Tom Chilton interview on patch 4.0.3a

People aren’t very sure of what’s going live with Patch 4.0.3a, and what will be added on December 7th with the actual release of the expansion. Will people be able to visit the new zones added to the old world such as Uldum or Mount Hyjal?

TC: Well, obviously those zones have been patched to players. They won’t be available until players can level up. What we’ve done is kind of early stages… we’ve done a bit of terrain phasing to make them unavailable. But we’re not gonna be surprised when players find a way to get in.

Ultimately what matters is that they can’t actually do any of the quests until they’re Cataclysm account enabled.

What about things like the professions updates, Archaeology, PvP changes and the guild leveling system? Are those all features of Cataclysm or can players expect any of those in The Shattering?
TC: Those features are all part of Cataclysm.

How about race and faction changes? Will I be able to change my Mage from Human to Dwarf right whne it comes out? Or will we have to wait a certain period of time before the new race options become available?
TC: They’ll be able to do that right away. So for any of the combos that are available, we currently expect players to be able to do the race change into those as soon as The Shattering happens.

The revamp of Azeroth was an insane amount of work and the results look amazing. Are you happy with the final result and what do you think are the zones players should definitely check after the release of the patch?
TC: Definitely happy with the results. It’s been a long time coming for sure. I’m really proud of what the team’s been able to accomplish. I think an absolute must for zones to check out would be like… Westfall, Stonetalon, Silverpine. Those are some of my personal favorites, and I’m sure players will decide for themselves what they think are the coolest. But I really dig those myself.

Are there any quests that stand out to you as something really awesome players must experience?
TC: Just the storylines as a whole in those zones that I mentioned. Things like what it means to be Horde in Stonetalon, stuff like that. There’s also uncovering everything that’s happening in Westfall. It’s all really good stuff. That’s why I say those zones in general, more from a combination of gameplay and visuals rather than just a visual standpoint.

During Blizzcon 2009, you mentioned plans to revamp the racials for all the races to make them as cool and useful as Worgen and Goblin’s, but only made a few tweaks in the end. Is there any reason why you changed your mind?
TC: Well, I mean the racials are extremely dicey to change. It’s very difficult to change those without creating far-reaching problems in the game. They’re like a multiplier on the class stuff. So I think we tend to be a little more conservative with changing, where with class stuff where we’re pretty aggressive about making significant changes.

Interestingly I think the racials are something that a lot of players are comfortable with and get used to over time. We’ve managed to contain them to be pretty small, and I definitely have fears that if we go and do a big overhaul that we would actually turn them into more than they really need to be, and cause problems for the game in doing so.

While I definitely can’t say racials are perfect as they are now — they’re not perfect — I feel like they’re at a level where considering all the balance difficulties in Cataclysm going into the game, in 2009 I think that in some ways we were tackling too many balance problems and fundamental changes at the same time. I don’t think an overhaul to racials is something we could add to that mix.

You announced during Blizzcon that new enhanced maps would be added to the game and would include the loot and abilities lists. Don’t you think it removes an interesting part of raiding where people actually learn the encounters?
TC: It is a feature we’re interested in, and it’s something we’ll be actively working on. The idea is that when you look at your dungeon map you would see a listing of the bosses in there. Right now you can kind of see the skulls for where the bosses are, but you’ll get a lot more information on them. You’ll be able to mouse over them… or whatever… and get like a tooltip on what the boss is, what their abilities are, and a general sense of how the encounter is supposed to play.

How is The Shattering going to happen? Should we expect an epic ending to the pre-Cataclysm event and elemental invasions?
TC: The culmination, we’re already at the final stage of the event that builds up to The Shattering. The final “event” is the in-game cinematic. And that’s really what the transition is for players, that players will play through this event that’s building up and then at some point… just because of the realities of the code, we have to flip a switch.

So we’re going to be doing that during maintenance when The Shattering happens, and so when players log back in for the first time, it’s a very small patch for players, and be introduced to the cinematic. That’s suppose to be what happened while you were asleep. Conceptually, this is what just happened while you weren’t controlling your character.

That being said, where will players be when they log in? I know in beta it sent people to either the outside of Orgrimmar or the outside of Stormwind. Have you guys finalized where people are going to actually log in?
TC: Yeah they’ll log in alive at the nearest graveyard of the zone they were at. So let’s say they were in the middle of Arathi Highlands, they would be standing wherever the nearest graveyard is to where they were logged out at. So they’re not like falling through the air to their deaths when they log in.

How exactly will The Shattering transition over into Cataclysm on the 7th? Is 4.0.3a going to set it up so players will go seamlessly from Wrath to Cataclysm at midnight, or will you still need to restart the realms?
TC: Yeah, when we launch on December 7th that will be very seamless, and that’s designed to not require server downtime. That will be more like it was with Burning Crusade and Lich King, at the stroke of midnight… boom you can go to the new areas.

Is there anything you would have liked to keep around after revamping Azeroth that you couldn’t due to it not making any sense lore-wise? The Tirion Fordring quest series in Eastern Plaguelands, as an example.
TC: Yeah, I mean that’s definitely an example of a really cool quest line. There are also things about, you know, some of the new zones are amazing and unquestionably better. Westfall, it’s definitely nostalgia in the old Defias Brotherhood. So, I think that for sure in a couple years, or even in a year we’ll have the nostalgia of ‘Oh I miss some of this old content.’

That’s inevitable, even if the new stuff is… I guess, objectively better.

What are your thoughts on Death Knight design in 4.0.3a? Many DKs in the beta seem to feel they are in poor shape and desperately need more work. An example being Frost going relatively untouched after the tree downsizing.
TC: Interestingly we did the Best Buy developer chat, and it’s funny because I could swear I saw a comment from all of the classes that felt they definitely needed more work and were not up to par with the other classes. In a lot of ways that’s kind of the nature of it. Things are changing, and there’s no doubt in my mind that some specs come out below where we want them to be. But I can’t say for sure which ones those are. We need more data before we really know.

The reality is the set we have from beta inevitably is very limited in a lot of ways. What we’re saying about balance will be very different two months from now, than right now. Even with some of those, some of these claims are going to prove to be true, but we can’t necessarily chase every single one of these claims because a lot of them will be completely wrong.

Speaking to Death Knights in particular, I know that both the Unholy and Frost trees are things the guys have been looking into and trying to make them about right. But I think they might be closer than people give them credit for.

Do you feel that recent reductions to self healing (in beta) for DKs, Shadow Priests, and Affliction Warlocks takes away a certain appeal from these classes? For a lot of players having a certain level of self sufficiency is a major draw to play these specs and in Cataclysm that facet of these classes has been seriously diminished.
TC: That’s definitely very deliberate. Through a good chunk of the end of beta, for the last couple months, self healing in beta was really out of control. That goes beyond just the specs that you mentioned. Obviously there’s like Rogues with Recuperate, Warrior Second Wind kind of stuff. Some of that spills over into in PvE, some does not, but in large part I’d say a lot of the self healing stuff generally was ok in PvE but it tended to be a significant problem in PvP. And this is whether you’re talking about battlegrounds, or arenas, or dueling or whatever.

So a lot of that stuff was stuff that we deliberately started to reign under control. Some of that is a side effect of the fact that a lot of the mechanics for healing have changed. Healing has, in a sense, become less powerful than it was before. That inherently made all the self healing stuff seem more powerful. Especially when you compound that with a lot of the self healing stuff is done as a percentage of the health bar.

And we kept increasing the health players got at 85, so health pools at 85 — those percentage based self heals — started to become incredible when compared to Renew and stuff like that.

In 4.0.1, and 4.0.3 that’s live now, Arcane Mages become kind of a one-button-wonder with Arcane Blast. Is there anything in The Shattering that you’re going to try to do to address that?
TC: I feel like for the most part it addresses itself as you go up to level 85. A lot of that is due to the way the mana pools are structured at 80. I guess the interesting gameplay for Arcane in terms of managing your mana pool didn’t really happen at level 80. At 85 it pretty dramatically changes how the gameplay works out. You really have to manage your Arcane Blast otherwise it will drain you quickly and then you’re just kind of done. So the idea is how much you Arcane Blast, or kind of cool off your stack with an Arcane Missiles or Arcane Barrage.

–Kody Note: At this point we were out of questions thanks to the Best Buy developer chat answering most of what we had, so I tried to come up with more based on the 4.0.3a patch notes. I didn’t want to ask questions already answered just for the sake of article size, where possible.

With the new talent system, do you see this finally being the death of the “hybrids must be below pures” philosophy? Hybrids can’t really support all roles sufficiently anymore with a single spec.
TC: I don’t think it’s as much of a philosophical decision, as it is… some of that is inherent to the fact that we reigned in healing to a fair amount. The amount of health you can fill with a direct heal. So that has a direct consequence on how much of a health pool they’re able to heal with one spell. Philosophically we still want hybrids to feel hybridy, and we try to build in mechanics to allow Resto Shaman to do some damage and vice-a-versa we want an Elemental Shaman to throw a heal every now and then.

And the same would go for a Druid and such, but if the tuning isn’t there to support it then that’s something you’ll see us adjust over time. And that’s pretty much a straight-forward tuning, it wouldn’t require a radical change in design for those specs to heal reasonably well.

The Mortal Strike debuff was reduced again, from 25% to 10%. Is there any specific reason for this? Is it that you don’t want it to be as powerful as it was because it didn’t work well with the healing changes?
TC: We don’t really want, at least in a perfect world, it to be a determining factor for what class you bring to PvP. We feel like at 10% it falls in line with pretty much every other buff and debuff in the game. It’ll have its impact and has an effect, but it’s not going to completely swing things one way or the other. Kind of like Power Word: Fortitude doesn’t do that either. So we’re where we would like for it to be, but at the same time it is certainly a useful tool for balancing the power of healing in PvP independently of PvE. So it’s there as a tool if we need to take advantage of it again.

I can’t say it will never get more powerful again, it’s just our hope that it won’t need to be as powerful as it’s been in the past.

Are the updated versions of Deadmines and Shadowfang Keep going to be available in The Shattering?
TC: Yes and no. The normal versions will be available, but the Heroic versions will require being 85. So you’ll need Cataclysm to do the Heroic difficulties.

Most of the changes to the cities focus on Ogrimmar and Stormwind, with slight sprinklings elsewhere. Is Deathwing trying to drop a hint that even he doesn’t want to visit The Exodar?

TC: Yeah… I think that’s what he’s trying to say. Just happened to not be along his desired flight path.

[more laughing]

TC: You know, he wants to do the maximum destruction that people are actually going to notice, and Deathwing noticed that there aren’t as many people in some of those cities, so what’s the point in terrorizing that?

I actually do have one more question related to the Blood Elf and Draenei areas. Are those still going to be, like, instanced zones or will they be a part of the continents now?
TC: They’re still on their own ‘world tab’ is what we call it. We did some experimentation with trying to attach those to the Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor continents, but that was going to take a whole lot of production time that was going to be better spent elsewhere on content the players were going to get better use out of.

The experience changes for 71-80, are those the only you’ve made recently?
TC: No, we actually did increase the experience required for 84-85 from what it was at in beta. That one was a little bit too short. Other than that, yeah everything else is staying the same. At least for now.


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