Blizzcon 08: Frank Pearce on random instances, Wow Mobile and more

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Channel 10 interviewed Frank Pearce, Executive Vice President of Product Development for Blizzard Entertainment on what's coming after Wrath of the Lich King, random instances in Wow, Wow outside of Wow, class balance, destructible cities, armor dyes, and more.

Note: Due to the audio quality, the transcript of this interview is included below.

Transcript

Channel 10: We're here, Channel 10 with Frank Pearce, Frank, why don't you quickly introduce yourself?

Frank Pearce: Sure, my name is Frank Pearce; I'm an Executive Vice President of Product Development for Blizzard Entertainment.

C10: We've been looking at the Blizzcon announcements, what are some of your favorite features, what are the things that didn't make it into Wrath of the Lich King that you all are talking about for, say, future content packs?

FP: Wow, the laundry list is pretty long; at the top of my list personally is improved guild support. The little guild window we have to manage a list of 500 names has grown infeasible. So, one example for me would be better guild features, but we have a big laundry list, we want to continue the storyline, there's more stuff that we want to tell as far as the story goes, we've got different options there. We actually, after we ship Wrath, we'll get the development team together, take a step back, and brainstorm some of the features that everyone is thinking about so we can lock down the feature set for the next expansion.

C10: There's been a number of announcements around Diablo 3, random instances, adventures, and we see the Diablo 3 team talking about some of the features that they borrowed from World of Warcraft. For World of Warcraft players, are there going to be, say, random instances or random encounters, or random zones where the zones could change...

[Video breaks as Frank's phone rings]

C10: Random instances or random areas, anything that you see borrowing from the Diablo world, or maybe even destructible things where your spells could actually destroy things, people seem to love that.

FP: Blowing sh*t up is always fun (laughter). Random instances is something that came up as a potential for something that we'd do in a future expansion. It really depends on the guys that put together the raid dungeons and the five-man dungeons handcraft those to make sure the experience is of a specific level of quality so it's something that we'll have to evaluate whether we can deliver the experience when it's random versus hand crafted.

C10: In February 2008 a number of people got really excited when you started talking about Warcraft outside of Warcraft, specifically it was an interview you had done on Warcraft Mobile.

FP: That was at Dice (laughter).

C10: So what things can you talk about, are you all working on Warcraft Mobile and what's the current situation and I've got some follow up questions on that.

FP: Okay, yeah, we'd like to be able to some stuff with Mobile devices, we don't have any development resources in house devoted to that as of yet, but we are looking for Mobile developers so we can start to go down that path. You know I mean the laundry list of things we could potentially do is pretty long, the things that I think would be pretty cool include like character profiles or being able to view your in-game mail, view your auctions, or guild chat, stuff like that. We're not talking about Mobile in the context of creating mobile games but as you mentioned in the context of enhancing the existing game experience that we've delivered to our players.

C10: A lot of people love some of the new stuff you all are doing on the Web site, having armory, having my guild, being able to look up what the latest stats and changes (to characters) and really supporting the community as well by making that available as XML and sites like SK-Gaming that do regular polls (of the armory). Are you all looking to add Guild Calendar to the Web which is a classic thing where you're organizing people...

FP: We've got guild calendar slated for, yeah, it's in the Lich King...

C10: But outside the game, meaning through the Web site.

FP: Definitely something that we're talking about, when we would be able to launch that depends on the resources available on the Web team as they have a lot of stuff going on. If you go up to the Armory, it's still listed as being in Beta (laughter); it's been live for a while. It's definitely a really cool idea and definitely something that we'll want to do at some point.

C10: The other ones, just to rattle these off are presence - so you can actually see when your friends are online and actually see which of my guild mates are online without having to log into the game.

FP: From the Web and/or mobile?

C10: Yeah.

FP: That would cool. Friends list.

C10: Yes.

FP: I can dig that.

C10: And achievements, which is another thing you see in like say Xbox where you have your, you know your "bragging card".

FP: Yeah achievements on Mobile and Web is another really good idea too.

C10: Okay, so it's something you all are...?

FP: So I'll point the designers to this interview (laughter).

C10: And actually you had mentioned in-game mail as well (on mobile). So there's always discussion on class balance, and I think there's always fights, but the reality is that when you all build those, when you try and do that, you all use spreadsheets, is that correct? You have actual math, it's not throwing darts.

FP: Yeah, yeah, there are spreadsheets behind it, the balance designers have mathematical backgrounds, more of the hard science backgrounds compared to the creative backgrounds, which you'll see in a lot of the designers that are doing lore and quests and stuff. Yeah, we definitely have guys on it full time and that's why we're always iterating on it, there job is to make sure that the classes are well balanced and not just well balanced but also viable in all of the different gaming experiences that we provide whether its outdoor PVE or raiding or battlegrounds PVP or arena PVP and they are committed to making sure that all of the classes are balanced and viable. It's an iterative process and fortunately WoW is an online experience that gives us the luxury of being able to iterate pretty frequently.

C10: Right and you know a lot of people say or argue about, say my class doesn't do enough damage. Have you all looked at or considered releasing some of those numbers in some way that is digestible, so you're not, a number of people are taking the target dummies in the beta to do damage calculations for spells. Sort of helping the hardcore gamers that really want that in-game data or to respond to people that are saying we don't have enough damage when the reality is that you all have calculated it and you have, in fact balanced the classes.

FP: I think even if we provided those spreadsheets and some more concrete numbers, I think at the end of the day it would still be subjective right, since at some point someone's going to have to make an argument about whether a hunter should have higher DPS than a rogue or vice versa and under what circumstances that should be. So even if we gave them concrete data I still think that there would be a lot of people out there going with their theory craft arguments and it's probably more controversy then we're interested in creating.

C10: I don't know if there could be more controversy (laughter).

FP: You'd be surprised.

C10: PVP, you all added the Havoc physics engine to Diablo and we've seen some of the destructible things in Wintergrasp, are you all looking to either revisit old content to get World PVP going? This is another thing where people remember the Tarren Mill battles, are you all doing anything to make it so that you could actually have siege weapons destroy Stormwind for example?

FP: It's something that we'll probably want to take a look at after we've seen how Wintergrasp plays out because Wintergrasp is the PVP zone in Wrath of the Lich King that's going to have siege weapons and destructible buildings and so once we see how that plays out and we see how fun that is and seeing what kind of popularity it has we'll look at whether or not we want to do something like that. It's definitely a cool and ambitious idea.

C10: Speaking of Lake Wintergrasp this is one of the things where people love to be in Alterac Valley and there were a number of things learned from that and even the addition of destruction with destructible objects and buildings and siege weapons, the only thing is it seems to be only a limited time. In other words you have 40 minutes to take Lake Wintergrasp and then you can't take it again (for 2.5 hours). What was the reasoning behind sort of making it that versus just having it, you know the people that love PVP and just stay in there and continuously battle? It seems to go more PVE once it's captured.

FP: You asked a really specific question that I wouldn't be able to do justice by even trying to answer. Tom Chilton is the game systems designer and he's got a big focus on PVP and maybe we can have you guys follow up with Shon afterwards and get you some answers to that via email or even later in the show. I don't want to butcher the answer as that's pretty specific.

C10: The last question is armor dyes are you all thinking of
even potentially doing just simple stuff with the tier sets so the Paladin's who don't like pink for example could dye it maybe, darker red.

FP: Yeah that's definitely something that comes up in discussion periodically. There's arguments for both sides of it. Right now we're sitting on the side of the fence that says that we want the tier x armor set to be very distinguishable. We don't necessarily want people changing the color palette of it, but it's definitely something that comes up as a discussion topic and we'll have to see.

C10: Okay, excellent thanks.

FP: Thank you.

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