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BlizzCon 2013/WoW John LaGrave interview

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< BlizzCon 2013

On the second day of BlizzCon 2013, Bigscholar (Miguel Lopez, Programming Manager for Video Games on Wikia), Raylan13 (Tom), and Fandyllic (James) had the pleasure of doing an interview with Blizzard Entertainment's John Lagrave, senior producer for World of Warcraft.
Here is a transcript (some minor bits will be edited just to clean out cruft)

Legend: (R) = Raylan13, (M) = Bigscholar/Miguel, and (F) = Fandyllic

Q (R): I guess I'll start things off here. For garrisons, I'm an alt fanatic and I'm looking at the Alliance and the Horde ones (garrison buildings) and so you have essentially human architecture and orc architecture. Is there going to be any other racial architectures?
A: There is not, and the reason for that — it's a good question: where's by troll architecture? where's my dwarf architecture? The reason for that is, you want the game out. The reality is that, it's a challenge. Those buildings... It's a lot of work for our artists to generate and simply looking at our schedule and — I mean, garrisons are blown out huge &mdash there's a lot of stuff in there in terms of just art, in terms of the building we're going to generate. If we started started doing variants for each one of the races, we woudn't get the game out for years. So the reality is that you probably want to play garrisons, rather than just wait for us to do another troll hut. So we're not going to do that.
You're gonna get the two faction art sets, but that's it.
Q (R): And along the same lines with garrisons, I know that they mentioned you can see your pets running around or something like that.
A: Yeah, there's gonna be stables for your mounts. Those are going to be the mounts that you own. And so you're gonna have the pets. So, garrisons is crazy, you're gonna have your pet trainers, so you're gonna be able to do your pet battles and that kind of stuff too. So, I don't know if we're gonna do any pet capturing in there, but I wouldn't be surprised if I heard from Cory later that, yeah of course we're doing that. I'll go, how are we going to do that? Oh we'll figure it out.
Q (M): Can I do a quick followup? So will you be able to see other players' garrisons in the world?
A: Yeah, that is the great question. So you're going to be able to see other garrisons. You absolutely are. You're not going to be able to see everybody else's garrisons and the reason for this is — imagine you have 13,000 active characters on a realm. Literally the memory space to hold all of that, and even if we do very smart things about how we load in that stuff such that it's relevant for me to know about all my guild or all my faction. It's such a hit to the servers that have to run the game, such that we can't. So you will be able to see others, but how much of that is to be determined. But it's going to be really winnowed down. It has to be, just because you want to not have a slide show moving through this thing. You want to be able to see the sweeping expanse of the garrisons.
Q (F): We were speculating on seeing people in your party or people in your guild...
A: Yeah so if I invite you James (Fandyllic) to my garrison, you're gonna see all of it. Like that's absolutely gonna happen. We're gonna be ab;e to do that. Or if the five of us are in a party and I bring you in, that's the only way it makes sense. But if we say arbitrarily you're gonna be able to spot anyboy else's garrisons, that's not gonna work. It will literally blow us all out. Yeah party members. Do we go to raid? Yeah probably. Something like that is reasonable absolutely for us. Past that is just untenable.
Q (F): So is there allowance for potential guild garrisons?
A: Right now it's personal. Right now your garrison is personal and I don't know where are right now on how much we decide to share between, in your account. Right now I think we are saying — and you might as well quote me at this point and Tom Chilton will say, "No, why did you say that?" — is that it is restricted to the character. Now, the next character that builds a garrison — now obviously we're going to do all the things which we do with any character with alts — is we sit there and say you now have these bonuses when you build your next garrison for that character. But yeah right now it's tied to the character itself.


Q (R): So no new races, no new classes?
A: No, but we're obviously doing all the characters. Again there's resource limitations. Literally, we have a bunch of character artists and what are they doing? They're redoing all the polys on all those starting races. That means the rigs are being touched upon, that means all the animations are being touched upon. That means a ton of time. Those character artists are also making all the monsters in the world, they're doing everything. So there's just a number of resources that we say, hey is that worthwhile. Plus, we think that — not that that's enough — but that's pretty good. It's like: wow that's cool, we're actually going to touch upon those. We're gonna let you have all those.
Q (F): So does this imply that the monster polygon counts and stuff will kind of be... they're gonna try to improve those too in comparison with Mists-Logo-Small Mists of Pandaria?
A: You'll definitely see the improved polys on all those kind of things. And then there's the balance on — so I'll put on my... or if I listen to my technical director and he says back off on the polys — so there's the balance. So we're doing... Folks are asking about what engine improvements you can see for World of Warcraft. Well it's really mostly backend, because we're having to take those character models like the pandarens — those are very high quality models — and now we have to support alot of them. Like you're in Stormwind and there's alot of characters in there — they're all high poly. Then we're gonna put all the NPCs in — they're all high poly — and yet you still want 60 frames a second on your machine. How do we support that? That's alot of backend work on the game. A tremendous amount of backend work on the game. How we swap in and out models, what resolution is on those models when we're drawing them at full poly vs lower poly, all that kind of work. And that's the hell that our awesome game engine guys have to deal with. And they are fantastic.
Q (R): Ashran, the new PvP zone. It's describes as an ongoing faction war kinda like old Alterac Valley, but what exactly does that mean, "ongoing"? Will you have a timer?
A: That I can't answer. I can answer the other end of that which I thought you were going to ask.
Q (M): Will there be a queue?
A: There won't be. So, the notion is that if two things move into it... We are, we're getting rid of the notion of zoning. There's no need for a queue, because you're gonna be basically moving through an area and we're going to seamlessly instance into that... put you into that instance. So you'll never have the impression that you're ever going in and out of a world zone. So there's no need for the notion of queuing, because you're always in it. In fact, we're doing a bunch of fancy (stuff) with that stuff on the back end that allows you to do that kind of stuff. Anyway, so are we going to have a timer in there? Well there's gonna be the notions of: how is it that my side has won... there's going to metrics and there's obviously going to be some kind of limiter that's says, did you achieve X in Y? and is that did you achieve number of kills in minutes or did you achieve number of resources in the week or whatever it is. Often that's the case, but those I have virtually no knowledge. I don't know where we are.
Q (F): So it won't be like most battlegrounds, or even Wintergrasp, where it kind of pops up some status? Will it be like an in-world status like they were talking about the flags?
A: There will be. Like we're doing a lot of... that's a good question. There's going to be that and there's also going to be UI status. Certainly we're working on both the PvP UI, quite a bit for arena, and world zone battleground kind of stuff. And we'll obviously do, when we do it in world, we'll do it when it's relevant. So literally as you cross that seamless boundary and suddenly you're instanced, you're UI is going to pop up.
Q (F): Will that mean that other players, sort of like with the farm, certain players will kind of fade out, if you're trying to watch... because they become instanced?
A: The farm was ghetto in that respect. So the farm was done... the farm was awesome, and I love the farm. The farm was setup without alot of smart thought about how... I gotta backtrack. And I'll be super brief, because this is super boring. The way the farm was set up is that you're in an area and I mark all you guys as invisible to me. So you're all in the same area, but I'm... I can't see you. The problem is that when you — and you can tell I'm an engineering guy — the problem is that the server has to... just because it is invisible says that you may interact with them, so I'm going to send you all the data from everybody else there. So we eventually had the farm and everybody was invisible to everybody else... holy crud, that means on that virtual server area was, that means that everybody was getting the data from everybody else and you'd watch the performance crumble, the CPUs would spike, and the memory would peg out and everything. So we ended up doing a round-robin phasing where we said that — and that's what go weird — is that we said that you could go into 5 or actually it was 30 different phases and so occasionally every once in a awhile I saw you or didn't see you because it was that weird phasing that was happening — and sometimes phasing has a few bugs. And sometimes that was very weird was that I would see you and I'd be like trying to talk to you but it was just like old world phasing and it's that it didn't work. We're not doing any of that stuff here. That old world farm stuff... phasing stuff, yeah, that was... we found out a little too late when we found out how that was being implemented how to fix it, but all the stuff is all gone... all gone. Never again. Not on my watch.
Q (F): Maybe I'll ask about the zone scaling thing. So, some of our users are asking if... I guess there's some cases where with like the Flex raid we scale raid's difficulty and stuff... Is there any, maybe far off plans, to just scale like zones and questing? So like if you want to go back to an old zone, like for a level 20, and you're like level 90, whatever, so that it would scale you so you can do these quests without them being to easy to make them more challenging?
A: We can modify some tech to do that stuff, but tell the user to ask that... Yeah that's definitely a possibility. We haven't actually decided to do that, but technically it could be achieved.
Q (F): Another kind of future thing. So garrisons in more of an NPC oriented kind of thing. Is there any future plans for maybe to allow players to create quests for other players?
A: Ahh, player generated content. Player generated content is awesome and bad. It's awesome in that when it's great, it's great. One of the things I loved in a game called Neverwinter (Nights) was they had their own — just like in Starcraft — they had their own map editor. And you could get some great little dungeons that were created in Neverwinter, they were so much fun. Just like in Starcraft, they made some great maps. The problem is that 99.9% of some of that stuff is not good. So, yes we could certainly do that. We could certainly generate an editor and put it out to the world and say hey, make your own quests. There are going to be some people who are incredibly creative and make some awesome stuff and there's going to be all the cruft. The problem is that you have to sift through all the cruft to find that. You can get the player community to literally say what's good, what's bad and you can look at that and refine that and all that. It's alot of work. What's better for us — and hey we're not... we're far from perfect on anything that we ever generate, quest included — you look at early WoW quests and you like cringe... truly cringe. It's better for us just to be better. Demand more from our guys. Say more of what we like and don't like and get those guys to be better.
Q (F): So now I guess I'll do a few lore questions...
A: Oh god...
Q (M): If you're gonna do that let me throw in some some German community questions (translated)... Is Stormwind an absolute or feudal monarchy? What kind of feudal system to they have?
A: WoW... Is Stormwind an absolute or feudal monarchy? ...I think it's an absolute, but watch Chris Metzen: No, an absolute... I'd have to say it's an absolute monarchy... That's a doozy, but yeah, I'm gonna have to go with what I answered.
Q (M): What about the situation with Gnomeregan after the short story? What will the future hold for them? Will there ever be gnome hunters?
A: Yeah... And you know what I'm not going to reveal any spoilers. I'm sorry.
(F): Okay that's still good. That means it's being thought of.
A: All that stuff is being thought of.
Q (M): Is the faith of Light something more at the fringes of being a blood elf or is it... Oh wait, this not the blood elf... This is translated from German so... Is it possible for a blood elf to reverse fel corruption by means of Light and self-discipline? As in, getting the blue eyes back or do you not have to have been a blood elf for that?
A: WoW... I can't answer that. I mean that's a great question.
(F): That's like a blood elf making themselves into a high elf?
A: Yeah, I mean let me ask Chris (Metzen) on momday and I'll tell you if I get an answer.
Q (F): I'll ask you a lore question that's related to Warlords, so you may be able to answer it. So there's the whole thing with Garrosh goes back in time somehow which hasn't been revealed yet. But what do players do when they try to go through the Dark Portal? Do they get to choose or...?
A: Oh well, okay, so we'll be smart about that. That's more of a mechanics question than a lore question, but it has to be lore driven. Like if you're level 58 and you want to go into Outland, you're gonna be able to go into Outland. If you're level 58 and you want to go into Draenor, you're not going into Draenor, so there's level bounding on that. There's some backend tech that... what do I reveal there... Surprisingly on your account there's lots of stuff that you would never know about that we do to tag on who you are and what you are and what you're able to do. So it's also limited that way. So that's done. It certainly makes sense from the lore because what we want to do is take your level 90s and say, hey now its part of this new world. So there will be events you'll see with the Dark Portal and that will very much clue you in. And that's all to be revealed later on.
Q (F): So it will be alot like how Mists of Pandaria introduced Pandaria?
A: Yeah, there's going to be that kind of stuff. Same idea. And really, with any of our expansions we do alot... well, not alot... we do some teasing in the next expansion with stuff that's occurring in this world. We'll do the same thing there. And, you'll see it in the beta, of course.
Last questions...
Q (F): Will anyone ever see Kezan again? Okay let's skip to... Okay how about Illidan, is he ever going to come back?
A: I would love... Let me say this... I... I'm a big proponent of Illidan coming back. He has a champion on WoW side.

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