Greater Rift Design Philosophy, Careers at Curse

Shaman Meta, Hearthstone Championship Tour & Prelims - Value Town #107

Activision Blizzard Earnings Call
The quarterly Activision Blizzard earnings call was today:

  • Activision Blizzard had 447 million Monthly Active Users (MAUs) in the quarter
  • Blizzard had its highest annual MAUs in 2016 at 36 million, up 37% from 2015 and up 87% since 2014.
  • Blizzard achieved record fourth-quarter MAUsA of 41 million.
  • Overwatch became Blizzard’s fastest game ever to reach over 25 million players globally.
  • Overwatch broke the previous launch year record for unit sales set by Diablo III in 2012 and received 55 “Game of the Year” awards.
  • Overwatch had its second and third seasonal events, Halloween Terror and Winter Wonderland, each one driving new records for engagement with the game.
  • World of Warcraft MAUs grew 10% in 2016 and over 20% year-over-year in the fourth quarter on the back of the successful third-quarter launch of Legion.
  • World of Warcraft saw an increase in total play time for the quarter, surpassing the Q3 expansion launch quarter and all non-launch quarters in the last four years.
  • Hearthstone had its highest annual MAUs in 2016, growing more than 20%.
  • Blizzard’s fourth-quarter play time surpassed the previous record set in the third quarter.
  • Blizzard had record levels of quarterly and full-year in-game revenues, driven by World of Warcraft in-game content and continued strength of Overwatch customization items.
  • Activision Blizzard revenues from in-game content reached a record $3.6 billion in 2016, more than double the $1.6 billion in 2015. Excluding King, revenues from in-game content grew 30% year-over-year.

Patch 7.1.5 Hotfixes - February 9

Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
Dungeons and Raids

  • The Nighthold
    • Star Augur Etraeus
    • The following abilities’ damage have been lowered by 33%, and scale up to 1.5x their new values for Raid Finder, Normal, and Heroic difficulties:
      • Coronal Ejection
      • Shatter
      • Fel Impact
      • Comet Impact
      • Iceburst
      • Felburst

    • Developers’ notes: These changes are aimed at reducing the difficulty of the Star Augur Etraeus encounter for smaller raid groups, which may have fewer tools to deal with the damage output of these mechanics, without significantly changing anything for large groups.


  • All versions of "Crushing the Crown" should now grant the achievement "Dangerous Love."

Player versus Player

  • Monk
    • (Hotfix in testing) Incendiary Brew will no longer be removed after a Breath of Fire cast.
    • (Hotfix in testing) Dragonfire Brew's area of effect now matches Breath of Fire.
    • (Hotfix in testing) Double Barrel now gains the benefit of the Smashed artifact trait.

Developer Communication Improvements

Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
We've been working extremely hard to improve communication. I'm sorry that you're not seeing all of it, so here's a short off-the-top-of-my-head rundown of what we've done in just the past month:

1) Increased Blizzard presence on the PTR forums at least 10-fold compared to 7.1.5
2) Added the Class Development forum to discuss changes that aren't necessarily tied to the PTR
3) More than tripled the frequency of responses via WarcraftDevs compared to the 7.1.5 timeframe
4) Re-introduced the PTR Patch Notes
5) Started posting PTR Development Notes to give insight into what each build is bringing
6) Made significant changes to Community team structure, and formed a team dedicated entirely to developer communications (on the PTR and Class Development forums, that's Kaivax and me)
7) Revamped several of our internal feedback delivery processes to make sure that when you post something, the developers see it
8) Significantly increased the rate of communication between our Community and development teams, so that CM's can be much more informed on the changes to the game (and take on more of the burden of communication ourselves)

On the list to still do in the next month or so:
1) Significantly increase CM presence on the forums, now that we're more able to answer questions ourselves
2) Begin posting more direct requests for feedback, as 7.2 development has begun to reach a state where we're testing more than just stability (I'll be posting a thread asking for 7.2 Artifact Trait feedback later today)
3) Dramatically increase the rate of live developer Q&As as we get closer to 7.2 release (similar to what we did leading up to Legion launch)
4) Explore new methods for communication, especially for complicated topics like Class Balance or often-overlooked topics like RP, both of which don't fit well into a standard live Q&A
5) Improve our internal knowledge tracking resources so that everyone posting in blue text is on the same page (this sounds a hell of a lot easier than it actually is at a company the size of Blizzard)

Again, I'm really sorry and disappointed that the work we're doing isn't always coming across to you. I'm confident that things will continue to improve, especially as we grow more accustomed to our new processes. A huge part of this is also identifying pain points - you're absolutely right that there are several specs that deserve answers, and we haven't been doing enough to say "yes, that's an issue, we'll talk about it" or "no, we disagree, for these reasons."

I just wanted you to be aware that this is absolutely a priority for us, for the WoW development team, and for Blizzard as a whole. We've been working our butts off to make it happen. I'm sorry it hasn't happened as quickly as all of us may have liked, or possibly in the way that everyone was expecting, but I do think we've improved fairly dramatically since 7.1.5, and we will continue to do so.

After over a year of feedback from people talking about how much people dislike Vulnerable, we should never see a tweet like this one from Muffinus:
To clarify this - Muffinus is a great guy who does a lot of really important work on WoW, but is not on the class design team. What you saw in that tweet was him just trying to find out what the issue was so that he, as a swell dude who wants to help, could ask the class devs about it. It was very much not "the guy who makes Hunters didn't know what Hunters were upset about."

Also a quick suggestion to add to new patch notes: Stealth Changes. NEVER DO THIS. EVER. We will find them and call you guys (the devs) out on them. Please do document ALL changes, even if it's a 0.01% change; at least put them in an "extened patch notes" that are readily available.
This is absolutely, categorically, unfailingly and without exception, NEVER intentional. Most commonly, it happens because something simply got missed (see my previous note about revamping internal communication processes). Other times, it happens because a simple bugfix has unforeseen consequences.

I just wanted to be clear that "lets nerf this spec and just not tell them" is not a strategy we employ. As you said, even if we wanted to, it wouldn't work anyway.

Can Healers please receive dev attention?

Everything we see, everything we read, all feedback, all dev posts, it is always about DPS.

Why do the devs ignore Healer feedback and focus only on DPS?

You totally read my mind. I've lately been asking this same question.

The answer seems to be kind of simple: with activities like healing or maintaining aggro or crowd control, a spec either has the capacity to do enough, or it doesn't. There's a sort of binary "working or not working" aspect to it. Yes, healing is much more complicated than activating a taunt every time it's up, but in general, you don't see many healers pointing at healing meters and feeling bad. They have the capacity to do enough healing. Also, there's constantly a cap on how much effective healing you can do.

But there are some concerns, and we're keeping an eye out for them here and elsewhere. I've observed discussion among our class designers about all six healing specs at some point over the last month, and of course, it was abundant during development of patch 7.1.5 (November and December).

Here are some threads in this forum that we've been following:

Class Changes in Patch 7.2

Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
We're planning to have relatively minimal changes to core class design in 7.2. This is for two primary reasons:

  • The 7.2 changes and additions to Artifact Traits will have a lot of impact on classes, and so we'd like to keep core functionality relatively stable
  • We just made a very significant amount of changes to most specs in 7.1.5, and don't want to pile another heap of changes on the community just yet.

That's not to say that there won't be any class changes in 7.2, just that it's not a major focus of the patch the same way it was in 7.1.5. As someone mentioned above, our strategy for Legion is to keep those sorts of heavy class changes to 7.x.5-level patches.

I should add, however, that we're already getting fairly deep into discussions on what might happen in one such future patch, so please keep the feedback coming. Kaivax alluded to some of those discussions regarding Unholy in an earlier post, for example.

I also wanted to address this specifically, since it's the sort of thing that hasn't really been visible outside of here at the office:

Their class team egos are way too large to realize that they aren't all knowing and haven't created the perfect classes that exactly fit the class fantasy and play perfectly.
We have conversations literally every day about things that could have or should have been done differently, and things to want to change in the future. Just because we're overall happy with class balance as a nebulous concept at the moment doesn't mean we don't recognize that there are still issues to address.

Does this mean no tuning changes are imminent? If so that's heartbreaking to some classes like mages. We need to know soon so the rerolls can commence.
Tuning changes are done primarily via hotfix these days (excepting the ones that need to be done after core mechanical changes are made). So no, that's not what that means.

I already gave up on expecting a major revision to Hunters this expansion.
We are not planning to completely re-design Hunters this expansion.

We are, however, regularly discussing the feedback we're seeing on things like Vulnerable with the intention of finding ways to improve the situation.

Blue Posts

Originally Posted by Blizzard Entertainment
WoW Token to Battle.Net Balance Live in EU
This service is now live in Europe, so you can convert your WoW Tokens into Balance (€13/£10). (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)

Talent Choices
In my opinion talents from the tree should provide interesting choices. I don't really see how Rune of power, Incanter's flow, Erosion, Lonely Winter, Bone chilling and Arctic Gale are supposed to be fun or interesting.

In most cases you just pick these talents to improve a different talent: for example you always pick Rune of power together with Overpowered.

Why not just buff spells or talents that are used with flat damage talents, remove those talents and replace them with actual spells or effects that are fun to play with?

I'd actually argue that the Mirror Image/Rune of Power/Incanter's Flow row fits in line pretty well with how talent rows (at least those focused on throughput) should work. You've got:

  • One option that's tough to use but highly effective when used well (Rune of Power)
  • One that's pretty straightforward but still allows for a little bit of optimization (Incanter's Flow)
  • And one that's very simple and reliable, even if it doesn't always have the same maximum potential as the other options (Mirror Image).

Not all rows are designed that way - sometimes it's a choice between single target and AoE, sometimes it's a choice between different types of movement, and sometimes we mix several types of options together to try to create tough choices - but in general, we like that sort of interaction.

One thing we haven't always gotten across clearly is that we don't expect all types of players to enjoy all types of talents. If you're a top-tier Mage running Mythic Nighthold, and can use Rune of Power effectively (finding opportune moments to drop it and saving procs, cooldowns, etc for those moments), it's okay if you're using it on every encounter.

We try to make sure there's at least some variation in the tree somewhere (e.g. maybe you prefer Arcane Orb instead of Overpowered on a fight like Skorpyron), but it's okay if you settle on a set of talents you feel are the "best." Chances are high that they're not the best for everyone, and that's the sort of character customization that systems like the talent tree can do well.

I agree with variation and I think mostly it works fairly well, however....

What about where a talent is still mandatory, and you won't ever see anyone Raiding using anything else* Isn't that a case of a design flaw, and something that you'd think would of been corrected by now by adjusting the other two talents (I say adjust, rather than just nerf the current best one, so its useless, and the others become good by comparison)

I'll throw an easy example out there, Marksman Hunter, Lone Wolf...

I wouldn't necessarily call it a design flaw. There's a few talents that we don't expect people to take in PvE, but are very popular in PvP (Mistwalk comes to mind, although it might be TOO strong in PvP at the moment). There's some talents that a top-tier Mythic raider might find mandatory, but a more average player might be better served taking something easier to use. Rune of Power is a good example there, I think.

That said, when nearly everyone (in all aspects of gameplay, not just raiding) is taking a talent, then yeah, there's probably something wrong there. Occasionally it's that one talent is too good, and occasionally it's that the others are too weak. Those are -- usually -- the places we look at when making talent changes.

Lone Wolf is kind of a unique snowflake. Early on in Legion development, we actually removed pets from Marksmanship Hunters entirely. We got a lot of feedback from players excited to have the "pet-free" playstyle, but there were some who still wanted to be able to play Marksmanship with a pet. There were also some secondary concerns about the leveling process; at lower levels, a Hunter without a pet is just at too much of a disadvantage.

We still wanted Marksmanship's "default" playstyle at 110 to be petless, so we brought Lone Wolf back in as a talent, and tuned it to be slightly above average in its row. Players who really wanted to play Marksmanship with a pet could opt into it, but most would lean toward the pet-free playstyle, without feeling like they were "nerfing" themselves for it. (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)

Death Knight (Forums / Skills / Talent Calculator / Artifact Calculator / PvP Talent Calculator)
Unholy Deathknight Feedback
Also remove the rune cost from Army of the Dead so we can use our 10 minute DPS cooldown without gimping our rotation, thanks.

This would be amazing; also that cd needs to be a 5 minute not 10. Putting your idea in OP.

These threads have been read and re-read many times, and I've observed a lot of developer discussion about Unholy, and the suggestion above sticks out as one that really doesn't fit with the rest of the feedback.

Army of the Dead is intended to be the most cool moment for an Unholy Death Knight. It's supposed to be powerful (and it is) and put on a big show where the UDK shines (and it does). Its cooldown and cost provides a lot of that.

I just wanted you to know-- with concerns like Gargoyle feeling too weak or Virulent Plague not doing enough, there are discussions here and potential for something that we might address --but AotD seems too fun to make it less of a big deal for the player.

Thank you for all the feedback and we hope you keep it coming! (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)

Paladin (Forums / Skills / Talent Calculator / Artifact Calculator / PvP Talent Calculator)
Retribution Paladin Feedback
Just wanted to thank you for the productive discussion and useful feedback here.

Something to remember is that we really like the unique mechanics of Retribution. We think the spec provides a lot of flavor and makes for good stories. There's nothing quite like the strong emotional reactions people have to situations where Ret shines in a way that no other spec would have. (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)

Retribution paladin descent in PVE
Just wanted to note, since I've seen a lot of discussion about the Retribution passive lately: we consider that to mostly be a fun extra perk for flavor, and not a core part of the Retribution toolkit. By that I mean we wouldn't, for example, say: "when everyone's alive Retribution is low, but sometimes people die, so Ret is fine."

Just wanted to give some clarity there! (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)

WowCraft - Ep 33: Get On My Level
Another episode of WowCraft has been released.