Saturday, April 24, 2010

#BlizzChat Developer CHat on Twitter

Quote from: Zarhym (Source)
Cataclysm - General
Q: Do you intend to have all 280% flying mounts scale to 310% when a 310% mount is earned, or will only purchased mounts do so?
A: Our current plan, is that in Cataclysm, you can learn a new rank of flying that lets all flying mounts move at 310% (even current 280% mounts). That will probably be as fast as mounts will ever get. We don’t like it that when you get a 310% mount that you stop using your old ones.

Q: If 310% speed is becoming trainable, does that mean we'll be able to fly in Azeroth from the get-go?
A: We have considered the concept of “Old Weather Flying.” Just kidding. More than likely, you’ll just be able to fly from the beginning.

Q. You mentioned at BlizzCon that all races would be getting revamped racial abilities. Care to shed some light on any of them?
A. We’re going to do something similar to what we did in Wrath of the Lich King, where we just refresh them to make sure they’re balanced and feel cool. Something you could see is dwarves getting a bonus to Archeology, or undead getting a new activated racial ability that will be more useful in PvE.

Q: Can you give us some more information on how and what Path of the Titans will reward you with? Talent points? Unlock talents?
A: The Paths unlock a new kind of glyph called an Ancient Glyph. These don’t enhance class abilities, since they are designed to work with any class. They do grant bonuses that might be useful to a wide variety of characters as well as offer some actual new abilities as well. If you think your action bar is full, then you may want to head for the passive bonuses instead of the active abilities.

Q: Will the new guild perk system kill a lot of smaller guilds?
A: Our goal is not to encourage players to have to change their existing guild. We realize some players like smaller guilds and some like larger guilds and we don’t want to ask you to change that.

Q: What improvements to the UI are being considered (particularly for raid healing)?
A: We would like to update the default Blizzard UI. It has some fatal flaws, such as not being able to show buffs and debuffs simultaneously. We probably won’t ever go as crazy as some of the mods out there just because they provide a ton of customization, which is one of the things players like about them. We do think players deserve a raid UI that is fully functional for those players who just don’t like to install a lot of mods. We hope to get this change in for Cataclysm, but we’re changing the UI for the spell book, talent pane, professions window, character stats, guild, friends and probably a dozen things I’m forgetting, so it’s just a matter of how much time we have.

Q: What kinds of UI updates are planned for Cataclysm. Eclipse and Soul Shards are two, but any others?
A: We have already moved professions from the skill tab to an awesome new page on the spell book. In fact, in the absence of weapon skills, we got rid of the skill tab entirely. We have a new talent tree UI that shows all of the talent trees without scrolling and provides the passive bonuses as well. We’re changing the glyph UI to support Paths of the Titans. We’re changing the PvP queue UI to support rated Battlegrounds. We’d like to improve the V-nameplate feature. We’d like to provide more information when you level up about what new spells or features are now available to you. We’re experimenting with better ways to organize buffs and debuffs and communicate procs and cooldowns too.

Q: What change are you most excited about?
A: We are changing the old zones probably more than most players realize. A place like Stonetalon is virtually unrecognizable. It has all new quests and item rewards and dramatic changes to the landscape. A zone like Western Plaguelands has actually been updated to reflect the fact that the Scourge are in retreat (which is not to say that the zone is without its dangers). Everywhere you’re going to see something new and surprising. I think a lot of players are excited about the level 80-85 experience (as they should be!) and the goblin and worgen zones (which if anything are better than the death knight starter zone, if you can believe that), but I think a lot of players are going to want to reroll new character of existing races and classes just to see how much everything has changed.

Q: Can you go into more detail on Vengeance? As it stands it sounds like off tanks will be at a significant disadvantage.
A: We want Vengeance to have a long enough duration that off tanks won’t lose their damage bonus. In most situations, the off tank is doing some tanking along the way. The worst case scenario would be say a fight where the off tank needs to tank in phase 3 but not phase 1. Remember, even in that case though you have tools to generate high threat. Vengeance is there to keep DPS from pulling off you late in the fight.

Q: With armor class bringing mastery bonuses, will players never want to "downrank" from, say, leather to cloth?
A: That’s the idea, really. They still can wear the older armor, but they’ll lose some stats from doing so.

Q: Can you allow points spent in your off tree give a diminished amount of mastery bonus toward your main tree so as to not nerf hybrid specs?
A: Does the Elemental shaman really want more melee damage though? Does the Shadow priest really want to heal better? If anything it feels like it would be a nerf to hybrids, since a warlock would get more damage from any tree, while a DPS hybrid might only get more damage from their tree.

If hybrids end up coming out a little short, we’ll compensate in other ways (such as more oomph in talents) instead of doing hacky things with the mastery system.

Q: Compared to some third mastery bonuses (radiance etc) others are a little boring (+crit damage etc) Intended? Comments?
A: The mastery bonuses are obviously a really new concept. The risk on the one hand is that they’re too boring and don’t affect gameplay and on the other extreme they take specs which already have a lot going on and just make them overcomplicated. For now we wanted to implement a range and see what feels the best in beta. We expect to iterate on these a lot.

Class Mechanics
Q: How will haste affect channeled spells. Will it be similar to DoTs and HoTs?
A: They will channel faster but their duration will remain unchanged. You will get more ticks on the same cast.

Q: When does the homogenization of classes stop? Paladins are starting to look like priests. Where is the diversity?
A: We want the challenge of beating PvE encounters or enemy teams in PvP to be how awesome you are at strategizing, not how often you are at recruiting the right classes. While it is very, very important to us for classes to feel different, it’s also very important to us that friends get to play together.

Q. Is every healer supposed to be able to tank-heal efficiently, or will we still see specs excel in it more than others?
A. Each healer is intended to have a different niche, and different strengths. Such as Restoration druids with HoTs, or paladins at direct healing, Discipline priests at absorption/prevention, etc. That said, each healer should be able to keep up a tank and have some deeper “tank healing gameplay” as they do now.

Q: How will "active spell is more powerful" be handled with no more dot clipping?
A: How about we get rid of “a more powerful spell is active” altogether? If you have some bonehead overwriting your more powerful buff or debuff, we’d rather you handle that issue socially.

Cataclysm - Raids & Dungeons
Q: Can you make crowd control in raids and 5-mans an important aspect of the PvE game again?
A: An emphatic yes.

Q: With more players raiding in Wrath of the Lich King than ever before, do you plan to raise the difficulty to accommodate our new skill/experience?
A: The heroic difficulty is designed for the players looking for more of a challenge. One of the things we learned from Icecrown is that we unlocked the heroic modes so late that players had tons of practice on the encounters on normal mode, so the step up was smaller than it was in say Ulduar when players on hard mode were still learning some of the encounter basics. (In our defense though, because of the time of year we released Icecrown we made a conscious decision to not ask players to choose between holiday events and hard-mode raiding.)

Q: Will Ragnaros have a new weapon in Cataclysm, considering that we stole and reforged his? I'm sure he's not happy about that either.
A: Oh come on, it never actually dropped for you. Then again, is there really much demand for a Strength, Stamina, Fire resist, cosmetic Fireball proc weapon? Smiley

Cataclysm - Items
Q: Will relics and wands be getting any new attention in Cataclysm?
A: With relics, the plan is to make them class agnostic. In other words, there might be a +strength relic that a death knight or paladin might want to equip. We think that will let us add more of them to the game without them being so specialized. They will feel more like wands.

How to make wands and relics a bigger part of gameplay is something we’ve had many, many discussions on. Ultimately though we’d rather see warlocks, mages and priests casting their spells, not zapping someone with a wand. In Cataclysm we don’t expect to see much wanding, even at lower level.

Q: What will happen to our gems and enchants on gear that give us stats that are being removed in Cataclysm ?
A: We are going to change most gems and enchants that have obsolete stats like armor pen and defense..

Q: When you say you're going to make relics class agnostic, does it include druids' idols as well?
A: Druid, shaman, paladin and death knight. It’s possible we will still keep some that are very specific to certain classes and specs. Overall though we’re not happy with the current design where an ability procs a buff on you. If it’s an ability you don’t use often, then the item is terrible, so they end up feeling really passive already. At the same time, the fact that we have to offer so many prevents us from ever giving you the choice of which one to use. So we make the Resto druid or Enhance shaman version every new tier. It would be a more interesting decision if there was a crit + Intellect relic and a haste + Intellect relic, and you can choose which one to use.

Player vs. Player
Q. Thanks for having this chat! I have to say that I feel many changes are PvP-oriented. Is the game shifting more toward PvP?
A. What we’re trying to do at this point in the game is make abilities more niche and interesting, rather than adding Sinister Strike with a different name. A lot of talents and abilities we add initially only seem to have a PvP role at first glance, but eventually also prove useful in PvE situations too (examples are Dispersion, Body & Soul, or Typhoon).

Q. Will there be as much effort put into making tanking specs viable in PvP? Will Vengeance be useful in PvP?
A. Our goal is to make all specs as viable as we can in as many aspects of the game as possible. Currently some tank specs are not so much viable as they are overpowered (because their damage is competitive and survivability is off the charts), so that issue will have to be addressed when we start to flesh them out as more attractive and mainstream PvP spec options.

Death Knight (Forums / Talent Calculator)
Q: With the change to death knight tanking, Blood being the tank spec, what AoE aggro moves (besides Death and Decay and Pestilence) will we have to use?
A: We think Death and Decay and Pestilence are pretty good. We’ll add another ability if we think it’s needed, but remember, the “round things up and AE them down” strategy isn’t going to be as effective in Cataclysm until you out-gear instances.

Q: Will Dark Simulacrum work on bosses? or at least be useful in PvE?
A: It will work on any spell you can Spell Reflect, which is actually quite a few bosses. Remember, Dark Simulacrum doesn’t cancel the incoming damage so in that sense it is easier for us to balance letting death knights use it in PvE. Also be careful considering new spells for old encounters. The encounter designers will make the new encounters with the new spells in mind.

Q: I still don't get the motivation to redo the death knight rune system. It's been a couple years and now that it seems close, why do it all over?
A: Many death knights felt like they didn’t have enough global cooldowns (GCDs) to use their abilities. In some cases, the rune system started to matter less than the GCDs to hit the right button. We want death knights to have to make choices about what abilities come next. When you see DKs play today, it looks like they’re playing the piano – hitting buttons so fast. We need to buy them some room in their rotation to be able to take advantage of say procs or runes coming back sooner than expected.

Q: Did the developers learn anything from the death knight release that they plan to keep in mind for any possible future classes?
A: Um, maybe we won’t listen to community feedback about how classes need more abilities, damage and survivability? (Just kidding.) Smiley Adding a new class is very challenging, which is one reason we don’t want to do it every expansion. It’s a really good question though, and we’d like to give a little more thought to how to answer it (when we aren’t fielding so many Twitter questions).

Druid (Forums / Talent Calculator)
Q. Why are Restoration druids the only spec in the game not receiving a new spell?
A. Restoration druids are actually getting a fair bit. For one, Tree of Life is getting a whole new model (think Ancients of War) and will also “morph” some of your spells to do crazy things while in the form, such as cause Regrowth to be instant, or Lifebloom to apply two applications at once. Tranquility will be raid-wide. We’re also touching nearly every Restoration druid spell to make sure each has a niche and feels good. In general, playing a Restoration druid should feel a lot different (better!) in Cataclysm than it does today.

Q. What change are you most excited about?
A. Some of the new Balance talents for druids, like Solar Beam, which works like Freya’s spell where it instantly silences a target and they have to move out of the beam to get rid of the debuff.

Hunter (Forums / Talent Calculator)
Q. Will there be any new pet families added, or will we simply see more additions to existing ones?
A. We're not sure yet whether we’re adding new pet families or not. It’s possible. Expect to see some monkeys, foxes and other new pet possibilities though!

Q: Does the Marksman mastery (Double Shot) work like the Wild Quiver talent (provide a free autoshot) or like the Lightning Overload talent (a free whatever spell you just cast)? In other words, can Double Shot fire a second Chimera Shot?
A: Double Shot is a half-strength autoshot. Wild Quiver will increase the damage of the autoshot to 60-70% (or something similar). Lightning Overload (the talent) will likewise increase the magnitude of the Elemental Overload mechanic.

Mage (Forums / Talent Calculator)
Q: Why are you giving Mages more Crowd Control?
A: We like for classes and specs to have themes. Part of the mage kit is control. Part of the warrior kit is mobility. We like to reinforce those designs rather than give classes new abilities that remove their weaknesses. Weaknesses are supposed to be something you keep in mind while you’re playing. I’m sure Ret paladins would love Heroic Leap and warriors would love Polymorph, but that plugs a hole really, really well where you risk being a one person army who doesn’t need to be supported by other players in PvP or PvE. Obviously it risk homogenizing all the classes as well.

Paladin (Forums / Talent Calculator)
Q: Will healing hands be a paladin-centered tranquility, or something we have to run around to keep people in range of?
A: The idea is that it matters where the paladin is, so it won’t be raid-wide like Tranquility will be in Cataclysm. We will make sure the magnitude of the heal is sufficient that it’s a button the paladin wants to use. The cooldown and duration aren’t set in stone either.

Q: Now that paladin's Holy Shock is baseline is there any plans to change the Art of War talent?
A: We like Art of War, so we don’t expect it will go away. We understand the concern that Holy Shock might compete with Art of War a little bit in terms of role (an instant damage spell) and that’s something we’re going to have to address.

Q. What information/ideas can you share on PvP utility in the Retribution tree? Mandatory gap closer/interrupt question. Not having a cleanse will hurt. :\
A. Retribution paladins will be getting an interrupt. Smiley

Priest (Forums / Talent Calculator)
Q. Could the Shadow priest's Mastery bonus instead be something more distinctive from shaman shield orbs (like shadow ravens)?
A. The original “fantasy”; behind the Mastery bonus is that you’re storing shadows through combat with you, that you can unleash out using Mind Blast or Mind Spike for more burst damage. We're not sure about ravens or how that relates to a Shadow priest, but we’re definitely going to do some unique art for them.

Rogue (Forums / Talent Calculator)
Q: Is Smoke Bomb going to be usable in boss fights? Because it looks like it could cheat a lot of mechanics.
A: Potentially, yes. It essentially follows the same room of line-of-sight. If standing around a pillar lets you avoid a boss ability, then Smoke Bomb would too. Lady Deathwhisper’s adds for example, would run up to melee you if you were in a Smoke Bomb.

Q. With the emphasis moving to Battlegrounds, have you looked into rogue cooldown dependency issues?
A. We definitely want to give rogues a considerable boost in the passive damage reduction department, and then tone down some of their active cooldowns in the process. We still want the rogue to feel twitchy and exciting to play, but not to the extent that you can’t deal with another class toe-to-toe without any cooldowns up. Oh, and Cloak of Shadows now provides 100% resistance. Smiley

Shaman (Forums / Talent Calculator)
Q: Are there any plans to separate the mana regeneration mechanic and the damage reduction mechanic that is in Shamanistic Rage?
A: It’s a drawback we’re aware of and one we’re looking at. We don’t have a change that we’re ready to announce.

Warlock (Forums / Talent Calculator)
Q. With all the new changes to Demonology warlocks, do you plan to implement any threat reduction talent unique for Demonology?
A. Threat is something that we want to be binary. You should only really ever worry about pulling threat from a tank during the first thirty seconds or so, when the tank is still establishing threat, not two minutes in because your DPS was too high. In a nutshell, we’ll make sure you don’t have to stop DPS during a fight because of your threat level (ala Hodir).

Q. Any plans for an untalented spell to help warlocks deal with stuns?
A. Possibly. It’s also possible we may take a look at stuns in general. But overall stuns will feel less impacting in an environment where players have significantly more health than they do today.

Warrior (Forums / Talent Calculator)
Q: Any plans to give Fury Warriors more hit from precision or another talent due to the removal of Heroic Strike as"next weapon" hit?
A: Part of the problem is that Fury warriors undervalue hit as it is because of the way Heroic Strike works today. We’ll make sure they do appropriate damage with the new model, but that probably won’t be with a talent that says “I don’t have to worry about getting hit for my gear.”

Q: Will Protection Warriors have improved AoE tanking in Cataclysm?
A: We will make sure they don’t feel gimp compared to the other 3 tanks. We’re not going to give them an ability that they can just spam endlessly to maintain AE threat. We think Thunder Clap and Shockwave already work well for that. We want you to have to manage threat, but we don’t want it to be insanely hard to manage. (You also might be doing less AE tanking in Cataclysm overall.)

Q: Where is my moose?
A: Well, we’re looking for a zone where moose would really fit. Unfortunately we did the perfect zone for them, Grizzly Hills, already. On the other hand, let’s just say we have a large, Egyptian-themed desert zone in Cataclysm.

Q: What are your plans to eliminate the pollution problem in Azeroth? Motorcycles, planes, methane from Kodo gas, venture company?Huh
A: Well on the one hand, there will be more druids with trolls and worgen joining the ranks. On the other hand, there will be more goblins, and you know, goblins just don’t care. They have this section in Orgrimmar where they have their little beach chairs set up to look out on a view of oil drums floating in the lake. On the third (?) hand, you’ll be cleaning up the toxic waste in Gnomeregan if you can retake it!

Q: I've been playing since vanilla. The consciousness you've applied to make this game grow is praiseworthy. Thank you.
A: You’re welcome! One of the challenges of Cataclysm is to change enough to be exciting but not so much that the game feels unrecognizable to long-term fans. A lot is changing, but it’s still World of Warcraft.

Blue Post: Celestial Steed, Mastery & Multiple Trees, Combatlog and raids

Quote from Blizzard staff
Celestial Steed (not) limited quantity
The store itself does not act as a generator for loot codes, so a set number of codes had to be added to the store. That number is very high. If it's ever reached, we can add more. The item offer isn't intended to be of a limited quantity. (Source)

Mastery and multiple trees
If you are a 5/20/51 Ret paladin, you get mastery bonuses for spending 51 points in Retribution, and nothing else.

If a rogue is 55/21/0, they get mastery bonuses for spending 51-55 points in Assassination and nothing else.
We went back and forth on this for a bit, but Emogenheap's examples are correct. Basically it came down to two things:

We could do cooler bonuses (like Balance and Shadow) if we knew it would be restricted to those guys only and not all members of that class.

Several hybrids would have trouble finding enough attractive in other trees. Why does the Elemental shaman want better melee damage or healing? Meanwhile the Fury warrior happily dips into Arms to pick up their bonuses too. (It's fine to sub-spec into other trees is there are sexy talents there, even if they are different roles. We just didn't want someone to potentially get 9 different passive bonuses from doing so.) (Source)

Passive Mastery Benefits
On the broader topic of whether more creative or more passive mastery benefits are more fun, we just need to get players in there in beta and trying them out. The risk of more passive bonuses (like the current Enhancement one) is that it's just a little dry. Since your spell damage tends to scale roughly (roughly) with your gear, it risks just feeling like more damage. On the other hand, bonuses like Shadow and Balance affect gameplay an awful lot and may end up being just one too many things to monitor. We wanted to split the difference for now and see what feels the best. It could be that we spice up some of the passive ones or it could be we tone down some of the crazier ones, or we continue to offer a mix and let players gravitate towards what they like. I can see how the more creative ones might just sound more exciting, but then again getting 12 new abilities might sound exciting too until you're struggling with how to learn the nuance of when to use each one (if that lousy analogy makes sense). (Source)

Showing absorbs in combat log
We're still working on showing absorbs. It's technically very challenging. It's not information we currently pass down to the client, and while passing that information down isn't too tricky itself, making sure we can share it without affecting your performance is less trivial. (Source)

Vengeance Mastery Bonus
If you've spent much time on this forum in the last several months, you'd have noticed a common theme is that tanks start to have threat problems again at extreme levels of gear. The problem really isn't that surprising. Say that tanks start out doing half the damage of DPS specs. All is well. But the DPS specs continue to improve their DPS stats while tanks continue to improve their survival stats. Even if tanks spend a little effort on threat stats (some of which they get naturally on their gear), they still can't keep up with the DPS specs. It's a gear scaling problem.

We considered, and rejected, many other solutions to the problem, such as increasing threat modifier or choosing to no longer make tanking gear. Ultimately we decided that there were good things about the way rage works on warriors and bears (translating incoming damage into threat) and the way the mage talent, Incanter's Absorption turned damage taken into damage done. It just provides the damage increase in a way that's controllable.

Vengeance is NOT there so that you no longer have to ever worry about threat. It's fine with us if you have to consider threat a little bit at the start of a fight. Again, if we wanted to make threat not a factor in WoW, we'd just remove it and have mobs always stick to you rather than just cranking the threat numbers up so high that you don't have to take it very seriously.

Vengeance is also not designed to keep tank dps high no matter what in any circumstances. It's designed so that when you're being hit, your damage stays elevated. The damage done scales with your health, essentially allowing tank DPS to increase as DPS specs DPS increases. It scales a little bit with damage being taken too so that you don't turn into a juggernaut if a rogue sticks you with a dagger in PvP. (Source)

Encounter design and raid composition
Encounter design will always favor someone over someone else. It's probably impossible to make things absolutely even across every class (or even every tank class) on encounters that are tuned this tightly. And really, we wouldn't put that kind of constraint on the encounter designers. It's tough enough coming up with mechanics that you guys aren't totally sick of seeing while still giving you enough flexibility to bring whoever you want.

If we thought it was impossible or even really, really difficulty for some classes to tank some encounters, then that would cross the line for us. Death knights coming off of Sarth and going into Ulduar crossed the line because the advantages they had seemed like they were giving them an advantage on every fight. Blocking made too much of a difference on Anub, and we probably won't use that mechanic again. The Lich King hits so freaking hard on 25 heroic mode that a giant health pool is pretty useful. But the three guilds that have killed him now have used pretty different comps and even different tanks, so that seems pretty successful. So few guilds have anything approaching a reasonable shot of being able to handle that fight until the buff stack gets much higher that it seems a little silly to worry about it too much. (Props if you guys think you're close.) Meanwhile, you can do every other encounter in the game with the tank of your choice without being at a major disadvantage. Doesn't sound that bad overall. (Source)

Yes. Actual downranking had two problems though. One, it was a pretty obtuse concept for new players. If you're super elite you might dismiss that concern, but it was something players had to figure out (typically be reading forums or something) and worked nothing else like anything in the game.

Even more of a concern, a lot of players downranked not only to conserve mana when they didn't need to heal much but because at some point in gear the coefficient starts to matter a lot more than the base points. They could essentially get a fairly powerful heal off at a lower cost.

We think the decision of when to use a big heal and when to use a small heal is a fun one -- it was fun for players for vanilla and BC. Healing might be too bland if you literally only had those spells, but nobody will. (Source)

Paladin (Forums / Talent Calculator)
Paladin Healing model
We talked a lot about keeping the paladin model inverted, where the small heal is super efficient. There is probably a way it could still work. In the end we were just concerned that it would end up biting us in the rear. Somewhere along the way we'd have to make special rules to handle the paladin, who would risk being too mana efficient or too incapable of healing when forced to heal outside of their mana-efficient comfort zone. Could we have designed it? Probably. But frankly I'd rather spend our time on more interesting mechanics and spells. I'd rather the new AE heal really make paladins feel like they can AE heal rather than really making sure FoL felt small, cheap and fast. I agree it erodes a little bit of distinction among the classes, but only a little bit. There are far more interesting ways to make healers feel unique than in the relative mana efficiency of their small spell. (Source)

Divine Storm
Divine Storm will get the Whirlwind treatment (less damage per target but unlimited targets).

The difference is that paladins fit their rotations around cooldowns while warriors do so around a limited resource. So it's entirely possible a paladin will still use DS when other attacks are on cooldown. (It will depend on what exactly the Ret rotation looks like, which we're still developing.) Divine Storm also provides a little healing too, so it's not exactly the same as Whirlwind. We probably wouldn't want to get to the point where Rets feel the need to have their single target spec without DS and the cleave spec with DS. (And without knowing the numbers, it's going to be difficult for any of you to insist that this will or will not happen.)

In general, we don't want buttons that are good against single targets to just be better against groups of targets. It makes rotations too static and makes numbers hard to balance since "cleavey" specs can do so much more damage against tight packs of enemies. Some higher damage is fine. It just too extreme right now.

These are previews, not patch notes. Just because we didn't mention anything doesn't mean there is no chance of it changing. (Source)

Blessings / Blessing of Sanctuary
Kings and Might can just be raid wide. There should be no need to target individuals. We're trying to make sure there isn't a circumstance where one dude would prefer the opposite buff to everyone else.

Bo Sanc could just be Kings with an extra mana component (for the paladin). We're also considering making it a passive that gives the paladin mana and provides the 3% damage reduction buff raid-wide which is currently brought by Renewed Hope (the Disc talent). (Source)

Scaling back AoE Tanking Capabilities of Paladins
That's still the goal. I guess I'm unclear of what part of the paladin preview you took to mean that we're keeping the same or even enhancing the ability for paladins to AE tank.

We tried to stay away from numbers as much as possible in the previews, except to give you a vague sense of the intent for some of the new abilities in terms of whether something has a short cooldown or a long cooldown.

[...] No, it's not really that. We just have a couple of different avenues we're exploring and we didn't want to have say models A, B and C in different large paragraphs. The ideas just need a little more time to bake.

And I'm not entirely sure how you're using "niches" but I am talking about wanting Prot paladins to use slightly different rotations against single targets than against groups. The addition of Crusader Strike (and maybe Holy Shock?) alone start to provide that. (Source)

Critical Healing Effect
There also seems to be some confusion about Critical Healing Effect which simply means a critical heal can do more than 150%. (Think of talents like Ruin for warlocks.) We wanted to keep some of the feel of Holy paladins getting big critical heals and caring about crit in general. This mechanic wouldn’t really have worked in Wrath of the Lich King because big crits just translated into overhealing. In Cataclysm that shouldn’t be the case. (Source)

Shaman (Forums / Talent Calculator)
Enhancement Concerns
The previews have only been out a short while, and we're not ready to go from there yet to going into a lot of detail on every talent tree. There are some Enhancement mechanics you haven't seen yet.

To deal with two specific concerns....

We agree that Enhancement benefits too much from just auto attacking. This isn't a "nerf shaman" issue. We just think having more yellow damage makes the spec more interesting, a little harder to master (in the sense of letting really good players eek out a little more dps) and ultimately easier to balance.

On the mastery talent tree bonus, it might very well end up as all Elemental damage. We're not really trying to get Enhance to shift from Fire damage to more Lightning Bolts or anything at higher tiers of gear. We didn't go that way initially because it looked odd for Enhancement's bonus to be "Elemental damage" and also because Survival's bonus was also Elemental damage, and we want all 30 to be unique. But there are ways around that, including doing a different one for Survival. (Source)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Blue Post: Underwater Combat, Uldum, Class Changes

Quote from Blizzard staff
Vashj'ir - Underwater Combat
We're working to ensure combat, breathing and travel are less cumbersome in this underwater zone than many of you may be thinking. The zone is quite large with a great deal of quest content and exploration to be done. In many areas you'll really get a deep ocean feel, but since you're questing down there, we want to make sure underwater gameplay is greatly improved. (Source)

Uldum / Larger 5-man Dungeons
There's a level 85 five-player dungeon you might just learn about soon which holds seven bosses in a single instance. It's in a place you may have heard of before... Uldum. ^.^ (Source)

Armor upgrades at level 40
We talked about changing it, but decided we liked it the way it is. It's a pretty nice reward to suddenly be able to equip mail or plate at higher level. By similar logic, you could argue that we should make helms, shoulders, trinkets and even mounts at low level because they're awesome upgrades and players are going to get them anyway.

It doesn't actually make the itemization simpler to add plate at lower levels. We have to create more items and make sure they are well distributed. That's not a huge consideration either way, but you listed it as a benefit and we don't see it like that.

We also don't think it's a huge balance problem either way. Nobody is so weak below level 40 that perfect gear optimization is really going to make a difference between success and failure.

The strongest justification for letting e.g. warriors use plate at level 1 is the feeling at level 40 of having to swap out all of your gear. But even in that case if you hold on to the mail for a few more levels until you get a more suitable quest reward you're not really going to be at a noticeable disadvantage. (Source)

Mage (Forums / Talent Calculator)
Winter's Chill
Yeah, we probably need to make Winter's Chill apply the entire stack at once like Improved Scorch and Improved Shadow Bolt. (Source)

Paladin (Forums / Talent Calculator)
Healing in Cataclysm
Our goal is for paladins to be able to raid heal. Don't look at the designs for spells that none of you have even been able to try and conclude those mechanics can't possibly allow you to raid heal and therefore our goal can't possibly be met and will therefore be abandoned. It's fine to raise concerns -- that's one of the reasons we announce stuff like this early -- but some of you are trying to get a spell buffed that you haven't even cast yet.

I will say our vision for the AE spell though is not that the paladin runs around constantly, but that you position yourself where you can do the most good. Sometimes that will be back with the healers. Sometimes that might be in the melee. Sometimes you'll have to spread out and your group healing won't be as efficient (in the same way a shaman's group healing isn't as good in the same scenario).

Tranquility is on a very long cooldown. It is not the way druids AE heal. We want to shift it from 5-person group to raid because we'd like to do that with every spell. Having to organize players by arbitrary group is a strange concept since it doesn't actually manifest itself in the real world (in the way distance from you on the battlefield does).

We aren't going to give paladins anything resembling Circle of Healing. One (or two) of those spells in the game is plenty.

Spirit will be a good stat to stack but only to a point. Once you can heal say a six minute boss fight without going out of mana, then any additional Spirit is pretty much wasted. At that point stats like crit start to look pretty attractive because they increase your spell's throughput without increasing the mana cost. Maybe you'll be able to heal someone with one cast, allowing you to swap over and heal another player. In today's healing environment, where a lot of that excess healing will be wasted overhealing, getting a huge crit on a spell isn't nearly as valuable.

We'll have to see how raid healing goes. We might be okay with the tendency for groups to still assign paladins to tank healing because they are particularly good at it. What we want to avoid are those cases where a group feels like they can't possibly keep tanks alive because they lack a paladin or they can't possibly keep groups alive because they have too many paladins. (Source)

Rogue (Forums / Talent Calculator)
Rogues Cooldowns

In actuality it's not quite this extreme, but the stereotypical rogue encounter is that if they have their cooldowns available, they're going to wreck you and if they don't have their cooldowns available, you're going to wreck them. Giving Cloak a chance to fail was a way to make sure that rogues couldn't guarantee that they would be immune to spells for a few seconds. Usually they would be, but sometimes they'd get unlucky and the lock or whoever would have a chance against them.

In Cataclysm, we want to reduce both extremes. That is, the rogue shouldn't feel invulnerable when they have all of their cooldowns available and they shouldn't feel helpless when they get caught without them. In that environment we think it's safe to remove the chance to fail because Cloak won't be the only thing that determines victory or defeat vs. a caster. Things like Smoke Bomb and larger health pools as well as other changes should help keep a rogue alive when Cloak is on cooldown. Likewise, the warlock won't be stunned so much so they won't be quite so frustrated when the rogue does pop CoS.

Having a ninety percent chance to succeed is actually a pretty frustrating place to be. At that point you aren't grateful when you roll lucky. You're mad because you were so unlucky. At 90% you start to count on something, which makes it worse for it to fail. If Cloak had a 10% chance to succeed (we wouldn't do that, but just for sake of argument) then you'd feel awesome when it did work because you got lucky. What I'm getting at is that it's not like we thought the 90% deal was super fun gameplay. We just thought it was necessary.

Without the entire gamut of Cataclysm changes though, we're not sure rogues need a PvP survival boost at the moment.

My paladin comment above was more poking at the silliness of expressing "Gotcha!" because we figured out a way that we're comfortable getting rid of a 10% chance to fail on Cloak of Shadows. (Source)

Warrior (Forums / Talent Calculator)
It isn't necessary to change Bladestorm just because Whirlwind changes. If you want to blow the cooldown for a single target damage boost we don't really have a problem with that. Whirlwind was balanced around doing single target damage, which meant it just got free damage when there was more than one target. Bladestorm by contrast doesn't amount to a sizable chunk of damage in PvE. (Source)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Vashj'ir: Surviving the Depths – World of Warcraft

Quote from: Blizzard (Source)
Once a great Highborne city housing some of the most revered night elves of Kalimdor, Vashj'ir was swallowed by the Great Sea in the Sundering and thought to be lost forever. Queen Azshara, formerly a beloved leader of the Highborne, escaped death in the depths of the sea when the Well of Eternity imploded. Such salvation came at a great cost, as the queen and many of her fellow Highborne were forever transformed into the monstrous naga, doomed to wander the seas for thousands of years. Their existence mostly remains a mystery to the peoples of modern Azeroth, though the Earthen Ring has learned of Azshara's naga seizing Vashj'ir for an unknown purpose as the cries of the elements echo across Azeroth from the Abyss.

The Sunken City
Vashj'ir is a level 78-82 zone in World of Warcraft: Cataclysm where players will be called to explore the depths of the Great Sea and stop the naga from seizing immeasurable power from the realm of Neptulon the Tidehunter. This expansive underwater zone will feature an unprecedented fight for survival against the naga overwhelming the area, several new quest hubs -- including Alliance and Horde naval ships and submarines -- all-new underwater travel and combat mechanics, several pocketed undersea caves free from water's grip, two new five-player dungeons (Throne of the Tides and Abyssal Maw), and the first-ever opportunity to explore the remains of the once-majestic city of Vashj'ir!

Bottled Distress Message Found Adrift at Sea
Need your help. Time is short. I'm held captive in what I hope to be a nightmare.

Enjoying the ocean air just days ago. We were determined to control key trade routes through victory at sea over the Horde. Their fleet came into our scopes. Our world became the deafening sound of battle, the smell of gunpowder, and the feeling of fear. Looking back now, though, that wasn't real fear.

We weren't alone in those waters. Our naval warfare attracted attention and rendered us prey. With our vessel already torn apart and taking on water, we saw a tremendous creature rise from the depths and shatter the hull, sucking us down to the sea floor. It all happened so fast. I was quick to tread the waters, hoping to regroup with any survivors I could find through a dense garden of kelp, constantly gasping for a chance breath. That's when the onslaught began. From all directions swarms of brutal naga swept through and captured a great many of us. Beaten near to death, I awoke in agony, bound in chains.

And here I still sit. I can only describe our prison as very big and somehow very much alive. We're in the hands of the naga now. Surviving crewmates in better condition than me are driven into slave labor.

One escaped. Thomas. He didn't make it far before I saw him dragged back. Before being forced into labor, he spoke in a panic about some large shell protecting this living prison, expansive night elf ruins in the distance, strange naga rituals underway, and sea vrykul battling our captors. He made little sense. Could be mad. Or I could be mad to hope vrykul are fighting to free us.

Prison patrols out again. Send word to Stormwind. Sunken city far from extinct. Naga plotting something horrific. Please help.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Cataclysm Class Preview: Paladin

Quote from: Nethaera (Source)
In World of Warcraft: Cataclysm we’ll be making several changes to class talents and abilities across the board. While this list only outlines some of our plans for the paladin class, we want to give you a look at the new high-level abilities and an overview of how the new Mastery system will work with each talent spec.

New Paladin Spells

Blinding Shield (level 81): Causes damage and blinds all nearby targets. This effect might end up only damaging those facing the paladin’s shield, in a manner similar to Eadric the Pure's ability Radiance in Trial of the Champion. The Holy tree will have a talent to increase the damage and critical strike chance, while the Protection tree will have a talent to make this spell instant cast. 2-second base cast time. Requires a shield.

Healing Hands (level 83): Healing Hands is a new healing spell. The paladin radiates heals from him or herself, almost like a Healing Stream Totem. It has a short range, but a long enough duration that the paladin can cast other heals while Healing Hands remains active. 15-second cooldown. 6-second duration.

Guardian of Ancient Kings (level 85): Summons a temporary guardian that looks like a winged creature of light armed with a sword. The visual is similar to that of the Resurrection spell used by the paladin in Warcraft III. The guardian has a different effect depending on the talent spec of the paladin. For Holy paladins, the guardian heals the most wounded ally in the area. For Protection paladins, the guardian absorbs some incoming damage. For Retribution paladins, it damages an enemy, similar to the death knight Gargoyle or the Nibelung staff. 3-minute cooldown. 30-second duration (this might vary depending on which guardian appears).

Next you will find a list of some of the paladin spell and ability changes, followed by our intentions for improving each talent tree for the release of Cataclysm. There will be further changes, but those revealed below should offer some insight into our goals.

Changes to Abilities and Mechanics

  • Crusader Strike will be a core ability for all paladins, gained at level 1. We think the paladin leveling experience is hurt by not having an instant attack. Retribution will be getting a new talent in its place that either modifies Crusader Strike or replaces it completely.
  • Cleanse is being rebalanced to work with the new dispel system. It will dispel defensive magic (debuffs on friendly targets), diseases, and poisons.
  • Blessing of Might will provide the benefit of Wisdom as well. If you have two paladins in your group, one will do Kings on everyone and the other will do Might on everyone. There should be much less need, and ideally no need, to provide specific buffs to specific classes.
  • Holy Shock will be a core healing spell available to all paladins.

New Talents and Talent Changes

  • We want to ease off the defensive capabilities of Retribution and Holy paladins slightly. We think the powerful paladin defenses have been one of the things holding Retribution paladins back, especially in Arenas. One change we’re considering is lowering Divine Shield’s duration by a couple of seconds. Having said that, Retribution does pretty well in Battlegrounds, and Battlegrounds will be a much bigger focus in Cataclysm since they can provide the best PvP rewards. Furthermore, the healing environment of Cataclysm is going to be different such that a paladin may not be able to fully heal themselves during the duration of Divine Shield to begin with, so this may not be a problem.
  • We feel Retribution paladins need one more mechanic which involves some risk of the player pushing the wrong button, making the rotation a bit less forgiving. In addition, we want to add to this spec more PvP utility. Right now the successes of the Retribution paladin in PvP seem to be reduced to either doing decent burst damage, or just being good at staying alive.
  • We want to increase the duration of Sacred Shield to 30 minutes and keep the limit to one target. The intention is that the paladin can use it on their main healing target. That said, we would like to improve the Holy paladin toolbox and niche so that they don’t feel quite like the obvious choice for tank healing while perceived as a weak group healer.
  • We want to add to the Holy tree a nice big heal to correspond with Greater Heal. Flash of Light remains the expensive, fast heal and Holy Light is the go-to heal that has average efficiency and throughput. Beacon of Light will be changed to work with Flash of Light. We like the ability, but want paladins to use it intelligently and not be constantly healing for twice as much.
  • Holy paladins will use spirit as their mana regeneration stat.
  • Protection paladins need a different rotation between single-target and multi-target tanking. Likewise, we're looking to add the necessity to use an additional cooldown in each rotation.
  • Holy Shield will no longer have charges. It will be designed to improve block chance while active, and will continue to provide a small amount of damage and threat.

Mastery Passive Talent Tree Bonuses

  • Healing
  • Meditation
  • Critical Healing Effect

Meditation: This is the spirit-to-mana conversion that the priest, druid, and shaman healers also share.

Critical Healing Effect: When the paladin gets a crit on a heal, it will heal for more.

  • Damage Reduction
  • Vengeance
  • Block Amount

Vengeance: This is the damage-received-to-attack-power conversion that all tanks share.

Block Amount: We want to keep the kit of the paladin as a tank who blocks a lot. So by contrast, the warrior tank will sometimes get critical blocks, but the paladin will absorb more damage with normal blocks.

  • Melee Damage
  • Melee Critical Damage
  • Holy Damage

Holy Damage: Any attack that does Holy damage will have its damage increased.

This concludes this Cataclysm preview for the paladin class. The development of these changes will continue to evolve in the coming months. Please be sure to provide any feedback and thoughts you might have on what was covered here.


Here's a bit more clarification on some of these changes. Also, please keep in mind that this is merely a preview and we'll still have more to go in testing up to and including any other changes that aren't listed here in the preview.

We've updated the Flash of Light reference to make it a bit more clear in the original post as follows.

  • Flash of Light remains a fast heal, but will be more expensive to justify the cast speed. Holy Light will be the go-to heal that has average efficiency and throughput. Beacon of Light needs to be changed so that its benefit is letting the paladin heal two targets at once, not letting the paladin get two heals for the mana cost of one. It’s intended to save GCDs and targeting time, not mana.

In addition we’re changing the paladin heal design to match that of the other healers. Holy Light is the middle heal. It’s very efficient, but not particularly fast and doesn’t have a lot of throughput. Flash of Light will be the faster heal that costs more mana. (Currently paladins sort of flip the model around by having a fast, efficient heal.) Holy paladins can talent into an additional heal that is like a giant Holy Light. It might take three of these big heals (or two crits) to get a tank from death’s door back to 100% health.

Currently on live, Beacon of Light is a tool that allows paladins to target more than just the main tank. In Cataclysm if it just doubles their healing, it is going to be overpowered. We have two ways we might handle this and we’ll experiment to see which feels better. The first is that Beacon only works on some heals, such as Flash of Light or Holy Light (but not the big one). An alternative idea is that Beacon increases the mana cost of a heal cast on a beaconed target, since you’re essentially getting a double heal. Under this model, Beacon itself would cost no mana.

Also on the live realms currently, paladins have huge mana pools and massive throughput. The trade-off is that they are excellent single target healers and much weaker in other roles. We want paladins to be slightly more interchangeable with other healers. In Cataclysm, you should be able to have a Holy priest on the tank and a Holy paladin on the raid. We’re not sure we’ll back off of the current healing roles completely, but we definitely want to add more breadth to those whose roles are currently too narrow.

As for the Guardian of Ancient Kings. First, it's important to understand that this is not a pet nor does it have a pet bar associated with it. Second, it's also not meant to last for very long. So, it's not a pet in the traditional sense. It's a friend in need when you need it, but not a permanent companion. 

Mount Hyjal: In defense of Nordrassil

Quote from: Blizzard (Source)
For years, Mount Hyjal and the wounded World Tree, Nordrassil, have remained cut off from the rest of Azeroth. Sealed away within a protective field of dense foliage by Malfurion Stormrage, Nordrassil has been slowly recovering from the devastation of the Third War, when Malfurion called upon the tree's power to destroy the archdemon Archimonde and repel the forces of the Burning Legion and Scourge. Now, with the impending cataclysm, the World Tree's well-being is threatened once more. From the Firelands within the Elemental Plane, Ragnaros and his minions prepare to burst into Hyjal and set Nordrassil ablaze -- and the conflagration would endanger all life on Azeroth.

In World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, players will have the opportunity to explore the newly reopened Mount Hyjal as Azeroth's heroes, with the help of Ysera, Malfurion Stormrage and Hamuul Runetotem, are called upon to push back the armies of the Firelord, banish Ragnaros to the Elemental Plane and lay waste to the twilight dragon stronghold in nearby Darkwhisper Gorge. This all-new level 78-82 zone will feature multiple quest hubs, phased terrain and quest lines, portals to micro-zones within the Firelands, an all-new raid dungeon, and much more.

The World Tree
Players will be able to enter Hyjal by way of Moonglade, to take on a series of high-stakes quests in a historic location alongside some of Azeroth's most renowned heroes. With a longstanding rivalry among the night elf leadership threatening to undermine the campaign against Deathwing, players will quickly discover the task of defending Nordrassil is more daunting than they had anticipated. In order to succeed, they must seek out the help of extremely powerful allies: the Ancients.

The Ancients
To protect Nordrassil and heal the devastation the invading fire elementals are causing across Mount Hyjal, players must first recapture the shrine of the wolf god Goldrinn. The ogres surrounding the shrine will not leave peacefully, but seizing the shrine will allow players their first opportunity to infiltrate the Firelands and shut down a key Twilight portal, slowing the advance of the nearby Twilight's Hammer in Hyjal.

With the first portal dismantled, players will soon be sought by the wilderness spirit Aessina to assist in cleansing and healing the nearby forest, ultimately returning the land to its former splendor. This small victory, however, isn't enough to deter the Twilight Remnants from attempting to scorch the forest once more. As you struggle to keep these foes at bay, you'll also need to help the Guardians of Hyjal -- a new neutral faction of druids and worshippers of the Ancients -- repopulate the forest with animal life. It's even rumored that Malorne has been spotted in the wilderness. Perhaps further investigation is necessary....

Amid the chaos, the Druids of the Talon will need players' assistance to resurrect the goddess of winged creatures. Players begin the process by helping to slay a group of black dragons and closing a second Firelands portal from within. Just when you think things might be heating up, you'll need to fight through a burning night elf town to shut down the third and final portal with the assistance of the turtle god Tortollus.

Darkwhisper Gorge
Your successes in Hyjal will ultimately lead you to the assembly of the Ancients, who have set a plan in motion to bring a powerful ally and demigod back into this realm. Before that can happen, however, you will need to infiltrate Darkwhisper Gorge disguised as a follower of the Twilight's Hammer, acting quickly to sow discord within the entrenched faction, weakening it for the coming struggle. Only time will tell if the Ancients' plan is a success -- but you'll need to do your part if there's any hope of saving Mount Hyjal from the twilight dragons, Ragnaros, and his minions of the Elemental Plane.

More information on this all-new level-85 raid dungeon is coming soon.

Blue post: Mastery balancing, Bloodlust/Heroism and Healing Philosophy

Quote from Blizzard staff
Balancing masteries
Adjusting the third bonus is dangerous, because that is the one tied to mastery rating on gear. If we make that stat too good, then you might want mastery at the expense of crit or haste and get offended if there isn't tons of mastery on your tier sets.

Adjusting the first two passives, especially the first one, which is just damage for Elemental, is a lot safer. It's not a huge deal if Elemental gets 0.25 % damage per talent point spend and Enhancement gets 0.21 % damage per talent point spent as long as the end result of dps is pretty close.*

* - "pretty close" will be defined by players as "nobody should ever beat me, irrespective of encounter, gear or my own personal button mashing routine." Smiley (Source)

Bloodlust/Heroism on more classes
We do want to make sure that 10 player raids can get all of the major buffs a little easier. You should feel like most reasonable comps (3 warriors and 7 rogues is not what we'd consider reasonable) give you all of the major buffs and several of the more minor ones. There will be a little more consolidation than what we've described so far.

We are scaling back the magnitude of some of the buffs, as we did with Sunder Armor. We want you to feel awesome when you have strong good synergy, but we don't want the buffs to overwhelm say your gear or skill. We're also planning on getting rid of any talent that buffs a buff. Any buff that is earned solely by talent needs to have a selfish component thrown in so that you don't feel like you should respec if someone else with that buff comes along.

Obviously things like Rebirth can't just be handed to out to more classes unless we did something like a second exhaustion mechanic for battle rez or whatever. For now we're going to try the cooldown at 30 min again. In Icecrown's world of limited attempts, a 30 min cooldown likely meant you just cooled your heels until the cooldown was available again. In Cataclysm the hope is sometimes you'll have the benefit available but not every time, which scales back on how much of a game-changer it is. (Source)

Healing Philosophy
I have found this philosophy to be a tough one to communicate. Painted broadly, we have some players who chose healing because they like to be challenged and we have some players who chose healing because they like to be the hero. In LK, raid healing can definitely be stressful at times, but we're not actually convinced the challenge is there. After a tough fight, whether it was succesful or not, ask yourself what you should have done differently. Did you use the wrong heal in the wrong situation? I'd suspect not since most healers have pretty stringent rotations these days where you use your strongest heals on cooldown and fill in the time left with your next strongest heals and so on. Did you heal the wrong person at the wrong time? Probably not because anyone you failed to heal was probably about to die. You probably overhealed a lot because there is little consequence for overhealing.

Go back and look at a few videos of BC raid encounters. A couple of points may be strking. One, several characters may be at various stages of injury -- the healers could not keep them all topped off. Second, the healers may be at various stages of mana -- in other words, it's not just a matter of having more GCDs before everyone is fine again. It's a matter of triage.

Triage is one of the things missing from today's healing game (even though you likely learned First Aid through a triage quest). Loosely defined, triage is deciding who needs immediate attention (vs. who is stable vs. who is a lost cause). We want healers to be able to make decisions like "The tank is wounded, but she is unlikely to die in the next few hits, and hots are ticking on her, so she's probably okay for a moment and I can heal this Ret paladin over here," vs. "The rogue is wounded, but my big heal would overheal for a ton and I need the mana, so I can use a small heal." We want the dps to likewise be thinking about ways to minimize damage on themselves, not because they'll die in a global (i.e. before they could respond anyway) but because the healers are going to risk running out of mana.

Today, in LK, healing risks feeling even more like whack-a-mole. Injury? Heal. Injury? Heal. You're testing your reflexes more than your decision-making ability. Whack-a-mole can be challenging, but it doesn't have much depth. It's easy to add depth though. Let's start with the notion that there are two hammers. The little hammer can dispatch most of those moles, but sometimes you can use your big hammer too. The big hammer has limited charges or whatever. Now let's have some of the moles pop out a little slower so that you have time to consider which hammer to use. See where I'm going with this?

Running out of mana doesn't have to be, and won't be, the only reason you fail an encounter. But it is a point of failure that we don't have today. Adding it back in will make the encounters feel more distinct from each other and will actually, we believe, make healing more interesting and ultimately more fun. I agree it's going to be a tough sell though. In one of our playtests recently, the healer came back frazzled. "I couldn't keep everyone topped off," she said. "It took me half the dungeon to realize that I didn't have to." Once that clicked, she said she started having fun. Hopefully it will click with other players quickly too. (Source)

We're not killing off Arenas, nor do we regret introducing them. (Rob said in an interview once that we regretted *how* we introduced them. Big difference.)

Part of the problem with how we introduced Arena was we offered extremely powerful rewards that were available relatively easily. Everyone I know participated in Arena at the start of BC. Were they having fun? Several of them weren't. But they figured the had to do it to stay competitive. In fact, in BC the PvP rewards were so easy and required such little time per week to get that they threatened to divert a lot of players from raiding to get epics.

Flash forward to Lich King. We made it harder, in that it took more actual wins, to earn great PvP rewards. At the same time, we made raiding much more accessible. This got a lot of the players who didn't want to participate in Arenas out of there. But it wasn't enough. We still had a lot of players who liked PvP and / or didn't enjoy raiding who still felt like Arenas were there only avenue to great gear. Unfortunately, if they weren't that good, or if they picked a spec that wasn't that good, or they picked a comp that wasn't that good, then they were just spinning their wheels since we no longer offered them great rewards for just losing matches each week.

The idea behind rated BGs is to be able to offer the best PvP rewards through both Arenas or BGs. If you love BGs but don't like Arenas, you can still get great rewards. If you love Arenas, hopefully the experience will be even better for you because the guys who don't like Arenas will be off doing something else. If you like both Arenas and BGs, great, you have more choices in what you do that week. If you like PvP but still lose a lot, yes you're still going to be a season behind the guys who win a lot. We'll reward you gear just for participating, but if you want th best gear, you still need to win. (Source)

Paladin (Forums / Talent Calculator)
Late Cataclysm class preview for Paladins
We figured no matter who was last they were going to feel victimized. You shouldn't try and interpret too much by the order of the previews though. The fact is we're just not as far along on paladins as we are the other classes. We find it easier to work on a few classes at a time rather than say work on one class on Monday then a different class on Tuesday and keep rotating through them. We didn't pick paladin last because we hate them or because they need the most work or the least work or anything. It's pretty much totally random.

We haven't torn up the paladin talent trees in earnest yet, so the preview will likely be heavy on design intent and light on details. One of the changes we'll continue to emphasize with Retribution is trading more defenses for offense. A defensive dps spec just doesn't work really well in WoW. (Source)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Cataclysm Class Preview: Mage

Quote from: Bashiok (Source)
In World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, we’ll be making lots of changes and additions to class talents and abilities across the board. In this preview, you’ll get an early look at what's in store for the mage class, including a rundown of some of the new spells, abilities, and talents, and an overview of how the new Mastery system will work with the different talent specs.

New Mage Spells

Flame Orb (available at level 81): Inspired by Prince Taldaram’s abilities in Ahn'kahet and Icecrown Citadel, this spell allows the mage to cast a flaming orb that travels in front in a straight line, sending beams that cause fire damage to passing targets. Once it’s cast, the mage is free to begin casting other spells as the Flame Orb travels. While the spell will be useful to any spec, Fire mages will have talents that improve it, possibly causing the Flame Orb to explode when it reaches its destination.

Time Warp (level 83): Grants a passive Haste effect much like Bloodlust or Heroism to party or raid members. It also temporarily increases the mage's own movement speed. Time Warp will be exclusive with Bloodlust and Heroism, meaning you can’t benefit from both if you’ve got the Exhaustion debuff, though the movement-speed increase will still work even when under the effects of Exhaustion.

Wall of Fog (level 85): Creates a line of frost in front of the mage, 30 yards from end to end. Enemies who cross the line are snared and take damage. The mana cost will be designed to make Wall of Fog efficient against groups, not individuals. This spell is intended to give mages a way to help control the battlefield, whether the mage is damaging incoming enemies (Blizzard can be channeled on top of Wall of Fog) or protecting a flag in a Battleground. 10-second duration. 30-second cooldown.

Changes to Abilities and Mechanics

In addition to introducing new spells, we're planning to make changes to some of the other abilities and mechanics you're familiar with. This list and the summary of talent changes below it are by no means comprehensive, but they should give you a good sense of what we intend for each spec.

  • Arcane Missiles is being redesigned to become a proc-based spell. Whenever the mage does damage with any spell, there is a chance for Arcane Missiles to become available, similar to how the warrior’s Overpower works. The damage and mana cost of this spell will be reworked to make it very desirable to use when available. This change should make gameplay more dynamic for the mage, particularly at low levels.
  • We are planning to remove spells that don't have a clear purpose. Amplify Magic, Dampen Magic, Fire Ward, and Frost Ward are being removed from the game, and we may remove more.
  • The ability to conjure food and water will not become available until higher levels (likely around level 40), as we're making changes to ensure mages generally won’t run out of mana at lower levels. Once mages learn how to conjure food and water, the conjured item will restore both health and mana.
  • Scorch will provide a damage bonus to the mage's fire spells. Our goal is for Scorch to be part of the mage's rotation and a useful damage-dealing ability, even if someone else is supplying the group with the spell Critical Strike debuff. Scorch will provide the mage with more specific benefits, which can also be improved through talents.

New Talents and Talent Changes

  • Arcane Focus will now return mana for each spell that fails to hit your target, including Arcane Missiles that fail to launch. We want Arcane mages to have several talents that play off of how much mana the character has and give the player enough tools to manage mana.
  • The talent Playing with Fire will reduce the cooldown of Blast Wave when hit by a melee attack, instead of its current effect.
  • Pyromaniac will grant Haste when three or more targets are getting damaged by the effects of your damage-over-time (DoT) fire spells.
  • The Burnout talent will allow mages to cast spells using health when they run out of mana.

Mastery Passive Talent Tree Bonuses

  • Spell damage
  • Spell Haste
  • Mana Adept

Mana Adept: Arcane will deal damage based how much mana the mage has. For example, Arcane mages will do much more damage at 100% mana than at 50% mana. If they begin to get low on mana, they will likely want to use an ability or mechanic to bring their mana up to increase their damage.

  • Spell damage
  • Spell Crit
  • Ignite

Ignite: All direct-damage fire spells will add a damage-over-time (DoT) component when cast. The flavor will be similar to how Fireball works; however, the DoT component will be much stronger.

  • Spell damage
  • Spell Crit damage
  • Deathfrost

Deathfrost: Casting Frostbolt places a buff on the mage that increases the damage for all frost, fire, and arcane spells. The only damage spell that won't be affected by this buff is Frostbolt.

We hope you enjoyed this preview, and we’re looking forward to hearing your initial thoughts and feedback on these additions and changes. Please keep in mind that this information represents a work in progress and is subject to change as development on Cataclysm continues.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Cataclysm Class Preview: Druid

Quote from: Blizzard (Source)
In World of Warcraft: Cataclysm we’ll be making several changes to class talents and abilities. Here you will get a glimpse into some of the changes we have in store for the druid. The information you’re about to read is certainly not complete, and is only meant to act as a preview of some of the exciting new things to come. Let’s kick things off by checking out some of the new druid spells and abilities!

New Druid Abilities

Thrash (Level 81): Thrash deals damage and causes all targets within 10 yards to bleed every 2 seconds for 6 seconds. The intent here is to give bears another button to hit while tanking. Talents will affect the bleed, such as causing Swipe to deal more damage to bleeding targets. 5-second cooldown. 25 Rage.

Stampeding Roar (Level 83): The druid roars, increasing the movement of all allies within 10 yards by 40% for 8 seconds. Stampeding Roar can be used in cat or bear form, but bears might have a talent to drop the cooldown. The goal of this ability is to give both bears and cats a little more situational group utility. 3-minute cooldown. No cost.

Wild Mushroom (Level 85): Grows a magical mushroom at the target location. After 4 seconds the mushroom becomes invisible. Enemies who cross the mushroom detonate it, causing it to deal area-of-effect damage, though its damage component will remain very effective against single targets. The druid can also choose to detonate the mushroom ahead of time. This is primarily a tool for the Balance druid, and there will be talents that play off of it. No cooldown. 40-yard range. Instant cast.

Changes to Abilities and Mechanics

In addition to the new abilities listed above, we intend to make changes to some of the other abilities and mechanics with which you’re already familiar. This list and the summary of talent changes below it are by no means comprehensive, but they should give you a good sense of our goals for each spec.

  • All heal-over-time spells (HoTs) will benefit from crit and haste innately in Cataclysm. Hasted HoTs do not reduce their duration, but instead add additional HoT ticks. Haste will also benefit Energy generation while in cat form.
  • Unlike the other healers, Restoration druids will not be receiving any new spells. They have plenty to work with already, and our challenge instead is to make sure all of them have a well-defined niche. A druid should be able to tank-heal with stacks of Lifebloom, spot-heal a group with Nourish and Regrowth, and top off lightly wounded targets with Rejuvenation.
  • We want to add tools to cat form and depth to bear form. If a Feral cat is going to fill a very similar niche to that of a rogue, warrior or Enhancement shaman, it needs a few more tools -- primarily a reliable interrupt. Bears need to be pushing a few more buttons just so the contrast between tanking and damage-dealing is not so steep.
  • Barkskin will be innately undispellable.
  • We will be buffing the damage of Mangle (cat) significantly so that when cat druids cannot Shred, they are not at such a damage-dealing loss.
  • Druids will lose Abolish Poison with the dispel mechanics change, but Restoration druids will gain Dispel Magic (on friendly targets) as a talent. All druids can still remove poisons with Cure Poison and remove curses with Remove Curse.

New Talents and Talent Changes

  • Tree of Life is changing from a passive talent to a cooldown-based talent, similar to Metamorphosis. Mechanically, it feels unfair for a druid to have to give up so much offense and utility in order to be just as good at healing as the other classes who are not asked to make that trade. We are exploring the exact benefit the druid gets from Tree of Life. It could strictly be better healing, or it could be that each heal behaves slightly different. You also will not be able to be banished in Tree of Life form (this will probably be true of Metamorphosis as well). Additionally, we would like to update the Tree of Life model so that it feels more exciting when you do decide to go into that form. Our feeling is that druids rarely actually get to show off their armor, so it would be nice to have at least one spec that looked like a night elf or tauren (and soon troll or worgen) for most of the time.
  • We want to make the Feral cat damage rotation slightly more forgiving. We do not want to remove what druids like about their gameplay, but we do want to make it less punishing to miss, say, a Savage Roar or Rake. The changes here will be on par with increasing the duration of Mangle like we did for patch 3.3.3.
  • Balance druids will have a new talent ability called Nature’s Torrent, which strikes for either Nature or Arcane damage depending on which will do the most damage (or possibly both), and moves the Eclipse meter more (details below). The improved version of Nature’s Torrent also reduces the target's movement speed. 10-second cooldown.
  • Restoration druids will have a new talent called Efflorescence, which causes a bed of healing flora to sprout beneath targets that are critically healed by Regrowth.
  • We plan on giving Feral cats and bears a Kick/Pummel equivalent -- an interrupt that is off the global cooldown and does no damage. We feel like they need this utility to be able to fill the melee role in a dungeon or raid group, and to give them more PvP utility.
  • We want to make sure Feral and Balance druids feel like good options for an Arena team. They need the tools to where you might consider a Feral druid over an Arms warrior, or a Balance druid over a mage or warlock. Remember that the PvP landscape will probably look pretty different for Cataclysm with a focus on rated, competitive Battlegrounds.

Mastery Passive Talent Tree Bonuses

  • Spell Damage
  • Spell Haste
  • Eclipse

Eclipse: We are moving Eclipse from a talent into a core mechanic of the class and making it less random. Balance druids will have a new UI element that shows a sun and a moon. Whenever they cast an Arcane spell, it will move the UI closer to the sun, and buff their Nature damage. Whenever they cast a Nature spell, it will move the UI closer to the moon, and buff their Arcane damage. The gameplay intention is to alternate Arcane and Nature spells (largely Starfire and Wrath) to maintain the balance.

Feral (Cat)
  • Melee Damage
  • Melee Critical Damage
  • Bleed Damage

Feral (Bear)
  • Damage Reduction
  • Vengeance
  • Savage Defense

Bleed Damage and Savage Defense: Feral druids will receive two sets of passive bonuses depending on whether the druid is in cat or bear form. Bleed Damage will be improved for cats. Savage Defense is the current bear mechanic for converting crits into damage absorption and will be improved for bears.

Vengeance: This is a mechanic to ensure that tank damage (and therefore threat) doesn’t fall behind as damage-dealing classes improve their gear during the course of the expansion. All tanking specs will have Vengeance as their second talent tree passive bonus. Whenever a tank gets hit, Vengeance will give them a stacking attack power buff equal to 5% of the damage done, up to a maximum of 10% of the character’s unbuffed health. For boss encounters we expect that tanks will always have the attack power bonus equal to 10% of their health. The 5% and 10% bonuses assume 51 talent points have been put into the Feral tree and the druid is in bear form -- these values will be smaller at lower levels. Remember, you only get this bonus if you have spent the most talent points in the Feral tree and are in bear form, so you won’t see Balance, Restoration, or Feral druids in cat form running around with it. Vengeance will let us continue to make tank gear more or less the way we do today -- there will be some damage-dealing stats, but mostly survival-oriented stats. Druids typically have more damage-dealing stats even on their tanking gear, so the Vengeance benefit may be smaller, but overall the goal is that all four tanks do about the same damage when tanking.

  • Healing
  • Meditation
  • HoT Scale Healing

HoT Scale Healing: HoTs will do increased healing on more wounded targets. The mechanic is similar to that of the Restoration shaman, but with HoTs instead of direct heals. In Cataclysm, we anticipate druids using a greater variety of their spells so there is a distinction between healing and HoT healing.

We hope you enjoyed this preview, and ask that you provide your initial thoughts and feedback on what was presented here. Please keep in mind, what you’ve just reviewed is a work in progress and as we move closer to the Cataclysm beta, you’ll see these changes as well as others continue to develop in response to testing and feedback.