The full Q&A is as follows:
Community Team: Joining us today to answer some player-submitted questions about the Isle of Conquest and Crusaders' Coliseum coming in patch 3.2, Call of the Crusade, is Game Director Tom Chilton, Lead Encounter Designer Scott Mercer, and Lead World Designer Alex Afrasiabi. Let's begin with a collection of questions we've received from players around the world about the Crusaders' Coliseum, the latest 5-, 10-, and 25-player content coming to Wrath of the Lich King.
Q: For clarification purposes, what are the official names for each of the new dungeons coming in patch 3.2, Call of the Crusade, and what is the style and format of each dungeon?
Development Team: Right, so the Crusaders' Coliseum is the name given to all different versions of the dungeon. Trial of the Champion is the name of the 5-player dungeon, both for normal and Heroic difficulties. Trial of the Crusader is the name of the 10- and 25-player normal raid dungeon, and Trial of the Grand Crusader is what we are calling the 10- and 25-player Heroic version. For those familiar with the Ring of Blood and Amphitheatre of Anguish, the format and layout of each Crusaders' Coliseum dungeon are similar in feel. Each vile creature or group of creatures will be introduced one at a time in a gladiator-style format. Players must best each encounter before beginning the next one. Of course, there are a few twists along the way to give a bit more of an epic feel.
Q: How difficult do we expect the normal and Heroic versions of Trial of the Champion to be compared to other 5-player dungeons; and will the normal version have a lockout like that of a Heroic dungeon?
Development Team: For the most part players will find that the challenges of the two respective 5-player difficulty settings are roughly on par with 5-player instances already available in Wrath of the Lich King. The quality of gear players are wearing may be a slight determining factor for difficulty when comparing Trial of the Champion to other instances. There is no lockout on the normal version of the dungeon and no daily dungeon quest associated with it. The Heroic version will be included in the daily Heroic dungeon quest rotation.
Q: Do we have plans for the Argent Warhorses in Trial of the Champion to scale based on characters' gear (similar to the Oculus and Ulduar vehicles)?
Development Team: No, there are no plans for this and frankly, it's not really necessary. The jousting phase of the first encounter in Trial of the Champion is very similar in difficultly to jousting champions on the Argent Tournament grounds.
Q: How will achievements work for Trial of the Crusader and Trial of the Grand Crusader, and will there be four different types of achievements to be completed?
Development Team: There aren't four different categories of achievements where you'll have 10-player normal, 10-player Heroic, 25-player normal and 25-player Heroic achievement categories. There will be 10-player and 25-player achievement categories, with achievements for normal and Heroic modes in each of these categories. So, for instance you'll have an achievement in the 25-player category to defeat a boss on normal difficulty and an achievement in the same category to defeat that boss on Heroic difficulty. There will also be your standard fun achievements for defeating bosses under specific criteria which will apply to normal or Heroic modes. Lastly, there will be some special achievements for tribute runs that can be earned depending on the raid's performance.
Q: Will there be any kind of reputation and titles associated with the Coliseum and will there be a 310% mount meta-achievement reward?
Development Team: As with other Wrath of the Lich King dungeons, players are welcome to wear faction tabards to gain reputation with factions of their choice. Champion's Seals will also drop through the Heroic 5-, 10-, and 25-player versions of the Crusaders' Coliseum. With that said, players will not gain reputation simply for completing objectives in the coliseum, whether on normal or Heroic difficulty. There will be no 310%-speed mount offered through a meta-achievement reward, as the current 310%-speed mount offered will not be removed when path 3.2 is released. Going back to achievements though, we will be offering some great feat of strength rewards for those who truly master the tribute run.
Community Team: There are currently four separate modes of Coliseum raids: 10-player, 25-player, 10-player Heroic, and 25-player Heroic.
Q: What is the reasoning behind this raid setup?
Development Team: We love hard modes and we've seen that they are a very popular addition to World of Warcraft. What we're doing here is making the distinctions between the different difficulties more clear, which also allows us a better opportunity to balance encounters. Difficulty settings are still relatively new to the game, particularly for the raiding scene, and we're constantly looking for ways to improve and iterate upon this system.
Q: Since, in the current Wrath of the Lich King raids, switching to a Heroic mode means switching to 25-player mode, how will players turn on the new Heroic modes?
Development Team: It will function very similarly to the way in which dungeon difficulty is chosen for 5-player instances currently. If you are in a raid group, the difficulty setting will now have four options, one for each raid group size and difficulty.
Q: What are the planned item levels for the gear that drops in each of the new Coliseum instances and how will the gear differentiate from one instance to another?
Development Team: Trial of the Champion will drop item level 200 and 213 items in the normal and Heroic modes respectively; Trial of the Crusader (10-player) will drop item level 232 items; Trial of the Grand Crusader (10-player) and Trial of the Crusader (25-player) will drop item level 245 items; Trial of the Grand Crusader (25-player) will drop item level 258 items. For those working through a tribute run, there might also just be a surprise or two in the chest at the end... if you have what it takes to master this run.
Q: What is the breakdown for emblem drops in each of the Coliseum instances?
Development Team: Two Emblems of Triumph will be awarded for each encounter in the raid dungeons, while one Champion's Seal and one Emblem of Conquest will be awarded for each encounter in Trial of the Champion (Heroic difficulty only).
Q: Since we've been discussing the tribute system a bit here, can you go over how this new system for the 10-player and 25-player Heroic dungeons will work, including how to activate it and what kind of extra rewards players can expect?
Development Team: Sure. Firstly, at least one player in the raid group has to have cleared Trial of the Crusader to unlock Trial of the Grand Crusader for the raid. Speaking to an NPC will do this. Players working through Trial of the Grand Crusader will automatically be working through a tribute run. A counter will be displayed in the interface monitoring the raid's performance by tracking unsuccessful attempts. A maximum of 50 unsuccessful attempts will be allowed per week. If this number is reached the encounters will no longer be accessible by the group until the instance resets during scheduled weekly maintenance. If the instance is cleared before hitting this limit, the raid will be awarded according to their performance during the tribute run. The items players can expect are good. That's really all there is to it!
Q: Are there any particular ways in which the Coliseum encounters will be new and unique compared to previous encounters?
Development Team: Well, given that the tribute run system and new ways of executing normal and Heroic difficulty settings have been added, we expect players will see a very different dynamic in the encounters. The tribute system provides for the first time in raiding a way of awarding players, not simply based on what bosses were killed, but how well the raid performed attempting each boss.
We don't want to go too much into fight mechanics, but we expect players will see quite a few interesting new challenges. To give one example for those familiar with Magister's Terrace back in The Burning Crusade, there will be an encounter similar to the Priestess Delrissa fight. This time it will be on a raid scale with many more foes against which players will square off. Oh, and crowd-control effects will be subject to diminishing returns as well, so you'll just have to manage your abilities wisely!
Community Team: We've seen a great deal of mixed feedback about the design of the tier-9 sets available with the release of the Crusaders' Coliseum.
Q: What reasons led to the decision to develop PvE sets that differ between the Horde and Alliance more so than they differ between classes and gear types (i.e. cloth, leather, mail, plate); and is this a new set design philosophy players should expect going forward?
Development Team: We wanted to do things a little bit differently this time around, though it's not entirely unlike the way we approached designing set pieces for Sunwell or Ahn'Qiraj, and not a fundamental change in artistic direction we plan to stick with every time a new tier of gear is released. In an ideal world every class for each faction would have their own unique look and set design, but artistic tasks like that aren't always feasible given our development schedule.
In the context of the Argent Tournament and impending struggle with the Lich King, we felt it would be cool this time around to offer unique looks for the Horde and Alliance. As we get closer to the invasion of Icecrown Citadel, players are noticing that there's more tension building between leaders of the Horde and the Alliance. We want the gear the factions are wearing to represent that as the Horde and Alliance struggle for domination over the Lich King, and ultimately over the world. The Argent Tournament and Crusaders' Coliseum feel like great avenues to further distinguish the two factions. Right now both sides are honing their skills through the Argent Crusade's tests. Should they take the fight to the Lich King and succeed while animosity between the Horde and Alliance continues to build, there's no telling what lies in store for the denizens of Azeroth.
Q: Finally -- and it's all too often asked -- how are players really supposed to deal with not one, but TWO Jormungars?!
Development Team: We can always hotfix one of them out if things get too crazy for players. We've put in a special achievement related to this as well, so hop to it!
Community Team: Let's move onto our newest epic siege-style Battleground, Isle of Conquest. We covered much of the basic objectives a while back in our Battleground Q&A, so this time around we're going to ask some follow-up questions players have submitted on our forums around the world.
Q: Firstly, how has the testing of this Battleground been going on the public test realms and what kinds of changes have been made based on this testing?
A: Testing has been great so far. We continue to get a lot of feedback about this new Battleground and have made a lot of changes over the course of the testing process based on the response from players. We've lowered the number of reinforcements allotted each team, increased the health and damage of the generals, increased the health of the keep walls, made keep cannons repairable and changed the way bombs in the enemy's keep spawn to lessen the severe advantage players originally had for capturing the Gunship Hangar and parachuting into the enemy's base, just to name a few changes that have been made since the public test realms were first released.
Q: Given that average match lengths continue to fluctuate on the test realms as adjustments are made to specific mechanics, what do you feel would be a satisfactory length for the average Isle of Conquest battle and why?
Development Team: We'd like the average match to last around 20 minutes, with the occasional 30-minute match depending on the level of skill of the competing teams. This is roughly the length of time we'd like all of our Battleground matches to last. We want to provide players with an epic feel without making it feel as though they're getting stuck in a never-ending match like the Alterac Valley days of old. We recognize that some players like very drawn-out battles and even miss the old Alterac Valley days, but a lot of players want the fun from Battlegrounds to come from competing in several different battle types over the course of a play session rather than feeling stuck in one match that continues to drag out with little reward for the extra time invested.
Community Team: Players active on the test realms report that, due to the relatively short length of the overall battle and losses rarely being due to reinforcement depletion, the Cobalt Mine and Oil Derrick are not highly sought after.
Q: Has there been any consideration given to providing additional advantages for controlling these strategic points on the map?
Development Team: We will be changing these capture points so that, in addition to the current advantages they offer, controlling one of them will provide a 15% damage increase for all vehicles operated by that faction. Controlling both points will provide a 30% damage increase for vehicles.
Community Team: Similarly, players are reporting that matches are largely decided by which team controls the Siege Workshop and/or the Gunship Hangar. In other words, the faction that's pushed back to a more defensive position from the start of the match tends to have difficulty ever recovering from the momentum of the opposing team's attacks.
Q: Is this something you are witnessing on the test realms? If so, is it a concern or a part of preventing matches from drawing out too long?
Development Team: If one faction takes control of both the Siege Workshop and Gunship Hangar, chances are they have what it takes to win the battle anyhow. We do still see matches on the test realms where a team is able to recover from a poor start with coordination and skill. We don't want to see matches decided from the very beginning, but as in any Battleground, the team that has great offensive momentum right from the start by capturing strategic points will likely ultimately find victory.
Q: Do you share the concern reported by some players that "spawn killing" or "graveyard camping" is a little too easy in Isle of Conquest?
Development Team: This is a potential concern, though we do not see this type of activity occurring in a more severe manner than in our other Battlegrounds -- Warsong Gulch, Arathi Basin and Eye of the Storm in particular. If players are able to make it back to their keeps they can always access the keep portals to elude the enemy. If we do see this becoming more of a severe problem, we will consider potentially offering graveyard portals allowing players the option to resurrect at an alternate location.
Q: For the players who prefer not to focus on vehicle combat or the race to have more vehicles than the enemy players, can you provide a rough breakdown of the role vehicles will play in Isle of Conquest versus standard ground combat when compared to Strand of the Ancients or Wintergrasp, two different objective-based PvP game types which are very vehicle-centric?
Development Team: There are still very important strategies dependent upon ground combat to win a battle in Isle of Conquest. This is even true for Strand of the Ancients when it comes to stopping the vehicle advance of the invading force. As was mentioned before, changes to the Oil Derrick and Cobalt Mine provide ground forces with a very important role in capturing these points. Ultimately, doing so will provide great advantages to the whole team as well. With that being said, we understand that there are players who want nothing to do with vehicle combat. Even though ground combat will play a big part in securing a victory in Isle of Conquest, these players will have to decide if this Battleground has aspects of PvP they find enjoyable.
Q: Unlike the original three Battlegrounds, why are there no reputations or faction awards associated with the Battlegrounds we've released in The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King?
Development Team: In the past we found that providing reputation and rewards for Battlegrounds led to players focusing on grinding one specific Battleground over and over again, which we do not necessarily view as a good thing. To combat this, we incentivized playing all Battlegrounds by providing players with the Mark of Honor turn-in quests. There's always a chance this may change as we reevaluate the Battleground system. However, we're happy with the current functionality of Battlegrounds and would prefer not to have reputations and Battleground-specific rewards for each Battleground.
Q: Will Isle of Conquest Marks of Honor factor into the Battleground marks turn-in quests, or provide any other use, and are there any plans for reevaluating the Mark of Honor system as we continue to add new Battlegrounds?
Development Team: Yes, Isle of Conquest Marks of Honor will factor into the turn-in quests. The reward for completing these quests will be increased proportionately to reflect the extra mark requirement. While it's not out of the question, we do not have any plans to share at this time with regard to revamping the Mark of Honor system.
Q: Will players be able to join this Battleground as a group; if so, how many players can queue together?
Development Team: Players should be able to join Isle of Conquest with up to four other players, as is currently the case with Alterac Valley.
Community Team: While this question pertains more to the Battleground system as a whole, it is brought up a lot.
Q: Are there any additional design plans to help combat the issue of matches starting with an uneven number of players on each side?
Development Team: We are experimenting with many different ways of improving the Battleground queuing system so teams aren't so lopsided when a game begins. This is something we're working on at the moment and we look forward to sharing additional details in the near future.
Community Team: This just about wraps it up. We thank you gentlemen for your time. Our last question about both the Isle of Conquest and Crusaders' Coliseum comes specifically from Haerle on the U.S. realm Thunderlord and the guild Sweep The Leg.
Q: What is the possibility of attaining a pony from either of these valorous endeavours?
Development Team: No ponies, but there might just be an Argent Warhorse out there somewhere... good luck!
Patch 3.2 will bring about a new 5, 10, and 25 man instance to WoW, and usher in a new 40-man battleground called the Isle of Conquest. WoW.com will have you covered every step of the way, from extensive PTR coverage through the official live release. Check out WoW.com's Guide to Patch 3.2 for all the latest!