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BlizzCon 2013: Ghostcrawler's infamous Systems Panel liveblog

Allison Robert

I refuse to take responsibility for the title. Angry letters can be sent to Adam Holisky.

Unless people like it, then I'll take all the credit for running it. Such is the way of the world.

For all those of you who are new to BlizzCon, "systems" is a catch-all term for the raids, gameplay, quests, and UI likely to be covered at this panel, which begins at 2:30 pm EST/11:30 am PST.

Gallery: BlizzCon 2013 Systems Panel | 64 Photos

3:30PM And that's it! Fairly short Q&A overall but there was a lot of content to get through for new WoD features. We'll see you back for the open Q&A later this afternoon.
3:30PM A: Good question. Ultimately there is a population of people out there looking to do difficult content but we want to do this with an eye toward the long term and the long-term health of high-end raiding. For example, right now there are a LOT of cool things we want to do in raids but have to leave it on the cutting room floor because we can't scale it down to 10-mans.
3:29PM Q: We didn't like the hassle of 25-man raids so we went to 10, but now mythic is 20-man only. What to do?
3:28PM A: Garrison-specific content. The follower cannot take anything away from you.
3:28PM Q: Garrison followers: When you send them out into the world to do a dungeon, are they completing the content for you so you don't have to do it?
3:28PM A: The feature that was very briefly accessible in 5.4? Still working on the tech behind it, scaling players down with the same abilities but different potency. They'll talk about it more in the future. They're interested in letting people explore the content in a way that feels relevant.
3:27PM Q: What is the status on character scaling for old 5-mans and raids?
3:27PM A: Good point, a lot of it comes down to the difficulty of designing around 30 or 40 people and the problems with input lag.
3:26PM Q: Big Crits represent! Question re: flex raids. Caps at 25 currently. Mythic, why a cap at 20 people, which seems arbritrary. Why not 40?
3:25PM A: It accomplished what we wanted to accomplish for Cataclysm but we don't see the bonus in piling on more and more perks. We don't want to increase the level just to increase that and contrive perks jsut to fill it out. They want them to mean something.
A: We also want the new flex raids to help no matter guild size.
3:24PM Q: Bunch of guild perks in Cataclysm. This expansion we see nothing!
3:24PM A: When we say friends, we say that interchangeably with guilds. Catch-all term for pre-made groups.
3:24PM Q: More friends working together to do content? Where's the guild love?
3:23PM A: Also some new tech to allow them to do this, e.g. mage tower in the garrison can be phased in from much farther away.
3:23PM A: OK, I can see that being a feature in the long run, but building a base for the sake of it is really cool and we think players will have a lot of fun with it. I don't think it necessarily requires an attack for that. Re: location, 99% of the world is still not phased and a public questing/experience area. Very pre-defined locations in several zones wher eyou can build them but small comapred to the zone itself."
3:22PM Q: Living breathing world, I don't see the purpose of the garrison if you will not have any real consequences for it. Why would you have a fortress if it can't be attacked by other players?
3:22PM A: Yes
3:22PM Q: If you have a garrison, per-player and phased for that player, right?
3:21PM A: Need to clarify question, not sure
3:21PM Q: Player experience with questing and garrisons. How will you manage the suspension of disbelief, e.g., fenced-in garrison with a living breathing Draenor?" Question is meandering a bit, not sure.
3:21PM A: Completely a valid concern. Connected realms are intended to help a great deal with that so you have a lot of active guilds. That said, we recognize this transition won't be an easy one, particularly for 10-man heroic guilds. The flex model is intended to help with that, so while you recruit and gear people, the raid model won't punish you for that; you can take as many people as you want while you work to get 20 players for mythic. In the long run, able to offer a more streamlined and competitive experience and better tuned experience all around."
3:19PM Q: Mythic tier of raiding restricted to servers. Questioner comes from a small server with small guilds. "We may have issues coming up with a 20-man team. Do you have any ways to address a switch to the 20-man model?"
3:19PM Q&A is now going to happen. "And feel free to dance while you ask questions!"
3:18PM They've noticed that a LOT of people return to older raid content in order to get old tier sets and things like mounts and pets. It's a very popular activity and they don't want to screw with peoples' abilities to do that.
3:18PM "It will still take 5 seconds to kill a Timeless Isle Gulp Frog." You can still solo old content, they don't want to affect your ability to do this.
3:17PM Caveats: Your relative power will NOT change. If you look at percentages and know how much, say, your Flash Heal does on a tank, you'll still see the same when you Flash heal the tank.
3:16PM Most inflation comes from previous raid tiers, and they want to flatten out the big jumps that came at the end of them.
3:16PM Item squish! Why? Because "lolwut?" at the insane numbers in the game right now. "I'm a simple guy, and at the end of the day I want more understandable numbers on the screen."
3:15PM Cleave: increased AOE damage. They think this one's an interesting stat that they've played with a lot on trinkets in SoO.
3:15PM Another is run speed.
3:15PM New tertiary stats: Bonus stats that can appear on gear that will not count against your budget. You may get a glove one day that has a bonus to do something cool. E.g., lifesteal, avoidance: avoid AOE damage by default, sturdiness: no durability loss,
3:13PM Active mitigation has worked out really well, and we think there's a place to retain armor on rings and cloaks, etc.
3:13PM Will retain spirit for healers and armor for tanks.
3:12PM Jewelry, cloaks, trinkets, and weapons will be more role-focused however.
3:12PM Even tier sets will do this -- your stats will change to reflect your current spec
3:12PM Your gear will dynamically update to int if you go holy.
3:12PM "If you're a ret paladin -- and I think most of you are -- " GC, NEVER CHANGE
3:11PM Primary stats will change based on spec, same is true of more limited item drops
3:11PM "Nobody's happy but the paladin when the int plate drops. Going forward we're not going to have intellect plate."
3:11PM Sockets are a bonus and will not count against your budget
3:10PM Fewer items will have gem sockets but they will be more powerful
3:10PM Gems are in the same boat.
3:10PM Examples: Multiple weapon enchants. GC doesn't want to beat down on professions or make crafters poor, they just don't think you should have to deal with so many enchants
3:09PM Enchants: Fewer items can be enchanted but you'll have more choice with the options you do get.
3:09PM "I like how we can get that kind of cheer when we INTRODUCE reforging, and get that kind of cheer again when we take it out."
3:08PM Reforging -- "This is what we call an idea that sounded good on paper, but it turned into this terrible cascade where you get a new piece and gear and have to do a ton of stuff."
3:08PM "Now again, your warrior will still be able to dodge. We will have tanking stats."
3:07PM They also want to clean up your bag space.
3:07PM "Hit and expertise don't feel like a bonus. And Avoidance is a cool mechanic but not a fun stat for tanks to find on gear."
3:07PM "It's time to stop the madness."
3:06PM Really want gearing to be more exciting and they think there's too muchs tuff to do with the new items you get.
3:06PM Sample rewards: Assassination Slice and Dice is now passive, Holy - Chakra cooldown reduced by 15%
3:05PM However, don't expect massive class changes overall via this system.
3:05PM You should be able to notice the difference, like a 20% bonus to Execute.
3:05PM From 91-100 you'll get upgrades to core spells. Some will be passive bonuses like old-school spell ranks.
3:05PM They want to stop handing out so many new abilities because peoples' bars are already full. AMEN.
3:04PM They really want leveling to feel exciting and they're overall happy with how leveling worked in MoP, but GC does think that a lot of the excitement has been removed with the disappearance of the old talent system.
3:04PM "Another 10 level expansion. Crazy!" 10 levels are back!
3:04PM Crowd cheers and likes this idea a lot.
3:03PM "Stacking the Deck" -- valor bonus for queueing with friends. Matchmade groups that re-queue count as friends. Really nice idea to push people in the direction of forming relationships and keeping them.
3:02PM Ohhhhhhh -- I think they're going to try to make an ingame version of Open Raid/oQueue.
3:02PM Group Finder is still in the game but they don't like the present form, they think it has the capacity to compete with random matchmaking
3:02PM LFD/LFR more of a "tourist thing," see the content, but encourage players to play more with friends.
3:01PM Anecdote from the office: Guys thought it was easier to find a tank via random matchmaking rather than asking someone sitting next to them. They won't remove random matchmaking, it's too useful, but they also want you to seek out the people you know and find more people to play with.
3:01PM Encourage you to play with the friends you have and remove barriers to that, and encourage people to make new friends. Used to be that you'd remember a good tank and try to find them again, but random matchmaking removes that
3:00PM GC: Social philosophy in WoD. They want WoW to be a game you play with your friends, more fun that way, stick with the game longer. (I agree)
3:00PM Clarification from Tom Chilton: The mine is an actual physical place in your garrison and if you assign NPCs there you will see them working there. Question: bringing back the booterang for an NPC you've assigned?
2:59PM Garrisons sound awesome, that is all. Heading to GC next.
2:59PM You will also see the intended difficulty of the mission update dynamically with the followers you've assigned.
2:58PM Drag followers into slots for particular missions, looks very intuitive overall.
2:58PM Can send them out to actually fight for you, but they take a different number of followers. Dungeons = 5 followers, quests need only 1. UI shown to assign them.
2:58PM Followers can be sent on missions. They can be a number of different activities like quests or scenarios or raids. (Sounds a lot like Dragon Age!)
2:57PM Rank 1 has five plots. Rank 3 has all of them available.
2:57PM "We want the garrison to grow with you." How do you change it from one tier to the next? At rank 2, for example, 6 plots. Once you've filled all of them you can upgrade it and get new plots. Match building size to plot size.
2:56PM Need a place to put all those buildings. As your garrison upgrades, you'll get more spots to put buildings.
2:56PM UI will show you what followers you have assigned there but it's a cost opportunity thing. Any follower you have assigned somewhere is someone who's not doing quests for you or collecting something else. Make choices on what you need and where you put your people.
2:55PM Some buildings will let you assign followers to them. All the profession buildings can do this, as can the mine. You can assign a miner to work while you're offline and collect ore for you, collect it when you come back in.
2:54PM You can also customize a building and specialize it. Armory has three specializations, you may be able to swap it perhaps once a day without too much trouble, they just don't want you doing it all the time.
2:54PM Pet battlers will already be familiar with the basic structure. You don't need to hop out of the game to look for how to do it, UI will show you everything.
2:53PM How do we get upgrades? Some available for purchase via a gold/currency. Another way: blueprints. Faction rewards, quest rewards, random drops, right-click the blueprints and your garrison can be upgraded.
2:53PM Picture of UI related to it -- you'll see exactly where you are in progression and what bonuses you're granted.
2:52PM How do they work? They upgrade over time. You start with a building and its own unique upgrades come and increase the bonuses you'll get.
2:52PM Each building has a bonus, large buildings have the best ones. Barracks increase the number of followers you can have at one time, and you want more b/c they can get loot for you
2:52PM Large buildings: barracks, infirmary, armory, stable, academy, mage tower
2:51PM Medium buildings: pet stable, trading post, lumber mill, barn, inn
2:51PM You can assign NPCs to certain professions and get them to recipes and quests you don't have, more profession coverage.
2:50PM Small buildings follow later: e.g., alchemy lab, scribe's office, engineering works, storehouse, dabble in professions that you don't personally have.
2:50PM Town hall is main building. You'll interact with your NPCs there and upgrades with your garrison as it goes.
2:50PM More detail on them and how they work: When you build the garrison, you get a certain number of buildings that will already be there. Town, mine, farm, fishing shack.
2:49PM Garrisons!
2:49PM Experimented a lot in Pandaria. "Some of them worked out great ... some of them were the Golden Lotus." Crowd laughs.
2:49PM Reiterating some of the points: Overall goal with quest system, a more dynamic and organic world, break people out of patterns while questing.
2:49PM Going to Cory!
2:48PM Environmental gameplay like Troves of the Thunder King. Opportunities to use those in the outdoor world, some will be PvP only, some will be PvE.
2:48PM Trying to marry those two structures, free-form content with long-term progression storylines that thread through them over the weeks so you always have a reason to go back.
2:48PM Chapter-based stories and questing like Dominance Offensive, etc. Timeless Isle they always liked.
2:47PM "Little if any of it will be daily quests." Big cheer at that. Crowd apparently didn't like the massive number of dailies in MoP
2:47PM More max-level world content (another thing that worked great in MoP, always having something to do in the outdoor world).
2:47PM Will help with finishing zone achievements and getting all the major storylines done.
2:46PM All key storylines will dynamically update on the map so you can pick it up later if need be.
2:46PM All "key storylines" will be appropriately marked on the map while you're questing so you know exactly where to go in order to follow it.
2:46PM UI updates (we'll have screenshots later)
2:45PM More opportunity for rewards to "spike" during your quest experience. A reward that is green for one player might randomize and become blue or even epic for another.
2:45PM They want to support mini-stories within the world. Examples: When you go into an ogre tower, you might find a bird's nest with a sparkling jewel that rewards you. Help an Iron Horde caravan unstick their wagon, and they'll give you a chest with gold and items. Trying to do this all over the world. Interjection from Allie: This worked fabulously in Mists, glad to see it back.
2:44PM A LOT of them at level 100 apparently, more so than for leveling folks. Treasures are "essentially our way of encouraging you to explore the world even more than the art already does. We want you to peek into every nook and cranny." AMEN!
2:44PM Soloable rare spawns on Timeless will become more complex. Wandering raid bosses that encourage lots of players to pile up and overcome a big social challenge.
2:43PM Dynamic events and treasure model first introduced on Timeless Isle will feature again.
2:43PM They don't want people to miss the key storylines, where you outlevel a zone and drop everything to move on. Want to experience the story. You'll have the choice to participate only in the primary story track, or do everything and get all the side quests and one-offs.
2:42PM Key storylines with icons in quest tracker. "We want to draw attention to the big quest chains with big characters that lead to big rewards."
2:42PM Going to Craig for quest revamps!
2:42PM "We're going to do everything we can do to avoid breakpoints." Acknowledges challenge it poses for raid design however, some like prisons on Sha will be very difficult.
2:41PM You should never feel like you're hurting yourself for bringing an extra person.
2:41PM "With most boss abilities, we can probably randomize in a way that avoids the use of breakpoints." Interesting point, rather than boss abilities hitting two people at 14 and three people at 15 they will design around that, otherwise people will try to arrange raids for maximize ease.
2:40PM Drops are based on number of eligible players. Ratio of loot drops per eligible player remains constant throughout. We don't want people to arrange raids around ideal breakpoints. "We don't want players to deny or allow people on the basis of some invisible threshold."
2:39PM How does loot work? Is personal loot now the norm? No. Personal loot is really well-suited to raids with strangers, no trust in RL, but when you're playing with guildies and friends you want the ability to trade items to people who need them. Maybe you want to pass tokens to people for set bonuses. Want to preserve that for normal and heroic.
2:38PM Raid Finder is only queued form of raiding.
2:38PM You can join friends even on bosses and things you've already defeated, just won't loot twice in the same difficulty.
2:38PM GC: "Gastropods." Oh God please no.
2:37PM Interesting implications with respect to the separate lockouts. They plan for each difficulty level to have different level difficulty trash.
2:37PM Mythic will be restricted to a single server. Each difficulty has a separate lockout.
2:37PM If you want to join some RL friends on another server after you finish mythic, feel free. Experience content the way you choose.
2:36PM All of raiding except for mythic will be fully cross-server from day one.
2:36PM Three different difficulty tiers for organized raid content. LFR is unchanged with some flex tech to reduce queue times and difficulty. Normal in Warlords equivalent to what Flex is today in overall philosophy and difficulty. Normal mode guilds today will find Heroic content at their level of difficulty. If you're heroic today, you will go for mythic.
2:35PM Try to preserve some of the freedom that players currently experience with Flex. You can queue up and face off against Garrosh directly, want to preserve that. once you clear everything a number of times, raid leader can get you directly to a boss you want rather than having to clear the whole thing. Plan the raid week the way you want.
2:34PM Crucible is the final wing with Blackhand.
2:34PM "This isn't a place that was designed as a raid zone; it's a place that was designed as a foundry." They want to recreate the feeling of older dungeons like UBRS where a place seems more functional than raidlike.
2:33PM Iron Assembly, Slag Works, and the Black Forge wings.
2:33PM Showing some concept art. We'll have screenshots for you later.
2:32PM Nice to choose what you'll progress on. Goal is to dismantle the Foundry from inside and face off against Warchief Blackhand.
2:32PM Center of the Iron Horde war machinery in nagrand. 10 boss raid. Non-linear layout. They miss Ulduar and ICC too. "There's a lot to be said for delivering an epic raid in terms of scope, but also giving freedom to work through it organically."
2:32PM Raid content in WoD: Blackrock Foundry is the capstone of raid content at launch. Going to try to repeat the two-tier system in MoP with smaller intro tier available right away, then a few weeks after unlocking the centerpiece. Blackrock is the centerpiece.
2:31PM Going to pick up where they left off at the more general info session yesterday.
2:30PM Looks like we're about to get started here. 127 WPM versus developers!
2:28PM Present at the panel today will be Greg Street (better known to all of us as Ghostcrawler), the lead systems designer: Tom Chilton, the lead game designer: Ion Hazzikostas, the lead encounter designer: Craig Amai, the lead quest designer: Dave Kosak, the lead narrative designer (many of you will know him as the guy behind the brilliant Flintlocke comics): and Cory Stockton, the lead content designer.
2:22PM /cracks knuckles. This tends to be a very busy panel with a lot being said, and I'm hoping to keep up with everything. If anything does get missed, I'll update the post as soon as possible.

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