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Ready Check

The podcast where we're the noobs so you don't have to be...

Weekly hand curated podcast episodes for learning

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Season 3 Episode 3. – Say Goodbye In Your Best Orc Impression!

Heyo. Hope you’re having a wonderful Monday (or as wonderful as can be expected for a Monday, anyway). Our intrepid trio are back to discuss all things raiding, lore, and stuff completely unrelated to anything of relevance. This week, we discuss: Durotan! He enjoys long walks in the forest, apparently; Button Cull!; Our thoughts on how LFR has changed; …and much more! A couple of bits of news for you: We were lucky enough to be interviewed by Rho at Realm Maintenance, and will be appearing on the show tomorrow (18th Feb) – keep an ear out for us! Massive thanks to Rho for having us on the show. Make sure you enter our competition to win an MoP physical collector’s edition and a SteelSeries QcK Mouse Mat. We’ve had some great entries so far and are excited to hear what you come up with. Save the date: March 29th (Saturday). After the success of BarCraft-on-Thames, we’re running a new event in partnership with Blizzard to commemorate and celebrate the launch of Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls. More information coming shortly, but expect great things. Until next week: Love, Tickles and bags of Pickle(d Onion Monster Munch)*. Toman. *Yes, I’m hungry. What of it?

1hr 12mins

17 Feb 2014

Rank #1

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Season 3 Episode 2.5. – Lost Coast!

Evening kids. As you may know if you follow us on Twitter, we’ve had a pretty busy week at work and weren’t able to record a full show on our usual Monday night. So, to fill the gap this week, we’ve created a short episode for you! A podcast equivalent of Lost Coast, if you will. We’ll be back as normal next week, so please get your rapid-fire questions, shout-outs and tactical advice to us before then. This week we were contacted by Raven of Girls Gone WoW fame (one of our favourite podcasts), who wanted to let us know about an awesome event they’ve got planned in London on Saturday 19th April. It’s a WoW community meetup, where anyone with an interest in WoW is encouraged to turn up (interest in WoW optional as long as you’re nice) and have fun chatting about all things Blizzard in a friendly environment. The event takes place at The Feathers Pub in St James Park from 15.00 onwards. More details can be found on Raven’s blog at silkyraven.livejournal.com. That’s it for this week, folks. Until next time… Love, Squeezes and Dalaran Sharp cheeses (ok, ok, tenuous at best). Toman.

7 Feb 2014

Rank #2

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Season 3 Episode 2. – Q&A With Holinka and Hazzikostas!

Hey guys! This week, Forrseti and Toman were very privileged to be invited to visit the EU Blizzard HQ in Versailles for a day of gawking and geeking. While we were there, we took part in a Q&A with two of WoWs lead developers, Brian Holinka (Lead PVP Designer) and Ion Hazzikostas (Lead Encounter Designer). We were able to ask a few questions about Warlords of Draenor, and got some real insights from two guys at the forefront of development in the new expansion. It was such a treat, so thank you so much to everyone at Blizzard for the opportunity, and especially to Brian and Ion for taking time out of their busy days to talk to us. Click through below to read the transcript in full from the interview. There are a LOT of great titbits in there. Anyway, to the podcast! This week we talk about: The new raven mount – where’s it from?; We cover Blackhand in War-LORE-ds of Draenor; Some interesting points from our Q&A session; The recent WoW Infographic; …and much more! As always, we’d really love your thoughts and feedback, so please get in touch. Until next week…Love, Hugs and Successful PUGS. Toman. Q&A With Brian Holinka and Ion Hazzikostas: There were a small handful of us asking questions, so I’ve tried to add their names where possible (apologies for any mistakes). Also, this session was performed over a video conference, so we recorded the audio and transcribed it later – any spelling or grammatical errors are mine and mine alone. I’ve tweaked the phrasing of one or two questions to help with clarity, but for the most part this is as it was recorded. Gothiques: There was a comment a while ago where someone said that arenas were a big mistake. Has opinion changed? Brian Holinka: Well, I think when he said that it was because it was the emphasis and the microscopic lens it puts on class balance in a PVP sense: there’s nothing else in arena except you and the other classes and so it makes people really focus on that. I think we have gotten to a place now where arenas fit better into the game. When they were introduced into the game during Burning Crusade, original WoW classes were designed around the WarCraft 3 archetypes and were never really designed to have 1v1, 2v2, rock paper scissor balancing, and it took a while to get there. I’m sure those people that did arenas back in the Burning Crusade remember there were some wacky things whilst people were figuring things out and there were a lot of growing pains. Gothiques: In the Lich King we had an amazing service that allowed people to see arena history. Why was it removed and can we see it again in the next expansion? Brian Holinka: I looked into it and my understanding is that it consumed a lot of storage space and didn’t see a lot of usage on the website, and when we say that you have to think about that there are people who are really into the arena, and they probably used it and wont thank me saying that, but as a broad player base, you are consuming, you know, a lot of storage and not very many people are going to the website to see this information. I think maybe we could store this information through the new Trial of the Gladiator feature and it is something to look into. I certainly think it is interesting and I’ve been trying out this addon “Reflex” and it is cool to go back and see your history and look at the games. So I think it definitely has some value there, it’s something for us to talk about again. The other thing I have is that we will do some big tech revamp, something to improve data structure or the website as a whole and some features will get lost. But when I did investigate it, I was told that consumed a lot of space and provided not a lot of use, we didn’t see players using it a lot. For players really invested in arena it might come as a surprise but that is what we saw. Gothiques: You started fixing much more often recently, but are there any plans to do massive patches more often? Like maybe 3-4 weeks. There is this one thing where when nothing changes for several months people find overpowered setups/comps and arena starts to get too similar, people get bored and start to stop playing until the end of the season. So you might agree that patches force people to try something new and play arena again? Brian Holinka: So I think when you look at patches, the amount of effort for us that goes into a patch, there is an initial cost, like an overhead. A fixed cost (of time/effort) every time we do a patch. If we were to do a patch with only 1 or 2 minor changes in there, that cost is still there, so how regularly we release patches slows down how often we can create other content and bring it into the game. I think generally what players in arena were asking for were more changes, more balance changes, more regularly. It was interesting because we kind of had this period between, I want to say September and January, where we had a number of reasons why we didn’t do a huge amount of balance changes. We were coming up to BlizzCon, so players were preparing for that event and we didn’t think it was appropriate to make a number of balance changes like in the 3 weeks leading up to BlizzCon and sweep the rug out from everybody. Then we had Christmas and New Year where we were on vacation and so as soon as January came there has been some PVE tuning and we started doing some PVP changes as well. It’s quite interesting to watch when we don’t do a lot of changes and see the response, and it was like people wanted to see change for the sake of change, to try something new and not to feel bland. But we don’t do a lot of patches due to the cost of each one, we prefer to hotfix which are very easy for us to do server side, tuning spell values and things like that. I think that players maybe aren’t giving us enough credit for the amount of changes that we are doing that are pure hot fixes. I don’t conceive that patches will be really much faster just because of the cost of doing so. Ion Hazzikostas: I think it’s also that rapid change, there is a lot to keep track of and absorb and there is value in not changing things on a daily basis. We will only continue to make change if there is something completely overpowered and more importantly if something is not fun, if someone is getting 2-shot by some ability on a regular basis we will go ahead and change that, but we try to avoid making minor tweaks here and there just for the sake of change. Brian Holinka: Some players propose that we basically experiment on the player base, for example buff ice lance by 2% one week and watch what happens, then you know, nerf it by 4% the next week and I don’t really think that’s a good policy. We are not going to be constantly changing things like that on players, but we certainly feel like if we observe there is something we should change and it’s a change that will move the needle then we will do it but you know, buffing damage by 2/3% is not as significant in PVP as people would think it is. In PVE, it is a little different, if people are like behind by 3% we can maybe buff them. Ion Hazzikostas: Except at the very, very, very highest levels of play, in terms of skill, the things that determine victory or defeat are not going to be that 2% damage difference , its more the mistakes players make during the games. Athene: I have an idea that I wanted to run by you guys and see what you think. I am Athene by the way; I have played World of Warcraft a lot as a PVPer. I want to implement a solo queue system for 3v3 where you have a caster, a melee and a healer and you have basically a solo rank system. I found that it was because I couldn’t find players to play with and it didn’t feel as satisfying if I had to find people to play with and if you look at the success of the solo queue in League of Legends for example, I think a system where you can hop in the game and start playing some PVP where you had a ranked system would also help mitigate the in balance between classes because you have the 3 types which are randomly generated based upon your hidden rating. What do you guys think about an idea like that? Brian Holinka: I think it’s a good idea, I think it’s something we have learned a lot about through the experiences of LFR and LFD and you gave an example of LOL and with how much effort they have put into fixing toxic behaviour because you can solo queue for something and know you are in there without having anyone really in charge. If you compare that to a flexible raid or an arena team where someone is like “come join my group” and part of the social aspect of that is you are thinking I shouldn’t really be an asshole cause I could get kicked and implicitly there is some type of behaviour going on. At the same time if you look at the participation rates for LFR and Random BGs, things that allow for solo queuing, the participation rate is much higher because you don’t have to do all that stuff, you can jump in and play. I think there is value in this and looking forward to Warlords there is the new group finder, like OQ, where you can advertise for 3v3 as a healer, looking for 2 DPS and people can apply to come play with you and you can pick: I want you and you, and go play. So definitely, it’s hard to say something without looking like I’m promising something, but I would definitely agree with you that some type of solo queuing arena would be great. Definitely something we are looking at. I am a little more wary of rated soloing because immediately you get into a situation where two things, one is that there is 1 healer to 3 DPS so you are going to have the same problem with like tanks in LFR and will be waiting for healers all the time, so that would be one challenge and the other would be that it would be better if that if I could continue to play with those that I have found and not re-queue for every game, cause it would be like double queuing, first you find a team then you need to find opponents and that’s double matchmaking, queues are something that is tough to fix. So anyway, it’s a good idea and something we are looking at for warlords, but nothing to announce. I agree with you accept for the ratings, which may cause more problems than it solves. We think making it easier to find people to play with will lead to a higher quality experience. Athene: I know that toxicity is a big issue. I think a solution to that would be disabling the chat and making people anonymous so you don’t know who you’re playing with. Brian Holinka: Yes, I totally agree with you! Outside of guild chat and battleground chat I’m not sure people need it any longer, right? Athene: Yeah, that’s also why I love Hearthstone. You can’t be mad at each other because you can just say “Well Played”, it’s a very nice way… Brian Holinka: Yeah, “Well Played”, “Well Played”, “Well Played”, “Well Played”! [Laughter] Athene: The reason I’m bringing it up is because I’ve seen it being experimented on private servers, even though I don’t play on them… [Laughter] …and it blew up so hard. That’s why I’m bringing it up. The main issue with solo queue is that it kills pre-made. Nobody plays pre-made anymore. Everybody starts solo queueing because it’s so contagious. That would be a reason for me to come back and play, because the queue times and getting your friends to play has been my biggest turn off, because it’s so much effort to just play, and then sometimes the queues are very slow as well. But if you’re really high up, you have to sometimes wait 10-20 minutes for a game, and you just end up without time to play. Kingkongor: [To Athene] What if you constantly meet really bad players and you’re actually pretty good, but they drag you down in that rating? Athene: Well, it would work like solo queuing in League of Legends. You will still have people coming and saying “oh, there’s a ELO hell in World of Warcraft”, but statistically you will start rising in MMR. Hidden MMR will just rank you against someone at an equal level of skill, and I would really love to sometimes have a rogue and a warrior, other times something else on my team. It’s just an idea, because I saw it being very successful on those servers. Brian Holinka: Yeah, I mean I think the other tough part is how comp dependant WoW is, especially at those higher levels. I feel we’d have to do a lot of matchmaking, because all of a sudden we’d put you in with a Priest/Warlock/Warrior, or something like that, you know? Shaman/Mage/Hunter. It might be like “yeah, we’re all 2300 but this comp stinks!”. Athene: It’s like getting a bad deck in Hearthstone! Brian Holinka: Yeah, that’s true! I don’t think we’re averse to the idea, I just wonder what it would be like if we didn’t have the rating. Would that be attractive, or do you really need the rating? Athene: I’m really competitive when it comes to that kind of stuff, I want to compete against other players! If you had a ranking based on your class instead of your 3v3 comp setup, you completely take away the class imbalance because you compare yourself to other Holy Paladins, for example. I would really love something like that. Ion Hazzikostas: Yeah, definitely some cool ideas there. Brian Holinka: We like that idea, we’re not against it at all, I think it’s just finding the right way to do it – it’s something we’re interested in doing. We also want to see how this group finder works out, maybe it will give you the things you’re looking for. Athene: Another question I wanted to ask with regards to Warlords of Draenor: are you targetting a broader audience, or are you trying to target the current World of Warcraft audience with the new expansion pack? Ion Hazzikostas: We’re trying to target people who like good games. Warlords in many ways is like we’re returning to the roots of the WarCraft francise. In Draenor we’ll see major lore characters, you know, Gul’dan, Grommash etc.. People who have their memories of WarCraft going back to WarCraft 2, WarCraft 3 – those characters. I think it’s definitely a harder, darker story to an extent, but ultimately we’re looking to provide a product that’s amazing to people currently playing WoW, people who have played WoW in the past, and people who have never checked it out. Pretty much for everybody. Athene: What feature is there that, in your opinion, will pull in the most people who are considering whether or not to come back for the expansion? Let’s say I have to convince my friend – what do you think I should tell them to get them to try out Warlords of Draenor? Ion Hazzikostas: Honestly, it depends, because there are so many different play-styles. I think it depends on what attracted your friend to the game in the first place. You know, for people who are hardcore raiders: we’ve seen some guilds reforming, getting ready for Mythic raiding that’s coming in Warlords and there are a lot of people super excited about that. People who always had a hard time finding groups: our group finder feature is going to help them on that front. Some people who are getting tired of the look of the game: we have brand new player models, finally updated, and they look amazing for everybody. PVP side: we have Trial of the Gladiator, and other features coming your way. So it’s hard to think of one thing because for many people there are different things that got them into the game in the first place. Brian Holinka: Also, as we’ve announced, you’re going to start playing Warlords straight away. So often people come back to the game and they’re like “well, here I am in Hellfire Peninsula… see you in a month”. Someone made the analogy that if, for example, you buy Call of Duty 6, you don’t have to go play Call of Duty 1 through 5 first. That’s kind of a similar experience here. Your friend who wants to come back? Well they’re going to play with your people straight away. They’re not going to have to do all this other stuff first. So I think that adds a lot of appeal too. I think from a PVP standpoint, one of the things that is really special about Warlords is Ashran because I think it’s something only WoW can do. World PVP is something we’ve kind of neglected for a long time from a structured point of view, and just this idea of a perpetual, always ongoing battle that has NPCs and moving and fighting players, it’s not like arena, it’s not like battlegrounds and that’s going to be something new and fresh for PVP players. That’s something I’m definitely excited about. There’s also Trial of the Gladiator, which is like arenas but super structured for the hardcore players, but Ashran is something very “WoW”. And that’s something about Warlords – like you said, with all the original characters, etc., this expansion has all the magical things about WoW that make it so special coming back. Athene: I know that there is the new Garrison system – is that going to be the housing in World of WarCraft, or can we expect in the future a more house-like system, for example? Ion Hazzikostas: Who knows what will come up in the future, but we look at it as the WarCraft version of the player housing in other MMOs. I think it’s really housing, WarCraft style. In WarCraft you don’t build a house, and decorate your living room and figure out where you’ll put your couch; you build a base. Figure out where you’re going to put your barracks, your infirmary, your town hall and all that. You’re raising an army. Going back to the RTS roots of the franchise, that’s what WarCraft is all about. It’s hard to imagine the Orc coming home and hanging up his spikes on the wall, figuring out what curtains he wants to go over the windows. It’s not World of WarCraft. Toman: As a raider in a somewhat casual heroic 10-man guild, we’re obviously having to recruit quite heavily now for Mythic. Do you think it’s likely that you’ll revamp the guild finder and recruitment tools that you’ve got in the game already? Ion Hazzikostas: I think it’s likely. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s likely in time for Warlords. But we recongnise that there is a need to really improve those tools. As an intermediate measure, the increasing availability of things being able to be done cross-server in group finder will help a little bit there – there’s more ability now to pull in people for both normal and heroic raids of the current content from other servers if you want to try out applicants, things like that, that should help with the recruitment process. Whereas before, if someone was on a different server they had to actually pay the server transfer and take a chance. Now you can actually do raids with them on meaningful content to evaluate them first. In the long run, though, we realise we can do a better job with the guild finder tools. Kingkongor: A lot of people having been getting a lot of vanity items, especially in Mists of Pandaria, and there are are so many now, with so many costumes and what not. Is there ever going to be some sort of system, like the pets and mounts, where they don’t fill up your entire stash. Ion Hazzikostas: Yes. That’s something we’re specifically doing for 6.0. We’re going to have a collection interface, just like we do for pets and mounts, but for toys and for heirlooms. In future we may do something like that to solve the transmog issue. But all the cool toys and trinkets you may have gotten that you’re collecting and keeping around, we’re going to try and make them account bound and get them out of your inventory, and that should free up a lot of space. Kingkongor: Another question about my Ogre suit… I still can’t mount with it. Is there any chance? It’s basically a Boomkin with an Ogre suit and I know there are a lot of Ogres in the expansion… Ion Hazzikostas: That’s a fair point. In general we don’t let you mount with most transforms affecting you because most transforms don’t have the right animations and would just look terrible on a mount. In that particular case there may be an exception that we can make? I’ll ask. Moldran: In Season 1, for 5v5 we practiced one or two games first in skirmish and then went to the real thing, just to be sure first, and to warm up. Could skirmishes come back? Brian Holinka: It is definitely something we’re looking at. You know it’s funny because I think we all look back at skirmishes with a little bit of nostalgia, but there’s a lot of people who went in there, checked their add-ons and left. They were like “ah, is everything set up right?” and they didn’t really care. It’s one of those things – if we added skirmishes back the way they were before, it really wouldn’t be that good an experience. I mean, we can do better, we can do skirmishes better than they were. It would be like “let me go and play arena without it affecting my rating”, “let me go and play solo” or “let me play with a group” or whatever. I think there’s value in that. I can tell you that it’s certainly something we’re exploring. The big challenge is that when you add a whole other level of buckets of activity, the population gets a lot sparser. The one thing about rated arena is that it’s the only form of arena, so if you want an arena it’s in there. As soon as you get a whole new bucket of players you’re dividing the group and you’re affecting queue times. We’ve actually done a lot of tests, back to an earlier question, we’ve been spending a lot of time on our matchmaking system, and matchmaking should actually be a lot better than it was. The problem is there are not many people on a high rating, so there are less people to match you with. We talked about relaxing the expectation, because if you’re 2500 you’re going be matched with a 2400 guy anyway, so why are we spending 5 minutes getting there? Maybe we should just look for a broader range at higher ratings to match people quicker. But I think skirmishes are a cool idea – it’s arena without much consequence, if people are interested in that. Any activity you have in WoW competes against every other activity. It would be a bad idea to just put in skirmishes – it’s not like we have this skirmish package in the closet and we’ll be like “yeah we will get to it”; it’s actual work. If we do skirmishes then there’s something else we can’t do. If we dedicate time to do something we want to see players doing it, so we have to have rewards for it, and those rewards have to be with worthwhile. And it has to be an efficient form of doing it. I know people just think, “just turn it back the way it was”, but sadly it’s not that simple. But I do like the idea of arena without consequences. Ion Hazzikostas: We know this is something players have asked for – this is a request we’ve heard a lot! Athene: Another question I wanted to ask in line with queue times: something that I would really love is if, when you enter an arena, there would be a button or a switch you can click to say you’re ready. Then, if the other players do it as well, the countdown starts at like 3 seconds or something. Because when you play 3v3 or even 5v5 some games, sometimes you’re longer in the waiting area than the actual game itself. When you play 20 or 30 arena games it does stack up to be around 30 or 40 minutes where you are just sitting there waiting. Sometimes with people queue dodging to lower their MMR to get the amount of games played, a lot of times the gates open and you just win the game and start over again, and it can be like 5 games until you even get to play someone. So having something like a ready check would be really very helpful. Brian Holinka: Yeah it’s interesting. We could also just lower the preparation time in 3v3 and 5v5. Maybe they’re a bit long, like 15 or so seconds too long. It’s certainly something we could look at. I haven’t honestly evaluated what it would take to do that. Ion Hazzikostas: It’s an interesting discussion. Moldran: Are there any plans to stop or do something against arena boosting? It always used to be that the titles were made by the same group of people, logging onto other peoples accounts or getting them to play for them. Is there anything to combat this? Brian Holinka: Our policy is we don’t talk about exploiting and boosting, but we do make efforts to prevent all that stuff when we find out about it. Our tools keep getting better and better for combating those things. We just banned a lot of people earlier this week for a lot of popular bots – PQR and PQI and what not. So we do do that stuff, but we don’t talk about it. We don’t want to give people a heads up, but we do make efforts in all those things for sure! Ion Hazzikostas: We know that a sense of fair play is important, and that it’s necessary for the whole thing to have everyone feel like there’s value in their accomplishments. It’s something that we care about, and we’re actively working on it a lot of the time. Brian Holinka: This season you can see that we’ve put a lot of work into cleaning up the ladders. We meet regularly to look at them and if we see that things are still not fixed we’re still making efforts to do so. This isn’t something we put in patch notes because it might just confuse people, but one of our programmers put a lot of effort into doing a lot of work on the MMR systems to fix a lot of popular exploits that were used for win trading and boosting. Oftentimes people at higher levels would be like “if I win a match I only get 11 points, but if a lose I match I lose 18 points – this sucks!”, so we’ve done a lot of complicated maths to fix that situation too. We’ll see how that all plays out live, in 5.4.7 – coming soon! Athene: There hasn’t been a big PVP focus for Warlords. I know in the past PVE was the main focus of WoW, so why is there this focus on PVE and not PVP? Is there some reason that we don’t know about? Ion Hazzikostas: I wouldn’t say it’s a focus, it’s the same as it’s always been to an extent. I mean, there’s a ton of PVE content and there’s a whole world to explore, a lot of new dungeons, an entire new raid structure and new raid difficulty being introduced. There’s a lot to get excited about depending on what your play style is. Arguably in the past there are times when we’ve ignored PVP, and we’re making an effort not to do that going forward, but really it’s equal halves to the game and we recognise there are people who play both parts, people that love one or another, but there’s something in there for everyone. Brian Holinka: We certainly never go into an expansion saying this is the PVP expansion and this is the questing expansion! It’s a big game and we’re trying to provide stuff for everyone. I think one of the things is there’s a lot of transparency now, like all of a sudden there’s Twitter, people are interacting more, people are being on the forums. I mean, one of the reasons I have a Twitter is primarily just to let people know that there is really someone working on PVP, seriously! [Laughter] I think that helps, just knowing that somebody is doing something. It helps a lot. It might not even be that we’re working on a certain area more, it’s just that we are interacting more. Unknown: I have a question to ask. As an extremely casual WoW player who just jumps in sometimes and quests, doesn’t get to very high levels, doesn’t PVP or raid, I used to really enjoy that part of the game – just casually questing a bit. Over the past years there have been lots of MMOs which have tried to switch that up with dynamic events and different things combat-wise. In which way will there be something fresh in that regard? Ion Hazzikostas: I think we’re continually trying to evolve our questing system and our outdoor gameplay. I think that we have had improvements to the way quests are presented and the way they tell our stories in a lot more context, where we will have a main story line for each zone that’s called out separately in your UI, and then separate side branching quests where you kind of know what the main plot is as you go through the zone. We really want to encourage a sense of exploration, since you’re in this foreign, savage world. There are hidden secrets – for example, there might be a cave, and there is no quest that sends you into that cave, but when you go in there, you’ll actually find there’s some big event going on. There’s something historic going on, there’s some reward for you. That’s going to continue – we want to have a lot more max level outdoor non daily quest-driven content, we want people to go out there and explore to progress if they are not looking to do dungeons, PVP, raids or whatever. Toman: In terms of encounter design, do you have a set methodology that your team uses to come up with them? For instance, do you have a whiteboard session where you go through mechanic ideas, or are you given a room by the art team that you have to fill? How does that typically work? Ion Hazzikostas: That’s interesting. It’s a process that has evolved a lot over the years. Going back several years, we often had a dungeon first, for instance “this is what Black Temple looks like” or “this is what Mogushan Vaults looks like”, and we needed to figure out what we were going to do with those spaces. More recently, that process happens in parallel, where before a raid actually even exists we’re talking about the bosses that are going to be there. Some of that is driven by the bigger picture, lore storytelling. The rest we have flexibility over. Going into Throne of Thunder, we knew that Lei Shen was going to be the final boss but we really didn’t know anything else about it. It was completely up to us to figure out what all the other bosses were, how many there were going to be, and what the environments were going to be like. There’s a lot of brainstorming – Its really some of the most fun parts of the job, because it’s just all the encounter designers throwing ideas back and forth. It’s a mix of what will be cool to fight visually, thematically, what will be interesting mechanic wise, etc. Once we get to the point where we have a boss list written down, then we go down the list boss by boss and spend 30 to 60 minutes brainstorming the actual mechanics for the fight and overall structure. After that, it’s assigned out to one individual encounter designer to implement, but there’s still a lot of back and forth between the team. That’s just how it all comes together into a cohesive whole, then of course play testing feedback PTR all of that! Toman: So, obviously, play testing forms a big part of what you do. Have you ever designed an encounter where, in testing, the players didn’t get the tactic you had in mind? Ion Hazzikostas: In some cases. I think you have to go back a longer way for that. The more common result is that the players come up with a better tactic. The reality is that there are so many people with such great raiding experience and sharp tactical minds, that the more likely scenario is we imagine something would be approached one way and then people end up kiting Garrosh’s adds for 2 minutes straight. [Laughter] Sometimes we build in protections against those kind of things when we see them on the PTR or when we anticipate them, but at the end of the day that’s part of the fun of coming up with raid strats – often you figure out how to beat the designers, and we’re ok with that! Toman: Except for when it’s saronite bombs! [Laughter] Ion Hazzikostas: Yes, exploits notwithstanding! Moldran: Going back to Burning Crusade, one thing that I really liked about it was the difficulty of the heroic 5-mans. Recently I was playing Mists of Pandaria 5-mans and they were laughably easily. Are there any plans to reintroduce difficult 5-mans, or will it just be challenge modes? Ion Hazzikostas: To some extent we’re looking to make heroic dungeons in Warlords of Draenor more difficult than they were in Mists. They aren’t going to be as difficult as they were in Burning Crusade, but we want to have a more robust tier of normal dungeons at max level for people who just want to casually queue up get some more or less guaranteed loot without too much of a challenge. We like heroic dungeons to require a bit more coordination, but we do recognise that there is this audience for really hardcore Burning Crusade-style or Challenge Mode-style dungeons. However, in Challenge Mode right now, the focus is so much on speed you don’t get that feeling of having to go through and mark your CC, polymorph that, sap that, for example. But we’re actually exploring the possibility of having Challenge Modes, as well as the speed component, also offer a chance at some gear rewards, LFR quality perhaps, so someone who doesn’t want to do LFR can do some hard content with friends and get epics that way. Further down the line, we have this new Mythic raid difficulty – we’re not planning on Mythic dungeons at launch, but that’s something that we could do. If we wanted to have an additional tier of difficulty, that option is open to us. It’s not a really good fit for random matchmaking, which is something we learned quickly at the start of Cataclysm, since there would be a lot of frustration. We do recognise that there is a lot of really cool play there, a lot of interesting MMO co-ordination in a smaller group, so we want to find a way to do it. * NB: To clarify, Ion was indicating that they would like to offer rewards for completing hard dungeons with a deliberate pace, utilising CC etc., as opposed to speed runs through Challenge Modes. Apologies for the lack of clarity. Athene: Are there any plans for World of WarCraft to go Free to Play? And are there any plans for a higher level cap than 100, because 100 really looks like a milestone? Ion Hazzikostas: 100 is a nice number, but so is 80, so is 90. We’re happy with our current business model. At the end of the day, we don’t think it makes sense for us to go Free to Play right now. It’s something that we obviously know is happening in the industry, but we feel like we deliver a very good product at a very good value for a monthly subscription, and there are millions of players enjoying the game as it stands. In terms of WoW, Warlords is not our last expansion (shocking!) and there will be more expansions to come. Levels are a proven way of measuring your progress, there’s something nice about getting experience points and levelling up, so I would expect that to continue. Toman: In terms of mechanics, we’ve seen a lot of fights more recently with interesting and varied mechanics, for instance Tsulong, Malkorok, etc. Obviously, that’s something you’re purposely putting into new fights – is it because you’ve seen that players are getting a little bored of the standard “tank and spank” trinity? And are you able to share any exciting mechanics you may have planned for Warlords? Ion Hazzikostas: For Warlords, we’re trying to give players a fresh look. A lot of players have been raiding for 8 or 9 years now, and a lot of them feel like they’ve seen everything. We don’t want to give them a fight where they can say “oh, this is just like that boss 3 years ago but with a different skin on it”. It’s a mix of occasionally throwing in new mechanics, like the heal absorption thing, or new tech like the movement force with Lei Shen or Blade Lord Ta’yak which pushed you in a certain direction, which we weren’t able to do before. At the same time, though, there’s value in a lot of the classics, in the meteor damage you have to stack up for, things that make you spread out. It’s putting them together in new and interesting ways. For instance, Seigecrafter Blackfuse has mechanics that individually have been seen in other encounters. The beam that chases you – it’s the Kologarn eye laser, for instance. But when you put them all together, it feels fresh, so that’s what we constantly try to deliver on. As far as Warlords, yes, we’ll have new surprises. Nothing specific to talk about just yet, but we’re going for a mix of a handful of new mechanics, and then new and interesting combinations.

29 Jan 2014

Rank #3

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Season 3 Episode 1. – Please Everyone, If You’re Listening, Wear Pants!

Hey guys! Long time no see; have you lost weight? You’re looking really wonderful! Nice hair! Right, now we’ve gotten the small talk out of the way, let’s get down to business shall we? Season 3 is finally here, and today we’re pleased to introduce our new co-host, Forrseti! Forrs has featured on the show previously, but now joins Toman and Hunni full time this season as our raid leading expert. We’re super happy to have him with us. In other news, our favourite Bristolian, Flapz, is no longer playing WoW, so has decided to take a step back from the podcast. We’re going to miss you, buddy. Keep your eyes open, though, and you might find him shoutcasting CS:GO matches in the future. Today’s show is a bit of a catch up and an excuse for a good old natter. We talk about: What we’ve all been up to over the holiday break; Recent Siege of Orgrimmar nerfs; New mount – cynical cash-in or bit of a cock up?; Appropriate raiding attire; …and much more! We’ve also got the start of our new feature, War-LORE-ds of Draenor (see what we did there?), where we talk about each of the Orc Warlords we’ll be meeting in WoD. Today, Kilrogg Deadeye. Get your questions and comments in for next week, and we’d really love an iTunes review or two if you’ve got a few seconds free. Until next time, Love, Hugs and Klaxxi Bugs. Toman.

21 Jan 2014

Rank #4

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Season 2 Episode 9. – BlizzCon Special!

Morning all! Apologies for the lack of a show last week – we were joined by the lovely Bella from The Elizabella Chronicles, but, sadly, our audio became corrupted and we were unable to salvage the show. Such a shame, because she was a great guest. We’ll have you back again soon! Today’s show features our friend and yours, The Godmother of Faff from Alternative-Blog.net. We have a super special pre-BlizzCon show for you today where we discuss: Our thoughts on what we’d like to see announced for WoW; A special BlizzCon-themed quiz; BarCraft-on-Thames! …and much more! If you’re coming along to BarCraft-on-Thames, then we can’t wait to see you there. Look out for the guys and girl in Ready Check t-shirts, come over and say hi. Pints of beer graciously accepted! We won’t have a show next week due to hosting the event, so join us in a couple of weeks for episode 10! Love, surprises, and BlizzCon prizes. Toman.

1hr 26mins

5 Nov 2013

Rank #5

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Season 2 Episode 8. – Flex is Actual People!

Evening all. I’ve been in a bit of an acid jazz black hole today whilst practicing mage DPS rotations, so if I start randomly spamming keys (syncopated, naturally) during this intro post, you know exactly why. Today, we’re joined by the incomparable Bear, aka John Patricelli from thebigbearbutt.com! You all know him, you all love him, and it was an absolute pleasure to have him on the show. Seriously, my face still aches from laughing so hard, you bastard bear. Today we discuss: BarCraft-on-Thames (hey, if you can’t plug your own event on your podcast, where can you plug it?)!; Hallow’s End; Flex raiding, scaling and more; A challenge that Hunni might win!; …and much more! As always, we’d love to hear from you guys. Let us know what you think of the show over at iTunes and Stitcher (links on the sidebar), tell us what you’d like to see on the show, send us your jingles for our features, or just berate us mercilessly. You can get in touch via email, Twitter and Facebook. Until next time, love, kisses, and Pyroblast! misses. Toman.

1hr 28mins

21 Oct 2013

Rank #6