Maximum Interview with World of Warcraft Game Director Ion Hazzikostas
Maximum of Team Liquid
is interviewing World of Warcraft Game Director Ion Hazzikostas on Twitch, with a focus on Season 4 content, as well as raiding and Mythic+ in Dragonflight. Feel free to tune in below, though as it's only a 30 minute interview, we'll be live blogging the questions and answers along the way!
Interview Live Blog
As this is a liveblog, we may miss a few points, be sure to watch the full interview for the full context of each question and answer! Interestingly, this is the first time Max has ever spoken to the Game Director, who joked that he was a long-time listener, first-time caller.
Thoughts about trying new things and the success of Season 4 in Shadowlands.
Some bumps at the start with scaling issues using new tech, but they went in hoping it would play out similar to the way it did and they think it's a great way to end an expansion - the story and content is largely finished, and this has been the chance to reexperience the greatest hits. It's definitely something they'd like to revisit at the end of future expansions, given the availability.
Tuning has been a bit of a mixed bag and some bosses were harder than intended, but a handful of wipes against bosses that originally took days or weeks to kill isn't the same as a full reprog, and they wanted the seasonal content to be a little bit of a challenge... just not
much of a challenge.
Is there a chance we could see a truncated version of Dinar and upgrade currency as a future form of bad luck loot protection?
Something like this for sure, this season has been a time for experimentation and they may not be carried forward entirely, but the idea of a backstop to help chase BiS items feels useful to explore. Dinar is a little too quick and upfront though, more accelerated than they'd like for a full season. Dinar kind of diminishes the idea of chasing a great item if you can just buy it 3 weeks into a tier, potentially before you even kill that boss so if they brought it forward, it would be much more limited, but the bad luck protection for items you never get over the course of an entire season is a good aspect to follow up on.
Accessibility and the barrier for entry in WoW; is the Mythic lockout an outdated mechanic?
Ion heard "so you want to do more splits." Removing the rigid lockout could be good for some people, but at its core, Mythic raid difficulty isn't meant for pugs. Some people will pug it, particularly late in a season/tier, but the lockout is an example of "healthy friction" in that joinng a Mythic raid is a bit of a commitment. The upside of locking is not auto-bailing on groups as soon as they start to struggle, encouraging stronger social bonds, even if it's detrimental to people who are only there because they're interested in quickly killing one boss. Normal and Heroic are inherently designed to be more flexible and pug friendly, but Mythic is less so.
Battle for Azeroth's Hall of Fame pitting Alliance and Horde against one another became a trigger for cross-faction grouping becoming available - what is the chance of cross-realm Mythic raiding becoming available earlier as well?
Probably not available immediately, but perhaps sooner - they already did it for Sepulcher before the Alliance Hall of Fame was completed. The game as a whole is tearing down server-boundaries; 15 years ago if you logged into Vanilla, you had the strength of a tighter community and always seeing the same people, but servers in the modern game are starting to feel more like restriction without an upside.
Eventually fully cross-server guilds and raids may be a thing, but its a long work in progress stymied by engineering issues that aren't all easily solved.
Is there any progress being made to the technical limitations preventing cross-faction guilds?
There's progress being made and there's something they want to do. They'd like to do it before the next expansion (11.0), but it's in the hands of a lot of engineering problem solving and pulling on a thread in systems that weren't really meant for it. They recognize the awkwardness
Some issues are just bugs. Things like responding to cross-faction group messaging through the group finder not always working is a considered bug and should work seamlessly. The fact that faction changing breaks your lockout is outmoded and shouldn't happen anymore, but is the byproduct of an old system that will take time to change.
There are a lot more "required" classes in 20-player raids now, in order to account for all the varied raid buffs and utility, to the point where you have far fewer "open" slots available for players who don't bring something specific.
The origins of "bring the player, not the class" was the extreme end of a spectrum where we had less raid buffs and more party buffs, making group compositions very complicated and resulting in situations where you had a good player that didn't fit because you didn't have room for another melee group to support them. Now they're moving back to class representation, where they want the best groups to be ones which include all 12 (soon to be 13) classes - not having a single Warlock or a Hunter in a 20-player group should be a detriment even when Warlock or Hunter aren't strictly the best ranged meta class. There are problems where something is individually too strong or exclusive however, and that's where alternatives need to be added or greater representation needs to be addressed.
In the next alpha build, we'll be seeing Evokers bringing Bloodlust, and at some point they want to add Battle Resurrection to another class as well - likely Paladin!
How do you look at abilities like Death Grip, which aren't necessary for every fight, but are situationally even more important than things like Battle Shout or Arcane Intellect?
"Needed" is tricky, and not something they try to design Normal and Heroic for in mind. It should be helpful, but not strictly necessary for success and ideally we'll give you another way to solve that problem. That said, they would like
things like Death Grip, because it's a lot more interesting than a 5% increased buff when someone can do something uniquely useful in the fight.
They're open to the idea of bringing back scrolls and such, but are worried that they don't just become backup raid consumables when you're missing a Warrior, but also become required dungeon consumables which have inherently smaller groups and less availability of buffs. They also worry that the Warrior starts feeling like their buff doesn't matter when it's only 2% better than the generic version - ideally they tune things in a way that feel impactful but not completely necessary when they aren't present.
Between Sharpening Stones, Oils, and Armor Kits, they probably went a bit too far with the number of consumables used in Shadowlands raiding. Those were mainly done to try to help crafters feel more useful, but a world where you need to apply 5 different consumables makes them each feel a little less meaningful and Dragonflight is addressing the issue of emphasized crafting in different ways.
What happens if, in Dragonflight Season 1, you find a dungeon that is extremely good - the best key ever made, and it may sadden Mythic+ players when it rotates out. What are the plans to address that feeling in future seasons?
There's still room to revisit, tweak, or update dungeons later on the expansion. S2 is almost certainly going to be the other 4 Dragonflight dungeons + 4 old dungeons, but Seasons beyond that are not yet determined. One of the challenges they ran into in Legion was integrating a brand new dungeon into a series of dungeons players had already mastered - it wasn't that Cathedral or Seat were necessarily that much harder, but the community had a weeks worth of knowledge compared to a years worth. Looking towards the later seasons, it's easier to introduce new dungeons in a full rotation, because everything becomes a new experience at the same time.
Is there potential for adding higher level gear for Mythic+ exclusive players, something comparable to completing end-of-tier raid bosses.
There's a key level that exists, and it might be different for Lower Kara than Workshop, but there's an issue with social factors and how varied the dungeons are - they want to avoid issues of loot locking, but having every Mythic+ drops gear means they also can't be
rewarding or it just makes PvP and raiding for loot pointless instead.
The direction they'd like to move in, absent any specific announcements, is to create better parity between M+, PvP, and Raid drops, while helping Mythic+ specific players get the best gear in the game - there are just some problems to solve along the way.
Are there plans in the future to allow Dragonriding in older worlds, potentially including races and other content?
The initial focus is Dragonflight, since the game world is being built specifically with Dragonriding in mind, but another issue is mounts - they don't want players' collections to become obsolete because they can't all be used for dragonriding. Ultimately, any big and popular new feature is something they want to consider folding into the rest of the game, but only if it does so without causing problems elsewhere.
Could there be more standardized feedback and developer communication for all classes?
Druids and Priests will have information soon - they deserve better and will get some love soon. Billion dollar company and all, ultimately the team is still a bunch of people in a room together who are trying to handle the design and communication at the same time. Sometimes one developer is working on multiple classes and as they focus on finishing one, the other gets neglected in the meantime.
That said, they recognize it can be helpful to hear things like "we hear you, and will have something soon" rather than radio silence, so it's something Ion would like to get better about.
Following up on talent trees:
There's still a lot of tuning and iteration ahead for talents- replacing some and reworking others. The initial focus was on getting the broad foundations out there and into players hands, with the next step moving beyond theorycraft and actually seeing what players do with their spells and abilities in game.
At this point in Shadowlands, they still had four different systems to implement, in Dragonflight they have the first pass of talent trees done and now they can spend more time responding to player feedback and tweaking things.
Ion has his own question for Max and the community:
"How do you feel about simultaneous Normal/Heroic/Mythic raid release?"
Max responds that the development team has continually struggled with limiting the "crazy things World First raiders do to get ahead", but part of that has been due to the extra week before Mythic releases, so his initial impression is that it would be good for the game. Although Ion made it clear that he was not announcing anything, and just wanted to get feedback from the community, he also mentioned that with end-of-year holidays coming up, they're still considering how they want the raid release to happen, so those dates are not yet set in stone.
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