Green fire, singleplayer instances - whatever is next?
World of Warcraft's runaway success might well be reaching perihelion, but that doesn't mean Blizzard are happy to leave the game's vast userbase to consume the existing content and then move on. Far from it. In fact, Blizzard are increasing the rate at which major content is added to the title, in an attempt to retain and energize fans of the landmark MMO.
The latest example of this practice is patch 5.2. Subtitled The Thunder King, this new bundle of content adds a new island, staged quest progression, a new raid, and much more - including a few interesting additions that are unique in the history of the aging game.
To find out more about Blizzard's development process, what they were shooting for with patch 5.2, and how quest design has evolved over the game's eight-year reign at the top of the heap, we peppered Dave Kosak, Lead Quest Designer on World of Warcraft, with a bunch of questions surrounding his key area of expertise.
In order to ensure we had the right questions to ask, we enlisted the services of World Famous - a New Zealand based raiding guild who have been together in one form or another since WoW launched in 2004.
Tell us about the process of selecting, concepting, and developing the Thunder King content. When did the idea first come about, and what was the core goal of the team when developing it?
We actually knew about the story from the very beginning of Pandarian development. We wanted to create a rapid patch cycle - we wanted to come up with patches every couple of months - and we were going to alternate patches, so we'd have a big raid tier alternating with a patch that had just additional content. So we were looking for villains that we could setup and then knock down.
Players who were playing 5.0 [Mists of Pandaria] and paying a lot of attention saw the Thunder King be resurrected, they found the remains of the Thunder King; they certainly noticed all of the Thunder King's minions trying to attack Pandaria. We tried to setup that boss really early, with the understanding that patch 5.2 would be a big raid fight.
Then, we were also looking for what kind of things would people want to do with this stage of the patch lifecycle. We definitely want to make sure that all types of players have different activities to engage in. So, if you are really interested in solo content, there's more dailies. If you're really interested in small-group content, we don't have any new dungeons in the new patch but we do have a lot of summonable bosses that require a group. There are some pretty fun fights on the island there!
We expect to see a lot of community; people forming teams and taking those guys down. Then, of course, if you're a raider, we figured that right about now, either your guild is kinda roadblocked on the current raid fights or you've been plowing through heroics and you're ready for a new challenge. The timing was about right, and we think we nailed it - I think this was a good time to release 5.2. So far the plan is coming together!
Quest design, mechanics, and flow have all developed as WoW itself has evolved. Should we expect anything new from quest design in Isle of Thunder quests?
One of the goals of questing is really to get your character out in the field, using your class abilities. We do really like very basic quest mechanics; a quest to kill some guys is pretty self explanatory, so you don't need to think about it. You get to go out there, be a mage (or a warrior...) and get to really play your class. But what we do try and innovate on is all the flavour and all the things that are going on around you, to really make the encounter a lot more interesting.
I can give you some examples of some fun stuff we're doing in 5.2 - if you go into the Zandalari camps, the Zandalari have potions scattered all around. Some of the potions let you stealth for a brief time and then automatically critical on your first attack; some give you accelerated health regeneration, or a lot more damage, so as you move around the area, you can build your strategy around the different potions.
This is something we kinda did also in the Dread Wastes; the Klaxxi give you different buffs and you can change your strategy based on the different abilities that the Klaxxi are giving you, to heal up between encounters or to engage multiple creatures. So we all try to keep you on your toes and allow you to use the environment to do interesting things.
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