World of Warcraft has endgame issues. Here’s what Blizzard is doing to fix it in Shadowlands: •

Two expansions were made in Legion in 2016, and the high-level endgame World of Warcraft has undergone major changes. Legion has introduced artifact weapons to each class of specialization. It can be used to power up endlessly and further customize the playstyle of each specialization. After all, it’s a net positive, in harmony with some of the other innovations in the expansion (such as the repeatable spinning World Quest), not only raiding hardcore, but also long-term to a wider variety of players. Opened the progress of a typical endgame. WOW has become a game where you can happily grind and move your character forward without having to focus on increasingly challenging group content in search of elusive loot drops. (In that respect, it’s a lot like Diablo. By chance or not, current WOW production director John Height is also the production director for the excellent console version of Diablo 3 and the Reaper of Souls extension. I served.)

However, there is a problem with this kind of layered unlimited endgame progression system. They can feel purposeless, overwhelmed, or both, and sometimes players feel more boxed than released by them. That’s what happened when Blizzard tried to build an artifact system at Battle for Zeros in 2018. Power-up Azelite Armor Pieces and Essence Linked Twin Systems that give you new abilities add complexity and huge grinds and develop noisily without adding anything special to your specs. I felt that was progressing. WOW community I love it Complain about them.

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“I’ve heard similar feedback … and I agree,” sighed lead game designer Morgan Day. He talks to Day and Hight over Zoom ahead of the release of the Shadowlands expansion next week. This ended while the WOW team was working from home.

“As you know, we added the Azerite armor system, listened to player feedback immediately, and found that just joining the game would be difficult to extend,” Day said. I will. “Much of the feedback we got is” just regaining us the same power we already had from the launch of the game-the hell, Blizzard? “And we saw it and said. : “Yes, I think we really need to create a new axis of progress to solve this.” So we introduced the Azerite Essence system. It was a kind of layered complexity. We knew that was what we were working on. It was essentially a fix. One system was filled over another that wasn’t really working. And it was elegant enough to hear it.

Production director John Height.

Upon entering Shadowlands, the WOW team knew that these endgame progression systems existed in-game and that they had a real desire among players. But they also knew they hadn’t nailed them yet. In fact, as Hight admits, they realized that they had temporarily forgotten an important principle of player motivation in implementing these systems in the first place.

“I think part of what we’ve learned or relearned is that players want a sense of accomplishment, a sense of accomplishment. Therefore, because we’ve made endless advances in the artifact system, that feeling is It wasn’t there. It’s a sense of fulfillment. It’s like chasing this ever-growing number, so I’d like to move away from the Shadowlands numbers. “

Lead game designer Morgan Day.

Soulbinds, Shadowlands’ main endgame progression system, is much more clearly defined. (That doesn’t mean it’s more restrictive-far away from it.) When adventuring Shadowlands, the posthumous world version of Warcraft, it’s essentially a flashy and interactive faction 4 Choose to ally with one of the covenants. Within each covenant, you will meet three major characters that can form a soul bind and unleash some of the special powers they can use. (Day is likened to the racial abilities of games such as Goblin Rocket Jump.) Each Soulbind comes with its own talent tree that gradually unlocks as it becomes more famous for Covenant. You can clearly see where you are heading and the power you unleash.

However, the problem with Soulbinds is width, not depth. “Think about it. There are a dozen classes, three dozen specs, and four times the covenant,” says Hight. And you can triple this by choosing a soul bind within each covenant. This is a permutation of 432 classes, specs, covenants, and soul binds, even before considering the choices players may make within the specs and soul bind talent tree.

Just because it is set for the afterlife does not mean that all shadow lands will be darkened.

It’s certainly a balance nightmareIt’s certainly the idea of ​​alpha and beta players, and those who suspect that these endgame progression systems (sometimes called borrowed power systems) may have made the game properly unbalanced. There is even. Balance was actually chosen as the main reason Blizzard needed to delay the release of Shadowlands for a few weeks. Height’s note points out the complexity of interlocking systems for games like the World of Warcraft. (Alongside the Covenant, Shadowlands also introduces a roguelike-style randomized dungeon, Torgast.) As Height points out, balancing and modifying such a broad and layered system. Is exactly the purpose of beta testing. “Nothing is more valuable than crowdsourcing through thousands and thousands of beta participants … many people level up their characters, choose covenants, try different characters, and offer us. It’s been a really great feedback and, as you know, it’s valuable. ”

Day believes that if balancing soul bind is likely to be an ongoing process at all times, at least the team feels they have the tools they need to do it. “We are very confident that we and the community have knobs that need to be adjusted to reach a place where we are excited and happy with the place we finally got. And that’s what was our main focus in the last few weeks, “he says.

But he points out that Soulbinds’ first offense in beta wasn’t necessarily a balance issue. Pacing is an important consideration in any progression system. “I got a lot of feedback early on that Soulbinds didn’t have much impact, or wasn’t very exciting when I first grabbed it. Even in the last few weeks, I’ve made major changes to be talented. You can call it the bottom of the soul bind tree. In fact, you’ve moved most of them to the top, so as soon as you get them, the most exciting aspect that soul bind can offer. Or you can get one of the most exciting. “” With a focus on pacing, there is learning from the Battle for Azeroth that such a system needs to be naturally extensible. “Our focus at Shadowlands is to keep pace and make sure there is room for growth. Many of these systems can be even wider.”

Not surprisingly, the four covenants reward you with some fetching-themed armor sets.

Perhaps the important point, however, is that when Blizzard approaches the new endgame system, it doesn’t start with essential game design thinking. The exact opposite. At the core of the system is the subject, even emotional. “Much of it really comes from the following places: well, what’s the point of this extension’s theme and settings? What’s the story we’re trying to tell? Why are we in this place? Are you going to? ”Day says. Covenants (widely similar to angels, necromancers, fairies, vampires) are storytelling devices as well as customization and progression options, and Day is a player’s choice of covenants and soul binds further by role play. I think it will be promoted. From minimization and maximization. “We were talking. What emotions do we want to elicit and how do we want people to feel about this? I personally think of it as a paladin. My Bencer Paladin feels quite different from my Killian Paladin, and it’s something we thought it would be really, really fun to pursue, people would really enjoy engaging . “

The tuning and balancing workloads caused by this assumption are rewarding, complex, and costly retrofits, but World of Warcraft developers clearly believe they are worth it. Over time you’ll see-Shadowlands launched on Tuesday, and these systems have the potential to improve over the two-year lifespan of the expansion. However, it is true that WOW is always good in flavor. That is, each faction, every race, every class, every spec, and even every individual skill feels charismatic and unique. It’s one of the things that makes the game stand out even now, 16 years after its launch. And perhaps this emotionally guided design process is one of the reasons. I think it’s worth one or two balanced nightmares.

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