Greg 'Ghostcrawler' Street Presenting During Blizzcon
Hildegard: Today I welcome Greg “Ghostcrawler” Street, lead designer of World of Warcraft, as an interview partner for our Arena Junkies interview. We will start with my trademark question. What did you eat today?
Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street: I just had salad with beets and blue cheese.
Hildegard: Sounds nice. When you started responding to players on the WoW boards you said "A year from now I will probably be the most hated person in the gaming industry." Do you remember that quote?
Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street: Haha. I don't remember it, but it sounds like something I'd say.
Hildegard: Did it come true?
Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street: Oh I am sure there are people that are more hated than me. Which is not to say I'm universally loved, but it goes with the territory.
Hildegard: Did you follow the recent online arena tournaments like NAO, Yaspresents, Curse Invitational or Bleached Bones?
Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street: Yes, we follow all of that stuff. That's the work we live for.
Hildegard: The start of Mists of Pandaria will offer a tournament realm soon after the launch. With the PvP mechanics overhaul in Mists of Pandaria and streaming becoming massively adapted among more and more players, this all sets a great foundation for PvP to grow in popularity. Is a new dawn for the WoW arena scene coming?
Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street: It would be awesome if that was the case. If you are talking from a professional level or about people watching it - arena always suffers a bit that it's fast paced and it's hard to tell what is going on. It has never been the most easy to watch game out there. It may be a pipe dream that it is going to grow in popularity like Starcraft. But can we make it more fun for the players who are interested in arena. Absolutely that would be great.
Hildegard: You recently said over Twitter that you would like to work on the tournament UI. This would be a huge boon to the PvP community and could start bring organizations like MLG to take WoW back in.
Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street: We don't have any announcements. I totally get how valuable that would be. We would love to support it. It's just a matter of finding the time and resources to get it right and come up with a system that people would actually use and be excited about.
Rapture: Do you have any opinions on the tournament UI people have been using for the tournaments?
Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street: We usually let the community come up with a UI mods that are filling holes in what we currently offer. From that standpoint that is awesome. It's something we don't provide, yet, but hopefully can at some point.
Hildegard: How about announcing player-made tournaments on official resources like the website or even the launcher?
Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street: That would be cool. It's a little outside of my area, as it's about the PR and community aspect of the game, but it sounds like a cool thing to me.
Snutz and Venruki during the WoW 2012 North America Arena Invitational
Hildegard: Do you think there is a place for professional players in World of Warcraft?
Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street: That's a really good question. I watched tons and tons of arena and battlegrounds and I just don't know if it ever will have the spectator experience that a game like Starcraft or hopefully Blizzard AllStars will have. We will always be challenged from that point of view. It would be awesome and we surely have nothing against it but I don't know if it will ever have the kind of popularity that professional players would expect.
Hildegard: A lot of ideas to increase competition and participation for arenas have been thrown around: Shorter seasons, region-wide queues and titles, cosmetic rewards and rating decay. Do you have plans to work over the matchmaking and reward system for arenas?
Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street: I think the matchmaking system is pretty solid. It's not unlike the one we use for other games. The same people design all these systems. I know there is a lot of concerns about rating decay and should we discourage people from getting high ratings and then just camping and not playing again. That's a valid concern. Right now we are in this lame duck season where the patch has been going on for a long time and people know there isn't going to be another season until the expansion comes out. So it's understandable that the participation is off a little bit, but I think it's unfortunate anytime players want to play and feel like it's risky to play because, God forbid, it might hurt the ratings. That is an aspect of the rating system we can improve.
The reward system overall works pretty well in terms of the gear you can get. We think the changes to PvP Power and resilience will make PvP gear more attractive, than it has been traditionally when we ran into problems where sometimes they were weaker than weapons or trinkets from PvE. That change will help. I don't know how popular cosmetic rewards would be. The mounts are certainly exciting, as are the titles. I don't know if adding tons and tons of toys and transmog gear will make the PvP community as excited as the PvE players. We approach it more from the point of "what can we do to make the games themselves more enjoyable" and look to make it more surprising in good way when you are doing arenas with your team or are running battlegrounds over and over.
Hildegard: High rated arena players hate the long queue times, especially the long wait for cross-battlegroup queues that can take up to ten or 15 minutes. Any chance to make the search for cross-battlegroup teams shorter?
Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street: Yes. We have a lot of opportunities to improve that. The battleground queuing system is pretty ancient at this point. Players could only meet players from their own realm and then we extended it to battlegroup level. Meanwhile we created this whole new system for dungeon finder that then developed into raid finder and it is much more clever and advanced system. Occasionally players can still hit queues for it, but I think there is a lot of promise in taking that system and try to integrate the battleground queuing there.
We would like to able to support things like letting five players queue together for rated battlegrounds instead of having a whole group of ten before you go into it. That would be really cool. We talk more about letting players queue together as a group, even for the non-rated battlegrounds. But only matching these pre-mades with other premades. It's a lot of fun to get together with a bunch of friends and be coordinated and we would like to support that rather than work against it.
Hildegard: According to early numbers heroic PvE weapons will be stronger for PvP than tier 2 PvP weapons. Is this true?
Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street: We follow that math, but I am still not convinced that this is the case. The PvE gear is higher item level but when you consider the PvP power and also the resilience that is on the weapons that should be enough to make up for the difference. The PvE gear item level isn't so high that that should overcome it. There is always a possibility that if we introduce another Gurthalak or one of the trinkets that there will be procs that will make up the difference. Based on the stats alone we believe that PvP gear will still be superior for PvP.
Hildegard: Why do the PvP trinkets have different stats? Mastery/Crit/Spirit for the Medallion and Battle Master, PvP Power for the on-use and proc trinkets?
This question was skipped at first due to audio problems, but answered later on.
Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street: I will follow-up on this.
Hildegard: I know this is not your field of expertise, but the recent title disqualifications haven't touched players that stated themselves they were boosting or wintraded with other teams. Do you plan to correct this?
Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street: We have a team that looks for players exploiting and abusing the system. They try to catch it, when it happens and follow player reports. We try not to go into too much detail on how they do their job because the whole point of them is to catch exploiters. It's not something that is up to me. It's a system that we have in place as a company. I do think that, when listening to the forums, it's happening a lot more than it is. It's a fairly isolated case. It can have ramifications on the highest rankings, just because the population size is smaller in that group. Not sure what else to say about it. We try to have open channels for players that feel like they were disqualified unfairly or that other players got away with it. It's always tough when you are trying to mediate punishments like that.
Hildegard: Many players are worried that overpowered abilities will allow players to reach high rating within the first two weeks and camp it for the rest of the season. We talked about camping, what about balance? Examples such as BM Hunter Burst, Frost Bomb, Totemic Restoration, Blood Fear, Wild Charge, hybrid healing or Psy Fiend get mentioned a lot. Will you make fast balance fixes if classes are not competitive or other too strong or do you prefer to do changes only with major content patches?
Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street: That's a really tough decision. Players really recent it if you suddenly go through and do nerfs particularly. We do have a break in between Mists of Pandaria launching and the season starting. It's a time to catch the problems at level 90. We have seen PvP at level 85 and have seen some players at level 90 on the beta realms. That is nothing compared to having millions of players on live. If BM burst or Wild Charge or Avatar are overpowered we will have a chance to get them. Whether or not we make huge sweep changes is just going to depend on the magnitude of the problem. It really pisses players off to suddenly be nerfed. Particularly say two weeks after the season started. If you build your arena team around this synergy among these class and then we suddenly pull out the rug from under you, players understandably get upset.
Voice from the off: We have time for one more question.
Hildegard: Let's try two. I'll be quick. Do you read Arena Junkies from time to time?
Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street: Sure.
Hildegard: I personally like the approach you took to crowd control on monks, where every cc except the disarm has a downside: you either need to be in melee range, are rooted yourself, have to be behind or in front of the enemy, the projectile has a travel time etc. Is this a general approach to give crowd control a trade-off that we may see in future designs?
Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street: We didn't want to copy a lot of existing abilities and give them to the monk. So we tried to have some interesting quirks on them. We were also super careful not give them tons and tons of crowd control. Monks are a very mobile class and they have a lot of off-healing capability and the healers have a lot of damage dealing abilities. So we think that a combination of these two advantages would be so much that they did not need mage-level crowd control or we would end up in a situation like we were with the death knight were the class was just kind of a joke.
Hildegard: Thank you for your time. Will you continue to write over Twitter after the launch?
Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street: I will be traveling after launch. I don't know how much access I will have. But I have been enjoying it so far and so I'm planning to keep it up. It can't answer every single question that players send in, but so far I really enjoyed the communication.
Hildegard: Well thank you again for the interview.
Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street: Sure. I will follow up on that trinket question.