World of Warcraft’s Patch 5.3 (Escalation) has been out for a while now and players and Blizzard have been keeping close tabs on the reactions to new systems and added features in the game. Greg Street sat down with us this week to talk about how the patch has been fairing with fans and some of the plans Blizzard has for World of Warcraft in the future. Below we will talk about some of the features that are working really well and some that may need updates soon. Greg gives a good status of WoW today from the developers eyes as well what is to come in the near future.
Greg explained that Patch 5.3 is one of the smaller updates for the game. What the team does is try to alternate between the bigger and smaller updates to keep new content on an even flow. With 5.3 one of the biggest successes they have had among players is the Battlefield: Barrens. The team likes how much it brings players back to the open world and gives them a series of events to explore. This is something the developers are excited to see working as well and could lead to more updates of this nature. Fan feedback is critical to Blizzard and Greg said the Barrens update has been a solid high point for the patch.
On the solo front the Brawler’s Guild is something players like a lot and we asked if more content like this was in the future? Greg said the team likes the brawlers Guild as well because it is a one off and not tied to any heavy gear rotation or in depth system. It is great for the health of the game to continue activities which are fun events to build and play. The team really wanted to make sure some of the objectives were beatable by tanks, DPS, and healers, the healers being the key because many of the past scenarios were more tank or DPS heavy. He wanted to make sure healers knew they had ways to win as well in solo areas.
Two other areas that 5.3 had a positive impact are with the Heroic Scenarios and the Legendary Quest. Scenarios are another area where players have been getting more involved and work as a great way to earn valor points. Greg also talked about the Legendary Quests and how players have been following along the story and getting involved. The big issue Blizzard has is players who join late and have to go back to complete some of the older raids in order to catch up. He said the team is working on ways to help these players catch up, but it is a slow process. They agree that catching up on content is good for everyone, but definitely not immediately. They are looking at possibly adding some of the loot drops for Legendary Quests to other raids as well in order to help the situation.
PvP was a big part of our chat as 5.3 added in the Resilience update and some areas like Deepwind Gorge. Greg said they had to remove vendors temporarily to fix a few things. They are also looking at ways to improve world PvP gear in the future as many fans believe the loot drops cannot compete with PvE gear found in raids. The team is looking into ways to balance the gap out.
In terms of game balance, Greg said that it is harder to keep a balance now more than ever. He gave a good history of game balance when years ago in early WoW if a class was within 30% DPS of another it was considered within range of balanced. The developers had to move that number up to 10% in recent years. Now, the team looks at numbers in the 1% range for DPS balance. He said they have seen examples where 1% can make a difference in a fight. He also said that Arena players will be happy to know the team is staying consistent with very minor updates to Arena play. It has become so fixed that they no longer make major changes to the arenas, only minor ones. When they launch a new arena, players can expect subtle changes to the environments to keep the intense play on an even ground.
Blizzard is looking into updates for all of the character models. Greg said that if you take a look at the Monk you will see what the team is really working with presently. They want to bring these updated effects and animations to some of the older races and classes in the future. The effects artists work really hard to break down and make abilities and spells look their best and it is something the WoW team is dedicated to improving.
I did ask about improvements to the UI in the future and Greg said they are not planning any changes in that area. There are already so many mods out there that players can customize things pretty well. One of the things he said is that many players still play on very low requirement machines. WoW keeps their system requirements low because of this on purpose. He said the numbers would surprise people. Therefore they do not want to go too heavy into UI changes and risk forcing people to upgrade their PCs one day in order to play a patch.
We asked Greg to talk about the new trend in sandbox games within MMO lately with WoW considered a quintessential theme park. Greg said the team is looking for more ways to get players back into the open world and create “random treasures” for players to find. Greg said that WoW tried to build a large world and give players solid direction from the beginning, but many of the team are old school sandbox players, and are pursuing ways to bring some of those elements into the game.
To sum up, Mr. Street said the patch is still a little early to really get a solid look at metrics on how it is performing. These were the highlights early on and you never know where players will take the game. He wanted to remind everyone that Blizzard is in for the long haul on WoW and wants to stay one of the best MMOs on the market. I asked Greg what his favorite parts of working on the game are today and he said that it’s definitely when the team finds solutions to complex problems. Some days they will come in and find an issue that players have uncovered. It can be frustrating, but that’s when the developers come up with the best solutions, “even if it takes a few weeks” he laughed. Those days are the most rewarding. We ended on a note that Patch 5.4 is heavily in the works right now as World of Warcraft nears its ten year anniversary in 2014. A decade in Azeroth... crazy, right?