With the impending release of the World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor expansion, members of the development team hosted a panel at BlizzCon to talk about the numerous changes to the Classes, Abilities, Items and more.
Lead Class Designer Kris Zierhut started off the panel by stating the goals they had in mind when considering changes to World of Warcraft. They wanted to re-evaluate what makes classes fun and what doesn’t, stop the PVP arms race, strike a balance between class and encounter mechanics, reduce the frantic pace of healing and make the numbers smaller and easier to understand.
The first topic Zierhut delved into abilities and which ones are fun and which ones aren’t. The criteria for abilities considered fun abilities was:
- Strong fantasy elements such as having a cool minion
- Awesome visuals and sound such as being able to turn people into sheep
- Cool gameplay effect like Death Grip
- Powerful like using Divine Shield to be invincible for a short period of time
- Interactive; abilities that facilitate working with friends
- Clear purpose such as Sprint
The criteria for abilities considered not fun are:
- Redundant; Frostbolt & Frostfire Bolt have been removed from Fire mages
- Inconsistent fantasy; Retribution Paladin has been removed
- Too situational; Nourish is useless at high levels so it’s been removed
- Balanced to mediocrity; Mortal strike became a wet noodle attack and has been made powerful again
- Lack of feedback; Bloodstrike doesn’t really do anything interesting so it’s gone
- Unreliable; You are facing the wrong way! Positional requirements are gone
- Too Complicated; abilities like Symbiosis that require the raid leader to use spreadsheets and charts are gone
To really illustrate how abilities have become out of control over time, they went through a Restoration Druid specifically. There were 21 core abilities back in 2004 which would jump to 39 when you had access to all of your abilities. Patch 1.12 brought that number up to 46 and the creep continued up through to Pandaria where the Druid would have a whopping 57 abilities. The developers realized that this is a lot of stuff to go through for players and that a lot of the abilities are useless; the number is now back down to 41 including passive abilities (without them it’s 37.)
The next topic was the improvements made to healing gameplay. Players were reporting that healing had become too reactive and too punishing; health bars would constantly swing from fully healed to almost dead so all healers could really do was spam as fast as possible and use smart heals to have the game essentially play itself.
Zierhut talked about how the team really wants to make healing fun to play again and remove the boredom of hitting spells as fast as possible. To do so they doubled the health of all players, smart heals aren’t very smart anymore, base regen has been increased on healers and the availability of spirit has been reduced. Spirit being a rarer stat to get will close the gap between having none early game and having far too much later game; it will make healers have to think about what skills to use instead of not caring.
Lead Items Designer Matt Goss then took the stage to talk about the itemization changes. He detailed how certain gear requires long quest chains to be able to use; sometimes these chains could take hours to complete. All of that has now been totally done away with and all gear can be equipped as soon as a player gets it. Raid tokens also now directly convert into usable items.
Hit/Expertise and Reforging are also gone; the developers found players had to do too much precision planning for it to be of any real use. Upgrades are now gone, Focus enchants and gems are on fewer slots and only ring, neck and cloak can get enchants now; this should reduce the need to collect tons of gems and enchants.
Goss then went into the changes to stat customization; it’s now far less work to swap and customize stats as all gems can be inserted into all slots. Caps and breakpoints are also gone so players can choose the stat they really want. The developers also decided to use their existing systems for stat customization; cooking, jewelcrafting and enchanting will now supply secondary stats which can be anything the player wants. If a player wants crit, food, gems and enchants can all be crit.
Another item issue that was looked at was how many raids would end with receiving loot that nobody in the raid could use, essentially making the run useless. The developers tried to fix that issue by making all of the gear have dual stats; if your character can equip the type (ie: plate) then the item will switch it’s stats to something you can use. They also separated role items from armour type so, for example, there won’t be any more specific plate gear for tanks. All of the extra stats a tank would want are now exclusively on the gems as well as dodge & parry are now bonus armour.
Goss then went on to talk about how they wanted the loot players received to be more surprising and for there to be more sources for it. Many more quests, garrison missions and invasions give out loot now. One interesting feature that quest items have now is the ability for it to automatically upgrade; whenever you receive new gear the game will randomly roll to see if the item will be upgraded to rare or epic. During raids there is a chance your gear will receive bonus effects or upgrades at random. There are also two new stats that have been added to items; Versatility increases damage done and reduces damage received and Multistrike will allow players to hit an enemy an extra 3 times at random.
It seems as though World of Warcraft has undergone some serious changes. Anyone playing Warlords of Draenor now? How do the changes feel?