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Episode 15

Welcome to BlizzCast 15! In this episode, we bring you in-depth coverage of the upcoming Cataclysm expansion and discuss everything from world creation to class changes to sound design.

BlizzCast #15: Cataclysm World Design BlizzCast #15: Cataclysm Sound Design BlizzCast #15: Cataclysm Voice Acting BlizzCast #15: Cataclysm Class Design
BlizzCast #15: Cataclysm World Design Zarhym (Community Manager), Cory Stockton (Lead Content Designer), Alex Afrasiabi (Lead World Designer)
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Zarhym: Hello, everyone. This is Zarhym with the Community team welcoming you to BlizzCast 15. We're getting into the thick of World of Warcraft: Cataclysm this episode covering content and world design with lead developers Cory Stockton and Alex Afrasiabi, hearing more about the latest music and sound design from Director of Audio Russell Brower and Senior Composer Derek Duke, learning about the art of voice over with casting producer Andrea Toyias, and wrapping things up in a discussion with Lead System Designer Greg Street.

I'm joined now by World of Warcraft Lead Content and World Designers Cory Stockton and Alex Afrasiabi to discuss what they've brought to the table in Cataclysm. Hey, guys.
Alex Afrasiabi: Hi

Cory Stockton: How's it going?
Zarhym: Not bad, how you doing?
Cory Stockton: Not too bad.

Alex Afrasiabi: Amazing.
[ 00:16 ]
Zarhym: Alright, so players have been discussing ideas for the next expansion pretty much since Wrath hit store shelves. Many felt that nothing could compare to the story of Lich King. When brainstorming for the third expansion, how did the development team settle upon the story lines which will play out in Cataclysm?
Alex Afrasiabi: First, to address the Lich King thing, it definitely occurred to us that Arthas and the Lich King were huge, huge characters and it would be very difficult to come up with an equally or more compelling storyline, but we still have a stable, if you will, of amazing characters to kind of pull from. We've been working on the Deathwing story behind the scenes for a while and what he's been doing because we knew at some point we wanted to bring him out and it just so happened that this was the point. Something that we probably did really poorly actually in Lich King that didn't help our case for pushing this one out was the Obsidian Sanctum. That was kind of one of our initial tie-ins for this because we'd been in the process of doing this one since Lich King released, so we knew exactly what we were working on. We never really conveyed it properly through that storyline, and so it was more of a surprise, I think, than it should have been.
[ 00:58 ]
Zarhym: The way content has been developed and presented to players has changed quite a bit over the years. New tools, new systems. How did you approach redesigning old zones in Azeroth to make them engaging for new and old players alike?
Cory Stockton: I think it's kind of hard to explain what we did specifically because there were so many things we wanted to do to those zones, but I think first and foremost, we wanted to take the level of quality we had in Northrend from a questing perspective and apply that back to all zones, all the way back. I think what ended up happening is not only did we achieve that Northrend level, but I think we probably exceeded it in a lot of ways with things that players aren't really expecting. I think the big thing to us is so many of those zones hold a nostalgic place for players because they spent so much time there. For us, it was important to go back and rework things so that they felt better from a quest perspective, from spawning, storylines, pretty much everything, but in the same vein, being able to keep a lot of that original hit of why people liked the zone. When we went back and redid Silverpine, of course it's got new Forsaken buildings and it looks different, but it's got that same vibe. When you go there it's not going to feel completely different and we definitely did that kind of stuff on purpose. We go around saying it's completely new, everything is going to feel different, and it will from a gameplay perspective it will feel much better, but I think the nostalgia of World of Warcraft and its original zones are still going to be there.

Alex Afrasiabi: Yeah, totally, and something else that we've, I think, commented on dozens of times in interviews which is we've learned a lot. The quest team is a team, right now, full of veteran designers. These guys have been designing for World of Warcraft for some near 7 years at this point. There have been so many lessons and mistakes that we've made in previous expansions that we've learned from and all of those were applied to Cataclysm questing, content design, zone design, and all that good stuff. From Cory's illustrator maps of how we're going to redo a zone to our designer flow charts, everything was so, so meticulously designed. What I think, at least, that we've brought back to the world was a sense of story and a sense of immersion that was absent that, in my opinion, doesn't even exist in Northrend. Northrend, amazing as which it may be, I still think that our Cataclysm zones and revamp zones are way tighter.
[ 02:16 ]
Zarhym: Sort of playing into that, whether a player is creating their very first character or maybe their 20th character, how will that leveling experience from 1 to 60 differ in Cataclysm from the original experience?
Alex Afrasiabi: It's way more streamlined. Again, we've learned so much from designing for World of Warcraft for so many years. We're all not just veteran designers, but veteran players. We've all been playing since the very beginning. From a player perspective, we know what we don't like, and we like to think we know what players don't like. I think we do a pretty decent job of that. Those things play a huge, huge role in our design process.

Cory Stockton: Yeah. When you're thinking about re-rolling that alt and you're working on this zone, the last thing you're going to want to do is put something in there that you're going to, in any way, think is crappy. Especially because we're going to be doing this exact same thing that the players are doing, so that's the last thing we want to see either. I think a lot of us here on the team have rerolled so many times with different characters and gone through the same 1 to 10 starting experience and then getting out into the world and going from there. At a certain point you run of out of options because you've done all of it. I think that one thing we wanted to do here. We really affected the flow is a big thing people are going to see is different. The level changes that you see across the board zones aren't the same from a level perspective anymore at all. You know, you get dumped out in Barrens and you're looking at this 15 level range zone and it's gigantic. Obviously, when we look at that the first thing is we want to do something to make that better, so we cut it in half, split it into Northern and Southern Barrens. Things like that we started of talking about at BlizzCon last year that we were really going to do selectively, some of this stuff, to zones. What ended up happening is that we got to a point where we didn't really want to leave anything out. We had broken up all the zones into red, yellow, and green and were only going to do this much. Somehow, being Blizzard, we thought we'd get away with that, which we didn't at all. We ended up, basically, touching everything. I think a lot of that is from exactly what Alex was saying. We didn't want to be in that situation where you hit level 45 and then your 45 to 50 zone is nowhere near the quality level of the 10 to 15 zone you were in. I think when we got to that point we were just like, "We've got to figure out a way to get to these zones."

Alex Afrasiabi: Yeah. We absolutely made the time. I think ultimately what you're going to get from a reroll or a new player perspective going through Azeroth from 1 to 60 is a highly enjoyable, highly immersive, fun, content driven experience where--I've seen this word thrown around a bit now on the forums and through fansites and what not, I think that it does come off as effortless. I think you'll start your questing experience, your player's journey, and before you know it you're 25 hours in and haven't had any sleep because they do carry you that well. The progression and flow is really, really tight.
Zarhym: I guess it's in terms of more focused storyline in each zone, but then you also don't hit those random, "Oh, I need to find another zone to go to because all of a sudden all the quests are too high level for me here."
Cory Stockton: We tried to get rid of the hills and valleys. You want it to feel smooth the whole way through, and I think that was definitely one of the biggest goals that we feel like we've achieved. I think effortless is a great way to describe it.

Alex Afrasiabi: Yeah, it does feel effortless. Even in those zones, one of the earlier complaints I heard is that the zones are too linear. It's kind of funny because I think back to when we were doing the Death Knight area. The players are always very concerned about, "What if it breaks?" and I have to keep going back to that as the millions and millions of people went through the Death Knight starting experience and that was the most linear experience you could ever imagine. That's exactly what you beta testers are here for, to make sure we're catching all these bugs and making sure that your experience is top notch that these things won't break and that when you get there on live you won't be stopped or hampered by any kind of weird bugs. They've been doing a great job on the forums. I think our beta testers are doing an amazing job with feedback we're receiving, the bugs, and all that good stuff.
[ 04:55 ]
Zarhym: Speaking of new cool stuff, the starting experience for Worgen and Goblins is pretty much unlike that of any of our other races. How did the feel of each starting area really develop for these two races and what makes creating a character of either race special to the player?




Alex Afrasiabi: We intentionally went at the Worgen and Goblin lines very differently because they're very different races. The Worgen we kept as the more serious experience with less goofiness. If anyone has played the Goblin, they know it's full of Goblin zaniness and that's really to represent the character of these races and that was really, really important. This feeling, essentially, emanates out to everything: their architecture, their structures, their society, their language even. So that was one approach that we took. As usual, we wanted to go big with these zones, big with the experience, and so we pulled out all of the stops. It's a tech roller-coaster. All our good big tech, a lot of it originated here like stuff you'll see in the 80 to 85 zones this is where it started. A lot of the phased terrain, auto-questing, the flow, and things like that, this is where we developed them. To one degree it's all very tight and very different and awesome, but it's also kind of more of an experienced World of Warcraft player start zone which is kind of what we agreed upon when we sat down and assessed things. There are so many cool things and so many different things here that it might be a little bit rougher on the true newbie, but for a veteran World of Warcraft player this definitely one of those amazing experiences.
[ 09:39 ]
Zarhym: Kind of speaking on that, one thing we see from players a lot of time is when Draenei and Blood Elves came out, people were stoked on them and they kind of felt like once you got past your initial zones you see a little bit of them in Outland, but essentially they're kind of cut out of the storyline in other areas. Obviously, redesigning the old world kind of makes that easier to incorporate new races, but what did you guys learn from adding the Draenei and Blood Elves going into creating Goblins and Worgen and making them feel like a part of the Horde and Alliance?
Cory Stockton: Definitely we learned that we can't leave them out. You can't leave Azuremyst and Bloodmyst and head into Ashenvale and not see anything Draenei. It just feels a little foreign. Same thing with the Blood Elf. You walk out of Ghostlands and it's pretty much the last Blood Elf tower you're going to see until Hellfire Peninsula, I think. I think that affected a lot of players because it feels like that experience is separated. It doesn't feel like part of the world as a whole. The fact that we had a chance to redo the whole existing world definitely helped. You can take a look at something like Azshara for the Goblins is obviously a huge influence. The Worgen stuff that's happening in Silverpine, you can see things there. You can see it all throughout the world. A big thing is that we had all these assets because we built those two zones first. We did Lost Isles and we did Gilneas, so the level designers basically had all those assets while we were redoing the original world. Anywhere that we had the chance to use that stuff, they would work as close as they could to the quest guys and figure out a place that made sense. Where can we fit this in where it makes sense? It doesn't need to look like it's jammed in, but wherever we can do it where it feels right, let's go for it. I think you're going to see a lot more of that here than we ever did, specifically with Burning Crusade.

Alex Afrasiabi: Absolutely. I think Cory hit it. I think without the benefit of having to redo the entire world, it would have been a lot more difficult to get the Worgen/Goblin coverage that we did, but I think this expansion hit it right.
[ 11:40 ]
Zarhym: So moving onto the bad guys, Deathwing is pretty much, I would say, the primary antagonist, I don't think there's much argument there, but his rise does seem to rekindle or ignite a host of other conflicts in the world. I've played a little bit of beta, I know players looking to level beyond 80 will quickly discover that in the 80 to 82 zones Mount Hyjal and Vashjir. Will you talk a little bit about the conflicts taking place in those two zones and the roles players will play there as they shift into these new 80 to 85 zones?
Alex Afrasiabi: Yeah, totally. We have the overarching Deathwing story. Deathwing breaks through the, essentially, the middle of the world, the elemental planes, he transcends them and cuts through what is the Well of Eternity in the Maelstrom and causes instability throughout the world, essentially shatters the world. That's our big overarching hook, so we have that playing across every single zone. Every zone you hit will have some type of hit here. Secondary storylines that we have playing in every zone, Vashjir, Hyjal, Deepholm, you name it, is the Horde/Alliance conflict. This is something that we set out to do in Northrend with Lich King. We had some definite success there, and we carried it through, we carried it through hugely, through into Cataclysm. Garrosh being Warchief now and Varian, of course, taking the helm as king of Stormwind. These are two boisterous characters, and they have their opinions on things, and they definitely butt heads. Believe me, they're both going somewhere. Hopefully the fans will get to see that in a bit. So, the Horde/Alliance conflict is another thing that you see all over the place. It's important to keep that up so that you don't wind up in this weird position where something we used to do a lot of is the more hand-holding type events, which they're cool and they have a place, but the game had started becoming just all about joining forces and less about the actual conflict between these diametrically opposed factions. And, of course, we have the minions of Deathwing and those that are subservient to him, the Twilight's Hammer and the Naga by proxy of Azshara are forces that you see in, I think, every zone in 80 to 85. Plus, you will see them all over the place leveling up in the new old world content. Huge, huge things. And, of course, in the pre-sundering/pre-shattering events you see on the PTR right now you see all those Doomsayers and all the crazy Twilight Cultists in the cities being flooded and invaded, so there's quite a bit going on here.
[ 13:52 ]
Zarhym: Kind of going off what you said about the Horde and the Alliance, obviously, we saw the conflict increase throughout the Wrath of the Lich King storyline with the whole Wrathgate cinematic. Now, the threat seems almost more prevalent than ever, but they're fighting more than ever. With the new leadership kind of taking over and the increased struggle, how is the relationship between those opposing factions affected and how are they planning to actually defeat their enemies when suddenly they're not working together anymore and the threats worse than ever?
Alex Afrasiabi: Yeah, they're getting their asses kicked is what's happening.
Zarhym: So it's just shear, their out of options and just fighting everyone at this point?
Alex Afrasiabi: I think anytime a treaty or truce is mentioned in fiction, something goes wrong. Strangely enough, someone tries to assassinate somebody, a fight breaks out, and this is, I think, common in politics you see this type of thing happen. Probably not to this degree with magic and Orcs.
Zarhym: So you are implying that this game is, in fact, fiction.
Cory Stockton: Possibly.

Alex Afrasiabi: I am implying that. I am implying that. But, yeah. I think that the factions, the Alliance and Horde, are in over their heads here and I think it's going to take some doing to defeat Deathwing. They've only just begun and they have a long road ahead of them.
[ 16:54 ]
Zarhym: I can't wait to see how it plays out. Speaking more personally, what zones (including the revamped zones), dungeons, questlines, raids. What are you guys really excited about in Cataclysm, personally?
Cory Stockton: That's a super tough question because so much has changed.
Zarhym: Thanks, I try.
Cory Stockton: Honestly, the biggest thing for me is probably the new class/race combinations, starting a new character, and playing through. Obviously, we've been working on it this whole time, seeing it, getting feedback, talking to people, and played in beta as much as we can (which, we're so busy, it's pretty hard to even do that). It's looking forward to rolling that new character and playing through that experience as a normal player like earning all the rewards and the way you would take in a new profession. There's so much system stuff that we're not even talking about here that really goes hand in hand with the new world and the content changes, the new talent system stuff, getting your stuff at level 10, and I think just going back into zones again and playing them from a whole new perspective. To me, that's probably the biggest thing, but that's going to last only so long and then it's going to turn into raiding and getting back into the guild and the entire guild system and that stuff, but right off that bat that's the thing I'm looking the most forward to.

Alex Afrasiabi: Yeah, totally. For me, I think huge ones, from a systems perspective, the guild system is big for me. I'm a big guild player; I love my guild, and am really, really looking forward to that feature. From a zone perspective, I am absolutely looking forward to doing Uldum with my actual character. Love that zone; really, really love that zone. Love all our zones, but I really love that zone. That vibe is just killer.

Cory Stockton: We went pretty crazy over Uldum. I remember I did the very first layout of Uldum which was really early just off of a couple meetings me and Alex had had. We both knew that wanted to do something with this Egyptian style, but didn't really know how it would play out, how we would do that. We both looked at this first layout which had kind of like a Nile river running through it with a delta, pyramids, and all this stuff obviously a Titan influence. I remember Alex saying right when we saw this--it was nowhere, it was just a really quick layout--and we're like, "think is probably going to be the best zone. I think this probably going to be it."

Alex Afrasiabi: I remember that, actually. I'm like, "this is definitely our best zone." There was nothing there. It was dirt. It wasn't even a speck.
Zarhym: How long ago was that?
Cory Stockton: Oh, wow.

Alex Afrasiabi: Year.

Cory Stockton: Easily over a year ago.

Alex Afrasiabi: It's been a while. For 80 to 85, I think Uldum is definitely the one I'm looking forward to. Old world stuff, I'm really excited about the Forsaken storyline. I'm a big fan of Sylvanas, and I'm interested and eager to see what she's actually up to. I'd say don't trust her, to be honest with you, but you never know. She's sneaky, she's really sneaky.
Zarhym: I feel like you do know, and you're not telling us.
Alex Afrasiabi: Maybe, I know. I can't tell you because...

Cory Stockton: What would make you think that?

Alex Afrasiabi: She might have me killed. She has that kind of influence which is scary because she's a game character.
Zarhym: Noted.
Alex Afrasiabi: And then, of course, there's the beloved raiding and dungeons. Love dungeons, love heroics, but also really looking forward to doing Bastion of Twilight and seeing old Nefarian back, Nefarian and his siblings. Looking forward to those raid zones, hugely, and our new amazing flexible raid lock system.

Cory Stockton: I was just going to say that.
[ 18:32 ]
Zarhym: What do you hope the average player will take away from their first experience with the content in this expansion?
Alex Afrasiabi: They'll be blown away. I think the average new player, you come into this one, you're going to be amazed. It's almost startling to look at it and just think that this game it's about six, six and a half years old now at this point, and you get into that world and the art style keeps up. It still looks amazing, it still looks fresh.

Cory Stockton: It's almost mind-boggling how it's able to do that. We see so many new MMOs--obviously we play stuff, we see things--and the majority come and go. We love a lot of the art we see in these other titles and get jealous. "Oh, why can't we have that feature? I want that. I want this." And then, somehow, we end up coming out with these zones that just look insane in this engine that we've been, basically, upgrading for this whole time. We're working off the same World of Warcraft engine. I think like Alex said, for the average player that comes in it's going to be pretty hard not to just be blown away. I think there are so many things that are new, actually, they're probably not even going to realize a lot of things that are different until they're pretty far in. There are a lot of things that if you're just picking up with a level 80 and going to 85, that's going to be a great experience, but at certain point they're going to want to reroll, and so many things are going to feel different at that point.

Alex Afrasiabi: But better.
Zarhym: Different, but better.
Alex Afrasiabi: Mmhmm.
[ 22:30 ]
Zarhym: Likewise, what about maybe a year down the road, how do you imagine level 85 characters who have been keeping up with each content patch. How do you think they're going to feel about the expansion?
Alex Afrasiabi: They're going to be the happiest people on earth. Aren't they always?
Zarhym: They are. They're always happy.
Cory Stockton: Their guilds might be max level. Level 25 by then.

Alex Afrasiabi: Max level guilds? Maybe. Hard to say.

Cory Stockton: Maybe. Possibly.
[ 23:59 ]
Zarhym: All right, cool. Well thanks, guys. Thanks for talking to me today.
Alex Afrasiabi: Yeah, thank you.

Cory Stockton: No problem.
Zarhym: Coming up next is Community Manager Nethaera to discuss more about latest music and sound design with Director of Audio Russell Brower and Senior Composer Derek Duke.
[ 24:27 ]
BlizzCast #15: Cataclysm Sound Design Nethaera (Community Manager), Russell Brower (Director of Audio), Derek Duke (Senior Composer & Sound Designer)
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Nethaera: This is Nethaera from the community team. Today I'm sitting with Director of Audio, Russell Brower and senior composer and sound designer Derek Duke. Welcome to the BlizzCast.
Russell Brower: Hello!

Derek Duke: Hi guys.
[ 24:55 ]
Nethaera: So we sat down awhile ago when The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King were still in beta to discuss the sound that went with each expansion. For Cataclysm what sort of musical theme can we expect giving the variety of changes and new zone additions such as Vashj'ir?
Russell Brower: Our overriding consideration in conceiving the music for Cataclysm has been to imagine the context in relation to the old world because most of the places that players will go in the new expansion have existed before as part of Azeroth and a lot of that music is very well loved it's ingrained in the memories of players playing alone or with their families and there's a resonance there we don't want to destroy that link. Instead we want to carry the story forward and make sure that the sense of story is overlaid and melded with what's happened post Cataclysm. So you'll hear familiar themes and familiar tonalities and things like that but depending on what's just happened or what you are seeing around you there's a darkening or a different sense of who's in charge of a given area. The colors have changed a bit.

Derek Duke: Yeah you'll get some more insight into the beginnings or the sort of the outer workings of the environments. You get to go to the homeland of - you'll understand where the goblins come from. You'll get to experience some of the elemental planes through Skywall and areas like Deepholm. So there's new areas you'll be exposed to sonically but that just exposes more of the world, the universe of Warcraft.
[ 25:07 ]
Nethaera: Is there a certain instrument or hook that perhaps someone just listening casually might not notice?
Russell Brower: The world is such a big place that if we provided too much of a constant hook or sound you would hear it so much it make actually get distracting that you'd hear it so much. So we've tried to be very judicious in how we are using these self references if you will. But some patterns were established pretty early on. For instance, before we started writing music for the game itself, all of us who were on the composition team sat down and did for the first time what we called "concept music". Without really any direction other than maybe looking at some concept art or reading Christie Golden's first draft of her novel The Shattering, each of us sat down and wrote a few minutes of music that said to us, this is the Cataclysm. This is what it means to me. And out of that came a lot of great ideas and one of them, Neal Acree who you may remember from having written the cinematic scores for both Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King he came up with a simple little 4, 5 note motif for Deathwing. So that little melodic idea starts seeping through in various locations. You'll hear it in the new login screen music, you'll hear it of course in the cinematic without giving too much away but you figure it'll have some Deathwing in it so you'll hear that music anywhere in Deepholm anywhere where the ground is still sizzling from where Deathwing just was there's potential to hear something like that. Twilight's Hammer theme came out of those efforts and many others so there's several bits of consistency or hooks or subthemes.

Derek Duke: One of the things you'll notice in this expansion is within a given zone or area there is a lot more diversity in the music. So depending upon where you are going in a given zone you might transition into some music that again is related to a race or a story theme you might hear it just in a small area when you are in a low level area, but then as you expand and get up to level 40 you might be in an area where you start to hear this music a lot more and you recall you've heard it once as you were progressing in the level. So there's all the different Cataclysm themes are spaced quite diversely throughout the various continents and zones.
[ 27:07 ]
Nethaera: Since you brought up the opening music, I know that as we've progressed from expansion to expansion that has also progressed and I have listened to the music and I've found that it is very rich and layered and that seems to be the same thing with the opening music. Can you talk a little bit more about that login music and what people can expect?
Russell Brower: The purpose of the login music has been to provide an overture and a background to show people who might be creating their first character and taking the time to read the descriptions and might spend more than 30 seconds in those screens just to login. It's to give them a sense of what's to come and show some peeks and some valleys and some contrast and these are the dangerous sort of themes and warlike themes or the romantic or beautiful themes and also show a cross section of the entire history of World of Warcraft. So with each one, we've tried to include quotes from melodies that represent the original 2004 release and The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King and then a little something new from Cataclysm. So it's really meant to be an exploration through all those peaks and valleys and the adventures that you'll have, somewhat faction agnostic and race agnostic so that there's a little something for everybody. And if for any reason, well as Derek mentioned earlier when you start to go through and level up you'll hear some of those themes come back and then on subsequent listenings if for some reason you spend a few more seconds on the login screen that theme will come back and it will suddenly have meaning and context for you and it'll take you somewhere. So at first listening it'll just seem like a long piece of epic music but on subsequent listenings over many months or years it the meaning becomes more personal so I think that's the intent behind the diversity in the music and the reason that it's pretty long and explores a lot of different moods.
Nethaera: I was going to say it's a journey but it seems like it's a much longer journey then we've had before. About how long are we looking at for the opening?
Russell Brower: (laughs)
Nethaera: (laughs) Since we keep expanding on it. It's definitely worth the listen too.
Russell Brower: Well I don't think it will ever really get any longer but this one sits at about 12 minutes and our intention in the future is to swap out some of the older themes for the newer themes. We did that this time. It begins with the primordial core of the elemental planes and how things are in chaos and disarray and Deathwing has flown and everything is a mess and that familiar 7/4 march that everyone knows and expects it takes awhile to happen. It's struggling against all these musical imagery if you will and when it finally happens it's almost like "Okay there's that familiar foothold." That once kind of like dark warlike march actually becomes kind of a sense of hope. "Okay this is still the world we know," and then it progresses to the more beautiful and romantic themes and takes you on a journey. So in terms of length it's what felt right and also what filled up an orchestral recording session nicely which is of a fixed length and we wanted to make good use of our musician time.

Derek Duke: I think also that noticing of the layers getting added on is just part of that development of the musical language that is World of Warcraft or that World of Warcraft is creating And that's something Russell did fantastically in the main titles and you know we had five composers working on the scores so between Glen, Neal, David, Russell and myself you have all this contributing to the different layers that get crossed connected in that musical language that continues to develop and is sort of culminated in the main title each time.
[ 30:11 ]
Nethaera: I definitely think that people need to take the time when they first log in just to listen to it that's for sure. So I have to ask, what is your favorite piece? Your personal favorite piece from this new expansion
Derek Duke: I certainly had the most fun working on my music for the goblins. Using the pitch percussion, the marimbas and xylophones and then incorporating the whistles because they are very, their workers are a little playful as well as being deviant and what not. It was a chance to go into a direction I don't normally go to in the Warcraft universe. So that was pretty satisfying for me.

Russell Brower: For me, one of the zones I ended up working on was Dun Morogh, all the snowy zones from around where Ironforge is and the regions beyond.
Nethaera: So you're back with snow? (laughs)
Russell Brower: (laughs) Something that plagued us on when we were working on wrath of lich king is how do you say 'cold' and 'snowy' and not just go to some cliché. So faced with that again, in a way, what did it for me was I ended up writing a piece called “Cold Mountain”, at least that's the working title of it and at the time that I was writing that a really beloved family pet, a cat who was 19 years old when she ultimately passed away, she was in her last days and I just took some of the emotion that I was feeling and put it into that space as I was writing the music and I think what came to pass then was people don't need to know how I came to write it but if they get a sense of the emotion in then it becomes a little more than a piece of background music so for that reason I'm really proud of that one.
Nethaera: Right something they can take into their heart. Absolutely.
Russell Brower: So this one is for your Trudy. The cat. (laughs)
Nethaera: (laughs)
[ 35:10 ]
*plays excerpt from "Cold Mountain"*
Derek Duke: I have tons of favorites of the others. There's several by David, his War March and his Firelands piece were really wonderful. Neal Acree, his Azshara daytime piece, his Mysterious, Glen's Arathi Highlands, Russell's music for the Lost City that he did for one of the instances in Uldum all these are just - I've been walking around singing these for the past several months just because part of what I did after we got all the music in was sort of get it together and start placing it and assigning it in the world and that was many, many hours where just every night even after work going home and putting the headphones on and falling asleep while I was just listening to everyone's music trying to sort of internalize it so I had that sort of big musical palette to draw on when we spread it out over the world. It's definitely really hard to single out things because everyone has done amazing, amazing music.
Nethaera: Sort of like picking your favorite child (laughs)
Derek Duke: (laughs) Yeah.

Russell Brower: I have to also just chime in on Glen Stafford wrote, Derek mentioned Arathi Highlands, also Western Plaguelands, the names belie the beauty of the music. It's so cool and David Arkenstone wrote a series of pieces for Hyjal, in particular Nordrassil the world tree, and he really succeeded in capturing that same vibe that I think is so important in World of Warcraft that you get a sense of like this might be ancient music about ancient things about a tree that was created as a result of events ten thousand years ago and there are whole races that are protecting the guardians of this space and of all these energies contained within and the song is worth so many thousands of words and I can't say enough you just have to hear it, it's beautiful moving music and it really adds a lot to the soundscape of Cataclysm.
[ 37:35 ]
Nethaera: So what aspects of Cataclysm inspired you most for the soundtrack? Was there anything that kind of stood out for you as "Wow this I got to write for"?
Russell Brower: Well Speaking for myself the inspiration always comes from a combination of the gameplay and early on the concept art. For many weeks if not months the concept art and hallway conversations with the designers of the World of Warcraft team are all we have to go on and it's a lot and it really helps and the stuff gels for a long time in our minds and becomes the inspiration. And then ultimately when we get inside the game and start looking around these areas and events and the stories they just speak to you. I also, I mentioned earlier I read Christie Golden's The Shattering book, an early draft. . .
Nethaera: Which is not out yet. (laughs)
Russell Brower: Yeah, long time ago and it really helped ground me in the depth and breadth of what's going on and Azeroth and what's Thrall doing in seeking to commune with the elementals and figure out what's tearing Azeroth apart and what are the druids having to do, as we say in the soundtrack titles, restore the balance. All that informs our composition.

Derek Duke: From the concept art to the gameplay too, Russell mentioned the lore I know there's a balance between all of that and then what works in the context of the game. I know my gut reaction when I first started flying through, especially a lot of the older areas that had been torn up and hurt, there was a real sense of sadness because these are places, you know, I grew up questing in those places.

Russell Brower: (Laughs)
Nethaera: Remember when. . .
Derek Duke: All of five, six years ago when my wife was pregnant we were over there and this and that and I remember getting a screenshot of the two of us up on the dams of Loch Modan or whatever.
Nethaera: Remember watching the moon rise? (laughs)
Derek Duke: Yeah, and a lot of these places are just completely destroyed or they are turned upside-down, they are not the same places anymore. So there was a real sadness, “Look what's happened to my world,” but then balancing that, there's a lot of new alliances and there's a lot of other things happening.
Nethaera: Some new beauty too.
Derek Duke: You can't just make it all about personal feelings so yeah there's a lot of things for us to explore and to allow us to express ourselves and find the way to help the story along.
[ 40:44 ]
Nethaera: So I wanted to move on to the sound design because you had mentioned having to kind of layer things in and what I wanted to find out a little bit more about is how the sound design fit in the with the music and vice versa because it could be very easy for one to overtake the other and I know that, if that underlying sound beyond just the music, if that goes away you very much notice that it's not there. And one of the things that I noticed even within the beta is that it seems richer to me than anything we've done before so how do you marry those together?
Russell Brower: The ambient sounds are very carefully considered by us and in context with the music and also as a standalone and Jonas Laster and Eric and myself spent, I don't know how many weeks coming in really early in the mornings spending about one or two hours listening to every ambiance that had been created for literally both major continents and all the new zones and critiquing and making notes for changes and things like that because that's the one thing that plays all the time I mean the music comes and goes the ambiance really has to provide that little push over the edge into full immersion to make you feel like you're there. And in context with the music, I think all of us who are writing and finally mixing this music before it goes into the game we take the ambiance if it's ready and we play it alongside the music and kind of make choices about how loud certain musical elements should be you know. Can I hear the English horn solo or the French horn soaring over what might be a pretty complex background ambiance depending on where we are?
[ 43:40 ]
Nethaera: So we're still in Azeroth and things have kind of been flipped on their head so to speak how does the sound design fit in with those changes? You were mentioning earlier Derek that going to these places that used to be your memories have changed. So how did that really influence that sound design then?
Derek Duke: Well I think one of the things that's different this time around, Jonas was working with a far bigger team then he'd ever have Brian, from the previous expansions helping out Chris Giampa, Michael Johnson, Paul Menichini, Jon Graves, Chris De La Pena, we had far more hands on the project than ever before because there was so much to do not just in the newer zones but also in the old world. With so many new things happening and they of course were pushing it to a new level trying to incorporate other concepts. Not just what the sound was but the fact that everything had to do with the elements so something was related somehow to one of the elements there were sonic elements of water into anything that had remotely anything to do with water or fire whether it was a lamp or a new campfire or something that drew from some sort of fire based recording or elemental source. So there's a lot of conceptual things that have found their way into all of the sonic landscape in the new expansion.

Russell Brower: We've all seen movies where in the case of say fire, the fire is so important to the plot of the movie it's almost a character in of itself so the sound design starts incorporating wispy almost like you are hearing whispering in the steam and the smoke and things like that so that kind of thinking started permeating our approach to the sound design so for the four elementals what can we do to not make it say "listen to me I'm a cool sound effect" but to just sublimely have the ear go well this is familiar and often the human vocal like a whisper is great for that because we instinctively on some level pay attention to a human vowel sound or vocalization.
Nethaera: We want to hear what that message is.
Russell Brower: Right. So I mean there's no words it's all just kind of ethereal sounds but you'll hear that injected into our ambiences here and there just to add a sense that the elementals are sentient conscious beings, it isn't just physics. In Azeroth, everything is alive at some level.
[ 45:46 ]
Nethaera: So I wanted to find out a little bit about sound design when it comes to certain monsters or characters you mentioned the characterization of the elements, what was the most interesting or challenging to create of any of the new creatures that have been introduced into the expansion?
Derek Duke: So while Russell and I sort of deal with the music there is one particular spell we did that was musically related. We knew some of the art and sprites create golden shimmering music notes and staffs when this one spells happens in the halls of origination in Uldum so we wanted some sort of special affect when this particular boss casts this, we called it reverberating hymn so it's something that happens so we took some sound affects and some electronic pads and then I took some choir music that Russell recorded for Uldum for the Lost City sort of related to the Tol'vir and cut that in and process that so that while he's casting this and keeping this buff on you and you're seeing these golden music notes very specific musical sound effect rather than just the other music cuts out sort of creating more musical sound effects other than just a spell affect.
[ 48:46 ]
Nethaera: Are there any surprises that the players should keep an eye out for? One of the most talked about and yet little known sounds are still the throne room sound in Lordaeron. Is there anything along those lines that they should be listening for?
Russell Brower: Because Cataclysm is all about moving forward and what's happening to Azeroth as a result of the Cataclysm there weren't the historical references opportunities as there was when Brian Far first did the Ruins of Lordaeron and paid homage to the coronation ceremony and to the big ringing bells and you walk in and the bell is ruined on the floor and you can hear the memory of it tolling for the great event and then in the next hallway you hear the ghostly voices of the cheering crowd and everything and we're more firmly in the present in Cataclysm so the references are more of what we've already spoken about in terms of referencing the elementals and that they're alive they're in torment and very strange things happening so that's kind of the sublanguage or subtext going on.

Derek Duke: There's certainly a lot of musical nuggets for people who noticed that or who speak that language. Some are more obvious than others references to past things but there's a lot hidden in there's and a lot in terms of what themes you hear at one point or one area of the game that link or are related to another theme but just in a different context. So there's certainly a lot of that going on musically.

Russell Brower: Neal Acree did a tremendous job of taking some of the Night Elf and other themes that you heard in Ashenvale or Teldrassil and he really didn't change the melodies at all but he added this subtle twist like things are not quite right and yet they still retain the beauty of the original themes from the 2004 release of the World of Warcraft and we also had the opportunity to record them with a live orchestra which brings this organic ear candy, it really is there's just something about it. The melodies are good enough to survive I mean they can play on a simple piano they can play with synthesizers, they can play with an orchestra and they still convey an awful lot but you add the live musicians into the mix and it just makes the whole experience feel more human and you can relate to it and maybe the word I'm looking for is 'timeless'.

Derek Duke: Yeah it brings a level of emotion to the music that's really something to be experienced
Nethaera: Something that I was thinking about is that as I was listening to it, it definitely has that World of Warcraft feel and as a player you know it's World of Warcraft it has those signatures but I also think it stands alone as something anyone could listen to and really appreciate.
Russell Brower: It's a lot of fun to cut together the soundtrack album that's in the collector's edition because the goal there is to create a listening experience that stands outside the game so we tend to focus on the themes or the version of the themes where they're presented more as foreground or midground music where it's okay to say "hey listen to me" a lot of them may be the intro pieces you hear the first time you walk into a major city or a zone for the first time. After that in the game, after you hear that version it tends to recede a little bit in the background but those more triumphed and expansive versions are the ones that tend to end up on the album so the idea is to make it something you can listen to outside of the game have it resonate with all the memories of playing and take you back and be an experience of itself.
Nethaera: Although people should still make sure they are turning the music on in-game right?
Russell Brower: (laughs) Absolutely. Well to support each other
[ 50:14 ]
Nethaera: So we've talked about the music that has been added in each expansion before so I'd be remised if I didn't ask how much more music has been added to this expansion?
Russell Brower: We're clocking in, as of this recording about 8 hours of new music have been added to the Cataclysm expansion and that's actually on par in terms of minutes to what we've added in Wrath of the Lich King but it's not about how much but the appropriateness and the quality. Cataclysm is so big and it's affected so much of the world that it isn't enough disk space and bandwidth in the world to really to put in the variety of music one would be tempted to put everywhere. So in keeping with the same amount of music what we've tried to do is be very judicious and have a real intentional combining of the old music that everyone knows and loves with the addition of the new music and have the two interplay and again parts of it will feel familiar and parts of it will feel new and as a whole it's like all of the music in fact in the game has become our palette now because if you add it all up the amount of music in World of Warcraft is something like 36 hours and this big treasure trove of music is what we can now draw upon as we find maybe there's a little corner in twilights hammer that's tucked over there and they're doing something, we've got a selection of cues that we can draw upon to help just paint in that color and same with all the races.
Nethaera: There seems to be something for everybody.
Derek Duke: And just so everyone knows , no music has been removed; any music you know and love is still in there it might not be where you remember it being but it's always there nothing has been removed.

Russell Brower: Absolutely.
Nethaera: That will make a lot of people very happy to hear.
Derek Duke: There's a lot of music that didn't make it we just didn't have enough room to accommodate all the music that we would want to have in it. That bodes well for the future and more music to come.
Nethaera: I don't know how you're going to top this one. (laughs)
Russell Brower: (laughs)
[ 54:51 ]
Nethaera: I'd like to thank Russell Brower and Derek Duke for taking the time to talk to us. I look forward to hearing more in the game.
Russell Brower: It's our pleasure. Thank you for having us.

Derek Duke: Thanks everyone.
Nethaera: I'd like to hand things off to community manager Lylirra.
[ 57:42 ]
BlizzCast #15: Cataclysm Voice Acting Lylirra (Community Manager), Andrea Toyias (Casting and Voice-over Director)
[ top ]
Lylirra: Hello everyone, this is community manager Lylirra, and I'm joined today by a very special guest, Casting and Voice-Over Director Andrea Toyias, to discuss the incredible voice acting our players will get to experience in World of Warcraft: Cataclysm. Hey Andrea!
Andrea Toyias: Hello there!
Lylirra: How are you doing?
Andrea Toyias: I'm doing good, I'm excited to be here.
[ 57:57 ]
Lylirra: I'm excited too, so let's get started. This is the first BlizzCast episode in which we've really had the opportunity to explore how the characters of World of Warcraft are given their voice. Can you describe what all goes into the recording process? For example, what sort of preparation was required to set up each recording session? On average how long did the sessions take? And how were the voice actors introduced to their characters?
Andrea Toyias: Lots of really, really good questions. I'll start by saying I do get the pleasure of working on Diablo, StarCraft and World of Warcraft. The way we approach World of Warcraft is unique because our creatures are so unique. World of Warcraft is all fantasy, so you're talking about approaching this from a perspective of trying to figure out what does a six foot purple dragon sound like, what should a flirtatious female orc sound like? So there's not a lot of reference to draw from, so the team as a starting point has to get together and brainstorm what kind of voice and what kind of attributes we want to hear. We hear it in our head but how do we articulate that, and how do we decide what a dragon should sound like? So there's a lot of early brainstorming and discussions going back and forth as to what exactly we want because A) We have to be unified, but B) We have to make sure that we're true to all of the other creatures that currently exist in World of Warcraft. We can break new ground, but we also have to be aware of the ground that currently exists.
[ 58:12 ]
Lylirra: On average how long do the sessions take?
Andrea Toyias: Really hard to say, there are so many different kinds of characters and so many different scenarios. Our lead characters, let's say our player characters, we're introducing new worgens and goblins. Those sessions could be four, five, six hours. There was an eight hour session that we did for the male worgen. So obviously, the characters that you hear more in the game will take a lot longer because we're going to spend a lot more time making sure each read is right. Characters like our dungeon bosses probably are about an hour or so because they usually have a couple of lines, kill lines, spell lines and that, but what they really have to focus on are their sound effects, their attacking sounds, they're getting hit, they're killing, they're dying, so that really takes time. In essence, I would say the average World of Warcraft session, depending on the character, is about an hour to two hours, and our characters that are obviously much more involved in our overall game are probably four to five hours.
[ 59:36 ]
Lylirra: How are the voice actors introduced to their characters? You spoke a little bit about the prep work, but do the actors get to interface with their writers at all, with the creators of the quests or the dungeons that they're portraying?
Andrea Toyias: Right, right, they do. I'm probably going to geek out a lot during this conversation, but my World of Warcraft actors are a special breed of people. Aside from auditioning, they'll audition and they'll see a quick overview of the character, but more or less, these are grown adults, male and female, coming into a room. Ok, now you are a very upset purple dragon flying across the sky. What does that sound like? You get a rare breed of actor who can without very much preloading or advanced information, can come into a room with no specs, not a lot of guidance and then just tap into what this orc, this dragon, or crabby little dwarf sounds like. To be honest, they don't get a whole lot of advanced information. They are just creative, amazing individuals that we can bring in who just dive into their inner fantasy geek and enjoy every minute of it. It's pretty fun.
[ 1:00:35 ]
Lylirra: Pulling off that question, working with so many talented voice actors must have been an incredible experience and I imagine they were able to entertain both in the studio and out. Do you have any hilarious stories or moments to share?
Andrea Toyias: Sometimes when people ask me this question, I get it frequently, I'm almost speechless because there are so many moments. When you work with an actor in the booth and you're there with your character specs and your script and they come in, and suddenly they're there with you and in front of you and you're guiding them, and they suddenly sound like this creature that you want, this mythical, other worldly creature, I feel like your tapping into a universal energy that's bigger than all of us. Suddenly you're in the room, and suddenly there is an orc in the room with you, it's just amazing.

There's so many great moments, one thing that was really exciting for this chapter which I'll throw in really quick, is the fact that before, all of our casting and recording was done here and Los Angeles, but for Cataclysm in particular, we really wanted to kick it up a notch and find new talent, new energies, new voices and we went to New York. I spent five weeks in New York casting and recording most of the voices you're going to hear in Cataclysm. So a lot of great moments for me, for example a lot of Broadway actors voiced characters in this game. A lot of the lead roles were epic, really talented Broadway actors. So there were very serious moments, for example, there is Prince Liam Greymane who is one of the worgen royal family and he has to do this Braveheart epic speech, and when he ended, half of us were in tears and half of us were silent. We did have the writers on the phone with us throughout the entire process and it was silent and the writer just said really quietly at the end of it, “I would follow you into battle any day of the week”, we were all so moved. Even though it is a fantasy, other worldly game, primary colored and fun, we have very serious acting happening in this game, very dark, heavy emotional moments. So there were so many moments where I just sat in silence and couldn't believe I was fortunate enough to witness this performance and fortunate enough to watch, for example, the worgen royal family appears in front of my eyes.

There are a couple of other really funny ones, we were lucky enough to bring in Garrosh Hellscream back in, leader of the orcs, and that was a funny moment. There's a line, he does this whole other Braveheart speech in his orcish tongue and at the very end he does this really big, “FOR THE HORDE!” Epic, loud and the writers were on the phone and it's silent. And then suddenly out of nowhere you just hear, “HELL YEAH!” You could just tell that everybody involved here at Blizzard, the writers were so geeked out because Garrosh was really on the phone with them and they just were delirious with hearing that voice on the speakers so it was pretty epic.
Lylirra: I can't wait to actually hear that in the game based on your description.
Andrea Toyias: Oh it's great! It's really magical.
[ 1:01:40 ]
Lylirra: Now tapping back into one of your previous responses, you noted that you recorded in New York this time as opposed to locally. This obviously was a huge undertaking for everyone involved and, based on everything you've said, it seems to be a larger project than anything we've tackled before. How did the Cataclysm voice-over sessions compare to those recorded for classic World of Warcraft, as well as The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King expansions? Do you have any interesting facts or statistics that you can share?
Andrea Toyias: Yeah, it was crazy. Before, when I was prepping for this session, this interview with you, I was thinking about it, and I remember when we first started talking about Cataclysm and the scope of it and the amount of characters, the amount of content. I literally remember sitting at my desk, looking out the window one day going, “I have no idea how we're going to do this, this is so huge! How is this going to come together?” But it did. This in every possible way is much bigger, more in depth, and I want to say heavier too. We're diving into a whole new facet of World of Warcraft, both with the storyline, which is really a big departure for us and really quite intense. We have some great characters with some amazing character arcs coming out, so for us to have to record double to triple the amount of what we did for Wrath of the Lich King was an insane undertaking but all of us knew if we could persevere and push forward, and not go crazy, that what we would have in the end would be an epic gaming experience for our fans. And after having lived through all of the weeks of recording and directing, with all the different characters, it's just a really great thing for all of us, from the writers, from the dialog editors, from myself to sit back and realize it almost killed us. What we did is really pick up the acting performances and storyline to a notch that has not been seen before in World of Warcraft.
[ 1:04:38 ]
Lylirra: So it's absolutely unparalleled the amount of voice acting you'll experience.
Andrea Toyias: Totally, totally unparalleled, unbelievable. What I love so much about Blizzard, and not because I work here, but what I love about the team is that no matter who the character was, no matter what the voice was, no matter what the setup was, we took every single line of dialog very, very seriously. So, we might need to find a character that only has two lines. It was never thrown away. Every single line that was recorded was touched by myself, by the writers, and analyzed and really worked on until we got exactly what we wanted. So not only was the scope bigger, but I think we spent a lot more time on every single line that we recorded so in that way it was definitely more epic.
[ 1:06:27 ]
Lylirra: Did any unique or unexpected character personalities develop during those recording sessions since you took every line so seriously?
Andrea Toyias: Yep, there were two characters/actors. It's one thing when you are working with a team and creating the character specs, writing out what you want, what the voice is going to sound like and you've got the artwork. It's one thing when you have that, and then you hold auditions and you hear that voice and it's all well and good. But then you have the recording session and then you have people, I'm such a nerd, I'm getting chills talking about this, you have people that walk in that booth and make it their own. Two that I love so very much are race leaders. That would be Trade Prince Gallywix who's the race leader for the goblins and also King Genn Greymane who is the leader of the worgens. We knew Trade Prince Gallywix was going to be a fun character because he's a little bit Mafioso, a little bit huckster. It's funny, anybody that listens to radio, when you see the person behind a voice it's never what you'd expect. So there I was in New York, Trade Prince Gallywix was one of the last people that we were recording. This guy comes in, kinda in gym clothes, looks like he maybe ran to the studio, just not what I expected. He got in the booth and he just took these attributes and made it his own in such a way that I remember directing him and when he was done reading his first batch of lines I literally couldn't breathe, my jaw was on the floor. He got behind that mic and we were talking about a little bit of Sopranos energy and his whole body changed, this whole kind of thuggery thing, his hands changed, his face, every aspect of his physical energy changed and he became this mafia goblin, if you will. The writers when they were on the phone, they had been writing the lines so they were hearing it in their head. All of us were in shock because he took our goblin race leader to a whole new level that none of us could have predicted and made him come to life in a way that none of us could have predicted. Just made this character so fun and so, I use this word because I'm goofy, kind of juicy, meaning really meaty, you really want to know who this Trade Prince is, where did this goblin come from, what's his back-story. So again, you get this character that we all knew was going to be cool, but by finding the right actor was far cooler than we could have expected.
Lylirra: Literally made him three dimensional.
Andrea Toyias: Oh my god in such a way! Now I'm waiting for the action figure, I must have an action figure with a button on the back that I can hear him do his lines. That's how much I love him.
Lylirra: I would buy it.
Andrea Toyias: I know, right? And the other one was King Genn Greymane, leader of the worgens. I was in New York and in the evenings I would see a couple of Broadway plays, A) for fun, but B) to spec out new talent. And this play I saw, this actor that was on the stage, in this particular play he was in, he had to play in one evening, thirty-nine different characters, something crazy. His range was epic, his talent was epic, so I thought “I gotta get in touch with this guy”, which I did. Long story short, he became King Genn Greymane. I don't know how much content I can talk about, I'm not going to get into the ins and outs of it, but it's a really heavy role and very emotional. Trade Prince Gallywix is kind of comedic, King Genn Greymane is very serious. Again, we had the artwork, we had the specs, we had the script, but he just came in without any advance prep. He was given almost nothing and brought Genn Greymane to life in such a way that again we were speechless. We just couldn't believe that we had this worgen royalty in front of us. He made it his own in such a way that now this character too is somebody else I want to hear more from. I really want to know who he is, how did his life get like this. I want to know more about the worgen curse, how did he deal with it? Because the way he made the character his own really mystified all of us. I could go on and on, I'm going to stop right there. I really geek out, it just makes me so happy.
[ 1:07:11 ]
Lylirra: That's talking more on the sincere and serious element. Are there any funny outtakes that you happened to come across during the recording?
Andrea Toyias: Oh lord! Actors are a special breed of people. These are people that have to go into a room and how I explain actors to people who don't know, it's like they go into a room and basically have to get naked in front of you because they're really going to be vulnerable and expose themselves. And because of that you tend to find actors that are quite animated, friendly, goofy, extroverted. I say all that because if you can do a session and not laugh until your almost crying, it'll be rare. There's one outtake that I loved, there's a female orc named Aggra and this actress is so talented in so many ways. She was waiting for us to get water or get a coffee or something, and just started to do a seductive soliloquy, shall we say, for Garrosh Hellscream in an orc voice. So to hear a flirtatious and very aggressive female orc talk to Garrosh in an adult manner was quite funny and there's just so many things that if only we could put that in the game, but alas we can't.
[ 1:11:17 ]
Lylirra: Do you think outtakes will ever become available for players to hear? I know it's something they've requested on many an occasion.
Andrea Toyias: Yeah we might. A lot of the outtakes, although they're funny, you also have a situation whereby this actor is now in that role and talking and channeling your character. So a lot of times they'll have lines that you didn't even expect or anticipate and they're writing their own script if you will. So we have had talks about finding ways to add their addendum lines into the script, maybe an Easter egg, maybe some unlockable content, it just depends. We have to basically get the bulk of what we had to get and then we can try to pepper it where we can. We keep them for sure and we're hoping to somehow find a way in the future to drop them in.
Lylirra: That would be amazing.
Andrea Toyias: It'd be really, really fun.
[ 1:12:30 ]
Lylirra: So what would you say is the most challenging aspect of recording dialog for a game like World of Warcraft. We've talked about the most rewarding, but what's sort of the gritty end of it?
Andrea Toyias: It's so amazing in every way, but I think again to what I was alluding to earlier. You're trying to get these other worldly creatures, orcs, especially the dungeon bosses, they're monsters of every style, but then you've got scenarios that are other worldly as well. We're operating in the realm of fantasy, the challenge can sometimes be getting myself and getting the actor in that headspace. It was funny, recording for Cataclysm was so intense that I felt that I was living more in the World of Warcraft, talking about orcs and dragons as if they were totally real because you get so immersed in it, that it feels more real than my real life at some point. But the challenge is to communicate to the actors and get them in the headspace whereby they are, I keep using a dragon, but even though they are a dragon and to take it seriously, which they do, but to get them in the headspace of you are a dragon being chased or fighting or struggling at this point and to get everybody involved in the process in that headspace. It's easier if you're recording human characters and human scenarios, one to one human conversations, that's one thing. But when you're in a completely fantastical realm it's another thing so I think the challenge is that we hit the notes just right, get the energies just right and really make it a believable scene for all involved.
[ 1:13:13 ]
Lylirra: So, what sort of things have you learned from the Cataclysm recording process that you have or will be taking with you into recording for Heart of the Swarm, Diablo III and perhaps future World of Warcraft projects?
Andrea Toyias: That's kind of a tougher question because for me all of the games are so totally different. We finished obviously StarCraft, I'm wrapped on Cataclysm and now I'm already in Diablo territory. I think what's really clear to me as I perceive what I've learned is that as I go forward with the casting and directing of this that each one has its own set of parameters if you will. I keep saying this, but World of Warcraft was let's say, much more over the top if you will. You can have bigger grander performances because you are operating in a sphere of bigger grander crazy things happening. Where StarCraft is a very dark, brooding game and Diablo is a much more haunting, ethereal game. I think what I've really learned, especially through Cataclysm, because it really did take over my life for quite some time, is to really realize that each game really has its own unique voice. I knew this before we started Cataclysm but it really highlighted to me and drove home the world in which World of Warcraft exists and what its needs are. It's almost as if each game for all of us involved is its own unique person, its own unique individual with needs and wants. So it really drove home to me the fact that it's not just oh I'm doing voice casting, or voice directing, or voice recording. It's not this one general swipe across the board, it's that each project is its own person and has to be treated uniquely and individually. I might have my ear attuned to auditions for World of Warcraft for a certain kind of character but I cannot use that same ear for Diablo because it's a whole different category. The Cataclysm and all the StarCraft work I did really drove home that each project is its own unique property and has to be treated as such. I hope that makes sense.
[ 1:14:49 ]
Lylirra: Oh, it makes perfect sense. Do you have overlapping projects and if so how do you compartmentalize?
Andrea Toyias: Yeah we do, absolutely. Diablo was starting to creep in on me when I was doing Cataclysm and this might sound weird, but I'm a huge music fan, so even in New York, when our player characters who really lead the game in a lot of ways, before they would start recording, I would play on huge speakers at full volume some of the music from the Wrath of the Lich King soundtrack. I think it's called Arthas my Son, which I think is track three, I play my card because I'm that much of a nerd. But I would play that for them to get them in the headspace and I would watch them and we would be chatting and laughing and this transformation would happen. They would just sit differently, I'm getting chills talking about that now, but they would sit differently and you could see what affected them. So my point is that sometimes I find that with our projects even listening to the music associated with each project really helps me get into that headspace as well, because the music itself sets the tone for what we're going to do and what kind of voice we need to have. Diablo is very haunting and mysterious so we need those performances, so when I need to listen to those auditions I'll try to get into that Diablo headspace with that music.
Lylirra: So you really change your environment to fit the project?
Andrea Toyias: Absolutely, absolutely. I myself if I'm going to lead the charge to find our actors, I really need to make sure that in order to get other people in that headspace, I have to be in that headspace. So even listening to auditions for example can be quite daunting because we'll get 150 auditions for one role, I've got to make sure that I in my head know what I want, not just “La la la la la, going to do some casting”, I have to put my head in the Diablo sphere if I'm going to get it right.
[ 1:16:50 ]
Lylirra: To sort of wrap things up, you mentioned both Genn Greymane and Gallywix as being these pivotal characters that really embody their roles. They're more constant for players, but are there any particular voices that are secondary, that players might only hear when they're leveling through certain zones or running through a specific dungeon that are really awesome or epic in some way?
Andrea Toyias: Yeah, there's so many good ones and when I was preparing for this interview, I was trying to think of specific ones. Like I said, because Cataclysm is three times the amount of dialog, I can't remember them by name, but what I can tell you is for our dungeon bosses, I know our players do dungeons all the time, it's part of the gameplay for World of Warcraft, but I'm telling you, we spend so much time on those dungeon bosses. You might only hear three lines, but if you can stop playing for a second and really take in what you're hearing for our dungeon bosses, because not only do we really strive to make the artwork unique, the spells unique and the characters itself unique, we really try to find unique voices for the dungeon bosses. Again they only have three lines, but we really focus on trying to make them super, super cool and super, super tough. So I think if players can just take a moment out of their busy game playing and try to just hone in on what the dungeon boss sounds like and take a moment to appreciate all that's gone into that I think they'll get rewarded greatly because every dungeon boss is unique and exciting.
Lylirra: Well I mean, look at Thorim from last time, he had shirts and bumper stickers.
Andrea Toyias: Right, right! There's a couple dungeon bosses that I even told the actors, there's so many characters in my head I can't remember their names, but I remember finishing a session and telling an actor, you just wait, you just wait till this hits. You better get your groove on because you're going to have the action figures and the t-shirts, because all it takes is that one crazy performance. The fans will notice it and love it, and then boom that dungeon boss becomes a big fan favorite and then the t-shirts start. So it will be fun for the actors to revel in that once the game hits, and it will be fun for our fans to dig in and see what really jumps out at them, so it's really a win-win situation.
Lylirra: I certainly can't wait to update my wardrobe.
Andrea Toyias: [laughter] That'll be awesome! Right? That'll be really good.
Lylirra: Thank you so much Andrea, this has been such a pleasure.
Andrea Toyias: No, thank you! I can talk about this for hours, thank you.
[ 1:18:42 ]
BlizzCast #15: Cataclysm Class Design Lylirra (Community Manager), Greg Street (Lead Systems Designer)
[ top ]
Lylirra: For our next segment we are here with Greg Street, Lead Systems Designer for World of Warcraft and all around gentleman. Greg how's it going?
Greg Street: It's awesome.
[ 1:21:08 ]
Lylirra: Perfect. We have a slew of questions for you today so I'm going to just jump right in. In addition to shaking up Azeroth's landscape, Cataclysm is also introducing a host of class and systems changes. What do you feel has been the most important of these changes, speaking strictly from a character level?
Greg Street: So this won't affect super high level characters a lot but the biggest change, we think, is the low level experience. Particularly the magic moment at level 10 now where you get to be an arms warrior versus just a warrior, you get to get your special ability, you get passive bonuses that help you really define your character early on. It is a pretty big deal when you experience it; you get these abilities that you didn't have before, your playstyle varies quite dramatically at low level, characters are a lot more powerful than they used to be because of that and I think it is one of the biggest changes the level up experience ever had.
[ 1:21:18 ]
Lylirra: Right. I know I am excited for that, as well. In your opinion, what has been the most difficult or challenging tasks to take on for this expansion?
Greg Street: Gosh unfortunately we picked to many different challenging tasks this expansion to change. The talent tree overhaul was huge and it took a lot of time. When we sat down with the class designers -who were already through their first attempt at a Cataclysm talent tree- and now we're like you know what, were going to throw a lot of that away; you have to pick your 10 favorite talents and keep them and everything else were going to cut. That was huge and it was a lot of work to do, there were often too many good talents we wanted to keep. We would try to cut something and then someone would be like no you can't cut that it's my favorite talent and what makes me feel like a destruction warlock or whatever. That was really tough.

During the mechanics overhaul to the items we pulled certain stats and combined them into other stats and it wasn't that hard conceptually except for mastery. We knew we wanted a new stat and we knew that stat was going to make you better at what you did but we weren't sure exactly how it was going to work or how we'd explain to players that there were 30 different versions of this stat or how on earth we would balance that for everyone so that they valued mastery about as much as they should. We were scared it would awesome for Assassination rogues and terrible for Subtlety rogues or whatever and we will see if that is the case or not.
[ 1:22:09 ]
Lylirra: Perhaps pulling a bit from the previous question, is there anything you started to work on and thought you could do better? And is it difficult to change gears once you started on a particular design path?
Greg Street: I can give you two examples, something that worked well and then something that didn't work well. The talent trees worked really well. We were really nervous about it but as we got into it, it got to be really exciting. It was finally easy to look at a talent tree and decide how to build your character without necessarily having to go online or trying to figure out the math. "Hey is that haste talent good or is that not good compared to this other talent I have to give up to get it?" I think that was something we all rallied behind really quickly and understood how it worked. It was still a lot of work to get it done but we could see the light at the end of the tunnel.

On the other hand, something that we had not yet come to a great solution on were the relic slot or even the ranged slot for a lot of characters. We basically have: Hunters care a great deal about their ranged weapon but not as much for their main hand, then you have rogues and warriors who don't care about that weapon a whole lot, it's like some nice stats or whatever. It used to be back in the day they would use ranged attacks but now warriors have heroic throw and rogues have deadly throw and fan of knives and things like that so they care a little about the ranged weapon but it's not as nearly as big a deal as it used to be. Then we have wands; which back in the day you would use your wand to level up and that was like the pro thing to do, never cast a spell just use your wand instead, which we thought was terrible so we basically don't ask casters to use their wands anymore so they are also kind of pointless.

Then we had these relics which were like okay everyone gets one according to their spec, they get a relic that when you cast rejuvenation it gives you a bonus or when you cast Bloodstrike it gives you a bonus. I think the grand dream of those is that you would tailor your playstyle to like -Oh I'm a Rejuve casting druid, I'll take that one as opposed to the life bloom one- but in reality you pretty much get one per tier for your character. If it's a spell you like to cast you're in good shape, if it's a spell you don't like to cast it's terrible. So it got to a point where those relics were just pretty much a passive stat buff up on you almost all the time.

The relics we ended up with for Cataclysm aren't even class/spell specific anymore. It's just kind of like, the healer relic has a nice gem socket and gives you some stats you want. I think ultimately were not happy with that whole slot. If we had acted a little earlier perhaps the right call would be to pull it and say that everyone has a weapon slot, for hunters it's a ranged weapon, for paladins it's a melee weapon and just design there. We struggled with that for years and I am not sure we have a good solution to it, just one of those annoying rough edges we would like to smooth over for players.
Lylirra: Is it something you are going to try to improve as Cataclysm moves forward?
Greg Street: I don't know, that is a big change at this point because we would have to yank existing items from players, that may be more of a 5.0 level thing. It is definitely one of those long term goals that we'd' like eventually to find a better solution for cause the one we have just feels a little weird.
Lylirra: Yeah.
Greg Street: Icky is the word we use a lot.
[ 1:23:34 ]
Lylirra: So, in game design you need to keep track of the past (what's been done), the present (how things are now), and the future, including plans for change. How hard is it to keep track of all those iterations, of things that have changed and the things that still need to change?
Greg Street: Oh I would say it is almost impossible. Particularly near the end of Cataclysm when we have one build on PTR, which is not necessarily the same build that is on beta. Players are concerned with the level 80 experience with the talent tree changes and also what the level 85 experience will be. I catch myself thinking about an ability and then remembering oh we changed that 3 months ago or -hey everybody knows that X ability works this way- and you realize that ability has not worked that way for 2 years because we changed it back in the day. We don't have a great system for going back and looking at old data. It would be hard to do that and keep it straight. You know, "Oh it was build 13468 where we changed the way vindication worked." It's tough, you kind of rely on collective memory a lot and the players are very quick to point out when you screw up or say something that's been changed. Then they use that as ammunition that you clearly have no idea what you're doing and you should be fired immediately from your job.
Lylirra: Yes, they are our fact checkers.
Greg Street: (laughs) We can go back through the history of a particular spell or item if we really need to figure out how it worked but its more about what the philosophy was. While Blizzard has fairly low turnover as game companies go they do have some turn over so you're always like I wish I knew what this dude was thinking when he made this potion this way what was he trying to get at here? You can't ask him and he didn't like put a note. Example: I made this potion mp5 instead of spirit for this reason. We definitely have WTF moments where we are like what was this dude thinking, why does this talent work this way? Oh let's just change it. But we rely on collective memory a lot and like you said, players are great fact checkers when we get it wrong.
[ 1:26:55 ]
Lylirra: Speaking of our players, currently there is a perception that, as World of Warcraft continues to evolve, classes and characters are becoming more and more simple both in terms of gameplay and character customization. The community frequently credits this to our desire to make the certain aspects of the game more accessible. How would you combat this perception and are there any upcoming changes that might help address this concern, changes that players may not be already fully aware of?
Greg Street: So a couple of different things. World of Warcraft has been around a long time now. We went back and looked at the number of bosses in the game and the number is gigantic, it's over 100. I took a guess once at how many bosses we have and I was under by like half. Players constantly want to see new things they don't want to see the same encounters over and over again so encounters get quite complicated and at the same time the classes are getting more and more abilities. Every time you gain a couple of levels you get a new ability, to where a lot of the classes can't fit all of their abilities on the standard action bars we give you.

So we have this sort of ability bloat on the one hand with fights that get more and more complicated on the other hand and we thought that something has to give here. We can't just keep amping up both of those things. We ultimately decided it was more fun to do it on the encounter side because we thought it would be more engaging and keep players around longer if every encounter they approached felt a little different rather than once I master my rotation it's going to work the same over and over and over again.

Originally I don't think a great deal of thought went into the rotations of a class. I mean in Molten Core a lot of classes didn't even have rotations, for the Warlock cast Shadowbolt. Nowadays we design classes to have certain abilities that have synergies so that you do them in a certain order. Definitely on like the traditionally long PVE boss fight but even in PVP even when solo even when handling packs of trash or whatever the players are expected to manage a lot of abilities. If they want to do completive DPS or whatever they need to know how all that stuff works together. We took a step back and tried to decide does this really make sense or not? Do players really need this mechanic and/or are we getting anything out of that? Can we really find a niche for this spell or ability? I think in Cataclysm the classes that got a little simpler were the ones that kind of needed to. Feral druid to some extent. On the other hand we took some rotations and added a little bit of complication to them, fury warrior and melee paladins come to mind.

So I am not sure that it is totally fair that we have just been dumb'ing the game down, I think players say that sometimes when they see that a lot of players are in heroic dungeons and raiding nowadays. That doesn't necessarily mean that they are successful at it. That doesn't mean they are successful as you are or that they got to the content as quickly as you did or that they have got all the achievements or that they were able to see all the fights on heroic. We want to bring up the bottom end where we think a lot different types of players can experience the content. We also want to make sure for that players who want to show their stuff and test themselves have fights like that out there and players are probably discovering that is the case for Synestra today.

So the customization issue is also interesting. Originally the vision for World of Warcraft was that there were lots of different types of armor and only the best players get the best looking armor. We've kind of relaxed that as time has gone on because getting set bonuses is one of the big defining moments of a particular tier of gear, whether you are talking about a dungeon or a raid. That's one of the things that is really what's going to change what you do otherwise the stats are just oh look more spell power, more int, more crit the kind of stuff you have on your gear now. So we really like for players to get their set bonuses. Getting set bonuses changes up the way they play a little bit. We did not want to deny that to the great unwashed and only keep it for the super elite raiders so we make sure that players have an avenue to get their set bonuses. It used to be back in the day you would see the guy that could raid in Black Wing Lair and Naxxramus he was decked out in this crazy stuff that you could only imagine that someday you would be that cool and have that gear. We are going to try and recapture that a little bit in Cataclysm by making sure that shoulders and helmets can only be gained through raiding and therefore you can only gain your 4 piece set bonus by raiding you can get your 2 piece bonus your cool gear off badges or running heroic dungeons but you actually have to see the content to be ultimately tricked out.

The look of World of Warcraft is still really important to us, I think a lot of MMO's decide we'll just let the players do whatever and the players know what's best and if they want to look like a clown then they can look like a clown and were ok with that. I think our approach sometimes comes off as more heavy handed, players want more freedom then we are often willing to give them because we are trying to control the experience to some extent. It is important to us that characters look cool and while we occasionally give you items that let you turn into a furbolg or let you turn yourself different colors and things like that we ultimately want to preserve the look and make sure that players look cool and can't make themselves look ridiculous. If we had a way to examine the way players look then we could say "no you can't use that color dye with that color dye because you look silly".
Lylirra: An approval process of sorts.
Greg Street: Yeah. That is just kind of beyond the scope of what we can do given the size of our audience. So we understand it is important for players to be able to distinguish themselves we try to do that a lot through the companion pets you can get. We're increasingly offering more non combat toys with things like archeology and a lot of the trade skills and some of our world events. We would like to get even more creative with minor glyphs. I think minor glyphs still haven't quite delivered on the initial promise of "oh your fireball can be green". Some of that requires tech that we don't have yet. Some of it requires asking an artist for not only a new spell for a level 83 Death Knight ability but for 4 versions of it so I can change the colors and stuff too. It is still something we really want to do and it is in the long term plan. That will allow players a little more freedom to be a unique individual inside all of the Shaman wearing all the same armor sets.
[ 1:28:51 ]
Lylirra: So, we've answered variations of this question before and in a number of different mediums, but it keeps coming up. How do you decide what needs to be changed, whether or not it can be changed, and how and when it will change? Is there some sort of secret formula or a plan that players aren't privy to?
Greg Street: I wish, it would be awesome to say yes we have the holy text of how World of Warcraft class design works and we just follow it. The reality is that it's super subjective. How we learn about issues could be anything from a raid last night and death knight dps seemed really low or it could be an email from this player who kind of knows what he is talking about so we should pay attention or there are a lot of players on the forum saying this is the case maybe we should think about it or a quest designer walks into our office and feels healing is really low and is wondering if there something going on or is he doing something wrong. We try to collect information lots of different ways, it can come from the community it can come from our internal community team, it can come from our friends in QA or programmers or artist who notice something. Certainly we all play the game quite a bit and notice stuff ourselves. We gather all this information and then decide on what's important, what do we have to act on and there is not really anything magical to it. Players would probably be quick to suspect that if it's our character class we jump on it right away and fix it. We have really long lists of things we want to fix, the list of stuff we would like to fix for Cataclysm is still really long, just like it was for Lich King and we are very critical of ourselves. I can almost assure you that anything players complain about, we know and we hate it too and we just haven't gotten around to fixing it yet.

Sometimes we don't know the right answer, this class is blowing apart the damage meters in PVE but they are underpowered in PVP so what on earth do we do to give them a little bit of power that they can't then turn on and use against a raid boss. Solutions like that are often tricky.

Sometimes it's a technical limitation. We might think it would be wonderful if this ability worked one way for Affliction and another way for Demonology and a talent is what changes it but there are a limited number of things that talents can change right now. We could ask programmers to give us more and usually they will assuming were not asking them something that is going to crash the servers but sometimes that tech takes time. A very typical designer experience dealing with programmers with what seems like a trivial five minute fix is actually 3 months of work for the best guys and they will require tons of overtime and people to peel grapes for them and things like that to keep them happy and then other times that feels like we are asking you to rewrite the engine and it is just a bit that we can flip and is fine. So the long winded answer is that there are technical concerns and sometimes they are easy, sometimes they are hard.

We have bandwidth limitations, often players suggest if you can't get everything done then just hire more people and the answer to that is that throwing people at problems doesn't necessarily mean that the problems will get solved faster. We place a huge, huge premium on consensus. We would never make a change to the game if one of the class designers had a huge concern with it. We feel we need to make sure we all agree on everything. We want to present a unified front and we want to make sure that we are all adhering to the same vision. That is very important to the game and the players can sense it pretty quickly when they feel like a class is getting special treatment or something like that so adding more people just means that all of those meetings where we decide thing take that much longer and there is a bigger chance that you will have someone that disagrees or just wants to march to their own drum or something. So our team is probably a lot smaller than players suspect it is and we first try to handle the problems we think are serious because they are a huge quality of life issue or we just think it sucks that something works the way it does. The smaller things we get in if they are really cheap and easy to fix. The worst kind of task is not a huge impact on players and super, super risky, those are the ones that are like dead on arrival because they are just not worth it. Players won't appreciate the change and we might risk introducing bugs or a lot of downtime or something like that.

It is enormously subjective and it is very much an art. It's not necessarily a pet list but it's more of a gigantic triage and high priority critical stuff gets in first and things that are easy get attention the second and things kind of in the middle where it's not really that big of a deal and kind of hard to fix are often the kind of things that go on and on.
[ 1:35:04 ]
Lylirra: So with respect to lists, you mentioned technical limitations previously. Do you ever make notations somewhere so that you can go back to a particular spell/talent/class build once you might have the technology?
Greg Street: Oh constantly, we do that all the time. A couple of recent examples are in Cataclysm. We introduced new resource mechanics for a lot of different classes and specs. Focus was a very easy one, basically we already had that working for Hunter pets and we just added it to the hunter and it was no big deal. The warlocks required a completely new system and initially we were handling that just through spells. We can do a lot just through different spell effects, almost everything in World of Warcraft is driven by spells whether its quest or item procs or set bonuses and we can do a lot that way but we found as we were trying to get fancier and fancier with soul shards. Also with paladin Holy Power and with the druid Eclipse bar and even with the Shadow priest orbs, we found that we needed an actual robust system. We had to input and build this new power bar concept for the game and now different classes can have different power bars and it will be easy for us to tweak those but we had to actually like, build a system.

Another example is the way mounts work, we changed the way mounts work a lot for Cataclysm. It used to be that a blue mount had a certain movement speed and a purple mount had a faster movement speed. You basically gave up your blue mounts once you reached or found a faster mount. It was very data driven which meant it was super buggy. You had a lot of special cases like the sparkle pony and other scaling mounts that required us to write scripts that basically looked at what a player was capable of moving at and adjusted the mount to that and they always fell apart and broke. We finally decided that we needed a mount system in the game. We need to specify the kind of mount, like a land mount that can fly or it's a flying mount that can go underwater or whatever. The programmers actually built us a new mount system and it's actually now pretty trivial for us to add new mounts once we get awesome art.
[ 1:39:54 ]
Lylirra: So the beta is currently in progress right now what would you say is the best or most important feedback that you could receive?
Greg Street: It can come in a couple of different formats, I think player feedback is often too long. We are really busy and just like any normal person reading whether it's a bug report or a forum post we would like it to be concise and brief. People's eyes tend to glaze over if they have to go a few paragraphs. Sometimes it requires that detail to adequately express yourself or to cover all the bases but nearly always shorter is better. If you can explain something to us very briefly then it has a better chance to make a good sound bit or a good bullet list on the design meeting notes or something like that. We always ask players to keep it in perspective.

We don't hate your class, we are not out to get you and your not neglected. We have a lot we want to do and a lot of mouths to feed so to speak. I am not asking anyone to cut us some slack but just kind of keep it in perspective. Telling us that you noticed a problem or you'd like something to changed is awesome but you don't need to follow that up with "and it's obvious you don't understand our class and your always out to get us and nobody on your staff plays X class" or whatever. That doesn't help anything, it does not make your argument any stronger and it usually just makes them silly and they risk that their message will get missed inside all the whining.
[ 1:41:57 ]
Lylirra: Now after game launch is this sort of feedback just as important or perhaps more important?
Greg Street: It's funny, our job is never done. I think there is an expectation that once it's done it's locked in and your talent tree is not going to change for 12 months or however long it takes us to make another expansion. The fact is if we see something is not working we will be quick to change it. Now we know that too much of that leaves players with what I call the whiplash experience, we screwed up a little bit with the Hunter balance and we immediately drove all the Beast Mastery hunters to Survival or whatever it was at the time and we did a little bit of that with mages too. We have to be super careful. We don't want players to be chasing our ever changing design but we do want to fix things that are broken.

It's easier to make sweeping changes in an expansion. Players almost expect it and kind of get a little disappointed if they don't see any change for their class, so expansion is the best time to do it. Sometimes we get the sense that players are dreading the patch coming because that's the end of their changes and no more work will ever be done. We have a pretty good capacity to hot fix things (which means changing them on the server without having to change the client patch). We also can make fast patches and we are having to patch things all the time. That doesn't mean that we are sloppy and don't know how to program, that just means something didn't work the way we expected or in the meantime we thought of a better way to do it. It is one of the beauties of working on a Massive Multiplayer Online Game and my previous career we would come up with an idea and it might be a year before we'd see it implemented and on World of Warcraft literally sometimes you can think of a change and it will be in game by that afternoon.

I think when I first started I viewed a class as a perfect form out there and you eventually iterate your way towards it. Kind of like the artist carving away marble to get at the sculpture underneath, eventually the perfect form with emerge but I don't think that's a destination anymore, it's a journey. We will constantly be tweaking things until we are happy with them. As an example we might tweak the talent in the 5th tier and after a while the one in the 3rd tier will start to look stale and old so maybe it's time to update that one too. We don't look at things as finished. It is more about how it feels that day since the game evolves and there are new types of encounters out there. There's going to be a huge emphasis on battlegrounds in Cataclysm so were going to have to look at some abilities perhaps we didn't look at before because they didn't have a role in smaller scale pvp. Yeah that's the long winded way of saying it's a product that just keeps on going and we don't view milestones as anything is particularly locked down its just the next step. Players are going to see something new and then the next day we will go in and change something else.
[ 1:43:22 ]
Lylirra: On a sort of final note you have a long history of promising various mounts to our World of Warcraft player base a pony, a moose and now a camel, promises aside what sort of cool new mounts should our players look forward to as Cataclysm progresses?
Greg Street: I will tell you it's getting kind of hard. We look around at what animals haven't we tapped yet and then it is like "oh let's make the llama or the musk ox" or whatever. We keep wracking our brains. It was kind of a miracle that we had not yet tapped the Lion and that we came up with the scorpion guild mount. Before the scorpion we were messing around with the lightning lizards in the Barrens.
Lylirra: The Thunderlizards?
Greg Street: Yeah the Thunderlizards, but to make those work we had to take their stegosaurus like plates off and then they didn't look like Thunderlizards anymore so had to kill that mount idea. Then the scorpion, but can we make the scorpion work? There were a lot of concerns about as your riding along is the stinger like poking you in the back of the neck but they pulled it off. It looks awesome and it's a really exciting mount. Could we make a spider mount that is pretty cool? That seems possible. Funny mounts are fun as long as they don't cheapen the world for players you don't want to do too much of the giant penguin mount or the ostrich mount or whatever.
Lylirra: Shark mount might be a possibility.
Greg Street: Yeah we talked a lot about that and we'll see a little bit when Vashir goes live with the sea horses and stuff. Maybe there is room to have aquatic mounts. You might have your flying mount, your ground mount and then your underwater mount. Then... gosh you know, marine biologist here, we could come up with all sorts of eels and lobsters and sharks all sorts of crazy things to ride around under water we could see the very slow moving giant sea cucumber mount would be awesome.
Lylirra: Well thank you Greg! It's been great to have you here, and I'm sure our players are very excited about Cataclysm.
Greg Street: I am, I can't wait to go play it after spending so much time working on it.
Lylirra: It's been a pleasure and I think that about wraps it up.
Greg Street: Thanks
Lylirra: Well that's it for the questions today. A big thank you to Alex, Cory, Russell, Derek, Andrea and Greg for their time and insight and to all of our listeners for downloading this episode of Blizzcast. See you next time.
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