Some of my responses to blizzard's responses.
Remembering old recipes seems like a cool idea, and so does learning more than two professions. Of course, I don't think Blizzard will be able to implement more than two professions if the profession bonuses remain in the game. Raiders will feel obliged to level their third profession, and I think the idea here is to add flexibility rather than chores. With that said, I still believe that making herbalism, mining, and skinning secondary professions would add a lot of accessibility to the game. It would allow a lot of folks to participate in the materials markets or maintain their own stock of materials for their personal use. That would also open up possibilities in future expansions for BoP crafting materials that come from gathering - maybe cool gizmos or pets that are craftable by various primary professions. It would also encourage much more casual competition on the AH. Materials markets would look a lot like Volatile Fire during the Molten Front (Patch 4.2) - when everyone running dailies usually looted a handful of Volatile Fire and would either save it for themselves or post it on the AH.1. Do you have anything interesting to share about your design plans for professions or the auction house?
A: For the auction house, overall I wouldn’t expect any radical overhauls. More on this below. We’d like to add some minor quality-of-life features, such as the ability to sort by unit price.
For professions, we’re talking a lot about how we want to handle them in future expansions. One of the biggest concerns is that we have so many professions now (including the secondary skills First Aid, Fishing, Cooking and Archaeology) that we can’t always give each the attention they deserve. We gave a lot of love to Blacksmithing in patch 5.2, but Alchemists or Enchanters might wonder when it’s their turn. Other considerations are how difficult (and expensive) it should be to switch professions, and whether you should remember old recipes if you drop a profession and then pick it up again. We’ve even considered whether it makes sense to let characters learn more than two professions (or maybe even all of them). We have nothing to announce yet in this direction. It’s just brainstorming at this stage.
The secondary professions have bonuses, as well, but mining and skinning's are both passive, and to be quite honest - probably walk the line between compelling and compulsory quite well. For herbalism, there would be some concerns for HoT / DoT classes maybe looking to hit haste breakpoints, but that'd likely be at the bleeding edge. Simply making that on-use ability into a passive proc could reign it in a bit.
It'd be quite interesting to know what metrics Blizzard uses for this. Isay that mostly out of curiosity, because I'm fairly certain they don't have their own boots walking through the jungle like a lot of us do.2. Inflation: is it something you consider when designing content? What kinds of things do you do to control it?
A: Inflation is, in fact, something we consider when designing content, because it affects many aspects of the player experience. Gold needs to be meaningful. When a player kills a monster and loots gold or gray items, that should feel rewarding.
Managing an economy, however, is no trivial task, as I’m sure you are aware. In addition to many of the challenges that real-world economies face, WoW’s economy has other complications. The amount of USD introduced into the U.S. economy is controlled by the United States Treasury and the Federal Reserve. In WoW, however, the amount of gold that goes into circulation is determined by our players’ behavior. Every monster that is killed, every quest that is completed, creates more fresh currency that is added to the economic system. Gold is taken out of circulation not by a central bank, but by how much our players choose to interact with NPCs to purchase various items and services.
To make sure that gold feels rewarding but not punishing is a constant juggling act. We weigh the various ways players can generate gold vs. how gold gets taken out of the economy. We consider how the different ways of bringing currency into the system (e.g., gray items vs. completing a daily quest) compare with each other and how that feels to the player. We try to make sure that it isn’t too grueling for players to meet necessary expenditures (e.g., repair bills), while designing cool ways that players can spend (e.g., the Grand Expedition Yak, putting items on the Black Market Auction House, etc.) that make gold meaningful and remove currency from circulation. We spend a significant amount of time considering these things when we are launching an expansion, and we continue to monitor them throughout the cycle.
Ultimately, we want economic interactions between players to be a positive experience. When selling, a player’s efforts in participating in various content (e.g., gathering herbs, collecting cloth, making armor, etc.) should feel rewarding. When buying, the effort they put into making gold needs to translate into something they want and would otherwise not have access to—because, say, they don’t have an Herbalist, aren’t interested in Fishing, RNG never resulted in that rare item, etc. We pay attention to the value of gold, and therefore inflation, for these reasons.
An interesting idea, but it does seem a bit like we're counting Cataclysm's re-working of the old world and old world flying as a wasted effort. The rich history and nostalgia would be lost if we could level gathering 1-600 in Pandaria. One of the main issues with powerlevelling gathering is knowing which zones you need to gather in and how to get there. Maybe previous expansion content could give skill-ups on all nodes and the required level to harvest would be removed. So Pandaria would be 500-600 and the old world would be 1-525.3. Will we see more catch-up mechanisms like we have for Blacksmithing and Cooking? What drove the decision to add these?
A: We are aware of how, for many players, leveling their character and skilling up in their professions have gotten out of sync over the past eight years. For these players, catching up has become an increasingly complex and daunting task that requires them to go back to content that is no longer level-appropriate. When you were cooking Dragonfin Filets or some other food of that ilk at level 70, you (or the person from whom you were buying ingredients) went to areas that weren’t completely trivial compared to your character’s power, and the products of those efforts could be used meaningfully at your level. Now, for a character currently participating in Mists of Pandaria content, making Dragonfin Filets is neither challenging nor useful (they might as well be gray items for most players). We didn’t feel that this was a good experience, so we decided to start experimenting with catch-up mechanisms.
The Cooking catch-up mechanism that was introduced in 5.0 has been met with an overwhelmingly positive response from our players, so we’re continuing the experiment with Blacksmithing in 5.2. We’ll be keeping a close eye on how that impacts the player experience. For 5.3/5.4, we’re considering introducing Herbalism and Mining catch-up mechanisms. The current thinking is to allow characters of any skill level in those professions to gather from nodes in Pandaria, with the yield from the node being determined by the skill level. For example, a character with 1 skill in Mining will be able to mine a Ghost Iron Deposit, but it will yield far less Ghost Iron to him/her than if a character with 600 skill in Mining were to mine the same deposit. This means that a player who has lapsed in their Mining profession can catch up while doing level-appropriate content, but players who are already skilled miners have a marked advantage in terms of yield/effort.
I think Blizzard should be very careful with this. CRZ operates in a manner that balances server load for an optimal experience. Whether or not they admit it, I was on one of the most active WPvP servers - in the world - and it had negative ramifications for us, even though it had very positive results for many servers where WPvP was simply a legend told by the old vanilla hardasses. Stripping away the persistent of the world isn't something that would suit the AH. Players build relationships and deals and mutual understandings on the AH. A CRAH wouldn't necessarily have a large negative impact - if it isn't re-grouping realms into different CRAHs too often. In other words, grouping the AHs isn't the problem - stripping away that persistence and continuity is. There's also factors to be balanced like CR-trade chat, etc.4. Are you considering cross-realm auction houses to address the difficulties of getting along in a particularly large or small economy?
A: Yes. We don’t have any announcements to make, but we’re exploring whether it makes sense to merge together the auction houses (or maybe even player trading capability) of realms with small populations, including those with imbalanced faction populations so that the Horde or Alliance presence is small. If we did something like this, we’d do it selectively similar to how we merge lower-level realms with the Cross-Realm Zone feature. We don’t like the idea of region-wide AHs because that removes a lot of the potential for underbidding, cornering the market and so forth.
Would've liked to see how pleased they were with the results of the Guardian Cub and how they felt the community received it. My good buddy Kathroman sent me one for Christmas, and I've to say that was really cool.5. Do you have any plans you can tell us about for the pet auction house interface?
A: We ended up adding a lot of custom support for pets, such as unique tooltips and special sorting. There isn’t anything else on the immediate horizon, but we’re always open to suggestions that don’t cross over into, “Overhaul everything!”
6. Will we see any more tradable pets from the Blizzard store? How do you feel about the way the Guardian Cub experiment went?
A: “Experiment” is definitely the right word to use here, because we wanted to see how the community and the economy would respond to it. We talk about doing another, but currently don’t have any plans to do so.
Sunsong ranch has been great. From an economic standpoint, it has sort of allowed everyone to be a gatherer - in more of a questing format. It could be that Blizzard considered making gathering a secondary profession, but felt it was to extreme, finally striking a balance in sunsong ranch. It has certainly greased the wheels of the economy in MoP.7. The constant development to the Tillers farm has been wonderful - do you have any plans for it going forward?
A: As it makes sense. We added a few bits of additional content for patch 5.2 and we’re not sure if we’ll do more for future patches. Overall, we think Sunsong Ranch has been a great feature for Mists. It started out as a side project for one of our quest designers and just turned into one of the signature features for the expansion. We’ll likely explore similar features in the future.[/INDENT]
I'd like to know how satisfied Blizzard is with their design. Because it is quite archaic, in terms of gaming lifespans. A complete overhaul has the potential to be far more intuitive than the current one, and the player confusion could be minimized beyond the current UI. It would, however, be quite a lot of work for Blizzard, and I can appreciate that.Some of these next questions are more of a wish list compiled from various members of The Consortium gold-making forum. Some of them exist already in the form of add-ons, however the vast majority of players in the economy use the default UI for the auction house and professions.
[INDENT]1. There have been incremental improvements to the auction house UI over time, but have you considered a complete overhaul? It would be nice to be able to see competitive auctions on the same page we post from, as well as save searches and group identical auctions onto the same line while searching.
A: A complete overhaul is unlikely. Our UI would have to be totally, irreparably broken for us to want to foist a brand-new design on our players, and while you can certainly enumerate flaws in the current AH UI, it doesn’t quite fall into the irreparably broken category. Anytime we make big changes to the game, even if the end result is a better design, it does have costs in terms of player confusion. It’s easy to come up with suggestions to make the default AH interface more powerful, but we’re also totally comfortable with the idea of user add-ons providing individual players what they’re looking for.
Here I think Blizzard didn't understand the question, which was asked as "Do you think you'll ever nix the concept of 'stacks' on the AH and use a system more like EvE or Diablo 3's commodity system?" We're talking about all auctions for an item being put into an AH-escrow stack that splits off however many the buyer wants. And yes, Blizzard, it would be a revolutionary feature. I can easily spend 20 minutes buying herbs, and with this, it'd be 5. When some dude walls up 100 stacks of 1 Fool's Cap to drop the price and I want to buy him out - not only does it take forever to do so, but each query for "Fool's Cap" now takes longer as it spans so many pages. Would would you lose? You'd probably lose the ability to see who the maker and the seller was, and there may be implications for the bid system - which Blizzard later admits isn't really a core feature, anyway. We'd also lose the strategy behind posting certain stacks sizes - but truly, the fact that such a strategy works is a testament to how big of a pain in the butt the current stack system is - that folks would sooner spend more gold to save the time and headache of buying 20 singles and simply buy a more expensive stack.2. Will we ever be able to buy arbitrary quantities from an auction? Like split a single dust off from an auction of 200?
A: That’s not super high on our feature list. The AH is generally easier to search, especially for non-power users, when things are in stacks. And splitting off a few units from a stack tends to create more stacks of differing sizes.
Really a neat response there, and cool to see they're thinking about it.3. Would you consider adding buy orders for more than big-ticket rare items? It would allow regular AH users as well as "power users" to walk up to an auctioneer, post an auction, and get an instant sale.
A: This is a feature we’ve discussed a lot, and specifically for the big-ticket items. We understand the challenge in making, say, an epic weapon or a Mechano-Hog, listing it, and hoping someone out there will purchase one before you pay too much in fees. We’re not excited about buy orders for, say, flasks or more pedestrian consumables or trade materials–we think browsing posted auctions works fine there.
Heck, even most of us who play the AH don't bother with bids. You could proabbly nix the bid system and hardly anyone would miss it.4. Would you consider increasing the maximum time for auctions to something like a week or a month?
A: Generally, my instinct is to make the auctions shorter and shorter. My sense is that many players want the item immediately. Using the Buyout option and sitting and waiting to see if a low-ball bid ended up winning is something attractive only to players who are playing the auction house, as opposed to just looking for a gem or enchant.
I'm not sure that clarification was well-understood. I don't think folks necessarily want 7-day auctions so they can sell stuff on bid. I think that, for highly fluid markets, casual players may want to post 20 Brillliant Primordal Rubies on Sunday when they have the time, and let it sell out throughout the week. True, they won't be the lowest price for very long once they get undercut, but the natural surges in demand that occur throughout the week - like during raid nights, would give them opportunities to sell later on, without them having to put in too much extra effort.edit: this question was asked and answered as I was transcribing this interview
4.1 A clarification on one question (as I'm writing these up)- when we were asking for an increase to the maximum auction time, it was to reduce the amount of time gold makers have to spend managing large quantities of auctions. If you list 2 of each cut of gem and every glyph, it takes a long time to relist every two days- you have to empty several hundred failed and succeeded auctions at a rate of 50 per minute, a task that's too large for people to want to do without addons. If instead, people could drop by the AH on the weekend, post everything for sale, and then not have to worry about relisting until next weekend, you'd find more sales going to casual players (which is better for the design and the economy!)
A: Yeah, that makes sense. I think we’d consider it if there was a slick way to limit it to just certain items. For instance, you could pretty much always assume there will be a flask on the AH so having a longer limit doesn’t have much effect there, and as I said, it seems like the default behavior is just to use buy out anyway. For things where players are actually bidding (and in the sense that they want the item, not necessarily just to relist it as a profit) I worry longer durations would just be annoying. I can’t claim we’ve thought about it whole lot though.
I would love you guys forever if you made it happen5. Have you considered separating the mail system from the auction house? If not, would you consider adding the ability for people to empty all their mail with one click?
A: Yes, we have considered separating mail as the AH delivery mechanism. One of our design values at Blizzard is to constantly ask, “What is the fantasy?” When a player chooses a warrior on the character creation screen, it’s likely because they have this fantasy in their head of a plate-wearing axe-swinging spell-eschewing juggernaut. Along those same lines, we can’t imagine that the fantasy of being an auction house tycoon is parking a low-level naked alt next to a mailbox in order to be able to receive all those glyphs you just won. Similarly, wouldn’t it be great if seeing mail made you think that someone wrote you a letter, and not that your Ghost Iron Bars expired? This isn’t a short-term change players are likely to see soon, but it’s a pet feature of mine and I know the programmers on our team would love to see it as well.
The impact this would have on the economy would be astronomical. Things like the ore shuffle and now with all the new things to do with herbs via inscription - they're as profitable as they are in large part due to their time commitment. And their time commitment is certainly not something players enjoy. This feature alone, would give the most bang for your buck in terms of the goodwill you'd generate with the gold-making community. It's that big of a deal to a lot of us, and I'm really happy to see that Blizzard is thinking about it.6. Will we ever see the ability to prospect or mill all, the way we can smelt all?
A: This is another long-term feature we’ve had. The challenge is that the game doesn’t know which herbs or minerals you want to process, so if there was just a “Do it” button, the game would have to decide whether to pick your cheapest materials or your most expensive, or whatever, and you’d have to hope it didn’t mill the wrong herbs. (“I didn’t mean to mill all that Fool’s Cap!”) There is a reason that deleting an epic item asks you for a confirmation. What we’d need is a UI where you could select the materials you want to use and queue those up. That’s something we can build, and have discussed a lot, but it isn’t the kind of feature we would get just by flipping a bit.
That's something that I hadn't really thought of. Another idea would be to integrate this kind of feature into the Mail interface (and maybe overhaul mail at the same time!), but that could be a bit clunky, too. One of the main concerns I have with this is this - it's not the time involved in shuffling that's a problem - it's the time you have to spend mindlessly mashing a button, rather than playing the game. To that end, an NPC accessible via mail or at a physical location, who would receive the goods you sent, and process them according to your professions spellbook - would be ideal for a couple reasons. First - he would process stuff for you while your were offline or playing the game at a set rate. Second, that rate would be slower than if you were at the keyboard mashing the button yourself. Third, this feature would cost you some percentage of your materials yield (round down, I guess). Last, you could speed his processing rate up - to a cap - but it would cost you a larger percentage of your yield.7. On the topic of grinding for professions, would you consider allowing materials processing to be offloaded (for a cost, maybe) to an NPC? Maybe an opportunistic Ethereal or a friend of Nomis?
A: That’s another option, though we could perhaps solve it simpler with the UI mentioned above. The degree to which we ground professions to specific physical spaces in the world is something we struggle with often. Again, getting back to what the fantasy is, it makes sense to go to an anvil to bang out metals. It might even make sense to visit a loom to weave cloth, but overall that’s the sort of thing we have moved away from. Having a summonable NPC wouldn’t be a burden, but having to travel to a specific location might be.
So, I have a L600 JC and there are 100 stacks of ore in my bags / bank / mailbox waiting to be looted, and I open the mailbox and go to the Ethereal Processor tab and drop in a stack of ore, and enter in x 100 stacks to Prospect. The interface tells me that 100 stacks of ore will process at a rate of 5 stacks per hour, and the results will be mailed to me when the time is up (alternatively, you could just do a # per day and pivot it off the daily reset time, if you don't want to track individual times), and that the Ethereal Processor will lose 5% of the processed materials. I then have the option to make him work double-time, but I'd lose 10% of the yield. I'd click process, a confirmation box would pop up, I'd click yes.
Two minutes. When he sends it back, I can craft all Ornate Bands and Shadowfire Necklaces (or maybe he can?) and then I can finally send him stuff to DE (maybe he'd have access to the spellbooks of all my characters?). Ideally, this could reduce the shuffle down to 10 minutes of active time for 100 stacks of ore (for reference, a max level JC / Enchanter with all the settings in his bags maxes his efficiency at ~80 stacks per 45 minutes for an ore -> enchanting materials shuffle), but it would still be time-controlled. I'd have more time to explore the rest of the game and the economy would stay fed, but not overfed. I realize there may be better implementations, but the idea is the same - offload the milling / prospecting / disenchanting / and possibly mass-crafting onto a non-player element that is time-controlled and acts as a bit of a gold sink, and let players get back out into the world.
In all, I really liked the interaction we got with Blizzard here. It was god of them to take the time to share their thoughts and ideas with us, and I hope to see some of those ideas make it into the game.