Blizzard has told Eurogamer that the Firelands raid – the next tier of endgame raiding progression for the MMO – will not appear in the next patch, 4.1, as it had previously planned.
In an interview at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, lead producer J. Allen Brack said that players were not sufficiently advanced through the raid content that shipped with third expansion Cataclysm in December to handle the challenge of Firelands. He also suggested that Blizzard was thinking of creating "smaller" content patches for World of Warcraft.
"We feel like the player base isn't really ready for the next raid yet," he said. "And that led to some changes where Firelands is now actually going to be in 4.2."
"Our plan is to package... features into smaller content updates and to release them as soon as possible, rather than wait and release larger updates more infrequently," Blizzard added in a statement.
[...]After the interview, Blizzard gave Eurogamer the following statement about the decision to remove Firelands from patch 4.1.
"Patch 4.1 provides our players with access to the completely redesigned Zul'Aman and Zul'Gurub five-player dungeons, where they'll be able to experience challenging encounters featuring all-new boss mechanics, obtain updated epic-level loot, and possibly acquire rare mounts.
"One of our long-standing development goals is to release regular content updates for the community to enjoy. These updates are generally focused on introducing specific content, like a new raid or new gameplay features.
"Our plan is to package these features into smaller content updates and to release them as soon as possible, rather than wait and release larger updates more infrequently.
"The previously announced Firelands raid will be part of content update 4.2 which should come soon after 4.1.
You may be asking, "where's Firelands?”
Our goal with each major patch release, and especially with each expansion, is to learn from the past and use that knowledge to improve the game as we move forward. One of our biggest regrets in the pacing of Wrath of the Lich King was the Crusaders' Coliseum. The Trial of the Champion 10- and 25-player raid was released while many raiders were still busy with Ulduar, which meant a premature end to Ulduar raiding -- and a lot of players didn't get a chance to experience all of Ulduar's content during the normal expansion progression.
Having learned that lesson in pacing from Wrath of the Lich King, we don’t feel Cataclysm needs a new raid tier just yet. We’re close, though, and Firelands will be part of patch 4.2, which is expected to hit the PTR very soon after 4.1 goes live.
One of our long-standing development goals has been to release more regular content updates for you to enjoy. Our plan is to package features like raids, dungeons, and daily quest hubs into smaller content updates and release them as soon as possible, rather than wait and release them as large but infrequent updates. Our first significant step in this direction will be Cataclysm patch 4.1, and we hope the rest of our content updates moving forward follow this model.
This new flexible approach to updates allows us to release content like Zul'Aman and Zul'Gurub so that you'll have more challenges to overcome while we make the flames of Sulfuron even fierier and this second showdown with the Firelord even more climactic.
While we know that some raiders feel prepared to smack down the Firelord once again, releasing an epic raid dungeon before its time would, in the words of Ragnaros himself, be "too soon!"
If firelands isn't being released why are people finding all of this content?
A good amount of development progress had already been made on Firelands by the time we decided it would be better to release it in the following patch. Because of that, a lot of information about what is now considered 4.2 content was already in the game files for the initial 4.1 PTR build. This just reinforces what Bashiok said about 4.2 being scheduled for release on the PTR shortly after 4.1 goes live.
Development for both patches is currently well in progress.
- Flag carriers in rated Battlegrounds now take 25% more damage from all magical and physical attacks. The 25% additional damage from carrying the flag stacks with the Focus and Brutal Assault debuffs. Flag carriers in normal Battlegrounds are not affected by this change.
Quest & Creatures
Tol Barad Peninsula
- The quest "Walk A Mile In Their Shoes" has not always been correctly awarding players with quest credit after completing the escort event. This quest is being temporarily disabled and removed from the achievement criteria for Just Another Day in Tol Barad. This fix will require a realm restart to take effect.
If you have the achievement you'll keep the title. The Exalted worked differently because we wanted to move the title to a different achievement altogether (50 exalted).
In this case, if you have the achievement you'll keep the title. If you're close to getting the achievement, you might want to hurry and get it before 4.1 because after 4.1 you'd need to also gain the additional rep to meet the requirements, earn the achievement, and get the title.
Same as it was for Loremaster or Explorer, if you had the achievement you still have the achievement, even though the requirements changed.
Zul'aman and Zul'gurub (Source)
There's a lot of new content in Cataclysm. There's also a plethora of updated content to advance the story.
Likewise, there's plenty of new content still to come in this expansion. But, we're also going to keep moving existing themes forward when the story calls for it. There were specific reasons for originally entering Zul'Gurub and Zul'Aman, but those reasons by no means wrap up the story of the ancient troll empire. These city ruins still serve a major purpose in troll lore, beyond just providing new locations to gain loot.
We're moving the story of the troll nations forward, and hope you recognize and enjoy that. Hakkar and Zul'jin are gone now. Even so, that doesn't make Zul'Gurub and Zul'Aman irrelevant as key locations of Azeroth.
[...] Zul'Aman is in Ghostlands, which is in Azeroth, not Outland. It's true Ghostlands didn't receive any terrain changes after the Cataclysm, but that doesn't mean the remaining Amani are unaffected by what's happened.
We'll have more information to share on the return of Zul'Aman and Zul'Gurub soon. But for now I'll say this: there is a center of troll civilization yet to be seen in World of Warcraft. There was once an ancient empire of troll tribes united. Zul'Aman and Zul'Gurub becoming key points of interest in Cataclysm plays into this. Perhaps something has happened to once again call for the unity of the disaffected tribes. Perhaps a certain tribe with allegiances elsewhere sees this as a very bad thing.
Archaeology items cooldowns (Source)
Sometimes it can be difficult to find a good "sweet spot" when choosing cooldowns for groups of similar items such as those obtained through Archaeology. We don't want all the cooldowns to be exactly the same, but we also don't want it to feel like the numbers were chosen totally at random. We may not always get the values right initially, so knowing what feels good to you and what doesn't -- and why-- is really helpful.
[...] As noted, we didn't want every single Archaeology item to have the same cooldown. Some of the items are pretty unique and provide interesting on-use abilities, so it made sense to us to vary things up a little. This is perhaps a bit different than our approach to other cosmetic or novelty item cooldowns, but Archaeology itself is new and has its own reward structure.
Triple spec instead of dual spec? (Source)
An oldie but a goodie!
The question used to be, why don't we have a way to keep a spec for PvE and PvP? And to a lesser extent, wouldn't it be great if I could swap roles with my hybrid if needed without having to hearth and make everyone wait on me?
Those are the specific reasons for why we agreed with the sentiment of those questions, and dual spec now exists in the game. It's great (kind of) that some people have found uses for it outside of that, having two slightly variant builds of the same spec for different situations, however, it's not our intent with multiple specs to encourage that type of gameplay, and thus it's not our intent to offer tri or quad or quint, etc. specs.
Obviously having an array of possible specs to choose from would be convenient for any number of reasons, but it would also encourage situations where people are using it to shift their builds around for each individual encounter or task. Those are the kinds of options that quickly stop being options, and instead become a requirement. And as they become a requirement our necessity to design and balance around it changes it from a nice convenience option to a core piece of the game design puzzle.
A lot of people like to throw the phrase 'slippery slope' at us when we make certain changes, and dual spec is actually truthfully one of those systems. Once we have two specs, why not three? If three, why not four? But, we have our hiking boots on, and don't intend to lose footing on this just yet. BUT sliding down muddy hills is a lot of fun, so you never know.
Recent restoration changes (Source)
We're a bit worried about Resto being too powerful in PvP. We wanted to try out the Lifebloom changes to see if it fixed the problem. We don’t think it's quite the right change though, so we're going to revert the Lifebloom mana nerf, but keep the reduced bloom effect. We'll have to keep watching this.
The change to Efflorescence becoming a smart heal was actually originally just a bug. Since so many of you responded so favorably to it though, we're actually going to redesign Efflorescence to work similarly. We expect the redesign to help the talent be more useful in 5 and 10 player content as well. We'll have more details at a later time.
Word of Glory cooldown in 4.1 (Source)
The assessment that Word of Glory is meant for more occasional use is rather close to the mark. That's also part of the reason that we're comfortable with employing a cooldown solution in this case. We think that it’s more interesting for Word of Glory to be a reasonably powerful heal that's used infrequently, than if it were a weaker heal used more often. We also like the way Word of Glory interacts with Vengeance because then the heal scales with the content. If you’re taking a lot of damage, the heal is more potent than it would be otherwise.
We also didn’t really think that healing was necessarily a problem for Protection paladins. We just weren't happy with the style of gameplay it was causing players to adopt. We had tanks telling us “I just miss using actual attacks, like Shield of the Righteous. Every time I use SotR it feels like I'm playing wrong.” While technically a tank had a choice between threat and survival, we felt it was an illusion of choice because tanks often (and rightfully) worry about survival first and foremost. You still have the choice between generating threat and healing, but since the healing will be lower overall, the trade off should matter less.
The self-healing ability of other tanks has been brought up in this context. When comparing tanks, we look at the whole package, not individual abilities or talents. Deathknights, for example, are designed with less innate damage mitigation than Protection paladins, but they have a lot of self-healing to compensate. It’s okay, of course, for paladins to have some self-healing (they are a class with healing spells after all), but that has to be balanced against their better built-in damage mitigation. We try to tune tanking classes close enough so that they can all tank effectively, but without making them all function identically.
We're not too concerned with keeping Protection viable in PvP. We know some players enjoy it, but the majority of Prot paladins are more concerned with their ability to tank, and that’s where we spend most of our Protection design effort. It’s a great goal to make all of a class's specs viable in PvP, but it's not always possible to do so and paladins have other options.
I realize that Word of Glory is also on Retribution's platter at the moment, and we have something to share about its role in that spec as well, despite this being the tanking forum.
We think the 4.06 changes overall gave Retribution too great a buff for PvP. We realize that there are those that disagree, but we're pretty firm on that point and we needed to make some adjustments. Given that Ret is primarily a dps spec, we thought it made more sense to reduce their off-healing capacity, which had become quite strong, rather than their damage.
That's not to say that we mind a hybrid dps spec occasionally helping out with healing – that feels cool, and it's appropriate. On the other hand, we want damage focused specs to be primarily focused on dps. It's true that there were other ways we could have reduced Retribution healing. We could have changed Selfless Healer or even Word of Glory itself. As I mentioned earlier, after looking things over, we arrived at the conclusion that having a powerful heal you can use infrequently is more compelling than having a weak heal that you can use more often.
Discipline in 4.1 (Source)
We want Power Word: Shield, Power Word: Barrier, and Divine Aegis to continue to be an important part of a Discipline priest's rotation. We want you to use those spells frequently. The changes we've made through hotfixes and those that we currently have planned for 4.1. aren't intended to remove that element of gameplay at all, but simply refine it and bring it more in line with our design goals for the spec as a whole.
As we've stated in the past (http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/to...14?page=25#485), we don't want Discipline priests to use their shields to exclusion of everything else -- including, potentially, a more efficient heal. While damage mitigation is what Discipline priests are known for and something that you do very well, we also want you to cast important spells like Penance, Greater Heal, Prayer of Healing, and Flash Heal. Casting those heals doesn't make you a Holy priest, especially if you're using them to leverage other key talents in the Discipline arsenal (like Renewed Hope, Strength of Soul, and Train of Thought).
Even so, we know that a lot of players want a class specialization that does nothing but shield, and that's fair -- but that's not the direction we want to take with Discipline priests right now. We want you to use the spell that's most appropriate for the situation, be that a heal, a shield, or an offensive ability like Smite. Your shields will still have their time and place, of course, and we'll make sure that you have good reason to cast them, but they just won't be the only thing you use to keep an ally alive.
Holy 4-piece set bonus (Source)
This is feedback we've seen quite a bit, and it's good. With the changes to Chakra in 4.0.6, we realize a lot of players feel that the Holy 4-piece set bonus is currently much stronger than its Discipline counterpart. We don't disagree and it's something we've been actively discussing changing in 4.1 (for example, we're considering potentially removing the Weakened Soul requirement on Penance targets in order for the Spirit bonus to apply).
- - Notes added in the 2nd notes update of the day.
- Flying mounts can now be used in Ghostlands.
- Resilience scaling has been modified for linear returns, as opposed to increasing returns. Under the new formula, going from 30 resilience to 40 resilience gives players the same increase to survivability as going from 0 to 10. Resilience now scales in the same way armor and magic resistances do. A player with 32.5% damage reduction from resilience in 4.0.6 should see their damage reduction unchanged in 4.1. Those with less than 32.5% will gain slightly. Those with more will lose some damage reduction, increasingly so as their resilience climbs.
- Raise Ally has been redesigned to be a battle resurrection, analogous to Rebirth. It is instant cast, but costs 50 Runic Power to use, and has a 10-minute cooldown. It shares the same global battle resurrection cap with Rebirth and Soulstone.
- Blood Shield now only works while in Blood Presence.
- Frost Strike now deals 130% of weapon damage, up from 110%.
- Howling Blast damage has been increased by 20%. To compensate, the area-of-effect splash now does 50% of the single-target damage, down from 60%. The net result of this change leaves the area-of-effect damage roughly the same as 4.0.6 numbers.
- Glyph of Raise Ally is now Glyph of Death Gate, and makes Death Gate cast 60% faster.
- Cyclone duration has been reduced to 5 seconds, down from 6.
- Lifebloom's bloom effect has been reduced by 20%. In addition, it now costs 11% of base mana, up from 7%.
- Stampeding Roar's duration has been increased to 8 seconds, up from 6. The movement speed effect has been increased to 60%, up from 40%.
- Swipe (Bear) cooldown has been reduced to 3 seconds, down from 6.
- Starsurge damage has been reduced by 20%.
- Gift of Nature (passive) also reduces Tranquility’s cooldown by 2.5/5 minutes.
- Aura Mastery: This ability no longer increases the benefit granted by Crusader Aura.
- It is now possible to remove Weakened Soul effects that were a result of another priest's Power Word: Shield through Strength of Soul.
- Power Word: Barrier's cooldown has been increased to 3 minutes, up from 2, and its effect has been reduced to 25%, down from 30%.
- Haunt damage has been increased by 30%.
- Shadow Mastery (passive) has been increased to 30%, up from 25%.
- Mana Feed now restores more mana (four times as much) when the warlock is using a Felguard or Felhunter.
- Doomguard's damage has been increased by 50%. The Doomguard is intended to be the best guardian for single-target damage, and the Infernal the best when there are multiple targets.
- Shadow Bite (Felhunter) damage and effect has doubled.
- Heroic Throw is now available from trainers at level 20.
- Pummel is now usable in all stances.
- Shield Bash has been removed from the game.
- Spell Reflection cooldown has been increased to 25 seconds, up from 10.
- Juggernaut no longer adds 2 seconds to the Charge stun, but instead lowers the cooldown of Charge by 2 seconds (to 13 seconds total without the glyph).
- Lambs to the Slaughter now causes Mortal Strike to refresh Rend in addition to its current effects.
- Flurry haste bonus has been doubled to 16/32/50%.
- Shield Mastery no longer affects the cooldown of Spell Reflection, however, it now allows Shield Block to reduce magic damage as well.
- Gag Order now only affects Heroic Throw.
Dungeons & Raids
- The gold amounts on the following encounters have been substantially reduced: Flame Leviathan, Magtheridon, Gruul the Dragonkiller, Doom Lord Kazzak, and all encounters in Karazhan.
- The current damage-dealing death knight 4-piece raid set bonus now also grants increased attack power when Killing Machine triggers, as well as when the death knight gains Death Runes).
- The current Holy paladin 4-piece raid set bonus now grants 540 Spirit for 6 seconds after casting Holy Shock.
- The Focused Assault and Brutal Assault buffs have changed.
- After 3 minutes of both teams having the flag, both flag carriers will get Focused Assault, which increases damage taken by 10%.
- Every minute afterward, an additional stack will be applied to increase damage taken by an additional 10%.
- After 7 minutes, Brutal Assault will be applied in place of Focused Assault. In additional to the damage debuff, this debuff also caps the player's movement speed at 100%. The damage taken debuff works the same and will add 10% to the debuff up to a maximum of 100% damage taken.
- The Battle for Gilneas
- Graveyard Changes
- Players who die at a control point that they own will now be teleported to the next closest graveyard, instead of the one at which they died.
- If a player's team owns the Mine and Waterworks, and dies at Waterworks, they will be teleported to the Mine.
- If an Alliance player's team only owns Lighthouse, and dies at Lighthouse, they will respawn at their base.
- If a Horde player's team owns Waterworks and Mine, and dies at Lighthouse, they will respawn at Waterworks.
- Graveyard Changes
Quests & Creatures
- A handful of quests have been added to Northern Barrens to provide more level 18-20 content. Look for new quests at Nozzlepot's Outpost and Darsok's Outpost.
- Like the Focus Frame, the character Unit and Target Frames can now be unlocked and moved to one's content.
We're going to be watching these changes closely and reading your feedback, so let us know what you think. In addition to these changes, we also have a few more maps in the works to add to the ladder pool, including a player-created map currently being featured in the GSL. We’ll have more information on those as it becomes available.
Changes to 1v1:
1v1 Maps Carrying Over:
(2) Scrap Station
(2) Xel'Naga Caverns
(4) Delta Quadrant
1v1 Maps Removed:
(2) Blistering Sands
We wanted to reduce the number of rush maps in general, and Blistering Sands was one of them. On top of that, Blistering Sands matches resulted in too many all-in games due to the rocks into the main base. The frequency of all-in roach/speedling, 4 warpgate push, or even mass marine/marauder stimpack push by breaking the rocks was a bit too high, so we decided to pull this map from the ladder.
(2) Jungle Basin
Jungle Basin has a few traits that make it extremely favorable for terran, so we decided to remove it from the ladder. These include:
- It's possible to set up siege tanks right below the main base of your opponent and harass his natural expansion while preventing his forces from leaving his base.
- Too many choke points everywhere on the map made it difficult for zerg to deal with marines, marauders, or siege tank-based skirmishes.
- Difficult access to second expansion
- High ground right in front of the ramp leading down to main. Setting up units at both this high ground as well as part of the low ground was too powerful, especially for terrans that use siege tanks.
(2)Steppes of War
Again, we wanted to reduce the number of rush maps, and Steppes was the most rush-friendly rush map we decided to cut. It’s not that we don’t like rush maps, but we have learned over the course of season 1 that two-player rush maps are generally more one-sided than four-player rush maps. For the ladder map changes, the rush-possible maps we’ll have will be four-player maps only.
(4) Lost Temple
Problems of Lost Temple:
- If one side controls one of the center watch towers, there's no alternate ground-based route to half of the map, meaning it's too easy for the game to become a stalemate with each side taking half of the map.
- Small islands in the corners were problematic in that they were difficult to assault as each of the three races. We noticed it's possible to hold out at one or both of these islands and drag on a game for longer than needed. It was also problematic in that in some matchups, these islands were just free expansions that almost never get attacked, which is not what we wanted in an expansion.
- The choke point by the natural expansions were too small; it was possible to block them off easily using only a few buildings.
(4) Shakuras Plateau
This map we decided to remove for a different reason. There isn't a huge problem with this map, but we feel there aren't enough interesting features. The natural expansion is easy to take and defend; there are only two possible attack paths, only one of which is generally used, and main bases aren’t easy to harass. For a change, we wanted to replace this relatively plain map with something new.
1v1 Maps Added:
(4) Backwater Gulch
Backwater Gulch has a familiar main to first expansion layout. Early gameplay on this map should feel familiar, and there probably aren't too many early-game threats or difficulties in terms of gimmicky strategies you need to worry about. The second expansion, however, features a high ground area that is accessible by two ramps, meaning it can be easily harassed. The center area has two watch towers as well as two high-yield expansions that will be difficult to maintain, and the key to victory in some games could come down to how long you hold one or both of these center expansions.
(4) Slag Pits
Metalopolis was one of two favorite maps across the different skill levels of players. We decided to introduce a very similar map, but slightly more macro heavy. We took out Shakuras Plateau, which was a very plain macro map, and added this map instead. Some of the key features of this map are the low-ground high-yield expansions, the two lines of shrub area that can be used to position units, as well as the low-ground watch tower that watches over all of the low-ground center.
(4) The Shattered Temple
The Shattered Temple is a newer version of Lost Temple that's more balanced. Improvements to Lost Temple found in this map include:
- Wider center area
- Watch tower changed to cover only a part of the center of the map. It's possible to sneak units around the corners of the central area without getting detected by the watch tower.
- Rocked-off islands. This creates an alternate attack route and reduces stalemate situations that islands cause.
- Larger choke point by the expansion makes it more difficult to block off.
(4) Typhon Peaks
This map has a lot of the fun traits of previous maps. Rocks by the sides of the map are positioned similarly to Scrap Station to reduce rush distance in vertical start locations. The center has two watch towers and provides the main attack path like in Shakuras Plateau, and the second expansion is similar to the setup of Xel'Naga Caverns. Even though this map is brand new, players will be able to utilize some of their existing strategies that have been used on other maps, and potentially combine them to fit the unique play style of this new map.
Changes to 2v2:
2v2 Maps Carrying Over:
(4) High Orbit
(4) Monlyth Ridge
(4) Red Stone Gulch
(4) Scorched Haven
2v2 Maps Removed:
(4) Arid Wastes
Team play maps where your base is too far from your ally tend to favor race compositions that can use mobile armies. This is the reason why we will avoid having maps like Arid Wastes in the team play ladder in the future.
(4) Tarsonis Assault
This map has a similar feel to Scorched Haven or Monlyth Ridge. The main difference is that distance to future expansions are very far. We wanted to remove one of these three maps since they’re similar in style, and Tarsonis Assault was the worst one out of the three.
(4) Twilight Fortress
This map is an extremely macro-heavy map we wanted to try. The gameplay on this map is very different, but the average length of games was too long, so it is being taken out of ladder play.
(4) War Zone
War Zone suffers from similar problems as Arid Wastes. It's nearly impossible for certain team setups to help each other, and in team games, we want to have maps that are more team-play based.
2v2 Maps Added:
Like Scorched Haven or Monlyth Ridge, this map has a center area between the two allies where each player can safely expand. However, the main difference is that there are rocks blocking off the back of the main bases, meaning harassing either players’ main bases is possible. In terms of main attack routes, there are five different attack paths to your opponents, meaning that control of the two watch towers is key to success on this map.
(4) Khaydarin Depths
This map was first showcased during BlizzCon 2009 even before the game launched. This map features an easily defendable high-yield expansion in between you and your ally. However, this expansion is blocked off by destructible rocks, meaning you have to choose when to break this rock vs. when to attack or defend vs. the opposing team. Controlling the center of the map gains you access to most of the center of the map, but there are still back-door routes around to the opponents’ bases by breaking one set of destructible rocks.
(4) Omega Sector
Omega Sector is a two-player version of the popular 3v3 map Arakan Citadel. The start locations are very similar on both maps, and side expansion areas are a bit more easily accessible by the opposing players. This map has three possible paths to attack, and although the center is the fastest route, the other two routes will be used very frequently because there are no watch towers overlooking them. As with Arakan Citadel, your ally is slightly far away from your base, so consider this when placing your first production structures.
(4) Ruins of Tarsonis
Ruins of Tarsonis is a more balanced version of War Zone, which is being removed from the map pool. The biggest downside of War Zone was that it was nearly impossible to assist your ally if you didn't have a mobile army. However, with the shared choke points on this map, it's now possible to play as any race combination without obvious disadvantages. In the mid/late game, however, there are back-door attack paths leading to your second expansion areas, so be sure to defend those locations as well.
Changes to 3v3:
3v3 Maps Carrying Over:
(6) Arakan Citadel
(6) Colony 426
(6) Dig Site
(6) The Bio Lab
(6) Ulaan Deeps
3v3 Map Removed:
This map was removed for the same reason as a couple of the 2v2 maps. The only strategy teams can do on this map is rush, and the side with more mobility and that gathers its army the fastest wins.
Changes to 4v4:
4v4 Maps Carrying Over:
(8) High Ground
(8) Lava Flow
(8) Sand Canyon
(8) Toxic Slums
4v4 Map Added:
This map is divided in half for each team to control each side. Make sure to take control of the two watch towers in order to control your team's side, and pay close attention to the destructible rocks leading into the main base shared by you and your teammates.
Changes to FFA:
FFA Maps Carrying Over:
(6) Tectonic Rift
FFA Maps Removed:
(4) Lost Temple
Being replaced by the newer (4) The Shattered Temple.
(4) Kulas Ravine
This map is being removed and will be replaced by (4) Slag Pits, as Kulas is no longer part of any ladder pool.
FFA Maps Added: (descriptions above)
(4) Slag Pits
(4) The Shattered Temple
Here are the top 200 players in North America. We'll update this list approximately every week until it's time to have them compete.
Congratulations to these players. Your skill is an inspiration to the entire StarCraft II community.