Taking you deeper into the World of Blizzard
Home | Current Podcast | Archive

Episode 10

Welcome to BlizzCast 10! This is Zarhym with the World of Warcraft Community Team. In this episode we’ll hear from Lead Encounter Designer Scott Mercer and Senior Game Designer Dave Maldonado about some of the highlights of our recent patch 3.2, Call of the Crusade. We’ll get their thoughts on the evolution of the Argent Tournament, the new 5-, 10-, and 25-player Crusaders’ Coliseum, our latest Battleground Isle of Conquest, as well as BlizzCon 2009 coming to Anaheim, CA the 21st and 22nd of August.

Welcome to BlizzCast 10! This is Zarhym with the World of Warcraft Community Team. In this episode we’ll hear from Lead Encounter Designer Scott Mercer and Senior Game Designer Dave Maldonado about some of the highlights of our recent patch 3.2, Call of the Crusade. We’ll get their thoughts on the evolution of the Argent Tournament, the new 5-, 10-, and 25-player Crusaders’ Coliseum, our latest Battleground Isle of Conquest, as well as BlizzCon 2009 coming to Anaheim, CA the 21st and 22nd of August.

BlizzCast Q&A
BlizzCast Q&A Scott Mercer (WoW Lead Encounter Designer), Dave Maldonado (Senior Game Designer)
[ top ]
Zarhym: Hello everyone and welcome to BlizzCast 10. This is Zarhym with the World of Warcraft community team. Joining me today to discuss some of the highlights of World of Warcraft’s recent patch 3.2, Call of the Crusade, are Lead Encounter Designer Mr. Scott Mercer and Senior Game Designer Mr. Dave Maldonado. Welcome gentlemen.
Scott Mercer: Hello!

Dave Maldonado: Hey there!
[ 00:15 ]
Zarhym: First up, can you just give us an overview of the story that is developing here? For instance, why are players taking part in the Argent Tournament?
Dave Maldonado: The Argent Crusade’s tournament serves two purposes really. One is to unite the Alliance and the Horde in their efforts against Icecrown. It was never really kind of a unified thing from the very start and after the events at the Wrathgate it just completely fell apart. And so Tirion’s really just trying to get the two factions and their leaders – you know and sort of all the heroes that are working under them, for them – together at the tournament and sort of trying to change the way that they see one another, or communicate with one another and, you know, get them actually working together against this thing instead of wheeling around in the sky above Icecrown taking pot shots at one another.

And really the second goal is Tirion’s just gathering heroes to assault Icecrown; and again, the events at the Wrathgate really showed that, you know, any conventional force that assaults the citadel are just going to get kind of wiped out en masse and then raised as undead, attack their own commanders and it’s all going to fall apart. So the idea is that this relatively small force of very skilled and very well-equipped attackers can maybe move on the citadel and see some degree of success. So not only does the tournament, with all its rewards, draw adventurers that might not normally show up just out of a sense of duty. It’ll get people that are looking for fame, people that are looking for money, you know, just really all the bad asses in Northrend together. It allows Tirion to sort of scout them all and kind of hand-pick the best candidates for this final attack.

[ 00:34 ]
Zarhym: Okay, so to sort of play off of the evolving storyline at the Argent Tournament, what are some of the bigger updates in patch 3.2 to sort of support that storyline?
Dave Maldonado: Well, I mean story-wise, it is kind of just a continuation. So nothing really starts there. Nothing really ends there. But, you know, the storyline certainly does continue. So players will see these important figures beginning to converge on the tournament as the actual games begin. The coliseum’s been built now. The training period is over… like the real, real deal is starting. So Thrall arrives, Garrosh, Jaina, King Wrynn. All of these people are coming there and meeting with Tirion. And this is stuff that happens in game on the grounds. Players will be able to see them all appearing and interacting with one another; and through their interactions you’ll get a real sense of kind of what’s going on, of the tensions that underlie this whole sort of tenuous thing that Tirion and the crusade are trying to manage.

And there’s some cameos too, some sort of side stuff that relates. Trag Highmountain is there who’s a character who has kind of a big grudge against Arthas and he’s sort of showing up in this sort of final preparation stage as well. And then there’s the Cult of the Damned thing and the Black Knight. That story actually continues here as well. It wasn’t over. He’s… not… dead... yet, completely!
Zarhym: [laughs]
Dave Maldonado: So that’s still going on.
Zarhym: Right.
Dave Maldonado: He’s the Black Knight! He never dies. The guy just keeps going.
Zarhym: So is he ever going to die? I mean, are we ever going to find out? Are we ever going to kill him and finally say "alright, he's just dead now"?
Dave Maldonado: Uhh...

Scott Mercer: You end up fighting him inside the 5-player dungeon.
[ 02:12 ]
Zarhym: Okay, sort of going off of that. As far as the storyline is concerned, what’s the difference between Trial of the Champion, the 5-player dungeon, versus Trial of the Crusader, the 10- and 25-player dungeon?
Scott Mercer: Sure, besides the obvious number of player difference.

[laughs]
Zarhym: Right, right.
Scott Mercer: Story-wise there’s a pretty big difference. Like with the dungeon, what we really wanted to portray was all the training that you’ve been doing from the last patch sort of all pays off here. So when you first come in you’re actually doing some of the activities you were doing outside. Namely, like there’s a little bit of jousting at the beginning. But you’re not fighting these crazy monsters or anything. You’re actually fighting other champions. So if you’re an Alliance player that goes in, the first encounter you run into is actually you fighting three of the five racial champions. So as a Horde player you might fight the champion of Gnomeregan, the champion of Stormwind. Tirion’s really trying to find like the best people and that’s what this sort of entire story’s been leading up to. In the 5-player dungeon you sort of get crowned that, like you end up fighting a member of the Argent Crusade and then finally you end up… you fight the Black Knight again.
Zarhym: [laughs]
Scott Mercer: Because he shows up to ruin everything.
Zarhym: Of course.
Scott Mercer: Yeah...
Zarhym: As he does.
Scott Mercer: Yes, he’s one to do that.
Zarhym: [laughs]
Scott Mercer: Now the 10- and 25-player raid is a little bit different. There Tirion has been bringing in these crazy challenges for you to fight. When the patch goes live you’ll actually see the very first creatures you’ll end up fighting because Tirion has brought like, they’ve gone out and tried to find the biggest, baddest beasts that they could find all across Northrend, and you actually see them outside on the grounds. If you’re not raiding, normally a lot of times you don’t see these bosses, but here you actually see them outside. They’re chained up. So one of the beasts you fight is this huge yeti and he’s outside chained up, getting ready to be brought in for you as players to fight. So the raid is much more about these huge challenges that are being brought in. They’ve captured some undead for you to fight. You’re supposed to fight some Argent Crusade champions in there as well, although that turns out to be a little bit different because the Horde and Alliance hate each other.
Zarhym: Right
Scott Mercer: So, really big challenges which you’ll see in the raid.
[ 03:45 ]
Zarhym: And will we get to see both jormungars outside as well?
Dave Maldonado: ...Yeah.
Zarhym: [laughs]
Dave Maldonado: There’s a lot of these hunter NPCs that are gathering these beasts and bringing them and I think at some point that guy shows up. It’s either, I think there’s taunka hunters and tuskarr guys and yeah, they come in with those guys in tow. Most of them aren’t big enough though. I think they keep...

Scott Mercer: Yeah.

Dave Maldonado: There’s actually, well I suppose we can get into that later, but a lot of the new dailies have to do with these raid bosses and gathering them, and then keeping them fed once you have them. Because you'd be surprised how much two jormungars eat.

Scott Mercer: Or even a sleeping yeti.

[more laughs]

Dave Maldonado: Yea, but I think the best way to look at the two things are that the dungeon is the literal continuation of the tournament – it’s what the valiants and the aspirants and the champions have been training for...

Scott Mercer: Right.

Dave Maldonado: And when it’s over you "win" the tournament – whereas the raid, the coliseum is really more kind of like a stand-alone, sort of just traditional arena challenge thing.

[ 06:15 ]
Zarhym: Okay. So now that we’ve covered a lot of the story behind the Argent Tournament, how are the dailies progressing? You know, what can players expect in this patch that’s new as far as stuff to do on the Argent Tournament grounds or dailies to pick up there to explore the world, or whatever?
Dave Maldonado: Yeah, there’s actually two new sets of dailies, two new sets of quartermasters. Between the dailies and the dungeon we’re actually doubling the amount of Champion’s Seals that players can earn so, you know, you can get that stuff a little more faster. There’s just a lot more stuff to earn as well. You know, new mounts, tabards, pets, there’s heirloom items. The old ones are available for Champion’s Seals and then the new ones; you can acquire them through Champion’s Seals as well. There’s the chest pieces that also give experience that stack with the shoulders. Really good stuff!

So, again, there’s these two sets. One of the sets, the kind of harder one to unlock, it’s only available to Crusaders and those are players who are both champions of, and exalted with all the racial factions and the Argent Crusade. So they’re like the real sort of super stars, the golden children of the tournament. And those dailies generally have more to do with sort going out and fighting the Scourge and big monsters, big challenges… that sort of thing.

And then the other set of dailies and quartermasters comes from either the Silver Covenant or the Sunreavers, which are the factions helping the Argent Crusade get the tournament up and running, getting everybody trained, organizing everything. So those dailies tend to have more to do with the day-to-day activities of the tournament. You know, rescuing overzealous aspirants that have gotten themselves captured by the Cult of the Damned, or trying to figure out how to feed this giant yeti. Stuff like that. And then along with all those new dailies there’s a number of new play areas as well. So there’s a big Cult of the Damned camp that’s sort of overlooking the tournament grounds. It’s kind of where the Black Knight’s being souped-up, getting him ready for his triumphant return! ‘Cause he’s going to stop the tournament and those crazy kids!

[additional expressions of joy]

Dave Maldonado: And then there’s Hrothgar’s Landing, so there’s this big sea vrykul island that they’ve kept shrouded in fog all this time. This is where they’ve sort of been raiding from throughout the patch. Or at least we think it’s where they’ve been raiding from. So players get to attack that and there’s a big sea battle that’s going on between that island and the shore of Icecrown. So there’s all sorts of stuff. You know, new things going on. So, it’s pretty cool.

[ 07:11 ]
Zarhym: Okay. So now that we’ve covered a lot of the story behind the Argent Tournament, how are the dailies progressing? You know, what can players expect in this patch that’s new as far as stuff to do on the Argent Tournament grounds or dailies to pick up there to explore the world, or whatever?
Scott Mercer: Sure. In the Trial of the Crusader, which is the 10- and 25-player raid, we have some interesting new mechanics for us. One of the encounters is sort of the raid version of the Priestess Delrissa encounter that was in Magister’s Terrace.
Zarhym: Right.
Scott Mercer: And that fight was sort of defined by the fact that you were fighting a large number of NPCs that all had abilities sort of like you did. Like, “hey that guy’s a warrior, that guy’s a priest, that guy’s a mage.” You end up fighting a collection of those and it ends up coming out sort of like this big, huge brawl where you’re sitting there trying to make sure the healers aren’t healing, keeping the warrior and the other melee off of your healers, all with CC going off everywhere. Like a lot of times in our raid encounters we can’t allow a lot of mechanics that players have to work too much, like it wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense if someone like Archimonde got sheeped by a mage.

[shared laughter amongst friends]
Zarhym: Right.
Scott Mercer: But here in this encounter you’ll actually be able to use pretty much everything. So you can sheep them, stun them, snare them, so it’ll be an opportunity for players to use a lot of abilities that they don’t normally get to use in raids, which is really exciting for us.

Then we have another encounter which – sort of an interesting spin – you end up fighting not one, but two valkyr…
Zarhym: [laughs in jubilation]
Scott Mercer: ...later on in the raid and the two valkyr are actually themed. One is dark energy, one is light energy and as a player you choose. There are these portals placed around the raid where you choose whether you have an affinity with the light or the dark and depending upon which affinity you have, you get extra damage against the appropriate valkyr. They summon in these little balls that come out and if you hit the right color you give yourself a buff and you can eventually get a whole lot of extra damage. But if you hit the wrong one, oops, you blow up and everyone gets really angry at you for doing that. So yeah, there’s some pretty interesting mechanics there and we’re looking forward to seeing that all play out. So far we’ve done a lot of testing on the PTR and it’s been really exciting.
[ 09:36 ]
Zarhym: Cool. Well I know you guys have obviously been working a lot on the Argent Tournament and the Crusaders’ Coliseum. It’s evolved over a couple of patches now. So what aspects of the Crusaders’ Coliseum, or just the Argent Tournament itself, are you guys most excited about experiencing? I mean, would it be a particular encounter, the tribute system, the new way of doing hard modes? You know...
Scott Mercer: Yeah, the new way of doing hard modes for us is pretty interesting. Something we found over time is that there’s literally such a huge difference in skill amongst our player base. You got the really crazy, very hardcore, very dedicated… they know how our game works inside and out. Those players operate at a level that’s nothing at all like someone who hasn’t played too much, you know, doesn’t go and check and see what the perfect talent distribution is, not like checking out all their gear. We’re really trying to make exciting encounters for both audiences. And you know that proved really difficult for us until we came up with this concept of hard modes.

And so with Ulduar we had the hard modes and that‘s worked really, really well. We’ve got players that come in, have fun fighting Flame Leviathan and the first few bosses in there; and then we’ve got challenges for the best of the best. There was some weirdness there with Ulduar, like it was our first time doing it, so in some cases it wasn’t exactly clear how you started some of these hard modes. So that’s where we started thinking, “hey, why not we just make this a pretty clear UI option where it’s like you go into the dungeon and it’s either in normal or Heroic mode?”

So here in the Crusaders' Coliseum, as a new player you’ll be able to clearly say, “hey I don’t think I’m really that good, I’m not super experienced… maybe I just got this character to level 80 and just started gearing him up, so I’ll go into the normal mode;" or, "hey, I really want the best challenges that WoW has to offer so let’s go into the Heroic mode.” So that entire system we’re excited about and we’ll see how it turns out.

[ 12:11 ]
Zarhym: Awesome. How about the tribute system? It’s something we’ve never really done before as far as, I mean, now you can go into the Crusaders’ Coliseum Heroic and, depending on how well you do, it’s actually going to affect the type of loot you get. So how do you guys expect players to receive that?
Scott Mercer: I hope pretty well!
Zarhym: [laughs occur once more]
Scott Mercer: There’s always been this weird thing where there are players who can spend a lot of time in the game and they can literally go through and like, “we’ll wipe 50 times, we’ll wipe 75 times, we’ll wipe 100 times, we’ll keep on working on this boss until we get this done.”
Zarhym: Right.
Scott Mercer: And through sheer force of will they end up being like, “hey we did this the first on our server.” Then there’s other players, it’s like, “well we’re just as skilled as they are, but we don’t have that much time.” So we came with this concept of, “well, what if you only had a limited number of attempts that you could actually do these Heroic encounters?” That way the people that have huge amounts of time are sort of on equal footing with those who don’t have as much time even though they might be the same skill. So with that in mind we said, “well, then how do we reward that?” Like, “how do we reward skilled people who can do these encounters without wiping too much who really execute well?” So the tribute system came out in the Heroic version of Trial of the Crusader, which we call Trial of the Grand Crusader.
Zarhym: Right.
Scott Mercer: Depending upon how well you do, like you have up to 50 attempts, and you get amazing rewards if you don’t actually wipe at all. Like if you go through and beat every single boss the first time you try it, it’s really, really hard, but we give you some really nice rewards. We give you this cloak that’s… I forget the exact item level of it, but it’s actually a higher item level than anything else we drop in the dungeon. So anybody should be really excited to get that. And if you don’t do quite as well you get a little bit less loot, but if you even just beat the last boss on Heroic you get some improved loot. So, like I said, the tribute stuff will be a lot of fun for people.
Zarhym: Cool. I’m sure a lot of people are excited about it. We’ve seen a lot of discussion on the forums about it.
[ 14:22 ]
Zarhym: I’d just like to get a few words from you guys about the new Battleground, since it’s another major feature in 3.2. Can you give us some details on what the Isle of Conquest is and why players should feel invested in conquering this territory?
Scott Mercer: The Isle of Conquest is an island off the coast of Icecrown. It’s an island that’s been found by both the Horde and Alliance and it’s full of resources. So there’s oil out there. There’s cobalt out there. And the Horde and Alliance have both made a mad dash to this place to try to control these resources. So you as a player when you go in, because the Horde and Alliance right now are not super buddy-buddy, of course these things turn a bit violent and, you know, a fight’s broken out.
Zarhym: [shares an acknowledging sense of amusement]
Scott Mercer: There’s an Alliance keep, there’s a Horde keep with a general in each keep and you’re fighting over these resources. Again, everything is leading up to Icecrown.
Zarhym: Right.
Scott Mercer: So that’s why they want all these resources because they can prepare better to attack Arthas, and looking beyond Icecrown as well.
Zarhym: Right, and it just seems like the Horde and Alliance recently have been looking for reasons to fight each other anyway.
Scott Mercer: They seem to find them.
Zarhym: Yeah, they do. There’s no shortage of that.
[ 16:40 ]
Zarhym: So what objectives have to be achieved in order to claim victory in Isle of Conquest? I mean, you know, what objectives do you have to accomplish in order to win an actual match?
Scott Mercer: Sure. The basic objective is to kill the opposing general who’s in the keep. You can’t just walk up to the general and go, “hi!” and start tanking and spanking him.

[more friendly chuckles]

You have to destroy the keep walls to allow access to him. So the first part of the Battleground ends up being really just trying to take down those walls and we give you all kinds of tools to do it. There are points of interest that you can take over that provide you with vehicles and we’ve got, I believe four or five different vehicles that you can pilot there. There’s an airship area where, if you take that point of interest, you can actually hop onto an airship that flies over the enemy base. And you can man guns from there and shoot the walls down. Another really cool thing you can do is, actually if you leap off of the airship, you can actually parachute into the enemy base, steal some of their explosives and then use those explosives to take out the doors. So the first part of it is just taking down the doors as fast as possible and having this huge 40 vs. 40-player fight over the various points of interest that provide vehicles; and then once the doors are down, then it’s a mad rush to get inside the keep and take out the general.
[ 18:05 ]
Zarhym: Cool. Well, so we’re about done here, but is there any one feature that you guys are particularly happy with releasing in this patch and are kind of looking forward to experiencing more yourselves?
Scott Mercer: I’m really happy to be able to fly over Wintergrasp and Dalaran this patch!

[laughter shared by all]
Zarhym: Naturally.
Scott Mercer: I can’t count the number of times where I’ve just like… “I want to go do my Sholazar dailies,” and then… “ugh, oops, I clipped Wintergrasp and fell.”
Zarhym: Right.
Dave Maldonado: I like the experience in Battlegrounds I’m looking forward to.

Scott Mercer: Yeah.

Dave Maldonado: That’s something I really want to try. That’s something I’ve been hoping we’d have for a long time so I’m definitely going to get on that. And the mounts too ‘cause I’m lazy.

[ceremonious repetitive giggles]
Zarhym: Right.
Dave Maldonado: Well, you know, I don’t know. I don’t want everyone to make the game easier, but I do think you can make it more convenient without hurting it in any way.
Zarhym: Right.
Dave Maldonado: And I think having ponies in Hillsbrad... having big kitties to ride around on in Ashenvale; it’s just going to make Ashenvale better.

Scott Mercer: Yeah.

Dave Maldonado: You know, so...
Zarhym: Right.
Scott Mercer: Yeah, Ashenvale’s a big zone.
Zarhym: Yeah.
Dave Maldonado: It is very... long... yes.

Scott Mercer: Yeah.
Zarhym: It is.
Dave Maldonado: [in a non-Dave voice] Long way to Astranaar, man!

[chortles by all]
[ 19:29 ]
Zarhym: And are you guys excited for BlizzCon?
Scott Mercer: Yeah! BlizzCon’s real exciting. We’re of course showing off a lot of really, really, REALLY cool stuff. I think BlizzCon has become this really exciting place for us as developers to talk to so many players. And even more important than us talking to you, is for players to actually meet up with other players and say, “yo, you’re that tauren druid that I’ve been raiding with for the last six months; it’s awesome meeting you!”
Zarhym: Right.
Scott Mercer: So those kinds of things are super exciting. I mean I’ve got family that plays WoW and they’re coming out. They’re just excited because they want to see me up there and they want to play the stuff that we’re showing. They really want to play Diablo III. You know, they’ve heard of that and really want to play that.
[ 20:35 ]
Zarhym: What about you Dave? Do you enjoy the panel aspect of it, or do you really like just connecting with the community or talking with friends or guild mates sort of as a player?
Dave Maldonado: I think it’s really cool that people are actually able to go to the panels and see the developers and sort of speak to them in person, in a sense… just the presentations and everything, sort of getting the information first-hand and being right there. I think there’s something cool about that. It’s a lot of work and a lot of stress putting it all together, but I think it’s the payoff. It’s just really cool. It’s a really neat experience. There’s nothing like it.
Zarhym: Right, and it’s just a chance for us to prove that you guys are sometimes human.
Dave and Scott_ Yes!
Zarhym: Which is awesome.
Dave Maldonado: I’m not just like a drooling cretin.

Scott Mercer: We’re not just blue text.

[a final round of laughter ensues]
[ 21:26 ]
Zarhym: Right. Well I guess that’s all we have time for today. Thank you Dave and thank you Scott for coming by.
Scott Mercer: Alright, thank you.

Dave Maldonado: Thanks for having us.
Zarhym: That concludes BlizzCast 10. Thank you everyone for listening and we’ll see you next time!
[ 22:10 ]