The Prisoner of Thunder King Trailer
Greg Tito: The trailer Blizzard released for this patch was a little different from your other patch trailers. With the single voice reading a poem over action foreshadowing the showdown against Lei Shin, I got a very Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban feel from it. Was that intentional?
Ion Hazzikostas: I think we're just really trying to set the mood for what this patch is going to be about. The Isle of Thunder itself is this very, constantly overcast, dark stormy place with lightning strikes hitting the terrain, hitting the spires of the Thunder King's palace all the time and there's just a certain vibe about it. That is what I think we were trying to convey and our movie production team and our artists that created all of the assets that you see there just did an amazing job and kind of knocked it out of the park. And obviously we have Jim Cummings the awesome voice actor [reading the lines] and I believe it was Dave Kozak our lead quest designer who actually wrote the stanzas of the poem and it all came together really well. It was very cool.
Greg Tito: Is the poem going to be referenced at all in the raid itself or is that just a stand-alone thing.
Ion Hazzikostas: It's just a stand-alone thing to just set the stage and the tone for the patch.
Keeping Non-Hardcore Players Interested
Greg Tito: I'm definitely a WoW player but I have to spread my time among so many other things and then as I was doing research for this interview I feel like the game has already passed where I was in my progression already. Do you ever think about those players when you are designing additional content like Patch 5.2?
Ion Hazzikostas: We do, yeah. There's content for all types of players. There's a huge amount of outdoor quest content for just any player who wants to go check it out solo on the Isle of Thunder and in general we're also mindful of providing some mechanisms for people who are not necessarily fully caught up to speed to maybe catch up a little bit faster so we've done things in this patch like take the Looking for Raid modes of the existing raids and vastly increase the drop rates from them so that players, either alts or fresh level 90s or people who weren't quite fully caught up can sort of get there much faster. If you go into Looking for Raid you'll probably get a lot more gear than you did in 5.0 and 5.1 which will get you ready in turn to experience the new Throne of Thunder raid.
Greg Tito: That's a great concession. PVP is also getting additional content with a new Arena season, and a big change to create a more constant progression for PVP players. Can you talk a little about that?
Ion Hazzikostas: In general with every new raid tier comes a new PvP season, that's just sort of how the game has been structured for a while and we have these parallel PvE and PvP gear progression and the two kind of keep pace with each other. If we released a new raid zone without a new season then suddenly the raid gear would become the best stuff in the game to take into PvP which isn't really our intent. The new structure for the conquest gear that you earn from doing arenas and rated battlegrounds I think is designed to create a more long-term and satisfying constant progression throughout the course of the season. I think something that we've seen a lot of in the past is that players who are fairly successful will quickly reach a point where they are just done and they've gotten everything they want with their conquest points, they have a full set of gear and there really isn't any place else to go from there. Playing is still fun, many people certainly just hop into an arena just to test their skills and just to have fun competing but I think one of the core parts of MMOs is progression and feeling like you're getting stronger for your time investment, for your accomplishments. When you beat that particularly difficult team that was slightly higher rated than you that you really care about the points that you earned from doing that and having a more continuous spectrum of gear progression, I think, will help keep that satisfying and help keep people involved and invested in the season from start to finish.
Greg Tito: I will switch to my personal favorite feature from Pandaria which was the minipet battles. You guys seem to have released a large update and kind of added a whole bunch of content in the collecting of pets for 5.2. Does that speak to how popular that feature is with players, do you have any metrics on that?
Ion Hazzikostas: It's definitely been a popular feature, it's very accessible. I think a lot of people who were initially skeptical and didn't see themselves getting into it have actually really embraced it. There's actually a large overlap between some of the most hardcore PvP arena players and people that were also into pet battles, which is kind of funny. It has surprising depth. It's great for the casual collector who wants to complete their pet journal and fill in all those grayed out slots and also for the person who actually really wants to build a high end competitive team and match it up against other players. It's a system that we have also enjoyed a lot ourselves and we definitely enjoy updating it and adding a few new pets to get via different means whether it's going back to some old raid zones that you can now solo or checking out our new quest content.
Greg Tito: I did see that the art for the minipet frogs is being updated. Are there plans to do that for more pets going forward?
Ion Hazzikostas: Certainly where possible you always like to update it. The frog was more something that we were using in other contexts. There are a few frogs that you'll see in the grotto underneath the Thunder King raid and once you realize "Oh hey we have a really cool, better looking frog, let's also make sure that our pets are cool and better looking." It's just an ongoing process of updating and polishing existing assets to make sure that they stay up to date with where the game is at and what the look of the game is.
Greg Tito: That's a good way to keep reusing content to make it as seamless as possible. Thanks for talking with me and I'll see you in Pandaria.