Yesterday, Ion Hazzikostas, the game director behind World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth, participated in an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on the main Warcraft subreddit. There, he answered questions on a variety of topics, including the future of Azerite armor, Warfronts, Expeditions, and shaman class balancing.
It is a lot of information to sift through -- so we've done the heavy lifting for you. Here are the biggest takeaways from Ion Hazzikostas' September 14th Reddit AMA:
Don’t throw out your Azerite gear; changes are incoming
Hazzikostas said that the team is not happy with how the Azerite system currently functions and that many of the issues players have brought to their attention “simply boil down to tuning,” including the common complaint that higher item level Azerite gear is often not an upgrade if its traits are not ideal.
Azerite traits that are too weak to use or too powerful to not use will be tuned accordingly in an upcoming patch, and others that are too passive or “interact awkwardly with spec rotations” will be replaced.
Blizzard agrees shamans are in need of tuning
Developers are aware that shamans are currently lagging behind other classes and specializations. Although Hazzikostas refrained from providing any specific information regarding how shaman specializations may be changed, he said that Restoration intentionally lags behind other healers in raw throughput healing, but that they may lag behind too much, and that Elemental and Enhancement shamans will need to wait for an upcoming patch for their talent and rotation issues to be addressed.
Island expeditions are now more rewarding; soon will be more interesting
Blizzard will be applying a hotfix that improves the drop rate of cosmetic items received through expeditions and is looking to add variety to the expeditions themselves via new events and varied island layouts. The intent is to make expeditions feel both less repetitive and more lucrative.
Mythic Fetid Devourer was mathematically impossible to kill
Hazzikostas agreed with the raid leader of Big Dumb Guild that Mythic Fetid Devourer was indeed, prior to the first nerf applied to the boss, “mathematically impossible” to kill due to some bad math and a last minute change.
He explained that the team uses data from the PTR, Heroic raids, and their internal testing teams to gauge how to balance bosses, but did not answer how Blizzard intends to improve its balancing process considering that the balancing issues Fetid Devourer had on live were reported during his two PTR tests.
Warfronts are working as intended and more are on the way
In response to a question regarding the pacing of Warfronts, Hazzikostas said that they are functioning as intended and that a cycle is likely to take 3.5 weeks (including gathering resources for the war effort, the warfront being active, and faction-based zone control and access to world bosses). Rotations are meant to be this long in order to avoid too frequently rewarding particularly powerful gear and to give all players, including those who cannot play every day, a fair shot at participating in the event.
More Warfronts will be added throughout the expansion and timed in such a way that players should feel like there is more for their faction to do more often. Blizzard regrets not adequately conveying early on that Warfronts are intended to be “more of a periodic special event.”
The M+ armor cache is intentionally stingy with Azerite armor
Upgrades in Azerite armor awarded through the Mythic+ dungeon cache are intended to be rare and fairly random. Blizzard wants players whose only end-game content is M+ dungeons to receive a “healthy amount of Azerite gear” throughout each tier, but acknowledges that M+ groups are easier to form and the content infinitely possible to farm in comparison to raids, and thus is stingy with Azerite gear.
“As I mentioned above, you can run a huge amount of M+ dungeons each week without a lockout, and the activity requires four other people as opposed to coordinating and scheduling a full raid group. Each format has its advantages: M+ awards a far larger total quantity of loot, with a guaranteed top-end weekly reward, while raids have a finite quantity but offer more control over targeting specific pieces,” wrote Hazzikostas.
However, the M+ cache also has a "bad luck protection system" in place for Azerite gear which steadily increases players' chances of receiving an Azerite piece until they are awarded one.
Blizzard thinks its tooltips are sufficient
In response to a question regarding the necessity for outside sim programs to gear and spec correctly, Hazzikostas said simply that unless all gear were stripped down to stamina and primary stats, players would still use simulators and addons to make choices.
The upcoming tuning to Azerite gear and traits, he said, should solve problems regarding how some lower item level Azerite gear is currently better than higher item level Azerite gear (which is confusing), but otherwise, vague tooltips are sufficient for intuitive gearing (i.e. not consulting an outside program) so long as they describe how abilities are activated.
Hazzikostas wants to know why players think Battle for Azeroth is not alt-friendly
Hazzikostas wrote that between the catch-up mechanisms incorporated for Azerite power and Champions of Azeroth reputation, as well as Kings’ Rest and Siege of Boralus reputations being account-wide, alt characters should feel adequately supported. He questioned why players feel the need for reputations other than the aforementioned to be account-wide and said that he would love more feedback on the topic of alt-friendliness.
“We do want to strike a balance between offering meaningful progression, and wanting to avoid tedium on alts. The examples above are helpful, but I'd love to hear more about specific elements that feel like they discourage playing alts,” he wrote.
Alliance will be receiving some cool flying mounts in the future to offset their lackluster new ground mounts (including a bee mount!)
Developers are discussing how to address some professions’ lack of use for Expulsom, Hydrocore, and Sanguicell.
Hazzikostas said developers do not think it is healthy that some defensive abilities, like Touch of Karma and Shield of Vengeance, comprise a large chunk of some specializations’ DPS (but did not offer further information on how the problem will be addressed).
The Paragon reputation system from Legion will be added to Battle for Azeroth.
Improved communication with the player base is a goal of Blizzard’s in Battle for Azeroth.
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