At the Blizzard Worldwide Invitational, I had the opportunity to sit in on a private press conference with members of the World of Warcraft and Starcraft 2 development teams. The session was informal in the format of a question and answer panel, however a lot of great information was passed around.
Question: How set is the tech tree?
Answer: Right now, the tech tree consists of what the designers thing is best. However, there will consistently continue to be change as the game proceeds through testing phases.
Q: What has been the reaction from people playing the demo?
A: Overall, the reaction has been very good. People are enjoying the current demo.
Q: What are the developer feelings on the overall unit mix at this time?
A: In general, the mix is pretty good right now, however there is still some work to be done and some things to be added.
Q: We’ve noticed some problems finding an artistic identity in some of the super units? Any thoughts or progression on this?
A: Many of the units have their own kit, however they step on the toes of certain other units which means they need to be changed. Therefore, they have to go back and tweak the artwork, but they don’t want to finalize any artwork until the decisions have been made.
Q: How is the dialog going with the Pro-Players in terms of some of the UI changes?
A: The developers present were unsure, however one of the primary issues has been multiple building selection and this is something being taken very seriously. The developers are tring to create the more macroed feel so there is much more work to do without losing the modern artistic nature of the UI. A solution to this problem has yet to be reached.
Q: Is multiple building selection something that is going to be in the editor?
A: Unknown right now. The editor is still up in the air as to what the overall goals are going to be.
Q: What is going on with the art on The Infestor unit?
A: Right now, it is using temporary artwork of one of the earlier zerg units. They are continuously improving upon art and there are multiple iterations of the art, including more wings. (Laughter).
Q: How much attention do the designers pay to the forums?
A: It depends. If someone is smart and passionate and has good points then it will be read. If the post is just ranting and dropping bombs, it will probably get ignored.
Q: Have there been any unexpected challenges that have been imposed by the new 3D engine in keeping the feel of the game where it is?
A: The biggest challenge is that the majority of the team just came off of the Frozen Throne and World of Warcraft so it has been hard to get into the overall feel of Starcraft. Early units were much brighter and more colorful, but the artists are slowly getting back to where they want to be.
Q: Have the developers thought about experimenting with a full 3D camera?
A: No, because it won’t feel like Starcraft. People want what they are familiar with.
Q: Will there be any crossover between WoW and Starcraft 2 players?
A: No, the developers don’t think so because of the majority of the casual players in WoW. In Starcraft, these same casual players are the players that only play the solo campaigns and won’t play multiplayer much.
Q: Has there been any challenges in design considering that the game has such a large Korean following? Does the team feel as though they need to listen to Korea more?
A: No, they listen to everyone and overall strive to keep the game that everyone knows and take as many opinions into consideration.
Q: It was noticed that the Soulhunter was taken away. Are there more units that have been taken away?
A: There has been a few, mostly because they step on the toes of another unit. For example, see the Reaver vs. Colossus on the Protoss side.
Q: What is going on with the Terran Nomad?
A: There are plans to redo the Nomad. It hasn’t been done yet, so the unit is holding temporary artwork.
Q: Are there any challenges or concessions that have been made during develop-ment?
A: Nothing really because they are keeping Starcraft true to Starcraft. Blizzard does not want to change how Starcraft is. They want to keep it cool, yet do new things with it.
Q: Have there been any considerations for units that can cross different land types?
A: There has never really been a major use for allowing some units to cross different lands. They have done some similar things in single player with things coming out of the water, but you shouldn’t expect to see any naval combat in Starcraft.
Q: Similarly, has there been any experimentation with totally impassable terrain?
A: There are a few ideas, specifically for single player but not much experimentation has happened.
Q: Are there any new tilesets? Have any been removeD?
A: Blizzard is specifically making some tilesets for just one mission. There are a lot of cool and different ideas and players should be expecting some cool things.
Q: How do you decide when to stop making new units/races/skills?
A: Design starts with coming up with the classic archetypes for the race. When the ideas begin stepping on toes, then it’s near a state of completion and it is sent to testing to look for holes in other places.
World of Warcraft
Q: Are there any concerns with the lack of no further additional content before WotLK?
A: This was dealt with in Burning Crusade as well. There will be some small incremental patches, however there is nothing being done as far as content is concerned that way development can focus on finishing and getting the expansion released rather than delay it further to add new content to the existing game.
Q: How happy are the developers with the current state of the endgame and it’s difficulty?
A: Again, this is something that was dealt with in Burning Crusade. Blizzard is comfortable with the current state of Kil’Jaeden because he is designed to be the end boss of the game at this time.They don’t want to change it right now because it is so early in the process of Sunwell progression. We expect players to fight the difficulty levels, but it is important to note that nothing has been specifically planned to cause these issues. The difficulty is, at this time, at it’s intended level.
Q: What experiences and knowledge have been gained from Burning Crusade to Wrath of the Lich King?
A: Variety and keeping things moving. Giving players more quests and things to do in the game. Quantity is covered with BC so in Lich King the goal is upping the variety. The developers have the ability to use features that they did not think that they would previously be able to use. For example, siege vehicles were only intended for PVP but it has since been opened up to quests as well.
Q: What has been the feedback on the Death Knight?
A: Overwhelming. However, the most common question is why the Death Knight was chosen over the other hero classes? It came down to the game’s needs and needs were another tank due to the widespread issue of trying to find tanks for groups. They did not want to create another warrior so the Runic Magic system was created and the concept of Runic power was maintained. Death Knights also fit into the Arthas and Lich King storyline.
Q: Will there be any arenas for the leveling process between 70 and 80?
A: No, arena’s will continue to be the high end PVP and Battlegrounds will be in the middle. However, two new arenas are being introduced. It has also been noticed that players prefer playing less games to maintain rankings rather than more games, therefore just leave the arenas at the highest levels.
Q: What about adding a Defense of the Ancients-style PVP map?
A: No plans for this currently, however it is something that is discussed a lot. Right now, the Battleground additions are going for an attack/defend style gameplay which also fits in with the new siege gameplay features.
Q: Will you be able to use the boats that bring you into the Northrend Battleground?
A: The boats were added as a different way to get players to start the BG rather than being behind a gate or under a dome. Players will not be able to use the canons on the boats since they are just transports.
Q: What about using boats as siege weapons or naval combat?
A: An idea that has definitely already been discussed. The first step is getting player controlled boats to work overall, then naval combat would not be difficult however there really is no use for boats in game at this time.
Q: With the addition of more battlegrounds, will the battlegroups be shrunken to keep queues from becoming too long?
A: No plans to make them smaller. The queue system has a lot of switches that can be changed to increase or decrease queue length. For example, the existing queue system rates players on their armor. By lowering this requirement, the queues would be shorter. The queue system will be monitored and reconfigured with the addition of more battlegrounds.
Q: With the addition of the barber shop will character creation be more involved?
A: No, it remains the same. However, in the barber shop you can change any of the options that are on the main character screen. Right now, this is primarily new hairstyles but new options are being explored. The goal is to give players as much customization as possible yet maintain balance.
Q: How about a dance studio?
A: This is a huge amount of work and something that has to be done on a per race basis. No details have been established.
Q: What about the option to change your race or faction?
A: Nothing is planned to allow for this. It is a huge task which can be done but is very low on the priority scale. It has been discussed.
Q: Any plans to increase the quest log or change the quest UI?
A: No plans to increase the number of quests. This is a pure design decision because if it is larger, players begin to forget. Improving the quest UI is a constant battle and something that is being worked on. Small improvements have been made, but nothing major. Going hand-in-hand with this is the guild UI, but to change the guild UI guilds need to be more exciting as a whole.
Q: Are there still plans to add in mods like threat meter and Outfitter?
A: Yes, and both are currently being worked on. It is unknown as to whether or not they will make the release of WotLK, but they are on the top of the lists.
Q: Housing plans?
A: Housing is a huge undertaking and is not on any lists.
Q: Thoughts on Wintergrasp PVP awards?
A: There are a lot of great ideas floating around. The goal is to make the rewards something that people keep coming back for and not just earn then never come back.
Q: What is the status of inscription?
A: Overall, doing very well and the first implementation is in the game. Herbalism is the collection that will go with inscription. At this point it is basically tuning exactly what is going on with it, however because the spells haven’t been finalized, it is hard to finalize a profession that is dependent upon the spells.
Q: Three games are currently in development with no release date. Which is going to come out first?
A: All three are coming out tomorrow. (Laughter)