This week we got the chance to review World of Warcraft’s new patch 5.4 The Siege of Orgrimmar with Greg Street. One of the big moves that Blizzard has done with this patch is make raids and content more available to less hardcore players using the Flexible Raid system. Greg explains how Warcraft was getting a little too hardcore and what the team did to make more content available to players.
We started off with one of the biggest additions to Warcraft which is Flexible Raiding. Now players can enter into raids with a much freer system of characters to try and take down the bosses. The difficulty scales down to somewhere below normal so players with mediocre gear can join. Greg laughed and said you always have that cousin who sucks at playing their class, but you don’t want to cut him from the raid... well now you don’t have too. The raids are designed for fewer players and are more forgiving with class make up. So if you want to bring that extra Hunter, you can, no one gets left out. Greg assured us that WoW maintains its elite raiding status, but this system now opens up content to a much more casual audience in the game. He also said that players have been very happy with the personalized loot system. Even though you are not getting super epic gear you can get good items without having to be kicked out of a raid. Greg said that so far the system has seen great success with very positive player response.
We continued our conversation talking about the Proving Grounds. This was an area that the team had initially wanted when Mists of Pandaria launched. They just had some issues to work out with the healing classes. Now that all three main roles in the game are supported Greg thinks the Proving Grounds will get a lot more attention. The system serves two groups of players. The solo players can test their skills. However, it also gives the hardcore raid players something to do on nights they are not running with their guild. It is a chance to earn Valor Points on your own and really get some good practice.
Another feature in the game which saw some changes with the patch was the Arena system. Greg explained that with the Rated Battlegrounds out there the team had miscalculated the dynamics of ten players getting together in a super hardcore scenario. They had been pushing the Arenas to try and become a more fun environment for PvP. They were happy with the open zone PvP, but Arenas had just become a bit too hardcore and players where no longer joining with their friends only with other elite characters. He said that putting together an arena team was seen a more of a barrier than just a way to play with friends. The system will now hopefully favor players who just want to have fun doing PvP while still holding on to its competitive nature.
I asked about the storyline and ending to the Siege of Orgimmar where Garrosh Hellscream was finally removed from the leader of the Horde. Greg said that the cutscene was a really big deal. They wanted to give all of the major racial characters some screen time because players had been requesting it. People wanted more about the Dranei or Sylvanus, so they included a lot of the top characters from both factions. They also wanted the cutscene to foreshadow more of the story. In the past they used a philosophy which only added in bosses or characters then asked "OK who is next?" Now the content team is working on making sure the story arcs are stronger and set the stage for future content in the game. Greg said that over the years players have shown how much they love some of the main characters in the game and so Blizzard is working towards boosting the lore even more.
In the final thoughts we talked about how popular the Timeless Isle zone has become and players can actually solo the content there despite it being tuned for higher level characters. Again it is Warcraft’s way of bringing players back in who may have been much more casual and just don’t have time for the epic raiding the game has become known for. Now it seems like more than ever World of Warcaft is opening up to new players. Could this foreshadow the ten year anniversary expansion? Of course Blizzard stays very silent on that…for now. We only have about seven more weeks until BlizzCon, maybe then we will know more.
Links to more MMORPG.com WoW coverage:L