Raid Panel - BlizzCon 2005

The Raid Discussion Panel on Oct. 28th was hosted by:
Jeff Kaplan (Tigule), World of Warcraft Lead Designer
Cory Stockton - Lead dungeon designer
Jeff Goodman - creatures, spells and abilities
Steven Pierce - places
Alex Afrasiabi (Furor) - Quest Team, Dire Maul Tribute
Scott Mercer - Spells & abilities, all the monster spells in the Molten Core, as well as being the "item guy".

Also see: Raid Panel Image Gallery

By making sure that there is "unbeaten content" in the World of Warcraft, it not only enriches the world for the people the 'high end guilds' that strive to beat it, it also makes the world feel bigger and more alive for everyone else. It gives people something to strive for. Blizzard take issue with the charge that endgame dungeons are designed for the '1% of the game world that will actually see it.'

Jeff Kaplan (Tigule): My mom has two level 60's and a level 40, and she gets MC raid invites.

Worldwide, every weeknight during prime time there are approximately 500 Molten Core instances running (15,000 players), 150 Onyxia instances (2,500 players), 250 Blackwing Lair instances (6,000 players) and 700 Zul'Gurub instances (10,000). On the weekend, there are 800 Molten Core runs being made. (On a side note, one of the developers pronounced Zul'Gurub as "Zool-Garoob", where I've always been personally pronouncing it "Zhull-Guh-Rub")

Onyxia was first added in beta on August 13th at 11:30pm with placeholder artwork. They wanted to break the standard boss fight with a three-stage scripted encounter.

Stage 1: The introduction -- you see Onyxia in her lair sleeping, and the tanks charge in, etc.
Stage 2: She can fly! -- "And we did made her fly."
Stage 3: All hell breaks loose. -- Where everyone has to be on top of their game to bring the dragon down.

The Onyxia encounter exemplifies all their raid encounters. When they design an encounter, they sit down and ask what each class is doing in the encounter, and work closely with the class team. They remember the role of each class, and try and mix things up.

They always have a duriation in mind for a boss encounter. For example, Vaelastrasz is supposted to be a 2-3 minute fight. "It's not our fault that your guilds took four months to beat him." They mentioned that pacing is hard to determine in testing, but they are attempting to challenge the player so they can feel a sense of accomplishment when they finally overcome the boss. Blizzard is constantly trying to raise the bar on themselves when adding raid content.

Killing Players is Easy
They typically get asked, 'when are you going to add a *smart* AI boss, one that kills the healers first'. In response to this hypothetical question, Jeff explained that 'killing players is easy... we can kill you at any time we want.' He went on to explain that their primary focus isn't to make an encounter unbeatable, but to make it fun for everyone.

A great chart was put up, of the 'most player kills in one day'. At the top of the list with 24,182 player kills in one day was Vaelanstrasz the Corrupt. Second place was held by Bloodlord Mandrokar at 11,747 kills in one day. They then brought in normal, non-elite raid bosses into the chart,and the results were predictable but amusing. At 5,785 kills in one day 'Kobold Miner' was a much harder monster than the blue-dragon Azergos.
  1. 24,182 Vaelanstrasz the Corrupt
  2. 11,747 Bloodlord Mandrokar
  3. ...
  4. 19,254 Gadgetzan Bruiser
  5. 17,162 Defias Pillager
  6. 8,298 Tarren Mill Deathgaurd
  7. 7,437 Southshore Guard
  8. 7,084 Scarlet Monk
  9. 5,785 Kobold Miner

Raid Testing.
Blizzard stated that a non-guilded (pickup) group will never play at the same level as a more cohesive, less-skilled raiding group. Basic testers cannot match raid guilds in their abilities. Due to requests by the community, Blizzard kept Blackwing Lair off of the public test realms, so that the 'highend' raid guilds could be the first to raid them. Blizzard learned their lesson from this, and all future raids will be on the public test servers, as they are an invaluable tool for them to find and fix bugs.

The US Center for Disease Control heard about the Hakkari Blood Plague, and contacted Blizzard about running disease simulations.

There is a three to eight week patch turnaround time for the Q&A department.

Alex gave us a little bit of background on the Ahn'Quiraj War that is comming up in 1.9. There is a lot of important story, which will require the involvement of the entire server. Both the alliance and horde have certain objectives to meet, and there is a lot of stuff to do to open up the dungeon. The uber-guilds of the server must form a scepter, but a lot of support is needed from everyone else to make it happen. Once the sceptre is complete, the horde and alliance will have to form up at the gong, and a massive war will be unleashed when the door in the Scarab Wall is unsealed.

As you probably already know, there are two portions of Ahn'Quiraj. An instance balanced for a 20 member raid party, and an instance balanced for a 40 member raid party. Some zones I saw in the ruins were the 'General's Terrace', where General Rajaxx (whom they jokingly refered to as General Flapjacks'), and the Hatchery.

Naxxramus, the floating necropolis over stratholme will be opened in a future live update. (I.e. before the expansion).

For the Burning Crusade, a lot of dungeons will be winged dungeons, in the manner of Scarlet Monestary and Dire Maul, where you can customize your experience by picking a part of the dungeon to do.

Kharezon (Medivh's Tower) will be a small, ten man raid dungeon. Some of the video footage of the dungeon they showed us was a ton of twisting hallways and stairs that would be populated later with tormented souls. The artwork on the dungeon is certainly coming along nicely. They gave us a peek of the ballroom and the opera house. On the massive domed ceiling, a magestic fresco of orcish cherubs could be seen.

In the Caverns of Time, the basic premise is the players will be travelling back in time to participate in epic events of the past. For example, we will be fighting Archimonde at the Battle of Mt. Hyjal. There will also be a new battleground added to the Caverns of Time.

Several of the instances they mentioned specifically in the Burning Crusade expansion was Tempest keep, where Kael'thalas Sunstrider, the leader of the Blood Elves lives, and Hellfire Citadel, where Magtheradon is held. They mentioned that this will be a smaller raid encounter. You will be able to fight Illidan in the Black Temple (he's the end boss for the Outlands). And "much much more".

Their intention is to give people a "menu" of options for the raiding guilds, so you can pick and choose what content you want to do.

Question & Answer Segment
They've discovered that linear raid progression (like Molten Core) causes a lot of problems, and are looking to smaller raid caps, not larger ones.

Alex designed the Dire Maul Tribute Run.

Scott stated that everyone will still be happy with their epic gear when TBC comes out.

If asked that they are going to make items for specific talent builds, Scott responded, "yes we need to."

Scott stated that paladins and priests will be getting an update. Paladins in 1.9

Instance timers are getting changed in 1.9, and will be calendar based. I.e. your Molten Core instance will reset during weekly server maintainance.

Alex estimated that Ahn'Quiraj will take about 3 weeks for a server to open up, however it could be much shorter. If you do nothing to finish the Ahn'Quiraj opening, it will open eventually on it's own.

The token style system of higher level items that was used in Zul'Gurub will be used in Ahn'Quiraj.

Molten Core (and other) drops are completely random. There is no "raid leader seed" that determines what loot drops in an instance.

Scott will be doing a revamp of the set bonuses, and looking to do minor improvements.

General Rajaxx in Ahn'Quiraj wil be a different kind of fight, where NPC allies will fight alongside you, and you have to keep them alive.

The Horde and the Alliance will hate each other even more than before. There are no plans for content where you can cross-faction group.

An example of their class review process for raid dungeons is how they allowed many creatures to be rooted by druids in Zul'Gurub.

Blizzard studies the top addons downloaded from the Curse gaming website, to see which addons the community needs. They then try to either integrate this into their own UI, or break it because they think it is cheesy.

They sometimes watch player raids while in 'ghost form' on the public test servers, to see what people are doing and how they're doing.

They added the traps into Blackwing Lair so that rogues would have more of a role to play. They are really considering the AoE spells in instances, in order to do something about the 'rogues shooting bows from the back' problem.