WoW AMA on Reddit with Ion Friday 14th at 2Pm PDT

I have a feeling that people are going to waste questions on allied races and transmog, and we will not get any substantive answers on more important things like azerite armor, island expeditions, warfronts, and class design.

Will put up some of the questions and answers from the AMA; the full thing can be found here:


Azerite Armor.

To be brief, it doesn’t appear that the core ideas behind Azerite armor pieces are working out well in practice; and in some places it seems to directly conflict with stated design directions we’ve heard from the WoW team in the past. There’s really three key areas where the system doesn’t work well:

  1. We have a situation now where you can get a piece that’s a 20+ ilvl upgrade be an effective downgrade because the traits on it are locked behind inordinately high necklace levels (which seems to line up in the bad way with the reasons we’ve been given in the past for why systems like reforging were abandoned – upgrades aren’t clear, or gear need to be ‘worked’ before it can be equipped).
  2. The traits themselves are underwhelming; the vast majority are passive, incremental, and forgettable (one of the reasons given in the past for why the oldschool talents that gave +1% to damage were scrapped) and very few of them have the same sort of game-changing impact that Legion’s key artifact traits gave.
  3. There’s a bleak outlook that we’re going to be forced by sheer necessity onto the Azerite grind treadmill for the entire expansion simply to keep re-unlocking the same underwhelming traits we already have today as we upgrade our gear simply because getting gear upgrades forces us to and not because grinding Azerite is actually going to give us anything new.

So in that context, my questions are: Does the dev team agree with the above characterization of the state of Azerite armor? If so, what sorts of things are being thought about and planned to address the issues with the system, and what sort of time frame are we looking at to see those changes landing in game?

Ion Hazzikostas (Game Director)WatcherDev[S]

(Sorry, I cheated and spent some time composing a reply in advance as soon as I saw this, since it hits on a lot of great points. My other replies likely won’t be nearly this long.)

We’re certainly not entirely happy with how the system is playing out, and all of these are very valid concerns. We agree that it’s a problem for someone to look at a 30-ilvl upgrade under normal circumstances and feel like it’s not worth equipping. I know this risks sounding like a cop-out, but a few of the problems you’ve outlined simply boil down to tuning.

Once you get to Heart Level 18 (a process that will become increasingly fast as the weekly catch-up system continues to ramp up, effectively letting you gain AP 30% faster with each passing week), you can activate the outer ring of any item in the game, and that’s where the most powerful traits lie. That was by design, so that you wouldn’t feel as much of a loss when upgrading to a higher level item that isn’t yet fully unlocked. There’s a ton of primary stat on Azerite pieces in part to bolster the importance of item level there, and the power of traits is directly proportional to the ilvl of the item that contains them, so a 370 Heroic Uldir helm will have a ~30% more powerful trait than a 340 Raid Finder Uldir version of the same item.

Where all of this breaks down is when both of the traits on your 370 piece are significantly worse than the ones on your 340 piece. Reducing the number of situations in which that is the case is one of the system team’s top priorities right now. We made hundreds of unique traits for BfA, and 216 spec-specific traits for the outer ring alone. Many of those are undertuned. A handful are overly powerful, to the point that they stomp out the entire decision space for a spec, and the game becomes about getting a piece with one specific trait. We’ll be fixing the outliers on both ends (probably buffing dozens of weaker traits and nerfing a handful of too-strong ones).

While the generic traits are deliberately fairly straightforward, some of the spec-specific ones are indeed too passive, or interact awkwardly with spec rotations. We’ll be retiring some of those in an upcoming patch and adding better replacements to the pool. And of course we’ll be adding all-new Azerite traits on new tiers of gear from upcoming content as the expansion continues. Again, tuning is a big part of the current problem. If you look at a guide and most of the recommended traits for your spec are various flavors of “proc damage on your target” or “proc a buff on yourself” then yeah, that’s really underwhelming – no argument there. But there are dozens of traits out there with deep interactions on par with Legion legendaries, old set bonuses, or gold-border Artifact traits, such as interactions between abilities or resource generation in ways that vary rotations, talent selection, stat priority, and so forth. The problem is that they’re just mostly too weak to feel worth using right now. But we can fix that.

In terms of long-term prospects, we see the current system as a foundation upon which to continue building, not a treadmill to throw out there and let sit passively for the rest of the expansion. We’ll be adding loads of new traits in future content updates, for starters. But tuning work is something that is already ongoing, and which will ramp up in the very near future as we now have most of the data we need to make these adjustments.


Island expeditions

The rewards seem lackluster and the expeditions themselves are extremely repetitive.

Are there any plans to make improvements or changes to the expedition system?

Edit: beyond the changes to drop rates that were announced 10m ago - more gameplay wise.

Ion Hazzikostas (Game Director)WatcherDev[S]

(Yes, we’re applying a hotfix that makes the various cosmetic bonus rewards more common.)

Island Expeditions represent a stab at an entirely new type of content, and we’re certainly planning continued improvements and refinement to the system over the rest of the expansion (as well as new locales with varied mechanics to explore). In particular, we want to add more new events to increase the variety of the experiences players have when jumping into Expeditions, or running the same pool of islands repeatedly. We’ve all probably that giant clump of Azerite stalagmites and elementals pop up a zillion times, and while it’s always lucrative, it doesn’t exactly help build a sense that you never know what’s going to be around the next corner when you see it four times in a row. We’re also looking at how we spawn islands, from a layout perspective, to add a bit more variety from visit to visit.

We’ve heard feedback that the pace of Expeditions in general feels too frenetic, and the “gogogo” race to gather Azerite detracts from any ability to really explore your environment or fully process the events that are unfolding. Ultimately, the Horde vs. Alliance theming of Expeditions in particular requires that competitive feel, which we know isn’t for everyone, but we’d love to explore applying the underlying tech upon which Expeditions were built to other settings that don’t have that same pacing.

In short, future BfA updates will include not just more content within the existing structure, but refinements to that structure. We’ve been following all the feedback closely, but in general have just been 100% focused on working on the game and haven’t had a chance to come up for air and discuss our thoughts with the community. (That’s sort of a recurring theme lately, I realize.)


Regarding the M+ weekly cache:

Three of the people in my consistent M+ group received 370 Azerite pieces that are not worth using over our 340/355 items due to having inferior traits. I can assure you this felt just as bad as only getting one item instead of three.

We’re also in a position that the dungeons are the source for a lot of the strongest traits for a lot of the classes - further making it likely that the Azerite piece you may, or may not, get is likely to just be a waste of your weekly cache.

This is exacerbated by the fact that the cache is the most reliable source for a high item level weapon due to their inability to Titanforge.

Would a better solution not have been to have one Azerite piece and one other piece of loot drop from this chest? smoothing the RNG whilst also making the cache feel more rewarding as was the stated intention

Ion Hazzikostas (Game Director)WatcherDev[S]

First off, some clarification on the M+ cache in particular. We wanted to make sure that M±focused players could count on getting a reasonable amount of Azerite armor over time, and a purely random system would have too much variance. The way it worked on beta during the early Summer was that there were three independent chances to roll for an Azerite piece (rarely), a weapon (rarely), and then a guaranteed pull of non-Azerite, non-weapon loot. The chance to get an Azerite piece would increase over time until you got one (bad luck protection, in essence). The goal wasn’t to make M+ more rewarding overall than it had been in Legion, since we feel like it’s in a pretty good place. Being able to get an infinite amount of Heroic-raid-quality pieces (unlike raids which have a weekly lockout) and a guaranteed Mythic-raid-quality piece each week is kind of nice. The concern was with access to Azerite armor.

Anyway, that system was observed by people who experienced a range of 1-3 drops, and we did hear feedback pretty quickly that so much RNG felt frustrating. We knew that MOST people would get only 1 item per week, so we risked having the most common outcome turn into a feels-bad moment where rather than celebrating your 30 ilvl gloves upgrade, you felt like you got screwed because you saw screenshots of people who got a helm, an axe, AND gloves that week.

So we consolidated the loot table to a single guaranteed drop, but we kept the bad luck protection for Azerite armor in place. If someone ONLY does M+ as an endgame activity, we want to make sure that over the course of a tier you’re getting a healthy amount of Azerite gear.

The other part of the question/concern ties back to my earlier reply on Azerite trait tuning. If you’re exclusively looking for one or two traits because they’re your BiS, then the potential for frustration is pretty large. But if basically every piece of 370 or 385 armor had at least one trait on the outer ring that was competitive, then an upgrade would be an upgrade. That’s a problem we need to solve. If you have a 355 helm equipped, ANY 385 helm you see should make you happy, even if it’s not your theoretical BiS item.

And as a final point, while I know this may not sit well with folks who really just want to focus on M+ as their sole endgame content, the fact that it’s harder to target specific pieces of gear in M+ versus raiding is deliberate. As I mentioned above, you can run a huge amount of M+ dungeons each week without a lockout, and the activity requires four other people as opposed to coordinating and scheduling a full raid group. Each format has its advantages: M+ awards a far larger total quantity of loot, with a guaranteed top-end weekly reward, while raids have a finite quantity but offer more control over targeting specific pieces.


Is the tremendous downtime of Warfronts and the reset for world boss/rares intended? Such as it is, there’s just a huge amount of time where nothing is happening. Any thoughts about allowing us to contribute during the attacker phase or something? Because as an Alliance player, it really sucks that after our one evening of killing rares and a world boss, we’re sitting around with nothing to do while Horde players do stuff for two weeks.

Ion Hazzikostas (Game Director)WatcherDev[S]

We did a pretty poor job of communicating in advance exactly how the Warfront rotation was going to work, since it was very different on beta for ease-of-testing purposes. The gap between player expectation and reality didn’t do us any favors here.

On a factual note, the whole cycle is likely to be more like 3.5 weeks, and not 5. There are basically three stages you progress through as an attacker:

  1. Donating to fund the war effort, turning in materials for AP (tuned to take 4-6 days depending on player contributions)

  2. Warfront active, able to queue, with a once-per-cycle 370 reward and then repeatable 340s (7 days)

  3. Zone control, can kill world boss for a shot at a 370 reward, 340s from the rare spawns (11-13 days, while the opposite faction does steps 1 and 2 on their end)

There are two reasons Warfronts are paced this way: First, it lets us give them generous rewards relative to other core content like dungeons, without completely obsoleting that content. Second, we want to make sure most players feel like they have a decent chance to participate in each step; if the Warfront were only available for 3 days instead of 7, the whole thing would move faster, yes, but someone who wasn’t able to log in for a few days would miss the activity entirely.

We also do intend to add additional Warfronts over time, so that these cycles will be interwoven in a way that hopefully makes it feel like there’s more to do, more often.