and crossed their arms, saying they wouldn’t leave until I showed them. I relented just to get them out of my office. And wouldn’t you know it, Shane walked into my office at exactly that moment. Before I could get a chance to explain what had happened, he walked away, shaking his head in exasperation. That should illustrate what it was like to work with level designers. We are troublemakers by nature. We spend so much time on a single file or area that sometimes we become too fixated on forcing things to happen.

I’ve always found case-by-case problem solving yielded better results than fiats coming from department leads who didn’t quite realize the whole “robbing Peter to pay Paul” thing. For instance, I ignored our object size limits while building the thorn canopies for the Razorfen dungeons. After Scott Hartin informed me why the engine couldn’t handle my giant canopy I built it a different way and he subsequently gave me a different veto. Over several weeks we went back and forth until eventually we ended up working out the problem together (Scott tweaked the code to make an exception). The result was that Chris Metzen’s vision of being inside a giant thorn bush was realized.

And I wasn’t the only one making waves. When Aaron Keller was told we couldn’t place freestanding buildings directly on the terrain for complicated pathing code reasons, he placed tepees and tents in Thunderbluff anyway, and we discovered that the pathing problems weren’t as bad as initially feared. Dana Jan built his Deadmines bigger than our engine’s “farclip limit,” which forced programmers to increase it—and we learned bigger rooms didn’t produce performance problems. This proved to be a valuable lesson for creating “epic” areas.

As ornery as the dungeon builders were, the exterior level designers were worse (or so we were told). The programmers were so frustrated by the overuse of props in some areas (which deteriorated the engine’s performance), that they often went to the producers to arbitrate compromises. Butting heads was a good thing; it meant employees were passionate about their jobs, new things were discovered, and the game’s limits were stretched with coolness.
by Published on 2018-09-20 06:20 AM

Update: Both US and EU Alliance players now have access to the Warfront.

Battle for Stromgarde Warfront Available for Alliance
The Alliance have completed the progress bar to launch The Battle for Stromgarde Warfront!

Alliance characters with an item level of 320 or higher can now queue for the 20 man PvE large scale scenario to fight for control of Arathi Highlands against the opposite faction AI.

Pick up the quest Warfront: The Battle for Stromgarde and complete the scenario for an item level 370 piece of gear! Warfronts award item level 340 loot baseline upon completion.

Alliance characters have 7 days to complete the Warfront before the Horde characters will be able to start to contribute resources to launch their Warfront!

by Published on 2018-09-19 06:25 PM

Vanilla WoW Developer Q&A - Submit Questions for John Staats

Method World First G'huun Kill
Uldir has been cleared on Mythic difficulty by Method! Congratulations to them! They are the first to earn Hall of Fame: G'huun (Horde).

The official Mythic Raid Leaderboard now has its first entry!

Method streamed progression this time, for the first time ever. Players watching kept WoW at the top or near the top of the Twitch game list for most of progression.

by Published on 2018-09-19 05:38 PM

Update: Cap'n Crackers is now for sale for $10 on the shop.

Update: You will receive The Dreadwake as a reward for purchasing 180 days of game time between today and 10/21/2018. It will be a shop mount sometime in 2019.

We're Gone Fishin' in This Week's Tavern Brawl!

Upcoming Developer AMA, Official Forum Overhaul, HGC Insider Ep 3

The Dreadwake - Shop Mount
The Dreadwake was hotfixed into the game today as a reward for purchasing 180 days of game time between now and 10/22.

Cap'n Crackers - Shop Pet
Cap'n Crackers / Cap'n Crackers were hotfixed into the game today and are on sale now for $10.

Celebrate International Talk Like A Pirate Day in Style!
Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
Just in time for International Talk Like a Pirate Day, we’re celebrating all things pirate with a special limited-time offer*. Purchase 180 Days Game Time in the Shop, and you’ll also receive the epic new Dreadwake mount free! The Dreadwake mount will then arrive as a stand-alone mount in the Blizzard Shop and in-game shop sometime in 2019.

True to nautical tradition, the Dreadwake pirate ship mount has a unique figurehead inspired by an unknown kraken-faced god of the deeps.

Once you’ve purchased the 180 Days Game Time product in the Shop, the Dreadwake mount will be automatically added to your in-game collection. It’s the perfect way to cruise through Azeroth in true buccaneering style.

Players on an existing recurring subscription plan who purchase 180 Days Game Time will have their next billing date automatically adjusted to align with the addition of this time. Players who already have game time on their account will have the 180 days added to their current total. By purchasing 180 Days Game Time, you’ll also save up to $24 per year.

In addition, WoW players who have purchased the 180 Days Game Time service in the Shop within the past 30 days** or who are currently on a 6-month recurring subscription will receive the Dreadwake mount at no additional charge. Look for the gift icon in your Blizzard desktop app to claim yours.***

New Pet Available: Adopt Cap’n Crackers!

Fresh off the high seas, Cap’n Crackers is available to adopt now from the Blizzard Shop and in-game shop.

Sail the high seas with Cap'n Crackers, the baby parrot, perched on your shoulder.

This plucky feathered friend is just the companion you need on your swashbuckling adventures through Kul Tiras, Zandalar, and beyond. Adopt yours today!

*Offer available from September 19 through October 21, 2018

**Must have purchased current 180 Days Game Time service on or before 12:01 a.m. PDT on September 19, 2018.

***Mount must be claimed in Blizzard desktop app prior to April 30, 2019.

Pirate's Day Live
Pirate's Day is back again! Nothing new this year, but it was updated last year.

Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
Hoist sail and make way for Booty Bay because it’s Pirate’s Day!

Bring Your Sea Shanty to Booty Bay
Pirates have taken over the goblin town of Booty Bay and Captain DeMeza is recruiting any scurvy dog she can into her buccaneer ranks. Visit her or her henchmen in the capital cities if the pirate’s life is for you!

Feeling out of place in Booty Bay without a proper costume? Don’t worry. /Dance one little jig with the Dread Captain DeMeza and she’ll be impressed enough to press you into her crew and outfit you properly. If you get attached to your new look, you can do the quest You're Gonna Need A Bigger Boat!! Succeed, and you’ll get an Emergency Pirate Outfit (or five) for when Pirate’s Day is but a distant memory and your inner pirate is clawing to get out.

What good is a pirate without an avian companion on their shoulder? Captain DeMeza (for the exchange of a few shiny coins) can help you call forth a temporary companion named Petey to take with you wherever you sail.

From time to time the captain will shout for a brave party to take on a terror of the deeps–an elite shark known as Ol' Eary. Make sure you have a hearty crew with you or you could become just so much chum in the waters of the bay.

Join the Beach Party
Once you and your crew have helped the captain handle Ol’Eary, you can celebrate with the crew at a little beach party just south of Booty Bay. The exalted among the Bloodsail Buccaneers can also purchase a toy from Edward Techt–the Jolly Roger-to show off their dedication to the cause.

If you’re really feeling generous, you can also purchase a Big Bag of Booty from Captain DeMeza and spread the wealth around to all your pirate pals in a burst of glittery glory.

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