Sam: How’s it going Brian and Greg?
Brian: It’s going great! All kinds of fun things going on in 5.3, can’t wait to see what happens when everyone gets their hands on it.
Greg: It’s a small patch for us in terms of contents, but there’s a lot of pretty big changes in there and we want to see what the reaction is.
Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street
Sam: 5.3 is an upcoming patch. This interview will be a lot about some of the main goals for PvP balancing and specific class changes in 5.3. So to get started off, what were some of the main goals for PvP balancing in 5.3?
Brian: Well the biggest would obviously be the gear changes. Everybody is well aware of that. I think that the goals with the base resilience change and resilience off gear change was to give players some more survivability. We kind of tune the game assuming that with high gear level everyone has around 65% damage reduction, does about this much damage, and the game's pacing and such was appropriate there. However anyone without gear, particularly in random battlegrounds, or just starting off in arenas were just dieing really quickly. People who did not PvP frequently was having a really negative experience. Common complaints were “I get cc’d and die really quickly.” The only way to get around this was to earn all that honor for honor gear before you’re even at a starting point. We wanted to increase participation in PvP. This really seems like the place that was fairly easy for us to solve. Originally resilience was put in on gear when we didn’t have PvP Power. We Just felt like PvP Power makes a lot of sense, it’s a great tool to make PvP gear better than it’s ilvl for PvP. But resilience is causing a few problems because of the way without it players explode. So, we made this change. I think it’s a good change. Obviously on Twitter and forums we’re watching everyone’s feedback and see what their concerns are. All in all I think it allows players who play the game a lot to dip into PvP more and hopefully get more players participating. That’s really the primarily goal behind that. As far as class balance is concerned, we changed a lot of the talents in 5.2. There were just a lot of adjusting that needed to be down. We wanted to make talents more competitive. As a result some of the things we did may have created situations where game play may have suffered. A lot of class changes in 5.3 were to bring some of those talents back in line by looking at some of the classes that are mandatory at high level of play, and buffing some areas when appropriate.
Sam: 5.3 does have a lot of PvP changes. Some of the concerns were the PvP resilience and PvP Power changes is a great nerf to PvP stats as a whole especially in terms of gemming it. Was this intended?
Brian: Yea it is. I just recently said on Twitter the design intent on PvP Power was to allow us to have a stat on PvP gear to allow PvP gear to be better than the ilvl it showed. The intent was not to make it the one and only stat that PvPers want. I think the way it was did create that situation. Some people do have concerns that everyone will gem Strength and Agility. But it’s not like Strength and Agility aren't PvP stats. They are PvP Stats and they really do make you a more powerful player in PvP. The choice you’re really making is between defensive and offensive stats. Whether it’s stamina or resilience, crit, haste, mastery, whatever. You’re making interesting choices when you’re gemming. That was what was really behind the gemming change. There were situations that PvE gear had extra gem slots. When you gain a gem slot you lose some primarily stats. But PvP Power as they were budgeted was strong, so it was easy to take a PvE piece and gem it and make it the BIS piece. We wanted to avoid that, something players really wanted. In terms of the stat concern we changed it from 265 pvp power for 1% to 400 pvp power for 1%. That was a point where a fully geared pvp player had 60% more damage. A common complaint is that the fully geared guy is really exploding the people that’s 1 tier behind it. We just thought this was really an opportunity to change this, adjust the gap a little bit, reduce damage a little in PvP and make the experience better.
Sam: In regards to the PvP Power stat change, some people are concerned about PvE trinkets being an issue next patch. The trinkets right now would provide less than it would in 5.3. Do you guys think this is a legitimate concern?
Brian: I think it’s a legitimate concern that people have. In our conversations about this, our primarily concern is when a trinket comes in and really breaks game play. In the instance of the Brutal Shado-Pan Assault that was a case where it hurts the game overall. People were coming in the game, such as a rogue, and would get 10,000 agility because a sub rogue would. Game play suffered, that’s not what we want. If you’re saying you have the option of getting another PvE piece that’s interesting or has another play style and someone might argue that’s the BIS, that’s their opinion. The PvP trinket will offer more sustain damage but there will be a debate whether this particular trinket is better. In 5.2 none of these trinkets were scaled down but in 5.3 they will be scaled down to ilvl 496. That really adjusts a lot of those values. We made a lot of changes to these trinkets such as bringing their proc magnitude down while increasing their duration and quite honestly those things used to be the case where you gotta get the heroic trinket. In the case of the brutal ones they were 1750 valor, I totally understand PvP players don’t want to even consider it to be a BIS, but lets honest be reasonable about the time investment needed to get those.
Sam: Another concern stemming from the PvP stat changes is also the 2pc and 4pc bonus on PvE gear. Another possibility being of course the legendary gear from PvE. What is the goal in terms of balancing PvP and PvE gear for PvP?
Brian: Like I said before, one of the main thing we wanted before is we want PvP gear be the best. It’s what we strive for. If there is a situation where someone argues this PvE piece in this situation is better than this PvP piece, that’s kind of on a case to case basis that they don’t break the overall view and game play experience. But there’s a lot of debates. People hit me up on twitter with arguments this or that being better. But there are certainly things you will lose if you break your PvP set bonus that can actually be quite valuable. PvP isn't always be about hitting a target dummy, it’s about mobility, control, and movement. A lot of utility is actually given in the PvP set bonuses. Time is going to tell, but we do have an option to tune it.
Greg: In our intent, someone who gets started in PvP who has an awesome raid set is great for getting in the door. But you should want to transition into PvP gear pretty quickly and we’ll keep adjusting things to make sure this happens.
Sam: I believe some cosmetic incentives are being added to PvP in 5.3 such as a tabard. Are there any more of this planned for the future?
Brian: Yea we have some interesting ideas for the next patch and for the next expansions. It’s a challenge for the amount of things we can put in within a given time. But we have some pretty cool things and we want to capitalize on that. I think to be honest though. cosmetics are cool, but for some people it’s not appealing. While it’s great for some people, and we do want to do those cool cosmetic rewards, I don’t know if it’s enough. We’re looking for even more, and opportunity to do more if we can.
Sam: Going into things for increasing arena participation, I would say cosmetics are one of the things that can help out, and as you said there are other things as well. Looking at the forums, some people have talked about the issue since there are no longer any upgrades or elite gear at 2.2. People are now gearing faster and thus there is less incentive to keep playing during the season.
Brian: I think the primarily thing that gets people to participate in arenas is getting gear. The majority for our players are in the 1800 to 2200 cap. They come in, they cap, they get a piece of gear, they get excited and they play some more games. They try out some of their new gear and they’re pretty happy. I think we’re kind of dealing with a situation where we introduced upgrades in 5.1, and because that was going to require and additional 20,000 conquest points to fully gear we increased the conquest cap for everyone. That meant no upgrades were a big idea, and elite gears were gonna cost problems in the future. Now everyone is going to gear quicker. I don’t think a popular decision is to revert back to the upgrades in 5.1, so we just need to find other things that are interesting for players to spend conquest on. I think what’s also positive about that change with the addition of the new conquest cap in 5.3 players will try to play alts. I know I have an alt I’ve been kind of holding off to experience what the conquest cap is like. I think it’ll be easier to gear alts than ever before. It’s easier to catch up, I think there’s always that as an option too.
Sam: Going into some class specific questions for this interview, I saw that the recent DK nerfs got reverted. Was this a PvE or PvP change?
Brian: That was primarily a PvE motivated change. There was kind of concerns about the main way to play a DK. Get your really positive AP increasing stats up, get out your diseases, and kind of juggle them in the fight. The first attempt to fix this was adjusting things such as Unholy Might and Festering Strike and such. Through further investigations it was really the issue with Tricks of the Trade being applied to DKs. We kind of decided to revert those changes as they were not motivated from PvP to begin with.
Sam: PvE and PvP changes seem to collide very often, do you guys believe that balancing both may require a lot of specific PvP and PvE only changes? An example would be Find Weakness in 5.3.
Brian: Yes, and when we do it. Find weakness is a great example where PvE needed a buff and it would've cost big problems to PvP. We keep it in mind and Frost bomb is another example. We try not to do it too often, it’s a lot of things to keep track of. We’re the designers and people on Arena Junkies are really passionate players that really keep up on all the changes, but a lot of players are not. To ask our general player base that your spell does this and it does half damage or 25% or something like that, it’s really not something we want to do too often. Especially hey we want eviscerate to hit 10% less on players. That’s really inconsistent and a tough thing. We usually do it when it’s really a significant thing such as Find Weakness is 50% less and Frost bomb is 40% less.
Greg: There’s also this persistent, I’ll just call it a myth, that if we just bite the bullet and make 2 versions of every spell suddenly we’ll have class balance nailed and it’ll never be a problem again. I’m pretty confident if we went ahead and split sub rogues into 2 abilities on every ability with different damage numbers you’ll still see players saying why they can’t just tune down this one ability that’s costing pvp burst problem. In other words players will still want us to make changes even if we have the numbers split up, I don’t think it’ll suddenly make players feel their class is viable in every situation
Sam: Warlock's Gateway is being changed next patch. What was the goal behind changing it to be kill-able but with a shorter cast time? Was it like meant to be a buff, a nerf, or something to change it up?
Brian: We didn't really like the play style of the gateway, matches played out in a very binary way. Either Warlocks got the Gateway initially and the game played out in a certain way or you got to him in time and stop the gateway and then the match goes completely different. We kind of wanted Warlocks, if it’s something they are going to be using, they should be able to use it. But we also want it to have a different counter. Right now it depends on who you ask, the jury is still out on how these changes are working. We feel like being able to put it up and players being able to kill it, it’ll be going up and down. We’ll see how that play style is going to go for a little bit. Just kind of being up and not being up, it just didn't seem like it made a lot of sense.
Sam: Some Hunters have been wondering why nerf Exotic Beasts and Pet CCs at the same time? Exotic Beasts were toned for BM nerfs which many people considered was much needed for that specialization in arena. However, the Pet CCs would hurt Marksman and Survival more.
Brian: In general we felt like everybody had that CC issue, that instant cast CC chain you know. Silencing Shot, Frost Trap, Pet Stun, there were just a lot going out there. BM is just extra bad in that sense. BMs have Beastial Wrath which is a really strong core ability they have. The idea to also have that CC is an issue. If we had to choose one of those 2 things Beastial Wrath was more iconic and decided to keep that. We thought some hunters CC needed to be reduced. At first we tried to put Scatter In the same diminishing return as Frost Trap. Players came back to us that hunters have always been kind of doing Scatter Trap. They have it in their muscle memory to Scatter Trap. We felt the right thing to do was to change pet CC. I think increasing the CD and not changing exotic beast was less of a change for BM hunters. We wanted to make sure it was a change to the hunter class and not to one spec only.
Sam: In the history of changes a lot of nerfs and buffs are really large, which usually changes the “balance” of one class from one to another such as warrior and rogues last patch. Warriors were arguably the top notch class in 5.2 but kind of went to the bottom barrel. Rogues basically had the opposite happen to them. Do you guys think smaller changes would be more ideal or how would you look at it?
Brian: Obviously when we can we would like to make smaller changes. I think what you saw with rogues in 5.2 was that there were a lot of calls for their survival to be improved. So we made Prep baseline, took Cloak off, so they weren't constantly unpeelable for 12 seconds, and moved it to a short CD. I think these were good changes, but what pushed rogues over the edge was we tried to create some talents to make them more attractive and give them variety. Shuriken Toss, Mark for Death, and Cloak and Dagger, those were all probably a little bit too much. 5.3 Rogues were really about reigning in those talent changes. We kept the survivability changes the same but we wanted to reign in the unpeelable Cloak and Dagger, the ranged play style of Shuriken Toss, and those were I think really smart changes. We didn't also nerf Mark for Death and a bunch of other changes. The Find Weakness change was mainly for burst on higher armor targets. We thought that wasn't appropriate. We made some changes in 5.2 that didn't mean to be buffs, but for talent choices to be more interesting and we needed to reign those in. In 5.2 Warriors were a really good class due to their control. We’re reverting the defensive stance change. We nerfed it because they sat in it so much, but with the rage change we kind of needed to put that back in line. We like the ideas of switching between stances of offensive and defensive, but we didn't like that they could be both at the same time. Once we realized the rage changes in defensive stance really made them want to be in offensive stance we felt we could buff defensive stance again.
Greg: If you remember in the beginning of the season we had problems with Mages, Warriors, and BM hunters. We applied a few hot-fixes to tone them, and it just didn't work. Mages were like okay, I get we’re overpowered but we’re getting nerfed every week and none of them are the right ones. So we hit 5.2 with some really heavy nerfs on something like warriors. In retrospect some of them were too strong, but you know we just wanted to make sure we weren't nickeling down this ability, and that ability, and not watch their actual power change at all.
Sam: The final question for today, I think a lot of 5.3 changes were made in regards to helping solve the short burst game issue. There’s been a lot of changes to make people not die instantly especially in arena. I think the Find Weakness nerf and Hunter CC nerfs will greatly help this regard. The PvP Power stat change also helps lower burst. However, at the same time I know there are a lot of 25minute fights, particularly in caster compositions due to their CC potential. This happens more in higher ratings. Do you think something can fix this in the future?
Brian: I guess we’ll have to see a lot of matches. We’ll have to see what specific specs run into this kind of problem. You know like caster classes, there’s a lot of caster classes, is there one of these caster classes that run into this more? That’s kind of what we need to look into. It’s hard to look into this without finding out which class it really is. Are you seeing this on the PTR, or are you kind of judging on whats happening on 5.2?
Sam: Well, personally wise I played a bit of PTR and I would say most casters run into this problem. One example I know there was a Warlock, Elemental Shaman, Restoration Druid team that timed out against many teams a week ago on live and forced teams to stop queing. But sometimes there’s the Mage Warlock teams, Shadow Priest Elemental Shaman, and I know Shadow Priests are getting changed a lot so this composition is probably a worse example. I think it’s mainly from the CCs that casters have. If something happens they have the utility to just start fearing and sheeping them. I also think it puts a mental thing into players as well that makes them act more “turtle” and just keep living they don’t want to just suddenly die and lose after such a long game.
Brian: I see, so players are playing very defensively, and kind of like shutting you down during kill times?
Sam: Yea, and I think the worst comes from when I watch other players play Healer plus 2 casters versus Healer plus 2 Casters. If anything happens in these match ups, the other team can literally just hit their CC buttons to stop it. If one team decides to sit behind a pillar it’s really hard for the game to actually end.
Brian: Yea, I think that’s a problem we’ll kind of have to talk about, and come up with some ideas. I think it’s ironic that one of the main things is people have to die in arenas right? People complain about burst situations, but with the way the game is played out right now someone has to die eventually and that means some things will have to be bursty. It’ll be interesting, and we’ll definitely keep an eye on it and if it’s a big problem we’ll try to provide incentives for players to play more offensively. Just purposely trying to draw a game out is just not the right way to play. We might need to see what is exactly happening to cause tie breakers, and if we see a situation where people are just stalling.
Greg: We end up with burst being dominate because we’re so paranoid with the match that goes on forever and no one can kill anyone until the healers run out of mana. We often error on the side of too much burst, which is of course not too fun either, but we try hard not to overcompensate.
Sam: I think that’ll be all the questions for today, once again thanks for the interview Brian and Greg!
Brian: Yup, and we’re still looking at it. It’s one thing to look at all the patch notes and come up with things hypothetically. It’s hard for a lot of players to go on PTR and get all that raid gear to compare to the PvP gear. PTR participation is not the same as a live experience. We’ll be keeping an eye on it.