Cataclysm Post Mortem -- “Ghostcrawler”

General Discussion
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As part of our World of Warcraft: Cataclysm post mortem series, we sat down with World of Warcraft Lead Systems Designer Greg “Ghostcrawler” Street to talk about his thoughts on World of Warcraft: Cataclysm.
Great goals for MoP. I have confidence they will be achieved. I know you guys have a tough balancing act between folks who want hard content, and folks who want easier content. Overall, I've enjoyed Cataclysm and the changes made to the old world. I look forward to the fruits of your imagination with MoP.
I'm thrilled to see they recognize the issues with archaeology. It's not that the idea was bad, it was just so much traveling for such a randomness involved with the reward. Unfortunately some of the later changes (upping the vendor prices, more pets, etc.) came too late for those of us who grinded it out at the start of the expansion and got burnt out, but if they can make it more appealing in MoP I might pick up my surveying equipment again.
It does look like you guy are learning the lesson of Cata and WotLK.

I was shock to learn that there was going to be an Azjol-Nerub quest zone.

Maybe one day you be able to close the holes in couple of zones.
I think you guys could appeal to a broader audience with content like the Firelands daily quests for more casual players and creative raids like Ulduar for more serious AND casual players. Ulduar was just so cool, I loved it, and there was stuff for casuals and hardcore players alike.
This is really a great read. Happy to hear that Blizzard themselves are aware of some of the problems.
I completly agree with the fact that Legendaries were too easily aquired, this xpac.
Good read. This seemed like the most honest and interesting of the post-mortems so far.

I agree with most of what GC said in terms of what worked and what didn't. For my part, I think the 1-60 revamp was amazing and absolutely needed, and one of the best things to come out of the expansion. On the other hand, high level content suffered, and as a casual player especially, I often felt like I had nothing to do at max level for a good chunk of the expansion. I can run ZG again, or I can run ZG again, or maybe I'll run ZG again.

But 4.3 was possibly the best patch in the game's history. The Raid Finder is one of the best things to ever happen to the game, the new dungeons were great, and we can all agree transmog is a resounding success. I really like how it makes old content relevant again; it's given me a great excuse to get back to Outland and Northrend and appreciate the content all over again.

If I have one disagreement with GC, it's that I don't think there's anything wrong with linear questing. I enjoy it quite a lot, personally. I think the only place where it maybe doesn't make sense is tying it to major rewards for endgame, as was the case with Therazane and the shoulder enchants. Having to grind through that entire zone on every alt is simply onerous and annoying.

I do like the idea of Molten Front-style progression. Hopefully we can also see some of its other innovations -- like diversity of types of mobs and the ability for the environment to be an aid or a hazard -- make their way into general questing, too.

Overall, I'd say Cataclysm was a very mixed bag, but at the end of the day, I think the game is better for the changes Cataclysm made.
This was actually a very good read.

Thank you GC - both for the insight and recognizing the problems with Cataclysm. A lot of people feel like the devs are out of touch with what's happening in the game right now and this Q&A pretty much abated those fears.

I only have one comment, and that's in regards to the Molten Front:

While it was a success in that it offered a sense of progression to players, I feel like it missed what made Quel'Danas so exciting. In Quel'Danas, you actually took over territory and then fortified it. Yesterday the area was crawling with angry demons, and today it's a friendly player hub. That was so cool! Especially in an MMO like WoW. You actually changed the world. With the Molten Front you're only ever given that initial area you start out with. It upgrades and changes, but that's something we've had with phased areas for a long time now. I was honestly baffled as to why the Druids of the Talon and Shadow Warden hubs didn't permanently change once you'd unlocked them. You could've built them up too - maybe build a firehawk rookery in the Druid hub to unlock that bombing run every day (we still love bombing runs!). Or a way to turn the Shadow Warden hub into this heavily fortified, super militaristic thing. Things like that could've turned the Molten Front from Good to Amazing.

On the subject of world building, I felt like the Deathwing "statue" was disappointing. The Dalaran statue for Arthas felt important because it was something you hard to work at, or at least wait for, a while. The Deathwing monument was pretty much plopped down on the day of the patch release on most servers, before most people even entered the raid for the first time. Just something to consider. That and I think the whole concept of raid monuments is really cool, and you guys should consider doing it for non-final raids too (i.e. a monument at the Molten Front for killing Ragnaros) or making it "phased" for the player for non-cinematic (re: final xpac boss) kills.
The main thing that bothers me about this post mortem, is with the current patch, what he said and what's been done don't go together. They want heroics to be uber hard, yet didn't mind hitting an across the board nerf over time like they've done, with months and months before we get any new content whatsoever. That's horrendous.

I'd also like to have seen things like why we lost an entire tier of content if mists isn't right around the corner. He explained abyssal, fine. But what about the war of the ancients, which was supposed to be a raid zone? How are we expected to take anything he says about what their goals are for mists seriously when they seemingly contradict exactly what they just did with the live game?

Also, why is no developer even mentioning the fault of 10 and 25 sharing the same lockout for why we have so little content right now? You cut the bosses we can do in half by making that change this expansion, and then release the fewest number of raid bosses on top of this. I hope that wasn't surprise about him hearing us say we're constantly bored. By making that one change, you told us alts weren't unimportant anymore, that if you wanted to actually play the game, you HAD to use them. It seems like they see that's a problem, and that's why LFR doesn't share a lockout with 10s and 25s, but would it have been hard to admit that? They know they can't go back on that idea(nor do I think they should, though I think the idea of 10s and 25s competing for things like server firsts have totally killed the idea of 25 man raiding), so now they're figuring out ways to give us more content on our mains, which is great. It's also something we already know is happening, ya know?

GC knows exactly what buttons to push to elicit a positive response, with his mentioning of ulduar style hard modes being said. But we also remember what you said about this expansion supposedly going back to a TBC style, which it wasn't even close to. At this point, what am I supposed to believe, history, or what's being said now?
The explanation of what was going to be in the Abysal Maw does make me feel a smidge better about it. I knew part of it was going to be in Nespirah, but I had just figured the finale would take place in it. Suppose that's what I get for basing my expectations off of work in progress concept art maps from Blizzcon three years ago :p

The rest also sounds very nice as well. I'm glad that Blizzard is embracing Raid Finder and not listening to the vocal minority on the forums that thing it's the scourge of all that is good in the world, and I'm also glad they're embracing the idea of three difficulties going forward. Video Games have had Easy, Normal, and Hard since the dawn of time, and there's really no reason that WoW should have taken this long to have their own as well but hey, at least Blizzard is finally doing it.

The idea of Quests tied to Dungeons for bonus loot and what not is also something I'm interested about. It's one of the things I miss from Pre-BC. Sure, I absolutely love the convenience of having all the quests put in the dungeon it's self, but I also kind of miss having storyline chains that lead up to the confrontation with the big bad inside the dungeon. I'm also really hopping now that Blizzard is using the LFR to give raiding more accessibility, we also see the return of Raid Quests, if for no other reason than to flesh out the storyline inside a raid and only have gold as a reward. That really was one of my biggest issues with Cataclysm and to a lesser extent Wrath.

Sure, the zones build up to the raid if there's one therein, but a lot of times they felt painfully disjointed from the rest of the storyline and world. 4.2 did a good job with the Molten Front and Firelands being tied together, as did the 5-mans leading up to Dragonsoul. But the initial Tier 11 was..well..bad. Bastion of Twilight had some build up in the Highlands, but that's it. If no one told anyone that Blackwing Descent was actually in the game, no one would have found the thing, as there's zero reason to go up there, and there's no explanation as to why Nefarian's back and why we're rooting around his lab again. Throne of the Four Winds was like this to a lesser extent as well. Yes, you HEARD of Ak'akir, and you knew he was in Uldum, but there's no indication storyline or quest wise that the Throne of the Four Winds is there, and that you should probably go there and deal with Al'akir.

I'm looking forward to seeing how Blizzard incorporates better storytelling and connection to the dungeons with the world, and breaks away from the odd feeling some dungeons have (Why is this here, why are we going in here, and why does no one else in the zone even mention the damned place kind of deals we saw in Wrath and Cata).

Experimenting with tricky bosses for those who liked Ulduar.

Best thing I read.
I saw mention of World Bosses?! How many are we talking about here and what size group will it take to vanquish them?

Other than that, I really am looking forward to the refinements coming in MoP. I think Cata did a good job of cleaning up the game, but as Ghostcrawler said, it wasn't perfect.

  • Loved healing in Cata compared to the past, but mana regen does feel too potent because of the strength of intellect (and related regen mechanics)
  • New battlegrounds and increasing the ease of assembling RBGs are a must for MoP. Loving the PvP stat change proposals though
  • Couldn't agree more about the legendaries. Can we expect to see something in between the past models of acquiring one? Let's say, low, random-chance drops to start a quest chain, followed by more low, random-chance drops? I agree completely that it felt more impressive in BC when I saw someone with green Glaives or the SWP Bow. A pleasant side-effect would also be reducing their impact on PvP.
  • Patch 4.1 was a disappointment. I loved ZA back in the day, but running the same two dungeons repeatedly for months with no incentive to do otherwise was mind-numbing.
  • The division of raid difficulty has been moderately successful. Still, I think Ulduar's popularity largely stemmed from how many of the encounters had more incremental levels of difficulty, not just the toggles. To use a few examples, I think the Flame Leviathan, Freya, Yogg-Saron, and [almost forgot] Obsidian Sanctum worked particularly well because each of those had 4-5 difficulties that transitioned better from one to the next. In other words, I think they taught players about the encounter mechanics better. The failing of the modes (LFR, particularly) nowadays is that they don't prepare you very well for the next step up. I think that's part of the reason we see such a sharp dropoff in participation past LFR and again past normal-mode. It's not the difficulty level at a plateau -- it's the curve in between.
03/07/2012 09:32 AMPosted by Bladesyphon
If no one told anyone that Blackwing Descent was actually in the game, no one would have found the thing, as there's zero reason to go up there, and there's no explanation as to why Nefarian's back and why we're rooting around his lab again. Throne of the Four Winds was like this to a lesser extent as well. Yes, you HEARD of Ak'akir, and you knew he was in Uldum, but there's no indication storyline or quest wise that the Throne of the Four Winds is there, and that you should probably go there and deal with Al'akir.

I think this could be said of Sarth as well going back to Wrath.

Really should always be a semi long quest line that leads you to the raid. Doesn't have to be that you need to complete the quest to enter the raid, but knowing why we're killing a bad guy besides he drops loot is always much more satisfying.
Loved the article - thank you! I hope we'll see more level for those that don't enjoy max level content, too.

One question, how are you going to deal with the changes to 1-60 that deal with Deathwing? I mean the Outlands and Northrend zones being in a "time warp" are a problem, sure, but it's not as "in your face".

With changes to almost all of the Azeroth zones about the Shattering and Deathwing, it becomes a bit more noticeable. Do you have any plans to deal with this?

Thanks :D
This was a great read. No slam against the other post mortem authors, however I feel Dr. Street's contribution had far less spin and more real thought behind what he wrote.

I appreciated his honesty in pointing out what he felt didn't work, as well as, what did work. Frankly, it made me a lot more optimistic about MoP than the prior articles because the problems with Cataclysm were openly admitted rather than glossed over.

In my mind, the true two edged sword of Cataclysm were the portals outside of Stormwind. On one hand, players could go to far lands quickly and easily. However, on the other hand, there was little incentive to actually travel anywhere without using those portals. All the other Alliance cities became ghost towns. Furthermore, it created this disconnected atmosphere. Little seemed to fit together.

There were other issues as well. Frankly, Deathwing never meant much to me. The Lich King was someone I wanted to defeat. I wanted to dance on that man's corpse.

Deathwing seemed as impersonal as a hurricane. Even the Twilight Hammer lost its glamor of threat after the Miracle of Aessina.

If there are villains in the future, I'd like to suggest that you spend some time making the character meaningful. Make them smart and make them hurt us so we really want to get back at him or her. Bloody the character's noses for being complacent! Otherwise, we might as well be angry at an earthquake.

03/07/2012 09:37 AMPosted by Dalmasca
Loved healing in Cata compared to the past, but mana regen does feel too potent because of the strength of intellect (and related regen mechanics)

I'm going to have to say that you're idea of what is fun isn't the same as other healers though. Too often it's healers who are punished by people who refuse to use CC, or won't move out of bad thing or interrupt a spell, or groups that won't wait for a healer to drink between pulls if needed.

I see no reason to attempt to punish healers even more by making it so people complain at them for having to drink between pulls.

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