- Author: milliondollarpuppy
- Date: November 26, 2022
- Expansion: World of Warcraft
Popular WoW streamer, Preach, comes back from his hiatus in light of Blizzard addressing several issues that caused him to move away from covering WoW content.
In this all-access interview, Preach freely tours Blizzard HQ while discussing and reviewing plans for now and the future. Among those interviewed include General Manager John Hight, Executive Producer Holly Longdale, and Game Director Ion Hazzikostas.
- Blizzard’s development team remarked on the success of Classic, the challenges it brought, what it taught them, and how that can translate to Dragonflight.
- Preach seems optimistic about Blizzard’s investment in Dragonflight.
- Recent changes to Blizzard’s leadership, both for the community and internal company culture.
- Blizzard is hyper-focused on community feedback — several polls have gone out to determine exactly what content players want, and what they like about that content.
- What is the future of WoW? The long-term state of the game was discussed as to where the devs would like to see the game in 10 years.
- Added focus on content that will last beyond expansions that don’t tie directly to player power.
Lessons from Classic
Holly Longdale (joined Classic team in 2020, now vice president, known for Everquest 2) and John Hight (with Blizzard since 2011, in charge of all WoW teams, known for God of War, Command & Conquer, Red Alert).
The team expressed their surprise with not only the success of Classic but also the inventive ways players have approached the old content. They found it was a valuable way to analyze the types of things WoW players were genuinely captivated by in the early days so that they could translate that to which content areas received focus on in Dragonflight.
One thing Blizzard found was how much players enjoy spending time allocating talent points and experimenting with different builds. Because of this, and similar findings related to professions, the team wants to make these systems more robust in ways that allow for greater player customization and possibilities.
Another talking point from Classic is social interaction. In Classic, collaboration is vital for success. Over the years in Retail, this became less and less necessary to reduce pressure on players to make them feel forced to do certain content or join large groups. That said team sees a benefit to the social interactions and the fun that can result, so they are looking at new ways of offering shared experiences in the world without the stress and pressure of making it seem mandatory.
The conversation eventually transitions to Preach discussing the content players feel forced to do and what can be done to alleviate this or focus on the content players actually what to do, which brings us to our next section with Ion Hazzikostas.
What Do People Like Doing in the Game? How Does the Team Work on Content?
Ion Hazzikostas (Game Director).
Blizzard seems sincere about working with the community to determine what areas should and should be focused on, essentially what content do players want to be most rewarding.
Community Feedback — How the Team Listens to the Community
During this portion of the interview, Ion discusses the challenges inherent to pleasing a community of players. Because there is no single type of player in the majority, the team is tasked with meeting the needs of several minority groups of players — each with their wants and conditions that may conflict with other players’ styles.
What this usually means for the community is that it isn’t as simple as getting feedback on something to make a change. Options need to be weighed out with changes to impact players in a way that isn’t exclusionary to certain players.
With all of that in mind, the dev team is trying to strike a balance between accommodating the player community, while doing so that appeases as many players as possible.
Approach to New Content — Player Incentivization, Allocation of Resources
In this section, Ion discusses the inherent expectation of incentivization and its role in an action RPG. When we play WoW, we are working toward a goal — anything that will increase our numbers or let us overcome specific challenges we’ve encountered. Because of this, most players approach content based on whether it’s worth it or not — is the time they spend on a given task going to result in something that will benefit them?
With all this in mind, Blizzard is keen on balancing content around feedback on what players enjoy doing so the team can focus on rewarding that content appropriately.
Blizzard also wants to balance “mandatory” content while still including completionist activities for players who find that rewarding.
Lessons from Torghast — Moving Away From Mandatory Content
After realizing how the rewards from Toghast were, how it became mandatory because of the gear it got you, and how punishing it would be if you missed a week, Blizzard feels it wants to move away from content like this that could be perceived as “chores”.
Zereth Mortis was a remedy to this and tried to mix things up by incentivizing open-world content that includes reputation grinding, to offer competitive options for how you spend your time in World of Warcraft.
Maintaining Interest In Dragonflight — Redefining Mandatory
One thing the Devs would like to move away from is the borrowed power system introduced in previous expansions. This means that certain players can avoid activities that would have been “mandatory” in earlier expansions like world questing. iLvl will be the simple universal reward, a metric of player power without the influence of something like an Artifact Weapon that had to be leveled independently alongside your gear.
Blizzard’s Internal Culture
Part of the reason for Preach’s recent departure from WoW coverage has been the current scandal and controversy surrounding Blizzard’s leadership and the company’s negative culture. Ion addressed this issue by reflecting on public perception and asking if that’s who they are, and more importantly, who they want to be. Several terminations and disciplinary actions have been taken against offending employees. Interestingly, remote work was cited as a benefit to investigation and policy enforcement, as victims feel safer reporting infractions in a remote setting vs. a physical one.
This sincere effort to explore a positive shift toward a healthy and safe work environment was enough to at least put Preach at ease about previous issues he had with Blizzard and its management style. Hopefully, this reflection and action is a precursor to a new, healthy, Blizzard Entertainment.