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Ask the Devs Round 4: Weapons and armor questions answered

Ask the Devs, the ongoing, in-depth Q&A series focusing on specific aspects of World of Warcraft, continues with round 4 answers to your questions about weapons and armor. As in the past, the devs hand picked user questions and gave detailed answers, shedding new light on some of the design intricacies that go into creating the World of Warcraft.

There are some interesting questions this time around, as always, and even some more interesting answers. Highlights include the need for more armor models, a cool idea about buying quartermaster outfits, the drop rate of the legendary shards for 10- and 25-man raiding, and an interesting fix to prevent players rolling need on items in the random dungeon finder only to throw them up on the auction house. The full Q&A is after the jump.

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Q: Is there any chance we could have caster weapons involved in casting animations? It would look cool to be holding a staff and casting a spell through it, at least as a customization option. - Dromanthis (NA/ANZ)

A: This is something we would dearly love to do. We agree that melee specs get to see their weapons a lot more often in combat while it's easy for casters to forget about them. It's definitely on the list, but understand that we have so many races now (and two sexes for all existing races) that the animations take more time to do right/well.


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Q: Would it be possible for city quartermasters to sell the same equipment that guards wear? Stats wouldn't matter. - Pokemonmasta (EU|English), Tajit (NA/ANZ)

A: Cool idea. We'll talk about it.


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Q: Are you planning to return to the original principle of designing the Tiers, when the sets were themed with the classes, not with the bosses that drop them? Do you have any plans to make the tier items visually different depending on your spec? - ???? (EU|Russian), Trafalgarlaw (Latin America)

A: We try and alternate the themes in order to keep things feeling fresh. Players can get bored if things feel too formulaic. The Firelands raid has a really strong theme, so the tier sets are based on the various creatures that live on the elemental plane: for example, fire spiders for the warlock set. Other tiers don't have as strong a unifying theme so we go back to the classes for that. In the Call of the Crusade patch, we did faction-specific armor to solidify the military feel and Horde vs. Alliance rivalry.

Varying tiers depending on spec is a cool idea, but it does add more work to the individual armor which usually means we'll get less of it. Color shifts are one option, but tend to already use all of those. We have more unique art these days than ever before, but the number of items overall has grown tremendously faster.


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Q: I like the creative items that are dropped from Icecrown Citadel such as Nibelung, Heartpierce, Deathbringer's Will. Can I see more of such items containing unique proc-effects in the near futuer? - Whitewnd (Korea)

A: Yes. We think the procs are a good way from keeping the weapons from just feeling like a predictable bag of stats. There will be more in Firelands.


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Q: Will enchanters be getting back the ability to make wands? - Trustybee (Taiwan)

A: We have been discussing what role in the game wands are supposed to fill. We generally consider it a failure these days if a caster ever wants to wand for dps instead of using their spells. Working the wand into the cast animation (as in the question above) is one idea. In any event, we want to figure out what we want wands to do before we give them any more prominence.


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Q: Any chance we can start heading away from WWE-esque belts? - Catriona (NA/ANZ)

A: Azeroth is stricken by a terrible plague that inflates the size of shoulders and belts over time. Our artists like the belts because they have more room for detail when they're larger. That said, your concern is duly noted.


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Q: Do you have plans to make is so that the tabards don't suddenly cut off whenever we wear long vestments? - Hôwl (Latin America)

A: This is a technical issue that's fairly nasty to fix and ultimately trimming the tabard ended up looking better, at least as a short-term solution.


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Q: Can we see gear won via need rolls become soulbound? - Lorinall (NA/ANZ)

A: Yes. We plan on implementing a system where winning an item via Need (when using the Dungeon Finder Need Before Greed loot system) will make a BoE item soulbound. We hope to have this working for the 4.2 patch.

To expand on that idea in case it's not obvious, we don't think players should be able to claim certain loot drops based on their class if their only intent is to sell the item. If you want to use the item yourself, awesome, go ahead and roll Need on it and you'll get preference over players who can't use that armor type. But if all you want to do is run to the Auction House, then everyone should have equal dibs.


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Q: How do you plan on normalizing Legendary weapon aquisition rate between 10 man and 25 man raids? If the drop rate is the same for 'shards' in 10 and 25 man raids, this may 'force' 25 man guilds to run 2-3 10 mans in order to maximize shard/legendary aquisition. If the drop rate for 'shards' in 25 man raids was 2.5 times than that in 10 man, it could take a 10 man guild say, 2.5 months to gain a legendary whereas a 25 man guild would take 1 month. - Deathsaint (NA/ANZ)


A: Our main goal is to offer the Legendary in both 10 and 25 without requiring say a 25-player raid to feel like they have to switch to running 10s for the sole purpose of Legendary fragment acquisition (and the same is true for 10s). Our plan is to make Legendary completion take longer to acquire in 10-player raids. The exact ratio will be somewhat obfuscated because of the variation in the amount of fragments dropped per boss based on both raid size and raid difficulty. However, you can plan on it being maybe 2 to 2.5 times faster for the 25-player raid. It should feel analogous to number of Valor points or gold dropped in 25s, and is being treated the same.

Without giving too much away, the Firelands legendary weapon has an amazing story and quest chain associated with it. We think it truly delivers on the fantasy of a legendary weapon.


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Q: I feel that the current item drop ratio per part for caster's is little bit weird. While belt slot items are very common, wrist and ranged (wand) item are drastically rare. Now players don't like going to Throne of the Four Winds because belt and pants are so easily acquired via other way. What if the drops of Throne of the Four Winds changed into rare slot items, such as wrist and wand? - ?????? (Korea)

A: There are a few issues embedded in this question. One is that while we like the random nature of the Throne of the Four Winds gear overall, it occupies a strange niche in the current itemization scheme. Al'Akir for example is fairly challenging, but so are Cho'gall and Nefarian. The net result is that many players lack epic legs, heads or shoulders and so have a strong incentive to spend Valor Point on their tier set of legs. By the time they defeat Al'Akir, nobody wants his legs. We plan on tweaking those loot tables a little for 4.1; Al'Akir will drop some random necks and cloaks as well as helm or shoulder tokens in addition or in some cases instead of his current loot.

As far as some items being rarer than others, that is the kind of thing we vary so that every tier of content doesn't feel like a photocopy of the previous tier with bigger numbers. Our PvP gear for a variety of reasons has become very formulaic, and we don't want the same thing to befall PvE. Bracers are hard to get now (though the trolls in 4.1 have a lot!), but next tier it might be a different item that becomes precious.


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Q: What are the criteria you use to design the loots in a certain dungeon/ raid? Is it the backgrounds of the encounters, the preference of the designers, or basing on the existing models? - Kiolds (Taiwan)

A: All of that and more. As in the question above, if the dungeon or raid has a really strong visual kit, then we definitely jump on that. When you consider say the Cataclysm dungeon tier, there was a really diverse set of environments with no strong unifying theme. We could have tried to plan ahead of time that say Corborus would drop a certain weapon so we should theme it like a ring worm. That kind of rigid planning though doesn't allow us a lot of room to maneuver if we decide to add a boss, change the source of certain items or so on. Naming the items can come from a variety of sources. Sometimes we play off of the boss (Symbiotic Worm from Magmaw), but there are pop-culture references (License to Slay), inside jokes (Chestplate of Hubris), and words that just sounded appealing together (Battleplate of the Apocalypse).


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Q: Is there any plan to allow Account Bound items to be transfer to other realms? This could really give meaning to the phrase "Account Bound". - ?????? (Korea), ??????? (EU|Russian), Åtchøûm (EU|French), Tellua (NA/ANZ)


A: Yes. Some day. It will take a lot of programmer time to implement, but it's something we want to do.


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Q: Is it possible to let the players create/edit their own looks? - Zed Loft (Taiwan), Vysha (NA/ANZ), Ráchel (EU|German)

A: As we said in an earlier Q&A, we definitely hear loud and clear from players that they want more customization for their character. This is something we want to provide, but we want to do it in the right way. Consider the Barber Shop feature. It lets you change your character's hair, but there's not a lot of gameplay to it. We're not sure that feature really added a lot to the game in retrospect. Is WoW more fun for you now that you have a Barber Shop? Are you more likely to keep playing because of it? Maybe, but it wasn't a cheap feature to add in terms of development time. Dumping a bunch of dyes on the game might have a similar effect, where some players might have fun playing around with the system for a bit, but a lot of players might change their colors once or twice and then forget about the feature after that. Now, not every aspect of the game needs a ton of depth and a lot of interesting decisions, but we tend to attract more players to a feature the more robust the feature is.

We also think it's fair to argue that the game just needs more armor and weapon art. As we said above, we deliver a lot of art these days, but we also produce an enormous number of new items every expansion or patch and it's understandably disappointing whenever items use the same art. It would be really cool if not every mage or priest converged on the same look after a given expansion or patch.


Blizzard seems to be on a much sturdier footing when it comes to weapon and armor design and implementation than some of the other subjects in previous question-and-answer settings. There is a clear way forward dealing with gear, and the hopeful aspects of "more, more, more" have me pretty excited for Firelands.

On the gear sets, I am excited that they are going to be modeled after the creatures from the Firelands for the next raid tier. ICC's sets were really great and were modeled after the denizens of Icecrown, and Firelands should not disappoint. Also, players in 25-man raids have the added benefit of gaining the legendary tier weapon faster than 10-mans, but this has been the stated trade-off between the two from the beginnings of the new design. 25-man raids are given access to faster gear, while 10-man raids are easier to put together in terms of attendance but still reward the same gear. It should not come to anyone's surprise that the legendary would be faster to pick up in 25-man raids.

As for BoE items becoming soulbound with a need roll in the random dungeon finder, Blizzard is right on the money -- no class should have a monopoly on items like that. Sure, people will still roll need despite never really needing the item and sending it off to the vendor for vendor price, but this might make things a bit more fair when it comes to auction house play in the game itself, especially with 359 epic world drops.

Check out our coverage of the previous Ask the Devs Q&A sessions:
WoW Patch 4.1 is on the PTR, and WoW Insider has all the latest news for you -- from previews of the revamped Zul'Aman and Zul'Gurub to new valor point mechanics and new archaeology items.

Filed under: Blizzard, Cataclysm

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