Cataclysm Post Mortem -- “Ghostcrawler”

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Now THIS is how a "post-mortem" should be done. The dungeons and raids one was a PR article, this at least has some meat to it. After reading this piece from Ghostcrawler, I have a lot more faith that MoP will be a decent expansion.

Color me pleasantly surprised.
Good read, GC, thanks.

The two things that stuck out most to me that I'd like to hear more about are your plans for modifying legendary acquisition, as well as just how account-wide achievements will be implemented. I'm sure my interest is biased here, since achievements and collection of any type (legendaries, mounts, pets, etc.) are the very things that I devote a lot of my time and efforts to, outside of raiding.

As someone who will have every currently obtainable legendary on my account in less than a month (I'll complete Fangs on April 5th), I'm curious to hear more about the legendary model in MoP and moving forward. Having completed all legendaries (or in the case of the Black Qiraji mount and Atiesh, having been there when others completed them), most of which when they were current content, I would have to say that I definitely agree with your statement that they have become less "legendary" in feel over time. I will add to that, however, that the more reliable, commitment-based rewarding of legendaries instead of the low drop chance is a much more enjoyable model to work with, in my opinion. Even if legendary weapons have seemed more common or less legendary with time, I've certainly enjoyed completing the newer ones like Fangs, Dragonwrath, Shadowmourne, and Val'anyr, moreso than slaying Illidan upwards of 100 times just to see 5 main hand Warglaives in a row and no off hand. Likewise, knowing someone who completed Sunwell for their first time and got Thor'idal on that very same kill, this system works at both extremes. I hope that you at least agree that the drop chance method is not the right solution to preserve the truly legendary feel of these great items.

As for achievements, while they are a major feature that keeps me playing and enjoying this game, I will compose less of a wall of text about them. I'm excited about the account-wide achievement introduction, but I hope that it's implemented well, and am eager to learn more about your plans for it. As someone who dedicates all of my major efforts to one character (and has for 7 years), I will likely continue to do so into MoP and beyond, even with the addition of account-wide achievements. Now don't get me wrong, I have many alts, and I will likely benefit from the things that they have (such as Honorable kill totals), but I also like the current model where dedication to one character is very preserved in achievements. With that said, I'm mostly just wondering how or if any of this will be addressed. Will there be some preservation for completing achievements on a single or specific character? Will everything be merged entirely and done on the account-level without any indication of character-specificity? I honestly could probably learn to live and adapt to either model, but I'm still very interested in hearing what you have in store for us in that regard.

Thanks for the read if anyone cared enough to hear what I have to say, and thanks again for taking the time to write that up for us, GC.
Thank you for this post mortem series. It is very enlightening to hear what the development team has to say about how the game is aging.

There are a few things I would like to briefly talk about and maybe suggest a few things.

The revamp of the 1-60 zones was desperately needed and it has dramatically improved the game as a whole. The changes to the many zones that I grew familiar with drug me deep into the lore and the story line of each zone. Many times my heart strings were yanked upon to discover all the chaos that Deathwing has evoked since his return to the world. I love the linear story lines that have been created and I think they should be kept, but I would agree that there isn't enough individual quests to do in a zone for the more casual questing player.

My suggestion is to sprinkle in more quests that can be done without knowing the content of the story line for the zone. i.e. "Professor Gnomes-n-such" needs a new type of glue for his experimental thing-a-ma-bogger so he needs the player to collect a special tree sap that can only be found in one grove that happens to be inhabited by spiders. While collecting the sap a spider must be squished here and there. The first one of them killed drops a special kind of insect casing that the player realizes that it can be used to house the thing-a-ma-bogger so he brings that back along with the tree sap. Professor Gnomes-n-such is so excited about the prospective casing that he gives the player a bonus gold payment for it along with the tree sap.

I loved the new dungeons, and I loved the challenges they presented. It upped the ante' in my playing style and I can proudly say that I stood up to the challenge. I think the creme dela creme of the dungeons in Cataclysm was the hour of twilight dungeons introduced near the end of the expansion. I am still a little bit perplexed about the lore behind why Benedictus was a servant of Deathwing (as well as why his betrayal wasn't revealed until he demanded the Dragon Soul for himself), but I love the fight that you get to have with him. I also love his monologue.

Looking For Raid is a wonderful tool that I think was needed for the casual non-raider so that they can see the content of the end story line. It has become a part of my weekly repertoire in collecting valor points. Not that I don't want to also experience normal and heroic difficulty of Dragon Soul mind you. However... I think there is one very important thing missing concerning the end game content. Something that had a lot of potential. A fight with Deathwing in his human form. A fight that wouldn't need to end in his death, but rather a fight that would have ended in him just being beaten back.

It does seem like end game content suffered due to all the resources spent on revamping the 1-60 zones. It also seems like the second half of Cataclysm was rushed due to development on Pandaria. Unlike the end game content in Wrath, the end game content of Cataclysm wasn't the huge climax I was expecting. Deathwings presence was felt everywhere in the beginning, but then it didn't feel so compelling of a climax near the end. Deathwings final cataclysm didn't feel so intimidating as I would have liked it to have been.

If he could have performed the final cataclysm at any time, like it seems to be implied by the Dragon Soul raid, then why was he so eager to siege Wyrmrest when he could have killed everything in one fell swipe? To his knowledge, the dragon soul was lost and he would have planned his final cataclysm without the need to use it. I think that there needed to be a pre-dragonsoul raid; the story line being that it was preventing and delaying Deathwings final cataclysm (a fight with Deathwing in his human form perhaps?). Then afterwards the hour of twilight dungeons could pick up the story line from there and lead us to the siege of Wyrmrest temple as it currently is.

edit: Having his final cataclysm delayed would definitively give him motivation to siege Wyrmrest Temple alongside the recovery of the dragon soul.

All other subjects set aside, the Cataclysm expansion was a success and I think it made a lot of things right in the game. But like this post mortem series has already stated, a lot more still needs to be corrected. I am looking forward to Pandaria and all the new content that it will be introducing. It will aleviate the cataclysm hangover.
one thing that I would like to see the return of is an Entry raid one that is suppost to be the one that everyone does frist.

BC had it with kara
LK had it with Naxx & The black dragon shrine one.
Cata had 3 raids with no clear route in which to do them.

I liked cata the frist 2 sets of heroics were great the end times ones remind me way too much of the easymode that was LK.

also give people a reason to Not use LFD there is no reason as of now to not use it you only get valor if you use it.
It's pretty hard to beleive anything Blizzard says any more.
The plan for this expansion was faster releases. What we got was similarly paced releases with less content.

More importantly why buy into the hype when the lies that were the promises for this expansion have not yet been addressed.
More Raid Content than Ever Before
Enjoy more high-level raid content than previous expansions, with optional more challenging versions of all encounters.

I'm sorry... I just can't buy into the hype when all Blizzard does now-a-days is generate more hype that fails to deliver. So how about it Blizz... Are you guys going to explain about your real failures? Why only raid 28 Bosses?

All things considered, we’re happy with the healing model. We encountered issues with mana being in short supply at lower gear levels and conversely too abundant at the higher levels, eliminating much of the challenge for healers when the content is supposed to be the most difficult, but overall the model did what we wanted, and we’ll be refining it in Mists.

As a 7+ year healer, I cannot express how much I disagree with this statement. Cataclysm healing made healing obsolete. Healers no longer have the power to alter the course of a fight. When players play bad now, they just die. Damage is either healable or not and our heals are now too weak relative to health pools to matter at all. Also, for the entirety of the expansion (from T11 Heroics onward) healing has been 1 big AoE spamfest with the occasional gimmick healing fight thrown in. I haven't had to think about who I heal for a long time now, just target groups with the lowest HP and spam PoH... Wow healing is not fun nor rewarding and the instant queues that healers are getting is proof that I am not the only one who feels this way.
Count me as someone pleasantly surprised by the quality of this post-mortem.

Personally, I was very excited by the way Cataclysm began and am pretty disappointed as to what I consider to be an anticlimactic ending in terms of the DS raid, the latest "heroics", and the one raid per tier pattern that has emerged.

For the sake of the game and the community, I hope that Ghostcrawler can achieve his objectives.
  • Dungeons and raids need to have a certain level of progression. Blizzard keeps reiterating that there's not enough content to go around to appease players and that they want to change that. The irony here is that there's plenty of content, but players are skipping it. You can go straight to Dragon Soul without doing the lower raids or even all of the heroics. There are no keys, no quests, nothing else required, just your gear and the queue line. Make players do heroics and lower raids first before allowing them to progress further into the harder stuff. Bring back quest chains that force you to do heroics for keys to higher dungeons. Access to tough raids and other places of the world should be an accomplishment, not an entitlement. Make players earn.

  • Make pulls harder and monsters more intelligent, dungeons and world abroad. Remember in older dungeons, when on occasion you had to wait an agonizing ten seconds (gasp!) for one pack of monsters to patrol away from the other? It felt like a challenge, it felt like you were really there, and it made you play the role of your character more. Bring those pulls and those elements of difficulty back. Sometimes it's the little intricacies that count for the feeling of accomplishment and realism. Challenge players, do not spoonfeed them. We are smarter than you think. Make us earn those items at the end of the dungeon and we'll appreciate it that much more.

  • Also, dungeons don't always have to include the hardest boss with the most uniquely invented new abilities. Mix dungeons up. Make the trash hard but the boss fights easy. Make an entire dungeon vast in size but make the pulls concise and simple so that you can complete it within a regular time frame. Dungeons should feel scary and feel real, they should have the feel of the zone they're in but with thicker syrup. Their themes need to be emotionally meaningful. Give players reason to explore dungeons, make players want to explore them because they zone quests they've completed are just so cool that they can't wait. Make long quest chains end their climax in a dungeon. Make players want to venture into a dungeon for more reasons than gear. Quests and lore are the greatest venue to get players involved and to get players caring.

  • The prime reason people aren't exploring the world is they feel there's no gain associated with venturing the open plains. Grinding is a term seldom used these days and that's because most folks rarely do it. Players no longer grind because they feel like they're not working towards a goal. We need to be incentivizing players to play their character in the fashion they want. The game needs more closely packed monsters and camps of monsters out in the real world. The game must feel dynamic and challenging. Taking down a camp full of scheming, evil Twilight Cultists is fun, and even more so when it rewards skill and risk with a nifty treasure chest. Treasure chests are random and unpredictible; this is a wonderful thing. The moment feel righteous and magical when you stumble upon a treasure chest filled with special items. Keep chests a part of the larger world, perhaps even allow certain items to drop only from treasure chests. The game collectively needs more BoE items. Rares, purples, and profession patterns. The risk, the soul of the gamble, is what made grinding fun in classic WoW because there were hoardes of BoE items to be found, used or sold. Some patterns and equipment were world drops only, which made them sharply valued and highly prized. There were once patterns for all of the professions to be found in the open world. You had reason to save and use your acquired gold. Grinding monsters, experiencing your class in its purest form, was once a huge part of the game and needs to come back. Make monsters camps numerous and difficult to traverse. With each patch released, better rares, purples, and profession patterns need to be released as well. They need to stay relevant and purposeful.

  • People don't grind like they used to. This is one of the reasons people clamor for loose cloth. From an economics standpoint in regard to player interaction, trade, and the auction house, BoE items are a spectacular thing! They encourage the accumulation of gold and a balanced server economy, encourage grinding and killing monsters, doing quests, dailies, teaming up with friends, and it encouarges players to be out there in the world. Bring some of the gamble back, the unpredictability of the mysterious world. We need players out in the World of Warcraft, not standing around in capital cities.

  • Return open world bosses. Want to get players out of the city and into the world for some good old fashioned exploration and world PvP? Bring back reasons to explore the world. Bring back outdoor raid bosses. You'll get players competing for the kill and having fun in no time. This is a wonderful mixture of PvE and PvP. Players will have a blast. Rare elites and rare monsters that drop specific items are a great way to get players involved in the open world.

  • Longer, move involved quest chains that establish a bond between the character and the questgiver. Make the player feel like they're really a Paladin or Warlock, what have you. Quest chains that take you into other zones and even cross continent are a missing link. Give players reason to venture the world! Make them travel to complete their objectives. Don't centralize a platoon of quests within thirty yards of eachother that all involve the same scenery. Spread things out. Bring back class specific quests with keyboard-smashing difficulty. I'm talking classic Charger and Dreadsteed chains here. These types of long progressive quests will add flavor and a sense of achievement. Also, quests that start as a drop from random monsters are beautiful. We're venturing through a world of mystery, magic, and a millenia of lore from hundreds of races and beings. We should be finding all types of cool items, not just greens and cloth. The element of random is crucial. Spread monsters out, spread out the towns and the friendly NPCs. Stop thinking about the 'efficiency' model (like having the Horde and Alliance camps near eachother) when trying to create something that is fun. Get efficiency out of your heads. Think about fun factor and rewarding risk when designing the game.

  • Group quests are another missing link. Everything is solo these days, from dailies to professions, reputation grinds, and even quests that once involved the killing of elites have been downgraded to normal monsters. Remember when elite monsters, the golden dragon around the icon, used to mean something? Now even dungeons and raids can be done all by your lonesome via queue; I'm not being cynical about the raid and dungeon finder, they are needed additions to the game, but they shouldn't be the only avenues for socialization. We need group-oriented themes and styles of play. This is a social game, and the game is even more fun when you're with your friends. Doing a quest with your buddies is one hundred times more fun than doing quests with strangers you won't meet again. It's hard, nigh impossible, to establish goods friends cross-realm.

  • In regard to gear acquisition, I am a believer that relatively speaking, more boss drops and less vendor bought items can only be a good thing. It rewards taking chances and rewards the teamwork required to kill tough monsters. Sure, there should still be vendors to provide you with upgrades, but vendor bought items should feel like an elusive missig link to your chain rather than constituting the entire chain itself. How you could accomplish this without creating unrest in players who want to gear up quick, I'm not sure, but the idea is sound. Random dungeon specific zone drops are fun, as are boss drops. Make them a significantly larger part of the loot model.

  • Not to de-incentivize end game play here, but one of the reasons people rush through dungeons rather than enjoy them at a leisurely pace because they know there's points waiting (via RDF) at the end of the dungeon. People want to maximize their points-per-hour because they know their biggest gain of gear comes from vendors, not bosses. Compare this to Burning Crusade's model as an alternative. You want the awesome tanking sword from The Mechanar? Well, you can only do it once per day. Fast or slow, it's only once a day. From an emotional and mental perspective, people enjoyed the older dungeons more because they took their time and didn't rush, or, at least they didn't rush to the degree they do today. Take away the incentive to fly through dungeons by reducing the amount of gear from vendors and the points awarded.

  • Contrary to initial belief, the game needs more zones, nooks, crannies, caves and places without specific purpose. Places to explore and adventure through that have no direct reason for existing but are filled with snickering monsters. Hearthglen and Tyr's Hand from classic are a great example; people used to farm there for hours just for fun. Make camps of high level elites (and I mean real elites, not normals with a dragonized icon) that exist for no reason other than to be farmed for gold, cloth, and random world epics. People want to explore and forge their own destiny with their own characters in their own way. Players won't always enjoy following a stoic quest chain or doing the same old daily. Blizzard should incentivize players to play their own game in their own fashion, by littering pathways with the tools players need to forge their own adventure.
  • So it seems to me that there were 3 issues with heroics - two of which were conflicting.

    1. Some people wanted to log on and have a somewhat challenging but not too stressful dungeon crawl (I'm like that sometimes myself)
    2. Some people wanted a challenge that required them to really know their class and use their abilities to the most. (I'm like that sometimes, but this doesn't mesh well with LFD - challenging content with a bunch of total strangers leads to, well, the troll heroics)
    3. Some people just wanted gear and points to improve their character.

    1 and 2 are in direct conflict, and 3 can be incompatible with 2 if people decide they NEED that gear/points but aren't up to the challenge of the content.

    Some suggestions:

    Raise the minimum ilvl to Queue for heroics. If a guild wants to outfit a newbie, let them enter the instance directly. iLvl of queuers should be higher than the expected level for a dungeon in order to compensate for the loss of coordination.

    Give Challenge modes nice rewards that others don't feel they need to progress through the content. That way they are solely for people who want the challenge - sounds like that's your intent anyway.

    'Scale' damage and health in *normals* to prevent casual players from trivializing them too much. Someone wants a light challenge? Let them do a normal that scales with a group's ilvl until the next expansion when they exceed the current expansion's max ilvl. This gives you progression (points for gear), consistent level of challenge, the normals get easier because you get more experience with them, and you can 'dominate' them once you've moved on to the next expansion. It doesn't even have to be a consistent level of challenge - say, scale down all of a player's ilvl over the instance minimum by 50%. The point is that you can enter heroics now, but your gear doesn't trivialize the normals you earned it in.

    Provide different rewards for different types of dungeons. Maybe normals are the only way you get faction rep so you run them for that purpose (and get plenty of instance knowledge in the meantime). Maybe the final boss of each normal drops a random item that can be used to gain one skill point in a profession - perhaps it doesn't allow you to hit this expansion's max, but let's you get 'caught up' similarly to the way you can fish in any fishing node regardless of your skill level.
    Written well and a really clear analysis. I agree with a lot of his points, and I appreciate the insight on stuff like the Abyssal Maw.

    Mostly I enjoyed him admitting though that bad players cried, so content was nerfed to accomodate the lowest common denominator.
    Great Post GC.  I am stoked about MoP and want to discuss one of my main concerns that you didn’t speak on in this post: 10 v 25 man raiding.  I’m a mage in a very successful, highly ranked US 10 man guild.  I’m actually very content with the difficulty of Dragon Soul from 10 v 25 man so I’ll ignore that idea for the remainder of this post.  What I’d like to discuss, and I’m stealing your line, is the ‘punishingly random’ loot distribution in raids, particularly in 10 man raiding.
    Random loot is random has long been the tradition of MMO’s but who’s to say it’s a tradition worth holding onto?  Consider the average item level of a 25 man guild and a 10 man guild that are equivalent in accomplishment (i.e. defeating the same bosses in relatively the same amount of time.)  Below are our current (3/7/12) equipped item levels.  I cannot accurately capture a 25 man guild’s numbers but these are ours: 
    Avg 403, does this seem low to you? It seems low to me.
    Here is a list of the number of our Heroic kills as of 3/7/12. 
    We make swaps to maximize potential gear pickups for each and every boss.  However, for our troubles we’re often rewarded with gear that cannot be used because the player in the raid that can use it already has it (we have the bad luck of seeing more than our fair share of Protector tokens,) or the player that can use the item already has something better.  It is rare when someone simply cannot use the item that is present in the raid.  The main example of the latter example is rogue daggers for this tier.  I understand the purpose of daggers/axes in the instance (not each rogue is getting a legendary soon,) but in a 10 man these benefits, (excluding 10 mans that are running more than 1 Rogue,) aren’t perceived as helpful.  We don’t run an Enhancement Shaman but our Restoration Shaman has both 416 axes and nearly a full set of 410 gear.  Her off-spec gear she never intended on playing has a higher item level than my main.
    So what’s the solution?  I think Firestones went down a path Blizzard didn’t end up loving but the idea of having one item any player could use because they can transform something they already have is a good start. 
    I think the idea of getting an item your raid would disenchant normally and being empowered as a raid leader to transform that item into one other item (not any item mind you) would reduce the rot-rate of 10 man gear.  I think 25 mans could use this, but this would only reduce their current rot-rate further.  (Not a terrible thing!)     
    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.

    You are EXACTLY right. The healers were punished by the playerbase and all GC did was say

    " I don’t believe that the instances were too hard; it’s obvious there are players who enjoy that content. "

    Your right GC - its not too hard - but pushing your playerbase to do it YOUR way is not the way WE want to do it! I don't want to have a job from 5pm till 10pm five nights a week trying to heal. No, I want to come home, crack a cold one, throw on my headset and run with people through some dungeons without 5 hours later only clearing two instances!!!

    I've called for it numerous times and I'll do it again. Put up a poll, an official poll, from you GC asking us what WE want and what WE, the bill payers think.

    Use the annoying "GM Survery" layout in game. I bet 80+% of the people who get the request for input will tell you what they think.

    You always seem to go back to the "forums" to get your reactions. But what about the people in game who don't bother with the forums and just /quit. What about their input? Personally I don't blame them for not posting on the forums with the "umadbro?" and "then quit n00b!" remarks that comes out of the community. Yet - it happens.

    From a development standpoint if my customers came to me in mass and said something is wrong and I took as long as you and your "dev" team did to address it I would have been holding a box with all my stuff out on the curb.

    All I ask is that you ask the community in whole what they think without resorting to the forums for your input - negative or positive.
    Very nice blog.

    I would very much appreciate a change to farming professions (mining, herbing) to make them more viable, that I feel support the two primary main objectives of getting people out in the world and giving players something to do.

    A second goal is to provide more varied profession bonuses to 1) provide greater choice in the buff, and 2) make them more raid viable. Professions should feel like a choice, not a requirement. I don't feel that mining and herbalism are too great of a choice for most specs.

    Specifically, I'd like to see ore that is mined be able to be powdered into dust, which is then imbued by magial panaren/ethereals to use as a profession buff but similar to flasks (persists on death), or synapse springs/embroideries (consumable).

    Second I'd like to see herbs made into tea or poultices which provide a similar function. Different teas give different buffs. Poutices could provide the same, but function like springs/embroideries.

    This would give farming professions some raid use, and give some folks a few things to do while waiting in queue. It gets them doing stuff, outside the city in the world. Farming for 20 minutes in queue isn't a bad thing, and it beats just standing around.
    I just wanted to say that was a much better done 'Post-Mortem' article. I felt you were very honest with the achievements/fallbacks of Cataclysm. I do wish the other 2 articles were just as honest.

    I can't wait for MoP, keep at it.
    From a development standpoint if my customers came to me in mass and said something is wrong and I took as long as you and your "dev" team did to address it I would have been holding a box with all my stuff out on the curb.

    You must have completely overlooked the point he made about 1/2 of our player base wants A and the other 1/2 wants B. Your proposed poll really would produce what is already known, there is a diverse player base who will response with a variety of wants.

    I was capable of healing all 5 man content on release. It was something I did for perhaps 3 weeks before moving into raiding. You and I can do a poll, we're going to provide different feedback. If the poll were expaned, you think you have a majority, but I'm not sure it's as big as you think it is.
    I would have liked to seen more commentary about the fact that PvP was kind of butchered. It felt like PvP was only acknowledged in passing, or as a token. There was no real acknowledgement of the major issues Cata caused with PvP gameplay.

    I liked most of the PvE-related things I read.

    I would like to know if Challenge Mode will actually have different HP/DMG and different mechanics from normal dungeons. Blizzcon gave me the impression that all Challenge Mode meant was doing the normal dungeon fast. So I was kind of bored with the idea.

    But if you are actually going to tune mechanics, then I love it.
    Great read, at last the problems are seeming to be adressed. I think the only thing that needs to be looked into is that possibility of challenge mode offering slightly higher level gear or something that makes it a bit more worth the time other than a couple achievements. Also, i do think the point system needs a change away from the cap of every week. The questing idea sounded pretty good, and any change would honestly be better than knowing there's a limit of how much u can do with a cause in a week. All the goals seemed great and I'm actually somewhat excited now for Mists of Pandaria; cant wait til March 19th!
    I'm very excited that they're planning to keep going with the LFR. It really is perfect for my schedule. Going to go ahead and admit it, but this little write up gave me a little more confidence for MOP. Still don't like pandas though. :p
    Great read! I'm happy to see that Blizz is aware of the issues that have plagued Cataclysm. I'm looking forward to seeing what will be done to fix these issues in Mists. Going back to a continent is a great start though :)

    03/07/2012 09:20 AMPosted by Antiph
    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.

    Ulduar was a great raid, I hope we see MoP raids using the Ulduar Model.

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