Blizzard has posted the answers to its second Ask the Devs segment, which focused exlusively on PvP. You can read the answers to all 15 questions after the jump.
The third Ask the Devs segment will feature user interface-related questions. The thread has already hit the 500 post cap, so no more questions are allowed. However, you can still go through the thread to vote for your favorite questions.
Ask the Devs - Answers #2 "PvP"
Q: Is it a possibility that the premade group requirement will be dropped from Rated Battlegrounds, allowing players to queue for a Random Rated Battleground? I'm sure many people would be ok with the inherent risk and disadvantage of grouping with random players for rated content if it meant they could at least make use of the rating system. – Gëtmastiffd (North America/ANZ), Kaymac (North America/ANZ)
A: If you take away the group requirements for Rated Battlegrounds, then you don’t have Rated Battlegrounds – you just have the same old Battlegrounds we’ve always had expect they now reward the best loot in the game. We understand there are heavy logistical requirements to organizing teams – that is in part why the rewards are so good. We believe that if we just opened the doors to random queuing that the system would be less about organized teams competing against organized teams and more about the luck of whether you got a good team or not. You are much more optimistic than we are about how forgiving players would be when Blizzard ignorantly / cruelly stuck them in a team with one Prot paladin and six rogues with no resilience. ? Teams on the other hand have all the responsibility themselves. If they feel comfortable bringing an experienced player with sub-optimal gear, they can make that call. If they think a certain number of healers or particular comp is required, they can try to locate them. Most importantly, there is a leader with some level of power. If you ignore the leader and just do your own thing, the leader can choose to replace you.
This is our first stab at offering very powerful gear through Battlegrounds and it is going to take some tweaking to get right. We understand that some more casual players may have given up on the system and we want a chance to fix that. It’s possible we could require fewer players to form a team, such as merging two groups of 5 together – at least we’d know for sure that you had 2 healers and had put some thought into your comp. We could also put in some kind of browsing system to make it easier to find people looking for Rated Battle Grounds.
Q: Why can't we have a pure, straight up, unadulterated Death Match style Battleground? - ???? ???? (Taiwan), Gulantor (North America/ANZ)
A: We think Battlegrounds work better when there is a goal that the team can work towards. Huge melees with lots of players tend to be chaotic by nature so there is less room for skill to influence the outcome. It feels more random, and the more random the system is, the more arbitrary the rewards will feel. It might be something we try someday.
For example, emergency buttons are balanced around the assumption that only a few players are ganged up against you. Even in the 5v5 Arena bracket, it’s very difficult to survive being focused by so many players at once, so you feel like you don’t have many options. There is a reason that most of our Arena attention is on 3v3 – it just feels the best.
Q: Arena Skirmishes: What happened to them? They were a useful tool in trying new compositions, testing out a new teammate, or just having some fun during downtime. Wargames are nice, but did skirmishes have to go in order for them to be implemented? – Zubzar (North America/ANZ), Nølfen (Europe [French]), Jinusek (Europe [English]), Whoohoo (Europe [German])
A: We didn’t cut Skirmishes because they were flawed. We just thought we’d get more bang for the buck out of Wargames. While some players enjoyed Skirmishes, we can tell you that overall they were used very rarely. We would have kept them if it had been relatively easy to do so, and we may add them back someday, but it’s just not a huge priority based on their previous popularity.
Q: In Cataclysm, PvP fights were supposed to be slow and everyone should spend longer in a wounded state. But from what I’m seeing, healers are still able to bring someone up from 1% to 100% in 2 or 3 global CDs. So it comes down back to the WOTLK style, either you burst someone in a CD and damage spike, or you need a setup with tons of CC. There simply is not a state where someone is at 50% health and you can keep him around that way with your damage. He will be at 100% in the next 2 global CDs. Any plans to address this? – Noidealol (Europe [English])
A: We just don’t think that is the case in Cataclysm relative to Lich King. Players have roughly 100,000 health, and even the big heals, which are very hard to use in PvP, only heal by 30,000 or so. Most healers do have some kind of emergency button (say Nature’s Swiftness plus Healing Touch) and that may be what you’re seeing, or else hots are ticking away for a longer period of time (longer than 2-3 GCDs for sure). We have had some burst issues rise up from time to time (say Aimed Shot, or more recently warriors), but we take pains to stomp them out when they happen. Overall we’re seeing a wide variety of classes and specs participating in Arenas, which argues that there are several strategies that work, not just the focus on one dude and blow him up strategy that prevailed in the previous expansion.
All that said, we are looking closely at healing in PvP right now. It can be really hard to kill say a flag carrier being assisted by multiple healers (especially once there is less burst damage from Balance druids and warriors).
Q: Will guilds focused on PvP be able to progress and have rewards just like guilds focused on PvE?/ Will it be possible in the future to advance guild reputation through PvP? – Smrt (Europe [German]), Ypsen (Europe [French])
A: We did try and emphasize Rated Battlegrounds as a way that guilds could progress. We thought it made more sense to have guilds focused on BGs than on Arenas, since the latter just don’t require the large infrastructure of a guild for support. It was a purposefully limited approach as the Guild Advancement system was new and rather complex, but now that we've had time to watch and see how it's being used we're a bit more comfortable opening it up where it makes sense. So in 4.1 we are actually making it so you can earn guild XP and reputation from Battlegrounds, Arenas, or just Honorable Kills. Details aren't totally nailed down yet so we'll let you know the specifics in upcoming PTR patch note updates.
Q: With the proliferation of spell interrupts and other control mechanisms, and the ever-increasing value of mobility, how do the developers plan to successfully move casters away from instant casts and make hard casting in PvP more viable? – Maldramere (North America/ANZ)
A: It will require several changes. We feel these changes will ultimately make the game better, but they are big, scary changes, so they aren’t the kind of thing we can just make in patch 4.1. For starters, we need to make instant spells less powerful. The fact that they are instant should be the big thing those spells have going for them, because immunity from interruption and the ability to shoot and scoot are gigantic advantages. Those spells don’t need anything else to be attractive. Secondly, we need to tone down the role of interrupts and silences so that casters are actually casting their spells more often. We’ll also have to look at crowd control, because once you can’t interrupt every Polymorph being cast, you’re going to spend a lot of time as a sheep. Ghostcrawler has an upcoming blog in which he speculates about this issue a bit more.
Q: Players’ skill level in PvP between rated and random battlegrounds are very different. Could a personal rating system such as the one in Starcraft II be implemented so similar level players can be matched up? – ?? (Korea)
A: We have a personal rating system for Rated Battlegrounds. We don’t use it in the random Battlegrounds because random Battlegrounds are engineered for speed of matchmaking, not for setting up perfectly balanced teams. We do evaluate gear with random BGs, which often (but certainly not always) correlates with your skill. The system begins to break down when you're balancing skill versus how quickly people want to just get in and play. Creating a system that's more stringent in how it chooses players means longer wait times, so we try to strike a balance with random Battlegrounds to have some factors (gear) but not so much that queue times become even longer. It's also worth stating that the matchmaking employed by StarCraft II is just much simpler than what it would require to assemble a viable Battleground team.
Q: CC used to be the big thing for arena, but now it’s all about damage. Is it the direction you are taking at the moment? – Thatis (Taiwan)
A: If crowd control really was as weak in Arenas as you’re claiming, then Holy paladins would be the healer of choice and Resto druids wouldn’t have much of a role. But the Entangling Roots and Cyclone of the druid make a huge difference in Arena, and we see a lot of healing druids.
Ultimately, we think there has to be a place for both crowd control and damage. It can be just as frustrating to be chained from a fear to a poly to a stun without having an answer as it can be to die to two dudes killing you in a few GCDs without an answer. We don’t want Arena in particular to be all about which comp has the best layering of crowd controls that don’t share diminishing returns, because that greatly lowers the number of viable comps out there (and why rogue-mage-priest dominated in earlier seasons). We have taken steps this season already to nerf both out of control damage and excessive crowd control for some classes.
The best thing you can do is just keep providing feedback when you think something is broken. Many other players will disagree with you, and at times so will we. The signal to noise ratio for PvP balance is frankly always going to be bad, and the design calls are extremely subjective. We are constantly amazed that some players playing very powerful specs perceive themselves as weak or interpret very gentle nerfs as soul-crushing. That doesn’t mean that we’re never going to listen, but it does mean the burden of convincing us something is broken is going to be high, probably higher than it is for PvE.
Q: Warrior damage is currently game-breakingly out of control and looking at the 4.1 patch notes it is only set to get worse. Your attempts at toning down the burst from Colossus Smash will have very little effect on high armor targets and absolutley no effect on medium to low armor targets, factor in the compensation you have given to Slam, Overpower and Mortal Strike and it ultimately leads to a significant damage increase. With warrior damage already absurdly high and a resilience nerf in the works what is the reasoning behind these changes? – Albany (Europe [English])
A: This question was most likely written before the most recent 4.1 patch notes, but we think it was totally valid at the time it was written. We were in a tricky spot with warriors where we couldn’t nerf their burst damage without affecting their sustained PvE damage. A few things contributed to this, Colossus Smash for sure, but also the new design for Heroic Strike, allowing them to sandwich in extra damage on the same GCD as Mortal Strike or Raging Blow. We finally bit the bullet and made Colossus Smash work differently in PvP and PvE. That type of separation is always a last resort for us, but we feel like it was the right call in this case. We also toned down the base amount of Fury mastery while keeping mastery scaling the same, and compensated them with auto attack damage. We also fixed a sneaky bug where trinket effects that were not intended to stack, were stacking. Despite some of the more hyperbolic responses, we think warriors will continue to use Colossus Smash in PvP. They may think about it a little more before using on a clothie, and we’re actually fine with that. (It’s still probably a 13% damage increase vs. cloth.)
Q: Can I hear your thoughts of the survival abilities of the Warlock on PvP? – Mccoll (Korea)
A: Overall, we think they’re fine. Warlocks in PvP often compare themselves to Shadow priest, and to be fair, Shadow priests have some very potent emergency buttons, particularly Dispersion. Warlocks have good self-healing (which also to be fair, was nerfed recently), abilities like Demonic Circle and fears that are good for both offense and defense. Once Shadow priests lose their defensive dispel capabilities, we think they will be less versatile and their entire package will be more comparable to warlocks.
Q: Balance druids are widely recognized as deficient in PvP. Can you describe your motivation for nerfing Balance druids' burst damage, crowd control, and self-healing in 4.1? This seems like a lot, given that you have acknowledged that Balance druids are currently weak in Arena (during your first Q&A). (It would be great if you could speak generally to what your vision or plan is for this class, in PvP. Some players believe that Blizzard does not intend for feral or balance druids to be played in arena. Please tell us for the record that this is not true!) Thank you. – Jynks (North America/ANZ)
A: Last week the words actually used were that Balance druids struggle in Arena. They are exceptional in Battlegrounds. But Balance druids cast hard spells a lot, which are more likely to be interrupted in Arenas. They do good damage in Battlegrounds when they can dot multiple targets, but those are more likely to be dispelled in Arenas. Despite those weaknesses, Starsurge needed to be nerfed. Broken spells shouldn’t make up for being weak in Arena.
We want Feral and Balance to be played in PvP and ideally in Arena. It is hard to make every spec equally viable in Arenas without giving everyone all the same set of tools, which was part of the entire genesis towards the emphasis on Rated Battlegrounds for Cataclysm. We know some players scratch their heads when we nerf Balance and Feral in PvP because they historically haven’t been as highly represented as some other specs. However, it’s not cool for a spec to be super annoying or frustrating to play against just because they aren’t common. But to answer your question for the record, yes we want them to be viable.
Q: Elemental Shaman are rarely seen in high rating Arena teams nowadays. I want to know the thoughts and opinions of the Dev. Team regarding the PVP abilities of the Elemental Shaman. Can I expect any improvement? – ?? (Korea), Mythren (Europe [English])
A: As with Balance above, Elemental was hurt by several of the Cataclysm changes. They hard cast spells a lot in a world where every melee spec (and many casters) have a reliable interrupt. (And as we’re saying elsewhere, we think interrupts are too good in PvP overall). Likewise, Elemental is hurt by dispels. Our intent was to make dispels more expensive, but that hasn’t really toned them down as much as we wanted. Long-term, as with the interrupts, we do need to chill dispels out even more. But certainly dispelling Flame Shock hurts Elemental’s damage a lot. Similarly, Elemental’s big claim to fame in Lich King was how much burst they could do in a small window, and we have toned that down a lot with the larger health pools that players have. Finally, the Heroism / Bloodlust buff was once mandatory for 5v5 brackets, and obviously isn’t any longer. Elemental could probably benefit from another survivability cooldown. Elemental Mastery doesn’t fit that niche as well as we’d like, since you need it for offense as well.
Q: Why do hunter traps continue to be resisted when the hunter is both spell pen capped, and specced 2/2 into Survival Tactics? – Zubzar (North America/ANZ)
A: It’s just a technical limitation. The way the code works, the traps are objects and not part of the player. We can calculate how much damage they should do based on player stats, but it is currently impossible for them to inherit things like spell pen. Spell Penetration does nothing for your traps. We don’t even have a way to make them always hit, because then they would always hit, even against a stealthed rogue for instance (which we’re sure is a solution hunters would be perfectly happy with). We know it’s not a very satisfying answer, but at the end of the day, World of Warcraft is a piece of software and given that we have some of the best programmers in the industry working on it, there aren’t any simple solutions that are going to fix this problem in the short term. It is absolutely a problem though and we do want to fix it.
Q: The healing abilities of hybrid classes are being severely limited (eg. Retribution Paladin, Shadow Priest). Compared to this why do DPS Classes such as Rogue, Warlock have strong healing capabilities? Can I get some explanations for this? – ????? (Korea)
A: Our definition of hybrid is a class that can respec to tank or heal. That versatility is much less relevant in PvP than in PvE. So it isn’t all our intention that classes who have a healing talent tree are good healers at all times and more than you might expect Restoration or Balance druids to be tanky just because they have a tank spec.
We don’t specify a set amount of self-healing and try to adjust everyone to hit those targets. Instead we balance specs around their entire package. If rogues die a lot, then we can explore the option of increasing their mitigation, giving them stronger survival cooldowns, or increasing their self-healing. We found that rogues were one of the most painful classes to level, so when we revamped them for Cataclysm, we wanted to make sure they didn’t have to stop and eat or bandage every few pulls. Warlocks self healing did get nerfed, but also remember that their resource mechanic is burning health to generate mana, so they need a way to replenish that health.
Finally, hybrids can absolutely swing the outcome of battles with their self or off-healing. Feral druids can stop, shift, and heal themselves up. It happens all the time (though obviously not while being focused). That doesn’t mean that those specs are supposed to be chain healing the whole time (that’s what actual healers do).
Q: Frost Mage and Blood Death Knight are almost unbeatable in PvP situations. Do you have any plan to adjust balance issues regarding the two Classes? – ????? (Korea)
A: The kit of the Frost mage is to have a lot of control and emergency buttons. This gives them a high skill cap, both in that it can be hard to stop a good Frost mage and it can be hard for less skilled PvP players to handle even a decent Frost mage. At the high end of PvP, we think Frost mages are balanced. It’s everything below that where they can be frustrating to handle. We need to figure out ways to affect the latter without affecting the former. One solution is to take some of their control away, but make some of the remaining abilities undispellable. Those spells are always dispelled in high-end games, but less often in lower-end games.
With the exception of a few (kind of silly) dual Blood comps in the 2v2 bracket, we see most of the Blood DK complaints when they are Battleground flag carriers. Tanks are hard to kill – that’s their thing. When tanks do obnoxious amounts of damage in PvP in addition to high survivability, as happened in some of the Lich King seasons, that feels broken. In Cataclysm, their damage is a lot lower in PvP, but their survivability is high, which feels more appropriate. We did nerf the Glyph of Dark Succor to keep it from being abusive. We’d rather the role of tanks in PvP be as flag carriers and defenders rather than the dude chasing you around trying to kill you.