Blizzard Entertainment continues to expand its World of Warcraft MMO game with new patches. Fresh off the successful release of Mists of Pandaria, Blizzard has unleashed Patch 5.1. Ian Hazzikostas, producer on World of Warcraft, talks about what’s in store for games and what changes are down the road in this Prima exclusive interview.
What are you looking forward to offering players in the new patch?
One of the really cool things about the 5.1 patch is the Brawler’s Guild feature that we’re adding. The Brawler’s Guild is an elite group of fighters and membership is available by invitation only. These invitations can be purchased off of a black market auction house likely at quite a premium during the first few days of the 5.1 patch, or they can be obtained as rare drops from select powerful hoard and alliance enemies in the new Krasarang Wilds area outdoors. Once you get into the Brawlers Guild, you can fight your way up through the ranks against up to 32 different bosses that are designed as really intensive one-on-one fights. If you win, you advance in the guild. If you get high enough in the guild, you gain the privilege of inviting one other person. It will be this very select, secretive thing that spreads out over time so more and more people can participate. It’s available in Orgamor and Ironforge and if you are waiting your turn to fight, you can watch people who are currently fighting and root against them, depending on how much you like them.
What are some of the changes to the raiding system in World of Warcraft?
Our raids are now accessible to 25-player and 10-player groups. So you can choose which suits your play style better, what size guild you have, or how big your group of friends is etc. I think the biggest change really is the overall accessibility introduced to the looking for raids system that we added towards the end of the Cataclysm expansion cycle in patch 4.3 and lets you queue up the same way you might for a dungeon or a raid. You’re randomly matched with a group of 24 other players with the appropriate composition of tanks, healers and DTS, and you can go through a somewhat easier, more accessible version of the raid content. What that means for us is if you go all the way back to World of Warcraft with 40-player raids, Kel'Thuzad the final boss in Vanila WoW was killed by only a few thousand people out of millions of millions of players in the world. Deathwing in Dragon Soul was killed by millions of people around the world out of millions of players and that’s pretty cool. It means that almost everyone who wants to can see the end of the stories that we’re telling.
Do you think the 40-man raids will ever make a comeback in World of Warcraft?
Unlikely. It’s hard to say never. But I think the reality is we’ve found the logistics of managing a 40-player group were very daunting. Also, the individual experience of the person within that 40-player group wasn’t necessarily the most compelling one. When a group gets that large you’re often reduced to a cog in the machine, where you job is to stand there and press crossbar or dispel these three people when this happens. That’s all you do the whole fight, whereas 25-player and 10-player has more personal responsibility and people have to multitask a bunch more.
Do you think you’ll bring back older dungeons from Vanilla WoW?
That’s certainly something that we are likely to do again in the future. It’s something that we do based on the story we’re trying to tell and what fits the content that we’re projecting. We’ve redone the Scarlet Monastery dungeons and we’ve received very positive reactions from players to those changes. It’s likely something we’ll keep doing.