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Ghostcrawler on the lessons learned in Mists

Ghostcrawler on the lessons learned in Mists
Long-term WoW Insider readers will likely remember the post-Cataclysm dissection where the developers discussed the mistakes they had made and how they planned to rectify them for future expansions. Well, a twitter user has asked Blizzard Lead Systems Designer Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street the same question, for Mists of Pandaria, and Ghostcrawler had the following to say in reply:

Firstly, one of the great things about Ghostcrawler is how readily he owns up to the team's mistakes here. There's no shame in getting things wrong, but maintaining that you're infallible is both irritating and generally untrue.

But he definitely doesn't fall into that trap. So, the question is, what do we think of his lessons?

"We wanted to offer options but didn't offer *enough* options (e.g. GL)"

There was a post from Blizzard right at the start of the expansion, now lost in the mire of the internet, that said something like 'Mists will be the expansion where you can play how you want and still progress'. This must have been quoted and misquoted a thousand times since then, with every introduction of what any section of the player base perceived as a grind. And there was definitely the feeling that a lot of content wasn't "optional", that there weren't "options", or that there were, as long as you really liked daily questing. Blizzard wanted to remove the earlier reliance on 5-man content, but ended up replacing it with something that felt even more obligatory for a certain player group, and for many of them, worse.

The intent was admirable, but the execution was poor, and Golden Lotus (GL in the tweet) was a prime example of that. Patch 5.3 will remove the reputation gateway from that faction, allowing players to start earning reputation with the Shado-Pan and August Celestials from day one, a change which, in my opinion at least, should have come far sooner.

As many difficulty levels as we offered, it wasn't enough.

This is an interesting one. I'm going to assume, perhaps wrongly, that Ghostcrawler is referring to the various options available for PvE, so, leveling dungeons, heroic level 90 dungeons, challenge modes, scenarios, the Raid Finder, normal and heroic raiding. When they're all spelled out like that, Mists of Pandaria has offered a huge amount of different PvE options so far, with still more to come in patch 5.3 when heroic scenarios appear. It seems that Ghostcrawler is saying that they wish they'd made more difficulty levels available.

Operating on that basis, I'm not sure that I agree with him. It seems to me that the mistake has, instead, appeared where Blizzard has tried to substitute one type of content with another. Scenarios are no replacement for dungeons, for example, they're too different. And heroic dungeons which are actually difficult are not simply substituted by challenge modes. LFR has to be seen as a stand-alone feature, and not as a replacement for heroic 5-mans that dropped current gear.

There has been a considerable outcry about the lack of late-expansion heroic dungeons, and while, as Zarhym said, they'd be a little "funky" in the gearing curve, they are missed. This is perhaps in response to that outcry, and it seems that it may be a shift in the wrong direction. The removal of any major content element of a game like WoW is likely to cause consternation in a part of the community. Replacing it with something similar, but still very different, is no good when what people want is what they're used to and what they had before. Of course, it's possible I've completely misunderstood this!

also we didn't do a good job of providing direction at L90

Yet another rather cryptic lesson. Of all the things I felt were missing at level 90, direction isn't top of the list. But perhaps this is another thought touching on the earlier idea of options. If Blizzard had been clearer in communication right at the start of the expansion when people were first reaching level 90, would players have complained less? Would players have felt that things were less "mandatory" -- a word that was flying around a huge amount at the start of the expansion. I'm not sure. While players don't want a completely free world, a sandbox to explore, is being pushed in particular directions in a clearer way really going to make a big difference?

Also wish we had added some dungeons in maybe 5.3.

And back we go to the aforementioned outcry. From a purely personal perspective, I wholeheartedly agree with this lesson. While Blizzard has, at times, been adamant that the new types of content they provided with Mists of Pandaria can fill the hole left by heroic dungeons, I don't agree. As we already touched on, players don't react well to change, and quite simply, if people specifically miss new 5-man content, asserting that Raid Finder can replace it is illogical. It simply doesn't serve the same purpose. Challenge modes are great, but they're not heroic 5-mans. They don't award gear (although this will change with the chance for a trove in patch 5.3) and they are the same dungeons, just retuned. The same applies for scenarios, while they're a great addition to the game, just like Raid Finder and challenge modes, they don't fill the hole left by the missing 5-mans.

What do you think? What sounds reasonable, what sounds good, what doesn't? What do you think the development team should learn from Mists so far?

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

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