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World of Warcraft Patch 4.3.3
The new 64-bit client is now live. (Windows and Mac)
Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
Bug Fixes
  • Fixed several client-side bugs.

General
  • Modified code and content support for the Scroll of Resurrection system.

Cataclysm Post Mortem -- Quest Design with Dave "Fargo" Kosak
Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
To kick-off our World of Warcraft: Cataclysm post mortem series, we sat down with World of Warcraft Lead Quest Designer Dave “Fargo” Kosak to discuss his thoughts on questing in Cataclysm.

Q: What were your main goals going into Cataclysm?
Certainly from a quest design standpoint our primary goal with Cataclysm was to remake the old world, specifically the 1-60 questing experience. World of Warcraft was released in 2004, and we've learned so much in the years since about what constitutes good MMO gameplay. We wanted to make sure that the game was relevant to new players coming in, and walking up and down the length of the Barrens on foot over and over just didn’t do it for us anymore.

Remaking the entire old world -- 46 zones! -- was ambitious. Actually, it was ludicrous. It was like re-releasing a whole game in the course of an expansion cycle. Then we added a couple new races and their starting zones on top of that. I’m not sure how we convinced ourselves we could make it happen, but somehow we pulled it together.

Q: Are you happy with how the old world re-vamp turned out?
I am. Leveling up a new character to 60 nowadays is a great deal of fun. Every zone has stories to play out, with interesting nooks and crannies and plenty of hidden gems or references for players who remember the pre-Cataclysm world. Zones like Ashenvale now live up to their premise (intense Horde-vs.-Alliance combat), and previously empty zones now have a lot of character (see: Azshara). The content just flows. It's still World of Warcraft, but the quests have a modern feel, with lots of action and storytelling.


Q: But what didn't work out so well?
We really spread ourselves thin and taxed the team. The original plan was to totally re-do a handful of high-priority zones, but to leave a lot of the zones that worked mostly alone. We categorized them into "red," "yellow," and "green" zones. The idea behind the green zones (for example, Loch Modan) was just to tweak the quest flow to be a little smoother, but not to make any major changes.

The reality is that even the green zones really needed a lot of love. Once we got in there, it was all or nothing: we ended up completely re-doing a lot of green zones so that they met our new quest design standards. We came up with a nickname: "watermelon" zones. They were green on the outside, until you got in there and started poking around. . . .

Where that hurt us was when it came time to do the max-level content, the 80-85 zones. The content there turned out well, but the experience is inconsistent across the board -- Uldum feels totally different from Hyjal, which in turn feels different from Vashj'ir. The design decisions and efforts we made didn't always yield the desired results.

Q: Tell us more about the level 80-85 zones -- what worked and didn’t?

We were aiming for a really global feel with Cataclysm, so we set the max-level zones in varied environments all over the world (underwater, across deserts, in the elemental plane of earth, etc). However, as a result, they ended up not feeling as connected as we'd like. You get widely different experiences in zones that aren’t geographically related to one another. That's something important that we're keeping in mind moving forward – World of Warcraft works best when there's a sense of place. A connected world to explore.

We feel the storytelling in Cataclysm was strong. Whether assembling the ancients in Hyjal, rescuing your drowned crew in Vashj'ir, or reassembling the world pillar in Deepholm, there’s a strong sense of plot in every zone. Players participated in stirring stories, like bringing the Dragonmaw into the Horde via a violent coup or reuniting the Wildhammer Dwarves with a crazy wedding. These were memorable moments and shared experiences.

The downside to creating these stories is that the zones on the whole ended up being way too linear. For example, because we wanted to show your character re-growing the burning devastation of Mount Hyjal, there was really only one way to play that zone: you started at point A, and you worked your way through to point Z. Pretty glorious the first time, but frustrating on your second or third character because there's only one way to do it, and no way to skip around. That's a lesson we’re going to carry forward for sure. We want big sweeping stories, but we want to give players the freedom to explore those stories on their own terms.

Q: Places like Hyjal also used a lot of phasing to show the world changing.
We have a massive phase shift halfway through the story that changes the terrain for nearly a third of the zone. It's epic, right? But it can be a real pain for players when so much of the world changes like that. Phasing is like a story sledgehammer: it gets the job done, but at best it splits up players and at worst it totally confuses them.

We're going to be a lot more careful going forward. The Firelands dailies in patch 4.2 gives you a much better idea of our future direction. There were sweeping visual changes to the world as you progressed, but there’s very little actual phasing. For the most part, everyone is playing together on the same map. That’s important to us. Looking ahead, we’re going to be a lot smarter about how we show changes to the world, and we’re going to do everything we can to avoid splitting players up.


Q: Talk more about the 4.2 patch. Were the Firelands dailies a hint of what’s to come?
Definitely. With those dailies we were able to engage a lot of players, myself included. (I was the first quest designer on the team to get the mount and all the achievements on the live servers -- suck it up, slackers!) Previously, "doing dailies" meant hitting the same quest givers for the same three quests, usually in a static place. Here we were able to deliver a sense of progression and a story that unfurled over the course of a few weeks, all as you did a constantly changing set of quest objectives in a dynamic environment. We think that worked out well.

Moving forward, we're going to look for more opportunities like this -- ways to keep people engaged and cool things to do solo with your max-level character. We've got ambitious plans.

Q: Patch 4.2 also had the Aggra and Thrall questline, "Elemental Bonds." Did that meet your expectations? How do you feel about Thrall's character development?
That's a tricky one -- we’ve got mixed feelings. The essential story is a good one, and we really wanted to portray all the inner struggles Thrall is going through. Here’s a guy that stepped down as Warchief and had to rediscover himself as a shaman in order to save the world. And he's haunted by his decisions: he’s afraid of what’s to come, paralyzed by doubt, angry at what Garrosh did to Cairne . . . the guy's a mess. We figured out a way to show all that internal tension, and we wrapped it up in a story that demonstrates how his mate, Aggra, will literally go to the ends of the world to pull him through this. It's a powerful love story, and a story about finding one’s inner focus.


But we had to do a lot of things to make it work in the game. We needed to make a quest that 500 people could do simultaneously without getting in each other's way. We wanted a quest that players could do solo, no matter what their skill level. We didn’t know if the player was decked out in raid gear or level 85 greens, so we had to keep it simple. We somehow made all of it work under those restrictions, and we filled the screen with some killer imagery (I love the vision of Thrall immersed in the Abyssal Maw). But ultimately the quests themselves ended up not being as compelling from a gameplay perspective as we would have liked. Many players blew through them once and never looked back.

I really think we can do better. Cataclysm was in many ways Thrall’s story, but it was hard for players to follow his development over the course of the expansion. Going forward we want to convey a clearer narrative, delivered in the context of solid gameplay. We have some ideas on how to do that, and we’re also going to keep experimenting. This is important to us -- we talk about ways to tackle this problem all the time.

Q: The Cataclysm patches also saw the debut of some legendary weapons: Dragonwrath and the Fangs of the Father. Will future legendaries be this, uh, legendary?
Good question. We love class-specific content, but quest lines like those are very resource-intensive. Each sequence involves weeks of development focus that takes content away from dungeons, dailies, or outdoor zones.


The feedback from players (and from our own team) has been overwhelmingly positive. Dragonwrath proved to be extremely popular, and allowed caster classes to get a front-row seat for major lore moments otherwise reserved only for dragons. Meanwhile, Fangs of the Father was pure rogue, from the theme to the mechanics. It was super-targeted and extremely fun -- it proved to us the value of focusing in on a specific class and tailoring the content to their abilities. Given that the audience for these weapons consists of badass raiders, we didn’t hold back on the difficulty either, so these quests were great for people who wanted a real challenge.

The short answer is yes, we'll definitely continue doing these moving forward. Most likely future legendary quest lines will be built similar to the rogue experience: a couple key story moments, a lot of flavor, and some very specific challenges. But I wouldn't expect very many quest lines like these. Like legendary weapons themselves, they're going to be rare and special.

Q: We haven't even talked about goblins and worgen yet. What lessons did you take away from the new racial starting zones?
In both cases, the starting areas really sold the character and tone of the new races. The worgen area is so marvelously gothic, and Kezan is unmistakably unique and gobliny. The art and the quests all work together to establish a racial character. So that’s a big win.

As for the mechanics themselves, I’m glad we were so experimental, but our general feeling now that all is said and done is that we went a little too ‘gimmicky’ with the player’s initial experiences. Everyone can agree that the goblin experience gets pretty wild in places.

That's a big lesson we're carrying away from the expansion as a whole.

Q: Can you elaborate?
Overwhelmingly, players have told us that they want more quests where you have to flap a giant bird around a cave while targeting creatures in a 3D space.

Q: Seriously?

Maybe not . . . But moving forward, we're re-focusing on core gameplay mechanics. World of Warcraft works best when you’ve got your boots on the ground and you get to play your class. To that end, we’re concentrating on giving players lots of fun combat challenges in continually changing environments, wrapped up in a terrific story that’s propelled forward by the quests. Whenever we do special mechanics, we want them to feel special, and they’ll never tear you away from combat for very long. Our goal is to load up the world with lots of interactive spaces, cool encounters, great characters, and neat spaces to explore. That’s part of the reason we’re keeping you grounded (literally) in Pandaria, and why we’re focusing on a single continent. But I’m getting ahead of myself. We’ll talk more about Pandaria soon enough.

Q: Looking forward to it. Thanks for your time!
Not a problem!
This article was originally published in forum thread: Cataclysm Post Mortem -- Quest Design with Dave "Fargo" Kosak started by chaud View original post
Comments 163 Comments
  1. Qualdroo's Avatar
    "Q: Are you happy with how the old world re-vamp turned out?I am. Leveling up a new character to 60 nowadays is a great deal of fun. Every zone has stories to play out, with interesting nooks and crannies and plenty of hidden gems or references for players who remember the pre-Cataclysm world. Zones like Ashenvale now live up to their premise (intense Horde-vs.-Alliance combat), and previously empty zones now have a lot of character (see: Azshara). The content just flows. It's still World of Warcraft, but the quests have a modern feel, with lots of action and storytelling."Exept the game lost its spirit realy.. You lvl to fast and are not getting everything out of the zones anymore like you did pre the shattering. I kind a miss the way you, if you wanted to, had to travel between 4-5 sometimes more zones to do a quest line! The world inside the game have simply become smaller.
  1. Kromus's Avatar
    While an interesting read, I can't help but feel these sort of "post Moretems" avoid the tough questions.Hopefully this is a part in a series, but that tough questions can be asked concerning glaringly the weakest expansion in the series to date, and which has left MANY people worried with the forthcoming MOP.The legendaries are anything but Legendary in this expansions.Dragonwrath , of course people loved it, because it could be acquired so easily with just weeks of progression and insanely bump a casters DPS. It was literally a factor in Dragon Soul progression, thats poor.
  1. Yuuki Asuna's Avatar
    Kinda shows they were focused too much on redoing the whole world and never put much effort and thought into the end game content. Kind of exciting to know they're focused just on the starting zone for Pandas and Pandaria as well as maybe some other tweaks to make the leveling not so linear. Can't wait to try out the beta to see for myself =]
  1. Taan's Avatar
    and still no changes to silithus
  1. mmocb5555a9189's Avatar
    wow...talk about avoiding important points *plays FoxNews' applause sound* now, where is gallywix?
  1. Keleri's Avatar
    Q: Can you elaborate? Overwhelmingly, players have told us that they want more quests where you have to flap a giant bird around a cave while targeting creatures in a 3D space. RAAAAAAAAAAAGH Seriously though, I love Fargo. Can't wait to see what MoP will look like with these lessons in mind.
  1. InexpensiveGamer's Avatar
    I wouldn't mind another option to level other than HFP; however, I really hope that they focus on end game content this time around. Epic raiding would be amazing.
  1. mmoc4dea2b911c's Avatar
    My future 85-90 questing experience;Find Q mark > click > don't read any of the boring script, just accept > press M > head to Q mark on map > complete > repeat untill 90 > never leave the capital city for another 12 months.Who cares about questing, wow is stale.
  1. Adrim's Avatar
    Fuck the Worgen and Goblin starting zones.

    Fuck no longer being able to level with a friend like I have in every single xpac.

    Fuck not being able to turn off XP or transmog or access any other Stormwind-only service due to phasing.

    Fuck phasing entirely.

    Fuck one-path-only quest chains.

    Fuck having to run to a third-party website every time I accidentally miss an exclaimation mark god knows where in Deepholm.

    Fuck Therazane chain on every single raiding toon.

    Yeah, I've done the "new" questing. It's crap. Most of the jokes aren't funny (some I admit are). Most of the chains are not "epic" unless you want to spend your whole life in a zone WELL past the level you should be in here. I did the Redridge chain once at by the time I got to the end in full heirlooms, the quests were fucking grey. That's brilliant.

    What I want is to get off the boat in Darkshore and have fifteen question marks, including some red ones, waiting for me. I leveled countless night elves through that zone...and Draenai and humans and really every race too...without getting sick of it. That was epic feeling.

    New Azeroth is crap and Dave "Fargo" Kosak is my new most-hated developer. Every time I run into a mob that evades because it spawned inside a rock, or get stuck in a new place or see a really crappy looking terrain transition I realized that they could have done a few things well but instead they opted to do a whole lot of things badly.That's a failure on all sides.
  1. mmoceeceb76e25's Avatar
    Yeah there was a few good questions but I felt they was avoiding anything serious I would of liked to hear more about their end game thoughts and what went right/wrong in the raiding area.
  1. Sarella's Avatar
    I'm very disappointed they didn't admit to Vash'nir being a failure because of the firelands dailies. While the zone itself was great, you were forced to level through MH due to the firelands dailies - a terrible TERRIBLE waste of a good zone with a unique feel.
  1. Loopb's Avatar
    "Given that the audience for these weapons consists of badass raiders, we didn’t hold back on the difficulty either, so these quests were great for people who wanted a real challenge."MUST be joking. Alot of normal mode raiders running arround with those.
  1. Loopb's Avatar
    "Given that the audience for these weapons consists of badass raiders, we didn’t hold back on the difficulty either, so these quests were great for people who wanted a real challenge."MUST BE JOKING. I've seen A LOT of normal mode raiders running arround with those, people that had never killed H Shannox.
  1. mmoc47b4060ff1's Avatar
    Oh what do you know, no questions about why their was no raid in 4.1, such rehash in 4.3.
  1. Dorfie's Avatar
    Overwhelmingly, players have told us that they want more quests where you have to flap a giant bird around a cave while targeting creatures in a 3D space.The horror...
  1. nameuser's Avatar
    questing in cata is WAY too linear, and you lvl way too fast, you kill mobs way too fast... its a mess.
  1. Zephh's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Sarella View Post
    I'm very disappointed they didn't admit to Vash'nir being a failure because of the firelands dailies. While the zone itself was great, you were forced to level through MH due to the firelands dailies - a terrible TERRIBLE waste of a good zone with a unique feel.
    They already admitted that Vash area was a failure...

    Looks like your on the late train
  1. Alopex Major's Avatar
    "It's a powerful love story, and a story about finding one’s inner focus." Yeah no.
  1. Inactivity's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by messiaz View Post
    "Given that the audience for these weapons consists of badass raiders, we didn’t hold back on the difficulty either, so these quests were great for people who wanted a real challenge."MUST BE JOKING. I've seen A LOT of normal mode raiders running arround with those, people that had never killed H Shannox.
    Agreed. Sadly, because of my guild situations and falling apart, I never saw Dragonwrath until this week (when I will finish) but saw many, many far inferior casters who have never done heroic modes (whereas I have full heroic Firelands clears) with their welfare staves.

    IMO, make the legendary weapons faster/easier to obtain than currently, but require heroic mode clears. That will reduce the amount of staves in circulation, but also re-allocate the staves to people who deserve them.
  1. Eggwolls's Avatar
    I like how he said that "like the legendaries themselves, these quests will be rare and special". That's a good one there. What? He wasn't joking? Oh.

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