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BlizzCon 2011: Exclusive Interview with Dave Kosak, WoW Lead Quest Designer
23.10.2011 um 15:38
Saturday afternoon, I was fortunate enough to get a one-on-one interview with Dave Kosak, WoW Lead Quest Designer, before his Lore and Story Q&A. Ashelia and I brainstormed some questions together before I sat down with Dave. During the interview, I made sure to ask him about some of our favorite--and least favorite--questing experiences, as well as how they were handling phasing and truly epic questlines in Mists of Pandaria. I hope you enjoy reading the summarizes of his responses--he shared details unreleased at BlizzCon such as a potential new MoP faction, the Lorewalkers!
We were also able to attend a group Q+A with J. Allen Brack and Jay Wilson about World of Warcraft and Diablo III. We've got the all the answers under the break--some of the information was already covered in other panels, so be sure to check our full coverage for details.
Exclusive Interview with Dave Kosak
Q: It's always been a struggle to make players feel like they truly impact the world. How are you showcasing this in MoP? Do the zones progress and change depending on questlines? What about phasing?
A:One thing we always struggle with--is we have this tool, phasing, but a large problem is that it separates players easily. Phasing, as I tell my team, is the story sledgehammer. You don't need a tool that big. Don't try to layer progression in a way that splits up the world. We're trying to have more questing like the 4.2 Molten Front dailies, in which players progressed in a zone but could still see their friends. In addition, the phasing in the starting zone, as you saw on the demo, is not as extreme as in the goblin and worgen starting zones. For example, the Temple at the center of Pandaria lights up more and more as you find elemental spirits. It's a subtle form of phasing. If we did extreme phasing, players would be lost in such a new zone early on. We're always looking for balance, in ways that don't intrude upon gameplay.
The starting zone is interesting because of how the Pandaren love balance and inner peace--which is new to WoW. It's their survival mechanism against the negative energy of the sha.
Q: As a side note, how is something like an undead or dwarf monk going to work, especially after the Pandaren Monk starting experience is so different? Controversial race/class combos like Night Elf Mages were introduced without much fanfare and didn't quite integrate.
A: It's actually not super complicated--there will be Pandaren representatives, or ambassadors, in the starting area.
Q: In Cata, you removed unique class quests for abilities--such as rogues getting poison out in Westfall by taking a tower. Will there ever be unique and personalized questlines not attached to extreme methods of lore such as the new legendaries?
First off, we love class quests. However, if you do it right, it takes a lot of time. If you look at doing a cool story chain, it's weeks of work. So it comes down to: content for classes, or half a zone. We love the idea, but we're always struggling with how much we can do.
As a side note, the quests for the rogue legendary are very cool--so you're in luck!
Q: In the Q&A, people brought up class questlines. Is there any plan to do quests for upgraded armor, much like how level 60's dungeon sets were upgradable into alternate colors through a complex questline? The .5 armor questline was one of my favorite in the game and class questlines helped players grow.
A: That would be a good question for the item team--they've been exploring many ways for players to continuously upgrade your armor. As for class questlines--we're thinking of implementing Training Grounds Missions--special kinds of missions for tanks or healers to learn your class and see how you stack up. It's thematically perfect. It's also a nice contrast to Scenarios, in which players can group together to quest regardless of the player's role.
Q: Scepter questline was by far the best questline in the game. Any plans to redo it, since it was removed from Cata, or perhaps make a questline that is as ridiciously in-depth, wild, and nuanced--sort of a heroic questline/hardmode questing for players just for the heck of it? Such a questline would be great if
A: We're not sure how it will play out, but there's an idea for a faction called the Lorewalkers. The Pandaren are a race with an amazing verbal tradition--they're storytellers. And the Lorewalkers are bent on exploring the world, finding things and relics, filling out libraries. You won't use this faction to get best-in-slot gear, but in finding and returning books, you'll act out all of the new stories. If you are interested in the lore, this is for you. If you just care about the gear, you can skip them--and it's fine. I'm not sure how this will play out, but I've spent a lot of time--including dressing up as a Pandaren to work--to push this idea.
Q: How do you decide the depth of a legendary questline? Some are really simple, such as Val'anyr, despite how hard it was to get. Meanwhile, Shadowmourne had four rewards and made people a fortune. Why are some less legendary than others?
A: We're always playing with different ideas for legendaries. When it comes down to it, it's specialized content for people that raid. What's the best way to spend our time? We've probably spent a little too much (fun) time on legendary questlines in Cataclysm, but it's worth it for the player--and players that don't raid extensively, can access some of the solo questing options and lore in the early stages of these legendary chains.
Q: We loved the class quest mounts for Warlock and Paladin. Are you ever going to add more quests for mounts--faction or race specific?
A: Going back to your earlier question--probably not specific for class, but we do have ideas for interesting questlines at max level for players to customize their own flying mount. It's always a balance of wanting to create more content that the most players can experience--quests for flying mounts should reach a lot of people.
Q: Are there any plans to redo Alterac Valley with more quests? Some of those quests were truly awesome and it feels like they became obsolete but still lurk around for years now.
A: I don't think we'll revise Alterac Valley anytime soon. This was before my time at Blizzard, but the original idea was that everyone would be questing while PvPing, but that fell short. Eventually people simplified it and found one good way to win. Now, Tol Barad is another example of questing while PvPing that has worked better. We don't have plans yet for an elaborate questing PvP hub at the start of 5.0, but we definitely want to step it up mid-expansion.
Q: Last question: Diablo III made questing completely different. They're different games, but do you plan on giving players more of a voice and involving dialogue more in the game much like how D3 does?
A: One issue with dialogue is that the quest process is iterative. We're constantly changing quests a lot, playing through. It's very difficult to surround the player in WoW with a story primarily told with a full voice. We don't want the story delivered via quest text box--we're instead trying to incorporate lots of the story around you in different ways. Such as via the environment and the new Lorewalker faction.
It's a neat idea though, but full dialogue would slow down the questing experience too much in WoW.
Q+A with J. Allen Brack and Jay Wilson
Miyari had the opportunity this year to attend a Q+A with both J. Allen Brack and Jay Wilson to talk World of Warcraft and Diablo III in an intimate environment. We've summarized the best questions and answers from this interview to give insight into some of the new features and developments into these much-anticipated Blizzard releases.
We've paraphrased the questions asked by members of the fansite communities and provided answers revealing some new details about the pandaren starting area, Diablo III difficulties and more. However, some of this information was touched upon in other panels at BlizzCon.
Mists of Pandaria
Many new technical improvements (physics, blending) but no new sound changes
Less phasing in Mists of Pandaria
No new big "master plan" boss in this expansion, but tons of new content
New talent system:
Talent builds will be slightly less "cookie cutter" but there will probably always be "best builds"
Will be able to reset single talents and outside of having to return to a town
New pandaren players:
Will not be able to talk to Horde/Alliance members
Will have to choose a faction before progressing out of the starting area
Might not have mail access in the starting area, will not be able to return to it
No aesthetic difference between Horde / Alliance pandaren
Pet battle system:
There will be a level cap for pets earning experience from battles
New pets will be added to each zone in addition to existing pets
Players with more rare pets will not have any sort of special advantage over others
Based on the available playthrough of Mists of Pandaria, the game looks to have a lot of new technical improvements. What sort of changes were made?
A lot of the graphical and technical changes we're seeing is the result of artists getting better, having better tools and creating better ways to do things. There is a lot of hard work going into Mists of Pandaria including the inclusion of an integrated physics engine that can support things such as cloak movements, particle effects and new blending technologies. For example, there will no longer be real visible line of division between an object on a terrain, it will instead blend the objects together. The team has been working on the expansion for a year so there are a large number of "epic" improvements.
Are there any planned changes to the World of Warcraft sound engine (such as adding different sound channels, separate and raise/lower more specific or "annoying" sounds)?
There are no planned changes to the sound system in World of Warcraft. They simply try not to add "annoying" things (Fan of Knives was mentioned specifically by the community) and if something is found to be, they'll plan to make changes.
Will phasing technology be toned down in Mists of Pandaria?
Phasing technology was added for Wrath of the Lich King and used extensively in Cataclysm but Blizzard feels like they went a bit too far with it and there will be more unified content and quest hubs in Mists of Pandaria.
How is the new talent system supposedly going to be more "cookie cutter" proof? Will there still be a "best build"?
This is a valid concern to Blizzard, part of this revamp is based on the fact that talents will no longer be standard percentage increases to abilities and such. There will probably always be situations in which there is a "best" build, but there's only a total of 6 talents to choose from. You will also be able to change talents outside of towns (similar to how you can change your specs now).
When new pandaren are created they are all neutral. Will they lose their ability to communicate with other Pandaren of the other faction once they have chosen a side?
Pandaren will not be able to speak to pandaren from other factions.
Over the last few expansions, and especially in Cataclysm, many factions of existing races have joined up with the Horde or Alliance. Will we ever be able to create, say, Dark Iron dwarves as Alliance or Mag'har orcs as Horde?
Blizzard has talked "a lot" about his but there are no decisions to add new existing races as playable characters at this time.
With the new accelerated development cycle, will we see Mists of Pandaria sooner than we normally would have?
Cataclysm has actually had the longest development cycle. Blizzard is always trying to make things faster, but sometimes new ideas cause things to take longer (such as implementation of the Encounter Journal, something they wanted in-game forever). All of the lore and information takes quite some time. The Mists of Pandaria trailer is not even close to being finished at this time.
Since we be able to change talents easily outside of combat and save different builds?
There are currently no plans to allow users to save talent builds at this time, as there are only six choices. Players will most likely be able to make changes to their builds on a single talent-by-talent choice (ie. changing one talent to another).
Are there plans for any sort of "spectator mode" for instances, battlegrounds, etc.?
They'd love to implement such a feature but there are a lot of technical concerns and it would take a lot of time and effort to construct such a system at this time.
How is the faction choice for Pandaren going to work?
The idea right now is that you'll play the starting area content for levels 1-10, learning the lore of the race and the zone and near the end you'll start to meet Horde and Alliance questgivers, perform quests for them and then be given the option to select a faction. There will be no aesthetical differences between Horde and Alliance pandaren.
How will players tell Alliance pandaren from Horde pandaren then, such as in PVP?
Blizzard decided that players don't actually play like, "I'm going to click on the tauren" they play "I'm going to click on the red." There are no aesthetic differences between pandaren of both factions, but if it becomes a problem for any reason changes may be made.
Is there a level cap planned for the pet battle system?
The system has not yet been fully implemented, but pets will have a level cap (currenty planned to be level 25) and experience will be earned and tuned per battle. There will also be one unique new pet per zone in addition to all of the existing pets. No plans for pet "Pokeballs" at this time, as the pets are stored in a "book" in the UI.
Pandaren don't have an auto-attack, was this ever intended for other classes/races?
Some classes in the original WoW beta didn't have auto-attack, but they have no plans to go back to that.
Will more rare or unique pets have any sort of advantages in the pet battle arenas (such as Collector's Edition pets)?
Some pets may have some different abilities or feature cosmetic differences, but no player will ever have a significant advantage based simply on the rarity of a pet.
Will you be able to leave the pandaren starting area without chosing a faction?
No, you will not be able to leave or progress without selecting a faction.
Will you be able to return to the starting area (the turtle)?
Unfortunately, probably not.
Will there be a "big boss" this expansion (such as Illidan, Arthas, Deathwing, etc.)?
There will be new bosses (of course) but no new huge "master plan" boss. The expansion will focus around the Cataclysm having removed the protection and revealing Pandaria to the Horde and Alliance.
How will the Alliance versus Horde conflict be manifested? More world PVP?
Blizzard is not sure at this time how they're going to dial in the World PVP aspect, as they've gone down so many roads with world PVP in the past and they've learned so many lessons. The theme of the "red versus blue" from a lore standpoint will manifest itself in a physical form called "the shaw", there will be mobs affected by this negative energy. There will be no new Tol Barad or Wintergrasp world PVP zone, but there may be a faction-controlled boss area similar to Vault of Archavon.
Will we ever see World of Warcraft races in Diablo III?
No. The Diablo universe is far to centric and filled with humanity. Everything that is not human in the Diablo universe is basically bad and should ahve asword stuck in it.
Will we be able to access Pandaria prior to the expansion?
No, though there will be a pre-release event as with previous expansions.
Has Blizzard had a chance to read all of the pandaren hate currently circulating the internet?
No, but even if you do decide to hate pandas there will be more than enough new non-pandaren features in Mists of Pandaria to please players.
Will there be mail service in the Pandaren starting area?
Unknown at this time, as there is currently no cross-faction mail system. They may be able to figure out a way to make it work.
Why does Blizzard hate paladins?
They don't, paladins just think they do.
What is the idea behind Diablo III's Halls of the Dead?
The idea is that when you lose a hardcore character, you don't want the character go away forever so basically the game will record your character data and you will still be able to see information on the character (such as gear, level, other statistics such as what killed them, etc.) in the in-game UI.
Now that spells are dependent on weapon speed and weapon damage, what will become of spell damage and increased cast rate affixes?
Increased cast rate is being removed, and will now be increased weapon rate. Spell damage is a stat that only appeared for witch doctors and wizards and the change was made so that they would value their weapons as much as other classes do. Also, class-specific increases affixes were confusing to players.
What changes were made to make followers viable in endgame Diablo III?
Blizzard decided to do a multiplier on follower base stats to compensate for their lack of items so that they wouldn't get one-shot as players progressed in the game. Most players wanted followers, so players who decide not to use them may feel at a disadvantage.
Where is the unattuned runestone system?
It's implemented and it's interesting, but it's not working very well right now and may not be kept. It's one of the last big problems to solve in Diablo III development.
What's the biggest thing Blizzard has learned since the Diablo III beta started that had to be reacted to?
The most useful information gathered from the beta has been from a technical standpoint, testing server infrastructure, etc.
Will you have to play through all difficulties to unlock Hardcore difficulty?
You will have to play to a certain point, at least through Normal difficulty, and reach a specific level (such as 30).
Some players are unhappy that with all of the power changes to other classes, witch doctors are still stuck using boring old blue mana. Why?
We had some ideas to change it but nothing really worked and there's no point in changing something just for the sake of it being different. All classes still have a unique power type which is what is intended.
Will we be forced to use RealID in order to friend people in Diablo III?
There is a special system planned for Diablo III, details will be revealed at a later date.
Will the banner system be available right off the bat in Diablo III?
You will have to earn achievements and content in order to unlock banner system functionalities.
How many achievements will be in Diablo III?
Hundreds. There are already more Diablo III achievements created than will actually be implemented in-game.
How many hours will we have to invest in Diablo III?
This will totally depend on how "insane" you are. It's not going to be like 800 hours but each difficulty will require a certain level of performance and gear so you may have to spend time farming previous levels of content in order to prepare your character.
Why doesn't Diablo officially support third-party addons?
There are a variety of reasons, but it mostly has to do with the fact that they do not have the time or people to dedicate to it, as addons were never intended to be fully supported in Diablo games.
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