6:25 pm /cracks knuckles.
6:29 pm Hopefully this panel is a little less involved than the one on class talent systems. Three talents for each class every 15 levels got really tough to type out in enough time.
6:30 pm Ouch. Feed is still on the Starcraft II multiplayer stage, folks. We're not sure what's going on here. We're currently liveblogging from the feed to skirt some technical issues, only to run into an entirely different set of them. Bear with us while we try to figure out what's going on ...
6:37 pm We're still trying to figure out what's going on. We saw on the preliminary schedule that some panels were moved to something called the BlizzChat Live Forums, but there's been no word on that since the final schedule was released. I'm really sorry for the inconvenience, folks. We're still working on finding the "lost panel."
6:42 pm As far as I can tell, this looks like a universal problem. We've sent Joe Perez and Michael Gray to take notes at the panel and post on this later; it looks like nobody is getting the dungeons and raids feed at the moment! I'm really sorry to everyone, and we'll post as soon as we've got information.
6:46 pm We're told that the folks on the ground are aware of the issues and are trying to fix the feed. I'm going to hang around and hope the feed eventually gets fixed.
6:47 pm Feed is back!
6:47 pm Challenge runs are timed runs like the old Stratholme baron runs. "You'll be able to go into a dungeon, timer starts, and then you can see how quickly you can finish it. YOu can earn a gold, silver, or bronze medal."
6:48 pm They'll start with the Pandaria dungeons, and it'll work with the Dungeon Finder tool. You'll get a tool to queue specifically for Challenge runs.
6:49 pm Normalized gear. Everyone in the dungeon will have the exact same ilevel to ensure that Challenge runs are entirely a function of skill, not gear. Even raid gear won't help.
6:50 pm Rewards: Really, really awesome looking gear to use for transmogrification, and valor points. "We really love the idea of unique art for this." Bragging rights are paramount!
6:50 pm Leaderboards will be a huge part. Take your time, compare it against your Battle.net friends, your guildies, your realm. There's a number of ways you can compare yourself to other players.
6:50 pm Mock-ups of the user interface for the Challenge runs: See who ran with whom, what their times were, medals earned, etc. There'll be options to compare guilds by challenge modes.
6:51 pm "This is a look at what will happen when you finish. You can /inspect people to see what times they have."
6:51 pm Raids in Mists of Pandaria! The expansion will ship with three. Two raids of about 5-6 bosses and a third one with a couple bosses. Liked the Cataclysm model that was similar to that.
Two enemy races, Mogu and Mantid, will figure prominently in the first set of raids. All will have Raid Finder, normal, and heroic difficulty.
6:53 pm Mogu'Shan Palace is among the first, close to the center of Pandaria. Will be a 6-boss raid. "Explore the secrets of the ancient Mogu empire." The Mogu empire actually existed before the pandaren.
6:54 pm They have a layout for us "that's actually already changed ... we're iterating all the time, folks." Several concept photographs we'll be able to show you later. Very beautiful Asian-themed palace, even a library room with lots of scrolls. Very beautiful raid.
6:55 pm Raid Finder: Will make its debut in patch 4.3. "The concept came from what we did with the Dungeon Finder, which was very successful at getting players into dungeon content." Raids not getting as many players as they would like. They want everyone to see the content, or at least have a chance to do so.
6:56 pm Want it in the game in time for Deathwing because he's such a central force to the lore of Cataclysm. Lower difficulty level than normal. They won't just retune damage and hitpoints, they're going to retune mechanics. "Would a group of 25 people that hasn't played together previously be able to figure this out?" All bosses will be examined for this. "We're going to go in and make sure that these fights feel right for this difficulty level."
6:57 pm Every single dungeon on launch in MoP will have Raid Finder enabled (I assume he means every single raid). Get into these raids really quickly. On the opposite end, loot and rewards should feel appropriate. You will not get vanity items through the Raid Finder; these are for normal and heroic. Achievements will stay with the normal and heroic, but a Raid Finder achievement will exist.
6:58 pm Mock-up of Raid Finder. Comes with a "side of fries." It'll look a lot like the Dungeon Finder. Open it up, pick your role, and it only works with 25-player raids. They did this specifically for queue times. Queue times for 10-man raids would be much higher.
6:59 pm "One of the things we're really trying to do with MoP is keep experiences short and focused. HoO had seven bosses, Deadmines has 6." Too long. We want you to be able to clear this content without having to devote an entire night to it. Being able to complete dungeons faster means opportunities to do more stuff.
7:00 pm Encounters need to be more understandable so groups aren't set up to fail at them. Dungeon Journal set up specifically to avoid this. They don't like it when the healer gets blamed for deaths that were avoidable. Abilities need to be telegraphed so you don't, out of the blue, get hit by something really deadly. We want you to understand what the mechanics are without making them too hard to enjoythe dungeon, or too easy that they're irrelevant.
7:01 pm "Flexing our creative kung fu!" The last few expansions have had heavy, dark themes: stopping the Scourge, killing Deathwing. In MoP, you're trying to make sure the beer doesn't stop flowing. It's a little more humorous, a little lighter. "We can Dragon Punch people in WoW!" Exciting as designers to experiment with lighter content.
7:02 pm Three dungeons we've glimpsed all exist in the world in a 1:1 scale. A lot of dungeons just seem to be "holes in the wall," you walk past the portal and it's like time and space ceast to exist. The Pandaria dungeons all "really exist" on the outside. Lighten them up, see the sun, enjoy the scenery.
7:03 pm Q&A!
7:03 pm "There's a line happening somewhere, right?" Oh yes, there is.
7:04 pm "Challenge modes: Scale up as well as down?" Currently they're planning only for it to scale down, but they may scale all the monsters' power up. They don't want people to feel less powerful, so maybe everyone will scale up alongside the monsters.
7:05 pm "Re: dungeon finder and raid finder, are we going to be able to enter a random queue for, say, Burning Crusade raids and Wrath of the Lich King content?" Currently, no. They've talked about it a little bit and their wonder is whether a sufficient number of people would queue for that. Most people are looking for transmog gear and achievements, so they're not sure if the Raid Finder is a good fit for those goals. They'll see, though. In the future, they can. It's not off the table, it's whether enough people would do it.
7:06 pm "Dungeons visible in the outside world: BC had these. Why did you guys decide to move away from that model?" Over time, they've had dungeons in the outdoor world, e.g. Scarlet Monastery. It's just one of the things they didn't focus on much. Stormstout Brewery, the quest guys you'll see both inside and outside, you can interact with many NPCs on a quest basis solo. They want it to have a sense of place in the world.
Scale is definitely unique to MoP however. They've done it with stuff like Zul'Farrak, but this is a very new approach.
7:07 pm "Given the increased focus on doing multiple things, are we going to be able to do quests in a raid group?" Stockton says great question. Not a lot of reasons they don't allow that, although they don't want large groups to trivialize small quests, but they might pull it. They did talk about it recently.
7:08 pm "Kick process; SOmetimes you try to kick people for being stupid and get a huge wait to do it even in a small dungeon." They have an internal algorithm for it that keeps track of how much you've kicked recently, modifies your wait time dynamically depending on how much you've kicked. You want to allow people to be kicked, but not for now reason.
Not sure how that works out with tanks who are often in the position of saying, hey this guy's offline...
7:09 pm "At the Cataclsym panel, you talked about 13 bosses in a tier. In later Cata patches, we saw 7-8 bosses respectively. Is that just the nature of patches, or do you want bigger raids in MoP patches?" Haven't finalized the tier plan yet. So many other ways to get loot to players, and they want to make sure all the different ways "match."
7:10 pm "In Cata there was a steep jump in difficulty between level 85 normals and level 85 heroics, and the side effect is that you had to run the same 2-3 normals over and over again. How do you plan to handle this in MoP?" Not planning on having level 90 normal dungeons at all (interesting). Challenge modes allow them to circumvent some issues. Extra difficulty will be challenge modes, rather than necessarily heroics. They wound up not liking having difficult endgame normal dungeons.
7:12 pm "Hard mode toggling: Ulduar was the first hard mode and everyone liked it, but you had to go to the internet to figure out how to toggle. They you went to on/off toggle. Can we go back to having Sartharion bring drakes, etc., the Ulduar model? More fun for players than just the toggle." I agree, frankly. Developers: That was fun and compelling for players, but in the end it was very difficult to come up with that mechanic for every single boss. Worked great for Freya and Iron Council and Mimiron. Didn't always work great for the others, though, with some very confusing hard modes. We can make it more consistent with the normal/heroic toggle, which is more understandable. You could screw up the Ulduar model more easily. They want to make things more understandable for all players.
7:14 pm "Legendaries: You guys randomly choose to give them to classes that haven't gotten them, but what if you made them an assortment of items per tier and you can choose which people to give it to." We could do something like that, but you'll lose the reason a legendary exists. Lore reasons for them to exist, story lines for them, etc. Specific and interesting gameplay to get them, particularly for the most recent one (Fangs of the Father). They like to make it for one specific type of gameplay as they feel it's more interesting. They want "unique and awesome, not generic and mushy."
7:16 pm "10 and 25 lockouts has been frustrating as it makes my alt spec a dead spec. I can't do the same current content as anything other than our main spec. Can Raid Finder fix this?" No lockout on Raid Finder, but you can only get loot once per week. You can use your character to switch specs to experience the content in multiple roles, just don't plan on getting loot each week for all of them.
7:17 pm "I was wondering, for Cata there were three raid that came straight out in the expansion, then Firelands. Have you thought about making the transition easier, tons of raid bosses at the start and then only 7? Happy medium?" Right now they're talking about raids with 6, 5, and 5 respectively at the start. Still not sure how many world raid bosses they want to do. They don't want it to feel like such a big jump between bosses. They need to have enough bosses that distribute loot correctly, but it comes down to time.
7:18 pm "Classic dungeons: Will we ever see a heroic Stockades or Hogger world boss?" You never know, we might do more classics. They're a lot of fun to do, well-received by the community. Deadmines and Shadowfang Keep were supposed to be for patch 4.1, but the dev team thought they were too cool to keep sitting around.
7:19 pm "In 4.3, only 7 bosses, but meant to be epic. I know this is just my opinion, but I thought they didn't feel all that terribly epic." He's not a fan of Firelands. Devs: That's not the reason the bosses were nerfed, they wanted people to experience Firelands. Extremely small percentage of people who saw Firelands, and we wanted people to see it before Deathwing became a boss. They felt they overtuned the bosses, their intent was not to rush content.
7:21 pm "For competitive raiders, have you thought about separating the 10- and 25-man raids for server-first achievements? Difficulty difference." They've discussed it. There's a definite difficulty difference, more so in some tiers than others. It's difficult to keep them perfectly balanced, and they've talked about it. No promises, but they'll see.
7:22 pm "Are challenge modes for raids as well, and can they be unlocked immediately?" There's a chance they'll do them for raids, but they'll start with dungeons. As far as unlocking, they've been talking about using the "gold medal" to actually nerf the ilevel on your gear to keep making it harder and harder for you.
7:24 pm "One of the strengths of two raids on a single tier is giving raiders a choice as to how they'll progress through content. Single raid feels you're burdened with just getting to the end. Considered having a single raid with two 'sides' to it to progress to the end boss?" They're talking about it. Dragon Soul is 8 bosses. Raid Finder, for example, can't do 8 bosses in one night. That's a long commitment. Raid Finder breaks the raid into two halves specifically for this reason. Again, keeping content to smaller chunks is the ideal, e.g. Karazhan with its back door.
7:25 pm "Last year's BlizzCon you talked about Abyssal Maw raid. What happened to it?" No plans to release it. They wanted to do it as a raid for Cataclysm in Vashj'ir, but the story line didn't fit with where they were going for the patch cycle. Nothing was wrong with it, it just didn't fit, so they lost all the concept art. Never really progressed beyond that however.
7:26 pm "For new dungeon challenges, ilevel reduction. How will you handle secondary stats that get reduced like hit and expertise?" Good point, they observe. Talking about how to handle trinkets. "Top men are at work!"
7:27 pm One more! "Why is it that Invincible was a 100% drop off heroic Lich King while you can get the red fire hawk off normal Ragnaros? Why give awesome mounts to people who don't deserve it?" Audience isn't sure what to make of this question, they're calling out different answers. Well, Raid Finder won't allow people to get the cool ancillary items, prestige items will stay in normal and heroic modes.
7:29 pm And that's it! Sorry about the technical issues earlier, everybody.
Turn to WoW Insider for all your BlizzCon 2011 news and information. Look for our liveblogs of the convention panels, interviews with WoW celebrities -- and of course, lots of pictures of people in costumes. It's all here at WoW Insider!