WoW Patch 5.2 Is Out Now, Raid Designer Talks Thunder King

| 5 Mar 2013 17:00
image

Hear about the new patch from Blizzard's lead encounter designer.

Blizzard released the fourth expansion - Mists of Pandaria - to its major MMO this fall. With the last expansion, Cataclysm, the player base complained that it took far too long for new raid content to be added to the game in patches. Blizzard didn't want to wait this time around and Patch 5.2 - The Thunder King released today, a mere 6 months after the expansion. The Thunder King focuses on the resurrection of Lei Shin, the first emperor of the stone-like Mogu who subjugated the Pandaren people thousands of years ago. The Zandalari, always trolling the players of WoW with many raids featuring them as adversaries, have resurrected the Thunder King to wreak havoc and retake the isle of Pandaria.

Patch 5.2 is a big one. In addition to the hundreds of class and spell tweaks to help rebalance the game, Blizzard is also adding a new daily quest hub and collectible minipets to its surprisingly addictive battle pet system, among other additions and changes. The major addition which hardcore players will be excited about, however, is the Throne of Thunder raid instance in which 25 elite players can try to defeat the reinvigorated Lei Shin himself. I got a chance to speak to Ion Hazzikostas, the Lead Encounter Designer at Blizzard, and pick his brain on what it takes to design a highly anticipated raid dungeon, keep it challenging for dedicated players without alienating the more casual raiders. Oh, and, Ion also talks a little bit about PVP and how hardcore Arena players really love to collect 'em all.

Raiding the Throne of Thunder

Greg Tito: Patch 5.2 adds a very large raid with twelve bosses, is that correct?

Ion Hazzikostas, Lead Encounter Designer at Blizzard for World of Warcraft: That is correct, twelve bosses plus one additional boss that is only available on heroic or hard mode difficulty.

Greg Tito: Who is the additional boss? Are you going to tell me what it is or is it a secret?

Ion Hazzikostas: Sure, his name is Ra-den. He is a mysterious Titan keeper, evocative of some of the figures that players encountered back in the Ulduar raid in Wrath of the Lich King. He's been locked away underneath the Thunder King's palace for a millennium at this point. Players who defeat the Thunder King on Heroic Mode will unseal this mystery that's lurking beneath the palace.

Greg Tito: Is he working with the Thunder King or is he more of a rogue entity?

Ion Hazzikostas: He's a prisoner essentially.

Greg Tito: The players will then get to free him and use his power for good and not for evil?

Ion Hazzikostas: Something along those lines. We've been keeping the exact workings a little mysterious since this is kind of a special bonus treat for the first players to get there. We didn't test it on our public testers and there's very limited information available about the boss so it should be a cool surprise for the first people to get there and see him.

Greg Tito: This is kind of similar to, also in Ulduar, where you had an extra special encounter.

Ion Hazzikostas: Algalon, in Ulduar, is very similar to that in terms of the design and the structure.

Greg Tito: How long have you been working on this specific raid instance?

Ion Hazzikostas: Pretty much since the second that we released Mists of Pandaria. In terms of the first concepts, from early October through now. It's a very involved and lengthy design pipeline where we had to figure out exactly what the dungeon is going to be, what the raid is going to be, who the bosses are going to be, what the overall flow is then the overall setting. Then it just needs to get made physically by our awesome artists who actually are making the dungeon itself as well as the creatures that are going to inhabit it and then we start putting all the pieces together and implementing the encounters and then of course testing them so from start to finish it's a number of months but we're really excited about the final product and looking forward to getting it in players hands

Greg Tito: That's actually a pretty compact design schedule. I would have thought that you would have actually started, at least in concept for what this raid would look like, while Mists of Pandaria was being built before release.

Ion Hazzikostas: We knew it was going to be the Thunder King and the Isle of Thunder King and his palace but in terms of exactly how many bosses it was going to be, what those bosses were, what the flow was, that didn't really take shape until the early fall.

Greg Tito: Was there anything that came with the testing or the iteration from the artists that made you change the design as it was going forward?

Ion Hazzikostas: No single big thing that jumps out. I think we constantly ... it's a creative process and everyone has input and we have ideas our artists have awesome ideas of their own and concept sketches and we just kind of bounce around and often they'll have a suggestion for an interpretation of something that we all just agree is, immediately, that's way cooler than what we had in mind, let's go with it. But it's more just about sort of the look and feel of a boss or of a room. The fundamental design and the actual mechanics that are implemented those are constantly iterated on both through internal testing and public testing we'll often realize that something isn't playing out quite the way we intended and maybe it's too easy, maybe it's too hard, maybe players are bypassing it entirely and so we just make adjustments and fine tuning to the way encounters work to make sure that they're fun.

Greg Tito: I saw that this is going to split into four parts for when you're searching for a pick up group using Blizzard's Looking For Raid feature.

Ion Hazzikostas: Exactly. There's four sections with three bosses each. It kind of corresponds to the four separate thematic sections of the zone, the zone was in some regards designed and structured to be broken up that way. The first section are outdoor ruins then at the end of that you plunge into this underground cavern, kind of a forgotten grotto underneath the foundations of the palace that's where the next three bosses are. Then you come up underneath into sort of experimental, dark sinister wing, sort of the dungeons beneath the palace. Then the final section is the seat of power of the Thunder King himself, much brighter more ornate and that's the final three bosses.

Just Who Is This Thunder King Anyway?

Greg Tito: The Thunder King is Lei Shen. What can you tell me about him?

Ion Hazzikostas: He was this figure that had completely conquered Pandaria thousands of years ago and subjugated the Pandaran race and really was the Mogu tyrant when the Mogu were the ascendant power in Pandaria.

Greg Tito: Now why didn't that power expand beyond into Kalilmdor?

Ion Hazzikostas: Because until the Cataclysm and the events following the Cataclysm, the contents of Pandaria was shrouded in impenetrable mists and so there really wasn't much traveling in or out. The wandering turtle on which new Pandaren players begin as the lone exception to that.

Greg Tito: You'd think that with Lei Shin so hungry for power that he would try and get out of the island, too.

Ion Hazzikostas: I guess he didn't get around to it. Ultimately he died of old age his first time around but then was resurrected by the Zandalari trolls in their bid for power in the recent events of the 5.0 patch.

Greg Tito: I remember playing through that quest line. Was that intentional to seed the event of this big raid through a memorable quest line that players did as they were leveling through Pandaria?

Ion Hazzikostas: Yes, it's something we try to do wherever possible, you know when we can plan ahead and know what the next raid zone is going to be or what the next raid boss is going to be. I think it's always cool to introduce and foreshadow as much as possible so that when players go into a place and they fight an enemy, they kind of know who it is. We're not completely having to introduce them from scratch and there's no connection, we try to avoid that.

Post Comment

You must be logged in to post. Log In

I've heard that LFR won't be brought in for these raids until weeks afterwords which must be really annoying for those stuck on the numerous empty servers.

I agree with Doomsdaylee's comments on the pets.

Doomsdaylee:
I'm surprised anyone cares anymore, since they bastardized WoW so bad.
Fucking Activison, Spyro wasn't enough, you have to turn WoW into baby's first handholding adventure?

I could deal with removal of branching spec trees.
I could deal with the gutting of the hunter system, and GIVING Warlock's their pets.
I could deal with the quest helper.
I could deal with being able to hit lv 30 in under a week.
I could even deal with the fucking pandas.
But when they started giving Druids cat at lv 6, and Warlocks FUCKING METAMORPH at lv 10, not to mention COMPLETELY gutting the talent trees?
Fuck you, call me when you stop pandering (Pun unintended) to the lil bitches who can't do a damn thing without you doing all the work for them.

TL;dr:
Fuck activision.

Spoken like someone who hasn't Raided or RankBG'd/Arena'd in this expansion. I used my glyphs and talent changing abilities on close to every boss to see what works. It was hella fun. I'm just burnt at the moment and unlike SOME I can manage to tell when the problem is my waning interest and not 'ERMERGERD dis game SUX is so eezee mode now for babies'.
You may get your skills earlier and easier, but clearly mastering them is a chore for many since LFR still experiences wipes and tards aplenty.

It's not any easier. It's CONVENIENCE. It's taking out what doesn't need to exist and replacing it with actual challenge. Hard Mode raiding is still hard. Challenge modes are impossible for your average player. PvP needs balancing but when does it not. Content is still fresh and interesting. The stories on Pandaria are up there with some of the best of BC and Wrath and beyond. You lost interest or your friends lost interest and you and moved on.
Thats. O.K.A.Y. You don't have to have a little temper tantrum and justification session about it.

Anyway this patch had amazing build up but the Heroics in 5.0-5.1 were SO Draining (Sha of Fear can go hump a rusty pike). I need a break. So I'll be rejoining the flock much later in 5.2 or even 5.3.

anthony87:
And my crappy guild still hasn't even tried to do Mogu'shan Vaults on Normal......

You're probably better off for it, my guild is just constantly smashing our faces against Heart of Fear now and making no progress (We did manage to clear Terrace of Endless Spring though, so yay), and now with this patch released we get to spend the next five weeks or so wiping endlessly against the first two bosses in a new raid. And then six weeks or so after that slowly making progress until we can blow through the whole thing in an hour and it all gets really boring and monotonous because there's no point in going back to the previous tier of raids.

I love WoW, but I'm really burnt out on how they've been releasing content since Wrath. I get that creating and balancing new raids is probably a ton of work, but when they've only got an average of about five-seven bosses, there's only one raid that gets released for content patches, and there's months and months in between content patches, it gets really tiring.

EDIT: Ulduar is still probably one of my favorite raids, because it actually had variety and the hard-modes were naturally implemented along with the boss fights rather than just being a switch toggle (except Mimiron). Even Icecrown Citadel, as nerfed as it got and as boring as the layout was, still had a decent number of different encounters.

I'm wondering how many subs WOW has now. Really I lost interest after WTLK, but did pop back for Cata. I never picked up Pandaria. But even hardcore WOWers I know have stopped playing (most seemed annoyed by Pandaria's new mechanics) and moved onto Guildwars2.
When even the hardcore fans start dropping, it has to dent WOWs subscriptions.

Doomsdaylee:
I'm surprised anyone cares anymore, since they bastardized WoW so bad.
Fucking Activison, Spyro wasn't enough, you have to turn WoW into baby's first handholding adventure?

I could deal with removal of branching spec trees.
I could deal with the gutting of the hunter system, and GIVING Warlock's their pets.
I could deal with the quest helper.
I could deal with being able to hit lv 30 in under a week.
I could even deal with the fucking pandas.
But when they started giving Druids cat at lv 6, and Warlocks FUCKING METAMORPH at lv 10, not to mention COMPLETELY gutting the talent trees?
Fuck you, call me when you stop pandering (Pun unintended) to the lil bitches who can't do a damn thing without you doing all the work for them.

TL;dr:
Fuck activision.

What does "giving warlocks their pets" even mean? And I'm glad lvling is easier. The entire game is based around end game. And gutting the talent trees? You mean actually giving useful talents that DO something other than just "increase X stat by 5%"?

So tired of hearing the talent argument. I change my talents multiple times in a day depending on the situation whether it's dungeons, raids or arenas. Unlike back in the day where I had a cookie cutter spec I got off EJ. Only people who ever changed their talents on the old system were min/max junkies.

But please, don't return to the game. It's better off without people raging over nothing.

I like this expansion its up there with TBC. Although i've gone a little off the boil of late, maybe this patch will get me back in the game. Shame we(my guild) only cleared one of the three dungeons fully on heroic oh my feats of strength QQ.

I may return when they go entirely free to play, my wallet can't handle the subscription fee right now.

also, I'm still kinda bitter about what they did to Illidan and Arthas, and Cataclysm looked kinda boring, but still, the game pulls on my Warcraft 3 and early WoW strings, and that's probably enough to keep my attention for a little while.

Doomsdaylee:
I'm surprised anyone cares anymore, since they bastardized WoW so bad.
Fucking Activison, Spyro wasn't enough, you have to turn WoW into baby's first handholding adventure?

I could deal with removal of branching spec trees.
I could deal with the gutting of the hunter system, and GIVING Warlock's their pets.
I could deal with the quest helper.
I could deal with being able to hit lv 30 in under a week.
I could even deal with the fucking pandas.
But when they started giving Druids cat at lv 6, and Warlocks FUCKING METAMORPH at lv 10, not to mention COMPLETELY gutting the talent trees?
Fuck you, call me when you stop pandering (Pun unintended) to the lil bitches who can't do a damn thing without you doing all the work for them.

TL;dr:
Fuck activision.

Nothing you mention their was fun or challenging, you seem to think that leveling was the be all and end all of WoW, WoW is based 100% around its end game, leveling is just story to build. I leveled up in classic on 5 chars, it was not hard, it was long, even on a class like balance (no Moonkin form for a while back then) was not a challenge to level with, it was just time consuming, the only difficulty lay in not over pulling and killing creeps one by one, Time is not difficult.

But if i must dissect your argument, Leveling up to level 20 as a druid with none of you main damage ability's was not a difficult or FUN (that odd word again) thing, it was a pointless time wall set their just to slow you down. Making you wait 80 levels for a cool down (the old Metamorth for 'Locks is in no way shape or form related to the new one, If you can wipe the tears of rage away from you face and look into it, its now a main mechanic of the spec and not just a damage cooldown), the "gutting" of hunters, as compared to the one button macro mashing of TBC, back then hunters were so hard i finished a BT, Hyjal and 3/6 Sunwell with only the use of my mouse with 3 extra buttons and still came out on top of DPS. Hunters have never been better to play. You can disable the quest helper. The branching trees was fun until EJ or AJ created a cookie cutter build, then "yay" get to spec the same as everyone else.

I have no idea what you mean by gave Warlocks their pets.

Outside of Raiding WoW, even back in classic WOW was never hard (ok I'll give you v1 TBC heroics but that was 100% a gear check and not at all skill based), it was grind, a faux difficulty used to trick people into thinking they were doing something hard, It was not hard to kill 50 merlocks without an overpull. Demon souls is not hard because it takes a while, Waiting for the Render bar is not the hard part of film making. Complaining about the difficulty of end game raids (Wrath had this issue with T7 and 9) or the laziness of design (Dragon Soul can burn in a pit) or even PVP balance is a Fair point, but you are just barking at the moon about 5% of the total time you'll spend playing the game, Sorry this game is not Everquest, other Everquest like games are available, I'd suggest EverQuest.

But still no, sorry you were mad at the people that made Call of Duty, Ill let you rant, I hate kill streak bonuses too.

Is it just me, or does this guy look like Mumm-Ra, the Ever-Living from the old thundercats cartoon?

I'm surprised anyone cares anymore, since they bastardized WoW so bad.
Fucking Activison, Spyro wasn't enough, you have to turn WoW into baby's first handholding adventure?

I could deal with removal of branching spec trees.
I could deal with the gutting of the hunter system, and GIVING Warlock's their pets.
I could deal with the quest helper.
I could deal with being able to hit lv 30 in under a week.
I could even deal with the fucking pandas.
But when they started giving Druids cat at lv 6, and Warlocks FUCKING METAMORPH at lv 10, not to mention COMPLETELY gutting the talent trees?
Fuck you, call me when you stop pandering (Pun unintended) to the lil bitches who can't do a damn thing without you doing all the work for them.

TL;dr:
Fuck activision.

And my crappy guild still hasn't even tried to do Mogu'shan Vaults on Normal......

Fat_Hippo:
I don't actually care about WoW, but just wanted to say: Ion Hazzikostas is an awesome name. He sounds like he could be one the raid bosses himself.

I know right, Greek names are pretty awesome sometimes! I can't wait to sink my teeth in the new region tomorrow, the dailies seem to be very story driven and interesting, and the raid design from what I've read seems to put a full emphasis on original complex mechanics rather than gear checks. I'm excited and a bit scared, since the first tier content of MoP kicked my guild's ass and we didn't manage to complete it in time (nowhere near).

DVS BSTrD:
With a name like Ion, HE should be the Thunder King.

It's pronounced "ee-on" :P

Fat_Hippo:
I don't actually care about WoW, but just wanted to say: Ion Hazzikostas is an awesome name. He sounds like he could be one the raid bosses himself.

With a name like Ion, HE should be the Thunder King.

And to think, my old guild was getting pissed because we weren't raiding fast enough to get gear for 5.2 then it only goes live 3 months later. Funny thing is a few months ago, this would've excited me, new content to go smash my face against with people who can't master basic mechanics, huzzah! But now it's more a "Huh...so they finally released it...I thought I'd care more."

I don't actually care about WoW, but just wanted to say: Ion Hazzikostas is an awesome name. He sounds like he could be one the raid bosses himself.

Continue reading 16 comments on the forums.
Recommended Games
EverQuest II
categories: 3d, fantasy
Panzar
categories: 3d, fantasy