Episode three of Blizzcast has been broadcast. It runs just under the hour and in it Karune the RTS Community manager interviews Dustin Browder, Lead Designer on Starcraft II. Bornakk interviews Jeff Kaplan, Lead Designer on World of Warcraft. Nethaera speaks to Joeyrary, Manager of Video Production and lastly a Q&A session with Dustin Browder and Jeff Kaplan.
Karune: What?s up everyone. Welcome back to our third episode of BlizzCast, where we take you behind the scenes into the world of Blizzard. I am your host, known to you guys as Karune on the boards. Today we have an exciting line up of Blizzard developers including Dustin Browder, our lead designer of StarCraft 2, who will give you details of the evolution of Zerg from the original StarCraft to StarCraft II. Following, Jeff Kaplan, our lead designer of World of Warcraft will be giving you insight on how designing raids and dungeons have changed from the original World of Warcraft to the Burning Crusade, and even better, how these changes may unveil into the Wrath of the Lich King. Next, we?ll be talking to Joeyray Hall, our Manager of Video Production, who will be sharing a glimpse into the machinima magic at Blizzard Entertainment. Last, but definitely not least, as introduced in our last series, we?ll be having our community Q&A section, where we?ll be asking devs questions submitted directly from the community.
Part One – Interview with Dustin Browder, Lead Designer for Starcraft II
Karune: First up, we have Dustin browder. Welcome to the show Dustin!
Dustin Browder: Hey!
Dustin is our Lead Designer for StarCraft II, which can definitely not be an easy job, creating one of the most anticipated video game sequels ever. Recently, we?ve just announced the Zerg faction for StarCraft II, and everyone has just been dying to know more. So, to jump into it?
Karune: About the Zerg evolution from StarCraft to StarCraft II in terms of gameplay, how would you say that has gone so far?
Dustin Browder: Well, I think we?re still playing a lot like the original StarCraft in a lot of places. I think we still have some room to innovate and reimagine the race a little bit more, but so far I think it is coming along pretty well. They are a pretty fun race to play. I don?t think they are quite as exciting to play as the Protoss are, and is definitely the weakest of our three races at the moment, but that is to be expected, as it is the race we started to work on the most recently. We?re still working on it really hard to get it done, but it is coming along pretty well.
Karune: What elements of the original Zerg did you feel were crucial to maintain for StarCraft II?
Dustin Browder: So a lot of the things we really want to make sure we maintain is the feel in a lot of ways of the race. So the Zerg were very fast, very aggressive, very mean, very flexible, and strategically able to rapidly change their technologies on the fly, on the battlefield. All of these things, the speed, the aggression, the feeling of constant fear when you are facing them, that these things are hunting you, is really important to us for the Zerg. So a lot of it, is the feel stuff. There isn?t a specific thing that we felt you had to have, but we do have a lot of things from the original game. We feel like we have that feeling of aggression, speed, and adaptability. We also have some stuff in there that you have already seen already in some of the units are themes that we want to carry over more from StarCraft, which the original StarCraft had- A lot of infestation for the Zerg, we wanted to highlight that and use that a little bit more than it had been used in the original StarCraft.
Karune: Sounds very exciting
Karune: So with the Queen unit being one of the new units that have been changed significantly from StarCraft one, could you tell us a little bit about where you are going with the Queen and how that has changed?
Dustin Browder: Sure, so the queen is a unit that the team wanted to do ever since original StarCraft. They have been talking about it for years and years and they really wanted to make more out of that unit. They felt that the original Queen didn?t really meet the name ?Queen.? It didn?t really say this is the leader and creator of the Swarm in a lot of ways. And obviously, in the story evolved, the Queen of Blades became a big part of the experience and the side changed a bit, but the team still wanted to explore this idea of a classic ?insect-like? Queen that rules over her whole hive. So that was the original creative idea for the Queen, to see if we could create that kind of unit. It felt like it fit the kit for the race pretty well, but could we find some cool mechanics to make it work. Right now with the Queen, she is sort of a mobile buff that you can move around your base that you apply it to your base defenses making your base defenses stronger, better, possible, wherever she goes. So, she has got a lot of gameplay to her right now in the sense that she is pretty mobile and can get to where she needs to be, but she can only be at one place at once. So you got to kind of chose what is the most important place for her to be right at that moment and I suppose more interestingly, from the enemy?s point of view, the Queen can be killed. So, enemy players will often be hunting for the Queen, to remove the threat of this defensive buff, before they invade the base, which really makes for some interesting cat and mouse gameplay, between enemy players hunting for the Queen, and the Queen trying to find a good place in her base to hide out while she is preparing for the inevitable enemy attack. So it feels like the queen as the owner of the hive and master of that space is fitting pretty well to the story idea of a Queen. We?ll see what people think when people get a chance to play with it in beta, and obviously we have more testing to do internally before we?re even ready for that step.
Karune: Is that always what you were going for, for the Queen, as far as being the mother of the whole entire hive?
Dustin Browder: The Queen has gone through a lot of different iterations as we looked for some way to make this concept of this character work. You think of the Queen as a character which is a classic monster from science-fiction that we really wanted to try and include. She has been a more aggressive unit in the past. She has been a unit that makes other units, which was another one of the original ideas we tried a lot of, where the Queen would lay eggs and create a wide variety of different specialist types of units in which only the Queen could create and that was a pretty cool hit. But the problem we had with it, is when you play the game, there is only one Queen, and even if you upgrade her quite a bit, having a Queen that was so critical to your tech tree, so core. I know base defenses are pretty important, but even only to have some units that only she could build was even worse, and even harder to balance, harder to make it work, and ultimately didn?t turn out to be that much fun.
Karune: So the next new unit, actually an old unit with new abilities and new attributes to their attack is the Ultralisk. So about the new cleave attack, I know it is something that a lot of people wanted to see since the original StarCraft ? how do you guys go about designing that and what has the Ultralisk been up to since StarCraft one?
Dustin Browder:We?ve tried a lot with the Ultralisk. This is one of our favorite units. There are a lot of opportunities to do some interesting with this unit. The same time we are really concerned about complexity. We want to make sure all of these units are as simple as we can really make them and fit that original StarCraft game design which was so clean and so crisp, where everything had such focused abilities. The cleave attacks seemed like an obvious thing for it to do, just by the shape of its blades. We haven?t really done a lot of testing on it as you can imagine. Anything like an Ultralisk that is at the very end of the tech tree, is something that just inherently gets less play time, as opposed to something like a Zergling or Hydralisk. So we?re really still looking at that to see how balanced it is and it gives the Ultralisk a little more teeth and it makes it feel a little less gimped against tier 1 units which is kind of nice and a bit of a fun thing that is not huge strategy thing yet, just because the Ultralisk has a lot of trouble getting into the middle of enemy forces right now. I mean you can kind of use the burrow and unburrow and that has been kind of fun, so the people can know, having seen our Zerg announcement videos that the Ultralisk can burrow and unburrow like the rest of the Zerg army. So that is a little bit useful, but we?re still trying to work out, is this as useful as we want it to be? Is there something else we should be doing with this unit to see if that is a good hit for that unit or not?
Karune: We?ll you guys have definitely done a great job of instilling that fear from the Ultralisk when you see him burrowing out of the ground.
Dustin Browder: He is terrifying. If you walk into an enemy base and suddenly there were three Ultralisk that you didn?t expect to see there, it can be quite a shock!
Karune: So some of the other concepts that have been brought up were about multiple building selection and increased macro management for StarCraft II- How are you dealing with that issue that is coming up on the boards?
Dustin Browder: As soon as I have an answer for ya, I will roll it out to you. We have been looking at a lot of different solutions for that problem and obviously we want to have a modern RTS that has a lot of the interface that people are used to playing with, especially the mid-range players who are really relying a lot on this interface to be remotely competitively. At the same time, we are very aware that we have lost some macro and to a lesser extent, micro in StarCraft II, so we?re still working on it. One of the things we did recently is that we made ?warp-in? a lot more effective than it was before, in which you are almost required to use ?warp-in? to be as effective as a high level Protoss player. Mid-level to low-level players probably still won?t use it but that is okay, but if you are a high-level player, you really have to use ?warp-in? because we have given you a discount on the build time for units that are warping in. This means now that you have to go back to your base to ?warp-in?, you have to go back to ?warp-in? even in the middle of a battle, and it gives you a little bit more of that macro feel, but early testing still indicates that it is not enough. We have had some of our ex-pro gamer play and at first they were really enjoying the extra challenge and about a week they had learned to handle it and it was still far too easy for them to macro, so this is still something we?re looking into to tackle. We?ve got different ideas that we want to try with the interface, we?re going to look at different mechanics, but it is a real issue and it is something that we?re taking really seriously.
Karune: What are some of the other ways you are increasing macromanagement for the other sides, maybe for Zerg?
Dustin Browder: If I had a good answer, I?d give it to you, though I really don?t have one.
Karune: No problem.
Dustin Browder: Like I said, we?ve got a bunch of bad solutions we?ve been talking about for quite a while- well not quite a while. We have different bad idea every week, but we?re trying lots of different ideas to do it. The simplest way to do it would be to roll back the interface to StarCraft one, the original StarCraft, which is definitely an option for us, but we really want to pursue and see if there is a way to make it work with the interface improvement that has become standard both for our games and our competitors titles. But we know right now that our hardcore guys are really worried about this, but at the same time if we roll back the interface that is like the original StarCraft, a whole bunch of other people that we aren?t hearing from right now will be very angry with us. We?re looking to make everybody happy with this, and it is a hard problem and we will keep working at it.
Karune: Good stuff, well we definitely appreciate the honest answers from you.
Karune: With the Zerg?s expansionistic strategy that you touched upon before ? How is that going to play in StarCraft II and are there new tactics that will be able to contain that type of Zerg expansionistic strategy?
Dustin Browder: So now the Zerg are even more able to expand more quickly than they ever had before, partly because of some of the balance numbers that have changed and the speed in which they can get into play. Other advantages the Zerg has of course is their ability to spread creep anywhere they want on the map with their Overlords, allowing them to offensively tower into enemy bases sometimes, but certainly important places on the battlefield. We?ve been recently experimenting with Zerg having the ability to move their base defenses and have removed that ability from the Protoss?s phase cannons and so the Zerg defense buildings can sort of pick up and scuttle around with crab like legs and it has been a pretty interesting test, as it has been a lot more successful of a mechanic on Zerg than it has for the Protoss. It makes the Zerg feel a lot more aggressive and a lot more dangerous. It feels like sometimes their base is invading your base, which is very Zerg and feels very, very cool. So the Zerg is definitely really able to get around the map and the other thing to remember too that a lot of players looking at it on the boards, which haven?t had the chance to play is that we have a lot of additional mobility in this game, between Reapers, Vikings, Stalkers, and Nydus Worms ? these races are more mobile than they have ever been, which really means that enemy players have a lot opportunities to spot these potential expansions and deal with them in a very real way that previously might have involved moving a much larger or even more dangerous force to engage these expansions. Now they can a smaller more agile force, threaten, feint, and attack from another direction. The whole board has now become a very threatening place as everyone has additional mobility and you really never know where you will encounter an enemy and you can?t rely on the map alone to wall off and protect you. It can protect you from some forces, as I know your Siege Tanks aren?t going to jump up a cliff and tear me apart, but your Reapers will. So it really pushes you to watch the whole map and always be on your guard on almost every point of the map at all times. It really is a more dynamic experience in that respect.
Karune: Nice, I?m excited to see that in the gameplay for sure.
Karune: So overall, the Zerg compared to the other two sides, what do you think has been the most challenging to design and why do you think that is?
Dustin Browder: That?s a really tough question. I guess all the races are really challenging in the sense that we?re really trying to walk the line between the greatness of the original StarCraft and at the same time, trying to give new strategies and tactics to players. So I would say, just like the other races, that has been one of the most challenging aspects of the Zerg and I think we?re not quite there yet. I think a lot of the old tactics and strategies yet remain, and we?re not offering enough new for players to learn and master and really figure out and really enjoy. So I would say that is probably the biggest challenge. I would say if you pick the single unit that has been the biggest pain to deal with would have to be the Queen. We have worked on the Queen for probably two years straight, trying variations from one to the other. I don?t want to say we?re even done yet, because I don?t think we necessarily are but she has probably been the single most challenging unit, much is something like the Mothership was probably and remains one of the most challenging units to work on for the Protoss.
Karune: Lastly, so, the direction of the Zerg overall ? Are you pretty happy with how it?s going right now? Do you still expect a lot of changes before beta happens?
Dustin Browder: I?m pretty happy with the progress on Zerg, but I would say it is the race right now that needs the most work. Having a chance to play some, the Protoss are easily the most enjoyable race right now. They feel the crispest, the sharpest, and feel the meanest in a lot of ways, and have the best counters, and the most interesting new strategies. Terrans are second, not far behind, and I would say the Zerg is definitely trailing as the third right now that we are really trying to double down on this race and add more stuff, and tune then, and polish them up, to make them feel really interesting and really different, and still try to maintain that same mean and feral, hungry, Zerg quality.
Karune: Well thanks a lot for your time Dustin
Dustin Browder: Well, sure, thank you very much!
Part Two – Interview with Jeff Kaplan, Lead Designer on World of Warcraft
Bornakk: Hello everybody – this is Bornakk from the World of Warcraft Community Team.
For our next segment we have our Lead Designer Jeff Kaplan returning to talk us about designing raids and dungeons. We will cover how they have evolved from the beginning of World of Warcraft up to some of the latest developments for what people will experience in our upcoming expansion, Wrath of the Lich King.
Welcome back to the show Jeff!
Jeff Kaplan: Well it?s great to be back.
Bornakk: To start us off, how did raid dungeon design evolve from the original World of Warcraft to The Burning Cruade?
Jeff Kaplan: I think we learned a lot of really good lessons from the original game. I think we were a little bit too hardcore early on. We didn?t introduce people into the raid content in a smooth enough curve. We tried to fix some of those issues in The Burning Crusade.
We also looked at things like the raid size and switched over from a 40 person raid cap to a 25 person raid cap. We introduced the concept of Heroic Dungeons which were extremely successful and we also introduced full blown 10 person raiding in the form of Karazhan and Zul?Aman.
So hopefully with Wrath of the Lich King we can take some of those ideas that we sort of evolved with Burning Crusade from the original game and continue them into the next expansion.
Bornakk: What are the most important lessons after seeing how The Burning Crusade has played out along with the feedback from the community?
Jeff Kaplan: There were a lot of really good lessons we learned in The Burning Crusade. To start with, I?ll start talking a little bit about the Heroic dungeons. We definitely learned that the loot needed to be better in Heroic instances. We have to work a bit on our attunement process not only for Heroics but for raiding in general.
We need to make sure that our introductory raids are a little bit more friendly; I don?t want to say to casual players, but a little bit more accessible to people in general. While I think High King Maulgar was a great encounter and Magtheridon was a great encounter, they weren?t necessarily tuned to the point of welcoming 25 person groups with open arms. It often took longer to explain to people how to do the High King Maulgar fight than it did to actually do the fight itself so I consider that a slight problem.
But all in all I think we learned a lot of really great lessons not only in how to tune the encounters, how to make the attunements a little bit more accessible and understandable, and then also just some lessons in how to itemize the raid content versus the other content in the game.
Bornakk: We recently announced that all raid dungeons in Wrath of the Lich King will have both a 10 person and 25 person version available for players. Some players are seeing this as just an easy mode and a hard mode for each dungeon. Could you explain the philosophy on how the dungeons are being designed around these two versions?
Jeff Kaplan: Sure thing. The idea behind 10 and 25 person raiding isn?t to make one easy mode and one hard mode. We want to have progression in both the 10 and 25 person raid format. So for example Naxxramas is supposed to be an accessible early tier raid which will actually be pretty easy for both 10 and 25 person groups. Those groups will however graduate in the next tier in a zone like Ulduar to a more difficult set of raid encounters and then the raid zones that will exist past Ulduar will ramp up in difficulty.
Bornakk: Do we know how the trash mobs and bosses differ between the two versions? Would it mainly be health and damage or would we see a different set of abilities as well?
Jeff Kaplan: I think we?re going to have to take that on a case by case basis. We use trash to sort of tune the pacing behind a dungeon and we don?t ever want it to ever feel like it takes too long to get to a boss. So sometimes we?ll just affect that with the number of creatures other times we?ll look at things like clear times or health modifiers on those creatures.
In terms of the bosses, we want each boss fight to have a specific spirit to it and to really make sense in terms of what we want the strategy to be and the core sort of neat gimmick of the boss fight and that might have to change from 10 to 25.
Bornakk: What can players who have cleared only the 10 person version expect when they try to do the 25 person version?
Jeff Kaplan: They should be able to expect having at least 15 more people there with them. In all seriousness, the fights will change anytime that you raise the number of people or just introduce different people to a raiding environment or change up class composition it changes the general vibe of that raid so I think it will always feel different, not just from 10 to 25 but whenever you switch up raid composition.
Bornakk: Players had some complaints in The Burning Crusade over the length of time between dungeons being released in the content patches. Do you expect this change to allow the release of new dungeons to be more consistent throughout the cycle of Wrath of the Lich King?
Jeff Kaplan: We try to get new content out to players as quickly as we can but we?re also committed to a very high level of quality. So we always have to balance those two things, we never want to rush a dungeon out or put something out unfinished or unpolished. We?ll do our best to get things out and we feel like we?re working faster than we have in the past to produce better content.
Bornakk: Will gear sets differ in look or bonuses between the two dungeon versions?
Jeff Kaplan: The art will probably look a little bit different between the two dungeon sets, meaning the 10 and the 25 person version. It might be things like a different color version of the same armor or the higher level, the 25 person content, might have more particle effects, so something along those lines.
Something that I am excited to talk about is that the PvP armor will be different from the PvE armor entirely in looks and colors this time.
Bornakk: Is it possible that we would we do something like include a timed event in one version and not the other?
Jeff Kaplan: Not sure if we would include a timed event in one version but not the other but we are certainly thinking about including things like timed events so that skilled players can really show off that little extra emphasis that they put on raiding.
Bornakk: Is it possible that we would we do something like include a timed event in one version and not the other?
Jeff Kaplan: Right now we?re going with the concept that 25 person raiding would be a full tier in item progression above the 10 person raiding so it?s quite a jump once you get the extra 15 people together.
Bornakk: Will the dungeon reset timers always match for both versions: 3 day or 7 day?
Jeff Kaplan: Will the dungeon reset timers always match for both versions: 3 day or 7 day?
Bornakk: You’ve talked in the past about how the raid dungeon Naxxramas will be returning in Wrath of the Lich King as a level 80 raid dungeon. Will we see the same stories of the Atiesh and the Corrupted Ashbringer return?
Jeff Kaplan: We definitely want to continue the story of Ashbringer, it?s one of our favorite things and we actually have a lot of fun with Ashbringer internally so we want to continue that storyline. Whether or not Atiesh exists in its current form or a new form that?s a great question, it?s still undecided. We really want to keep doing Legendary items though, we love the Legendary items we?ve done so far they?re really important to the story of Warcraft as a whole. So I think we?d like to bring back Atiesh at some point but Naxxramas is going to be really exiting. It?s moved over Nothrend now, it?s over a zone called Dragonblight, it?s currently laying siege to one of the Alliance towns there so I think fans are going to be really excited by sort of the return of Naxxramas, one of our best dungeons ever.
Bornakk: Sounds really exciting.
Bornakk: For Naxxramas, what bosses would you say are going through the most changes from the previous 40 person version that people know?
Jeff Kaplan: There?s a lot of bosses that will need serious consideration for when we make the change to the new style of raiding. In particular I think is the Four Horsemen, we?ve joked that the Four Horsemen are going to go from the Four Horsemen to the One Gnome on a Mule or something like that but no we?re not actually going to do that. We?re going to come up with ways to keep the spirits of those encounters the same. For example with the Four Horsemen what I think was really cool about it was the stacking auras and the need to rotate different groups in and out of those auras and sort of be aware of all four of the enemies at one time so as long as we can keep the spirit of that in the encounter I think we?re in good shape. Gothik the Harvester is going to be a challenging fight to rebalance for a different raid composition. The Kel?thuzad encounter is going to be a little bit challenging and I think the Gluth encounter will also pose some challenges because in smaller raid sizes we can only except so many of each different role whether it be crowd control, tanking, or healing. We?re really looking forward to it though, that?s the kind of design challenge that we look forward to as designers more than anything else.
Bornakk: What has been the most difficult part in updating a particularly well-liked dungeon like Naxxramas?
Jeff Kaplan: Probably the most difficult part is going to be overcoming peoples? nostalgia for what was cool and what wasn?t cool in the dungeon. I think keeping the spirit of the dungeon while not forcing ourselves to do everything exactly the way it was done originally. We want to change as little as possible, we want to keep the dungeon, you know, it?s Naxxramas, we want the bosses to be who they were doing the abilities that they were doing. While we get a lot of credit for Naxxramas being a great dungeon I do think there are things we could have done better, I do think there were some flawed encounters in there that we could actually improve upon. I?ll say the Four Horsemen is one of those encounters because I think part of the reason it?s such a highly regarded encounter is that so few people actually did it and experienced it, it got placed in its own legendary status without a lot of people having ever tried it knowing what the fight entailed. Obviously we can do a better job with the Loatheb encounter, we can get the tuning on Grobbulus correct this time, but Naxxramas is going to be an introductory dungeon so we need to make it a lot more accessible to new raiders, so that?s going to be a challenge. Where it sat before was the end of regular WoW, the raiding tiers there, so we need to move to the front of the line and be an introductory raid.
Bornakk: Patchwerk won?t be quite so mean anymore?
Jeff Kaplan: Patchwerk needs to be really mean and he needs to be sort of a check and a bragging right, but it?s important to note that Naxxramas is non-linear there is lots of other bosses people can choose to do first so as long as we make some of those other bosses a little bit more accesslble. But I wouldn?t freak out if Patchwerk dies very early in the expansion, that?s his job, he?s supposed to.
Bornakk: For our five person dungeons, how many dungeons will players have available in Wrath of the Lich King, how many are we looking at?
Jeff Kaplan: We?re thinking right now roughly about a dozen and all those would have heroic difficulty and normal difficulty. So roughly about a dozen give or take a few we?ll see when we?re sort of at the end of the development cycle where we?re at.
Bornakk: Can we expect to see the return of a system similar to the Badges of Justice for the heroic 5 person and raid dungeons and if so, are there any changes or improvements really planned for this system?
Jeff Kaplan: Definitely. Heroic Badges of Justice were a new concept that we introduced with Burning Crusade and it was a concept I?m really happy with and I think it played out pretty well for the most part in Burning Crusade but we can definitely make some improvements. And we?d like to apply that same idea not just to the heroic dungeons in Wrath of the Lich King but apply it to raiding as well. I think we can do some things a little bit different or better, for example we want to come up with some way to indicate what tier you are doing content on so there is not just badge loot that serves a massive pool of content. Maybe it would require a token from different levels of content in addition to the badges or maybe there is separate currencies per tier but we?d like to come up with a way to sort of stratify the items so that way players doing higher level content have access to a different pool than players doing lower level content. And then I think we?re also going to find ways to move some of those badge type items on to reputation vendors, sort of spread them around much more, right now they are just kind of lumped on one dude in Shattrath and one dude out on the Isle of Quel?Danas but we?d like to sort of spread those guys out and have it be a more robust system where you actually go to vendors in town and you?ll see them there and reputation guys all over the world and sort of blow out the system much more than we?ve done.
Bornakk: We also added in some Daily Quests to improve the value of running like the five person dungeons, are there plans to expand upon this from the very start of the expansion?
Jeff Kaplan: Yes, we want to have definitely a dungeon daily quest similar to the one that?s in the game right now available from the start of Wrath of the Lich King, same would go for heroic mode. Daily quests in general are a concept that we want to explore more. We want more daily quests with more randomization in them to keep them from getting old and repetitive and we want to try to have them in place when Wrath of the Lich King ships. Daily quests were actually introduced after The Burning Crusade shipped in our first patch, it wasn?t even something we had the technology to do when we shipped Burning Crusade, but we?ve been learning a lot of lessons in our patches in 2.1 and 2.3 and 2.4 on what?s good and what?s bad about daily quests and we hope to refine the system and have those in place when Wrath of the Lich King ships.
Bornakk: More bombing quests right?
Jeff Kaplan: More bombing quests! See if we do too many bombing quests they become the new collection quest and then everybody?s like, ?I hate bombing quests, I just want to do a collection quest.? That?ll be the day.
Bornakk: Yeah, it will be.
Bornakk: Some players have expressed some concerns that several of the current 5 person dungeons require crowd-control spells to even be attempted either due to the number of mobs in the pulls or the special abilities the mobs have. Does feedback like this pose a significant challenge when designing the new dungeons?
Jeff Kaplan: Definitely, I think class composition is one of the trickiest things to get right. The larger the raid size the easier it is to tune the content because you can expect a little bit of everything. The smaller a group size gets, down to five people, we?re at a really challenging spot in a lot of cases. Basically what we can guarantee is that you have a tank, you have a healer, and we can?t even really guarantee that you have crowd control at that point. We are assuming you have dps, if you don?t have dps that means you brought more tanks and healers or crowd control, and therefore you know you don?t need to do as much dps. The goal is to really tune the five person content so that it doesn?t require a specific class composition but rather you could tackle the content with a mix of class compositions. So really the trick there is just not overtuning the content, I think we run that risk much more with something like a heroic mode than we do in normal mode, but players would be surprised. I?m often baffled, I?ll be in Shattrath on one of my characters and I?ll be looking at the Trade channel where everybody LFGs in the Trade channel and I?ll see, ?We need a Shadow Priest for Shadow Lab and then our group is ready, we have everything we need but we absolutely have to have a Shadow Priest? or a Frost Mage or like these crazy specs and compositions that I really question if players actually need that specific spec or if they?re just sort of putting an extra burden on themselves when it comes to putting a group together. Most players are usually pretty surprised that even in Shadow Lab if you go into Blackheart?s room and pull the biggest pull and you don?t have any crowd control that usually means that you?ve got more dps or more people who can drop fears down and just pull the pull back a little bit further and use all the little tricks your class has and you can usually pull something off. So I think the power is kind of in the player?s hands at a certain point too.
Bornakk: Don?t know it until you try it.
Jeff Kaplan: Yeah, exactly.
Bornakk: The first dungeon many players will explore in Northrend is Utgarde Keep. Can you tell us what players can expect to encounter throughout the various wings of this dungeon and how it will compare to Hellfire Citadel, which is the first dungeon people explored in The Burning Crusade?
Jeff Kaplan: Sure thing, Utgarde is a really cool dungeon that is in a zone called Howling Fjord. It is filled with these guys called the Vrykul, who are these huge sort of half giant barbarian-like creatures who have turned very nasty and evil. They?re actually trying to get into the good graces of the Lich King by doing evil deeds and when they die they are risen up and sort of taken into the Scourge. So they are really evil guys, unlike the Horde and Alliance who want nothing to do with the Lich King, only want to defeat them, these Vrykul guys think the Lich King is so cool that they want to do even worse deeds to get in his good graces.
The dungeon is filled with them, the first room in Utgarde Keep is this massive forge room where they are forging weapons to go against the Horde and Alliance. They are also these famed dragon riders, if you look at their architecture they have stretched dragonskins over their village huts and that sort of thing. So the second room you come to is this really cool Proto-Dragon stable and the Proto-Dragons were sort of the early version before dragons really evolved into the sentient, beautiful majestic creatures that they are in Warcraft right now; they were these sort of primitive things that the Vrykul really lorded over. So you get to fight a variety of bosses, you also get your first interaction with the Scourge in this dungeon. You?ll find out that there is a Scourge ambassador and that the Vrykul are trying to get in with the Scourge then you?ll fight one of the Warlords and get a bit of lore about who is leading the Vrykul. And when you?re a max level player you can go up to Utgarde Pinnacle which is the max level dungeon that?s at the top of Utgarde Keep. So again, it?s kind of like a two wing dungeon with an entry-level level 70 wing on par with let?s say The Ramparts and then a max level wing that would be like the equivalent of Shattered Halls. So I think it?s a pretty cool place, we try to vary up the architecture from room to room so it feels a little bit different, it looks different, we use different creatures in the different rooms, we try to give various crowd control types, so the dragons can be hibernated, there is humanoids, undead for the different crowd control types all have options in the dungeon and then do some really cool scripted boss fights too.
Bornakk: Proto-Dragon mount right?
Jeff Kaplan: Proto-Dragon mount perhaps, maybe.
Bornakk: One of the most talked about dungeons is the new Caverns of Time instance set during the events of Warcraft III, where players will be fighting alongside Prince Arthas in Stratholme against the Dreadlord Mal?ganis, who was destroying the city with the plague. Has designing this dungeon brought any new unique challenges for you?
Jeff Kaplan: It?s very challenging. Part of it anytime we work on one of the Caverns of Time dungeons, we get obsessed with what we did before so we had this moment when we were working on Hyjal where all we wanted to do is stay as true to the Warcraft III Battle of Mount Hyjal episode as possible but at a certain point you have to say to yourself, ?What game play works better for a Real Time Strategy game versus what game play works better for World of Warcraft?? So I think that?s one of the things that we have to focus on, not just recreating The Culling mission from Warcraft III which is where Stratholme took place but finding out what was cool in The Culling and what can translate into MMO game play for World of Warcraft. So sort of managing the expectations that the map is going to play out exactly like it did in Warcraft III, that?s one thing for sure. Making sure we pay homage to Stratholme from the original shipping game is also really important because there is a lot of WoW players who haven?t played Warcraft III and are only going to know Stratholme as that burning city in Eastern Plaguelands so making sure that it?s cool for those people. And then I think it?s also really important that we continue to tell the story of the Infinite Dragonflight and sort of explain what?s going on with the Caverns of Time in general. But I have got to say on the development team it?s one of the dungeons we?re most excited about working on.
Bornakk: Very exciting.
Bornakk: Another thing is in any dungeon regarding the trash mobs, Zul?aman presented relatively few mobs to encounter although they were quite challenging. Karazhan on the other hand had quite a large number but relatively easy ones. Will we continue to see both of these approaches in future dungeons?
Jeff Kaplan: I think so. I think one thing that is really important is to vary up what sorts of creatures people encounter, not just boss creatures, but general creatures in a dungeon making sure we?re not doing the same thing over and over again. I think a certain amount of scripting is very important like you brought up, the Scouts in Zul?Aman, I think that can be really fun it keeps players on their toes but we want to make sure not to go overboard with that otherwise there is a certain pacing to the dungeon and a lot of players sort of enjoy the more laid back social moments where they?re sort of chatting with their group getting through then we they get to the boss they put on their game face at that point. We have to make sure that there is a good pacing to the dungeon where players feel moments where they can sort of relax and be more social versus you know everything requiring an advanced strategy.
We ran into a similar thing with Auchenai Crypts in The Burning Crusade where I think there were really cool ideas going on with creatures that spawn in after you aggro the other creatures in the dungeon, it was a really great concept but it would have worked better as a raid mechanic or a 10 person or 25 person raid mechanic whereas in a level up dungeon players just weren?t expecting that degree of coordination and tactics required to pull something like that off. So I think we need a good variation. So kind of a long answer just to say, yeah, we?re going to keep mixing it up.
Bornakk: In Zul’Aman and Shattered Halls players were introduced to some timed events. Are there any plans to see this return in WotLK?
Jeff Kaplan: Yes, I think we?d really like to continue to do timed events. We?ve learned a lot, actually the first time we introduced people to it was the 45 minute Baron run, so it?s a concept that we?ve been working on for awhile. We need to be careful with it, we can?t make the timed run be too consuming or else it actually takes away from some of the fun of the dungeon. Where I like a timed run is where the time is a reasonable length, it doesn?t feel like a necessity to progress, it more feels like an additional challenge to the dungeon. So Zul?Aman is a great example, the first few times you do the dungeon, you?re really just learning the boss mechanics and the mechanics to clear through the dungeon as a whole. And then later when you?re more comfortable with it you really start challenging your group to see if you can tackle it. So I hope our future timed runs sort of go along those lines and also don?t become totally consuming. An example is early on in Zul?Aman, people were talking about a timed run actually being all the way through Zul?Jin, but I felt like on a personal level that was just too long of a time to sort of be playing at 110% which you really need to do.
Bornakk: Thanks for all the insight on the dungeon designing. We?ll talk to Jeff again in a little bit to help us with the Q&A section but next up we hand the mic over to Nethaera who is interviewing our Manager of Video Production Joeyrall Hall.
Part Three – Joeyray Hall (Manager of Video Production) on Machinima
Nethaera: Hello everyone, this is Nethaera from the World of Warcraft Community Team. On this edition of BlizzCast, we?re sitting down to talk with one of the people behind the video and machinima magic of Blizzard Entertainment, Joeyray Hall, our Manager of Video Production. Joeyray has been at Blizzard Entertainment for a long time, and we?re going to delve a little into what inspires him and his team.
Welcome to the BlizzCast Joeyray!
Joeyray Hall: Hello, how are you?
Nethaera: I?m good.
Nethaera: Could you let the listeners know a little more about what you do?
Joeyray Hall: I run the DVD and Video Production Department here at Blizzard and what that basically means is that I get to make all the really cool stuff that everybody gets to see out on the web. My team is responsible for all the trailers you see, both here and throughout the world. The Black Temple trailer for example, the Sunwell trailer that just came out, the Zerg trailer that just came out, it?s just a really cool job to do. We?re also responsible for the Collector?s Edition DVDs that you get when you buy the Collector?s Edition, and we?re responsible for all the video that you see, the live action video pieces that come out for all the events that we have. We also do all of the video for BlizzCon or just all the different things that Blizzard does throughout the world. We also do all the footage for the TV shows that you see, anywhere you see any Blizzard game play footage it usually comes through our office and we?ve created it or captured it.
Nethaera: You?ve worked on many notable projects for World of Warcraft such as the various trailers, videos, and commercials as you?ve said, but I?d be remiss if I didn?t bring up the South Park, ?Make Love not Warcraft? episode. Could you explain a bit about what part in it you and your team had and what it was like working with the people at South Park?
Joeyray Hall: Making the South Park episode was a lot of fun but it also was a whole lot of hard work, there were a lot of 20 hour days. It took about two and a half weeks to do and we did all of the work up at South Park itself in their studios. So we had our own little server and stuff setup there that we all played on but we also did it on a live server which was really cool because people would always come in and interrupt our shooting going, ?What are you guys doing here?? and we?d have to teleport them away, it was a lot of fun but it was interesting.
Working with Matt (Stone) and Trey (Parker) was a little intimidating at first because it was kind of like ?Oh wow, it?s Matt and Trey – you know, South Park, yay!? But basically the workload basically went like this, they?d come in, we?d go over all the shots for the day and then Trey would come in, we?d sit down, and he?d direct us all through. The team would be playing all the parts, like all the characters, we?d have our little signs above our computer of which character we were playing so in my particular case I was playing, who was it, I was playing Stan, yes! Yeah so I played Stan in all the footage that we used. Trey directed our team through the shots, each one, so he would sit there and Chris would be our camera man and each us, each of the other people on the team would be one of the parts and it was a lot of fun. One thing that was really bizarre about working there was that they bring in food every three hours, 24 hours a day, so when we finally left it took me about two weeks to lose the extra weight I gained while there, but it was a lot of fun.
When we first got there it was really cool because my guys had only been working with me for about three weeks, we had just started putting the team together and they had only been with Blizzard for three to four weeks. So we get there and we sit them down and I didn?t really tell them exactly what we were going up there to do, so we go up there and I sit them down and the next thing they know Matt and Trey are standing over there going, ?Oh no we need more of this on this character and this on this character.? And they are just there like shaking and I?m just like, ?Calm down, take a breath, it?s going to be okay.? And by the end it was like everybody had been together forever, it was a lot of fun to do. And I think the guys did a fantastic job, I think that Matt and Trey were extremely happy with what we got for them and if we ever do it again we have a ton more tools we didn?t have then so it?s going to make it a lot easier.
Nethaera: So what exactly was your favorite part of the creation process?
Joeyray Hall: I think the collaboration between the two teams because we were from so different disciplines, them from the TV and us from video games, and it was interesting to see how everybody worked together to create something that was so unique because the show did turn out extremely unique. And I think that one of the things that Mike (Morhaime) reminded me of after the show was over was that years and years and years ago I brought in a seriously over dubbed VHS tape of The Spirit of Christmas (An animated short by Trey Parker and Matt Stone) and forced everybody (at Blizzard Entertainment) to watch it because nobody had seen it. And I guess getting over the fan boy thing and hanging out with them and working on the project with them was just really cool. And winning the Emmy on my birthday wasn?t bad either because?
Nethaera: The icing on the cake for you.
Joeyray Hall: It was actually rewarded to them on my birthday which I thought was really cool.
Nethaera: Did you receive anything special for it to commemorate that?
Joeyray Hall: Actually we did. One of the things that was cool about the South Park episode was that when all was said and done and the Emmy was awarded the South Park guys were very kind enough to have us put on the list to have us receive an Emmy certificate that we keep in our museum here at Blizzard. So it says, ?For their contributions to the South Park episode Make Love not Warcraft? and it says Blizzard Entertainment so that was very cool to have.
Nethaera: So we?ll move on to the next thing. The Video Department has worked on many great trailers, videos, and commercials for Blizzard. Do you have a favorite project that you ?ve worked on?
Joeyray Hall: I do have a favorite but unfortunately it?s not something that the public would have seen because for me the favorite things that I do are the stuff I do for the internal group, for the company itself. One of the two things that stand out in my mind are the 10 Year Anniversary DVD and the 15 Year Anniversary DVD because that gives me a chance to just talk about Blizzard to Blizzard and make fun of the people that we see every day and that we work with every day and it?s just fun to do. It?s fun to show how much that we all love each other and put it out in front of the whole company. And I think those are the things that really stand out in my mind as the things that I personally enjoy doing myself.
I think that as far as the things that are out there, I love the Verne Troyer commercial, I love the Mr. T commercial, I love the stuff we did with Toyota, I think that some of the trailers that we do are just phenomenal and being able to bring the stories, the raw stories of how they?re conceptually come up with from Metzen or any of that, bringing those stories to life is just a lot of fun to do and very cool.
Nethaera: Well since you mentioned the lore aspect of it, that brings us to the lore in things such as The Black Temple obviously comes into play when planning the trailers, but does it make it easier or harder for you?
Joeyray Hall: I think that there?s not a matter of easier or harder. I think that what the lore gives us, even though it does appear at times to be limiting, lore gives us the story that we?re telling. I think that it?s important to tell the story at hand as correctly as possible, I think that bringing the visions of our story tellers to life through the use of video is a very important way of doing it. And the more lore that we have the more understanding we have of what the original vision was, things like that, the more we?re going to get into it. Whether it?s easy or hard really never comes into play because it?s just that?s the fun part of actually making it happen. When we finish a piece and it?s written and it?s done and it?s finished and we?re showing it to Chris (Metzen) or Mike (Morhaime) or Frank (Pearce) or anybody and they?re looking at it and they?re just so geeked up because it?s exactly the way they envisioned it, that?s the best thing in the world.
Nethaera: Right. Alright well we?d like to thank Joeyray Hall for taking the time to talk with us and all of the listeners. For those of you that may have missed all of these great machinima video productions and cinematics please visit the World of Warcraft site at http://www.worldofwarcraft.com and visit the movie section.
This is Nethaera from the World of Warcraft Community Team, signing off for now.
Part Four – Q&A session with Dustin Browder and Jeff Kaplan
Bornakk: Hi everyone this Bornakk with another Q&A portion of BlizzCast. With the recent unveiling of the Zerg in Starcraft 2, there have been a lot of questions on the forums regarding their game play and we have Dustin Browder here, our Lead Designer, to answer these questions from our fans. Welcome to the show!
Dustin Browder: Thanks man.
Bornakk: The first question is: Can the Zerg unit, the Queen, build on enemy Zerg player?s creep? And what strategies would this allow?
Dustin Browder: Well creep is creep, we?re trying not to have player owned creep in the game we really want to have just regular creep and anywhere creep is that?s just where creep is. So yeah, anything that you can do on creep you can do on enemy creep because there isn?t really such a thing, it?s all just the same stuff. So the Queen can potentially get to an enemy base and create some base defenses there. In all practicality we have slowed the Queen down a lot when she?s not on creep, certainly since the play tests that went out a few weeks ago and the people were playing, it?s really changed a lot already. So the unit is much much slower when she?s not moving around on creep and she?s, as a result, a lot more vulnerable. So we?re really not seeing a lot of Queen rushing, in our opening game in Zerg versus Zerg, in fact currently we?re not seeing any right now. That?s not to say that players won?t ultimately do that and we won?t need to ultimately address that potential issue but we think we have the tools to limit it, making it a rare possibility, something kind of exciting that players can do if they catch the enemy off guard but most of the time it?s not really practical.
Bornakk: With the ability to do Multiple Building Selection, it will be easy for a Zerg player to build a huge group of reinforcements over a small period of time once you have the Hatcheries setup. Are you increasing macro for the Zerg player to balance this out?
Dustin Browder: Well we?re trying to figure out how to do that, so we haven?t decided exactly what we are going to do or even exactly what our approach is going to be. It is a very real issue and it is something we have been working on for quite some time and we will keep working on until we get it pounded out but I do not have an answer for you today as to what specifically we are going to do but it is definitely real and we are totally aware of it.
Bornakk: Is there anything else you would like to say to the Starcraft players out there that you have on the edge of their seats right now?
Dustin Browder: I can say I really appreciate all of the feedback we have had from the fan sites and from the fans who have come and posted on our forums. It?s always exciting to go up and see what people are thinking about the game and what they like and don?t like. I just encourage people to keep checking out what we are doing and see what you think and put up occasional polite post up there that tells us if you don?t like something in your sig or something you like or don?t like ? we are listening and we totally want to hear what the fans think.
I?d also like to say that as we roll out these races I don?t want people to think that we are absolutely just done. We put up a cool video and it is cool and we are really happy with it, it?s really awesome, but that we think the race is just completely done mechanically or the game is all done, when the game is at that state we will roll out the beta and show it to people and let them play it but we are definitely still working on the game and we really do want to keep polishing and keep improving it. So hang in there, we are still working and we will try to give them the best game we possibly can.
Bornakk: Alright, awesome. Thank you very much for the information Dustin, we look forward to having more discussions on this as the game continues to develop.
Bornakk: Up next we have some World of Warcraft questions directly from of our players that Jeff Kaplan will help us out with.
The first one today has been a hot topic among out players and it is in regards to the recent PvP content and features like the Arena Tournament. The question was sent to us from Bruden on the realm Deathwing:
What plans and new ideas do you have for upcoming PvE content?
Jeff Kaplan: I think we have a lot of cool things planned. It?s really difficult for me to give you a bullet point list of sort of what is going to be new and unique without showing you the new dungeons. I think the fact that we are working on over a dozen, simply 5 man instances that will all have heroic mode all with new scripted boss encounters is going to be pretty amazing. Then what we have planned for the raid game is also going to be really cool so nothing new to the fundamental system of PvE as a whole but a lot of brand new super creative content that I think will really keep players challenged.
I think something else that players need to be aware of too is that we have got a really strong grasp on how to itemize the heroics this time around and how to balance itemization between 10 person raiding, 25 person raiding, the Arena, and the Honor system. Players have to remember that when Burning Crusade came out we?d never had the Arena before and the Honor system had just gotten revamped to a new system that we weren?t really familiar with. We had never balanced Heroic dungeons before or knew where the itemization needed to fall for Heroics versus 10 person versus single raids like Gruul and Magtheridon. We have a much better understanding of what works and what doesn?t work so I feel like a lot of those itemization balance changes that we are looking into making will really create an exciting PvE environment for players in addition to PvP.
Bornakk: This next question from the troll priest Wichdocta on the realm Earthen Ring:
World of Warcraft has some fantastic items to help implement and foster role playing in the game. I’m wondering what other role playing items the role players can look forward to seeing in Wrath of the Lich King?
Jeff Kaplan: Well the role players, and I can tell by his name Wichdocta that he?s really into role playing, the role playing players are actually going to get a lot of items even before Wrath of the Lich King. We have a great event coming up, it is our Mid-Summer Fire Festival which players have seen before but we have completely revamped it and players got kind of a sneak preview of it when we were PTRing patch 2.4 on the test realm. So there is a lot of really cool items, one of my favorite items was the Brazier of Dancing Light which is this brazier that you place down and it has this dancing figure all on fire and you can dance with her then it turns you on fire as well and it really is just a role play item but it is a fun toy for people to play with. You can juggle torches, there is a robe that when you click on it, it sets you on fire and puts you dancing. So there is a lot of fun stuff that I think players will have and we are planning to continue that same concept – a lot of fun toys – we are looking into making for Wrath of the Lich King as well.
Bornakk: This next question is from Falrinn on the realm Turalyon:
In Wrath of the Lich King, will heroic dungeons be unlocked through reputation gain like most are now or will they be unlocked through a quest chain like heroic Magisters? Terrace?
Jeff Kaplan: It is funny because we have been thinking a lot about that lately and we don?t have it quite figured out yet. We know we can?t do it strictly based on reputation at this point because not all the dungeons that we have in the game are on clean reputations like they were for Burning Crusade. In Burning Crusade you had the Coilfang instance wings were all on Cenarion reputation or you had the Hellfire Citadel dungeons were all on either Thrallmar or Honor Hold. The dungeons aren?t quite laid out like that in Wrath of the Lich King, so we?ve been thinking of some hybrid ideas that revolve around reputation and quests. One idea is that there would be a quest that takes you through all the max level instance wings that would unlock heroic as a system as a whole. So we know we want to do some unlocking mechanism, we want to make sure though that it?s not so tough that if you miss the initial leveling curve you can?t catch up that you feel like you are constantly shut out of it. So it is something we have been thinking about a lot lately but we do not have a firm answer just now.
Bornakk: Well that?s everything we have for today. We?ll look forward to hearing more details as they become available. Thanks for all your time today Jeff!
Jeff Kaplan: It was a pleasure I had a lot of fun being here.
Bornakk: That concludes BlizzCast episode 3, we would like to once again thank Dustin, Jeff, and Joeyray for their time in making this episode. This is Bornakk on behalf of the whole Community Team, thanks for listening and we?ll see you next time!
- Download Episode 3 in .mp3 format 104mb – EU Mirror | US Mirror