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AoE Changes in Shadowlands, Shadowlands Developer Interview – Ion Hazzikostas

AoE Changes in Shadowlands

Originally Posted by Blizzard
(Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
We’ve definitely heard a lot of feedback from players that bursting down larger and larger pulls has become an overly dominant tactic in much of the game. This is particularly evident in questing and dungeons, which has made it difficult for many classes to find a clear role.

While there are a number of variables contributing to this trend, high burst area of effect (AOE) damage against an unlimited number of targets has made it increasingly possible for players to take down large groups of enemies without the players ever facing a proportionate level of danger. In Shadowlands, we’re looking at changes that would broaden the field of tactical options, and in the process, more clearly differentiate the strengths of classes in a variety of AOE situations.

For example, we’d like to see Outlaw Rogues or Fury Warriors excel in situations with 4 to 5 targets in close proximity to each other, while ranged casters like Frost Mages or Affliction Warlocks perform better in sustained damage against groups of 5 or more targets. To accomplish this, we need to revisit the maximum number of targets that many abilities can hit (also known as the ability’s “target cap”), and adjust them accordingly. In situations where a target cap doesn’t make sense, we’re adding a new kind of damage falloff that causes the damage done to each target to be reduced gradually as the number of targets increases.

Most players who are used to fighting 3 to 5 enemies at a time will notice very little difference with this approach. On the other hand, players who are accustomed to pulling 10-20 enemies at a time will experience longer, more threatening engagements. Sustained AOE damage may become an equally viable option in that situation, but both approaches will put significantly more pressure on the group to survive.

Shadowlands Developer Interview – Ion Hazzikostas
Sloot had the chance to sit down with Ion Hazzikostas to talk about Shadowlands!

Alpha and Beta

  • There aren’t any huge sets of class changes that have been held back for future release.
  • The team is trying to get as many changes in as early as they can so that they can start getting feedback while there is still time on act on it.
  • Previous expansions had some changes added late during beta and the team didn’t have time to respond to feedback before things went live.

Dual Wield

  • The team is listening to feedback and talking about Single Minded Fury for Fury Warriors. There are still some problems to solve before that could come back.
  • It is unlikely that 2H Enhancement is coming back. It has been gone for a long time.

AoE Target Cap

  • The 5 target AoE cap on some spells aims to restore some niches that used to exist.
  • Back in the day, cleave was distinct from AoE. Some melee would be outstanding at cleave, which was different than AoE such as Arcane Explosion.
  • AoE target caps were removed in pursuit of simplification.
  • The right answer now is rounding up everything and AoEing it all down. That’s super fun and a cool solution, but shouldn’t be the solution to every problem.
  • The team wants to add more depth so that AoE everything isn’t always the right answer. Players will adapt to having more than one right answer.

GCD Changes

  • There is an element of skill in making decisions when an ability being on the GCD is an additional factor.
  • The team doesn’t want skill in WoW to be heavily tied to twitch reaction time. If you miss a GCD (that isn’t an interrupt), you probably shouldn’t die.
  • Please provide specific feedback when talking about GCD changes. “Revert the changes” has been heard.


  • No plans to bring back Master Loot.
  • Adventures are coming with Covenants, so you’ll still have a mission table system.
  • No plans to change gear swapping in Mythic+ right now.
  • The team wants to do tier sets again, but they aren’t in the first patch of the expansion.
  • Previously, you expected to have your tier bonus quickly in the tier, which made all of those slots dead to Mythic+ loot.
  • There were lots of positive aspects to having tier sets, such as the class specific art and fantasy, and the team wants to bring those back.

Alt Friendliness

  • Alt friendliness can mean different things to different players. Some players want a variety of experiences and perspectives. Covenant arcs will help with this.
  • As far as alt friendliness goes, Shadowlands should be better on all fronts. There is no AP / long tail grind that you feel like you need to always be doing.
  • You shouldn’t feel like you are sacrificing your main to make some progress on your alt.


  • The team could do a better job of listening to feedback.
  • Essences in Patch 8.2 are an example of trying to listen. As soon as the PTR went up, essences were on vendors and the way they were earned was revealed. This gave the team time to iterate and make it better.
  • The team is often still developing a feature that they are getting feedback on, so players don’t have a view of the entire system.
  • The goal for the Shadowlands alpha is to get systems into alpha sooner so that they can start getting feedback faster. They want to have time to react to feedback.


  • Some of the community thought Covenants were a cosmetic feature, but they are a core part of the gameplay and story.
  • You’ll have traits, trees of traits, Covenant specific legendary items, transmog, and more.
  • There is a whole package of Covenant specific things. Covenant abilities are just a part of the package.
  • The team hopes that they’ll be able to balance Covenant abilities so that there isn’t a huge power difference between them.
  • The team is holding out for meaningful choice.
  • Is the game still a RPG anymore?
  • The second that the team says that only cosmetics fall into the choices that are hard to change is when the RPG elements are removed from the game.
  • Not every power choice needs to be easy to change on the fly.
  • The team is trying to save the beating heart of the RPG genre.
  • The difference between Covenant abilities should be situational preference.
  • They can fall back to allowing you to swap Covenant abilities if they fail, but it’ll look odd and feel bad. The game loses something by doing so.
  • What is a path forward that isn’t just “Don’t ever attach power to any kind of meaningful choice”?
  • Covenants are a personal journey, your friends may be sent to the same place, you can group up and work together. The team doesn’t want to separate players, you should be able to play with your friends outside of the small piece that is the Covenants campaigns.


  • With time invested each week, you should get more choice at the end of the week. Being able to pick from a range of items should help with the RNG.
  • If you look back to Classic, loot was a reward and a goal. There was randomness, sometimes things didn’t drop, but it wasn’t that random. Eventually you would get an item. Once you had it, it was done, you didn’t have to worry about sockets or Titanforging.
  • The team added more and more loot to the game each expansion, so bosses had to drop more items and raid groups would saturate on gear before they finished the raid.
  • It’s not about keeping you playing, chasing a carrot, it’s about keeping players challenged and progressing. Players would kill a boss late in the raid and end up disenchanting what had dropped, as most groups take a couple months to get through a raid.
  • The team is going to reduce the amount of loot that drops in Shadowlands raids.
  • There is no Warforging, Titanforging, or Corruption in Shadowlands. Let loot be loot.
  • The team is still working on how to work Jewelcrafting and other professions into “let loot be loot”.
  • Corrupting tuning was a mistake, the team missed the mark pretty severely early on.
  • The team didn’t want to upset the hierarchy of Corruption items after players had them.
  • Passive procs/bonuses should be middle of the road. They shouldn’t sim the best or be the best compared to procs/bonuses that require active gameplay.
  • Your performance from pull to pull should vary based on your gameplay and less on proc chance.


  • Addressing balance concerns promptly is always a goal.
  • In the past priorities have been a challenge.
  • Thunderclap – Team wants to let emergent playstyles breathe. Let players reap the benefits. Sometimes these are kinda cool. Sometimes they are frustrating. It takes time to figure out which way it is going.
  • The team wants to be more conservative to balance changes with Azerite Traits, as they are choices that aren’t as easily changed.
  • Live balance wasn’t a high priority for the systems team, they were focused on fixing Azerite Essences for 8.2.
  • In the future this will be avoided by having a more successful alpha and beta so that the team can focus on tuning the live game.


  • The team is happy with the structure of Mythic+
  • They may iterate on specific affixes. Seasonal affixes have worked out pretty well.
  • The team still needs to figure out what incentive there is to run a dungeon over and over without Titanforging. Having a better chance of getting loot you want and more choices is a reason.
  • It’s fine if you want to do one or two Mythic+ a week, the team doesn’t want you to feel pressured to do more.


  • There will be some (fairly permissive) limits on Torghast runs.
  • Even if you don’t get rewards, players may feel pressured to keep practicing Torghast if there weren’t limits.
  • The team wants to have lots of ways to earn more keys. If you play more WoW, you’ll be able to do more runs.
  • Rewards can be more powerful if you can’t spam run it for 20 hours straight.
  • Torghast will have cosmetics, story progression, and legendary rewards.
  • The team wants to get Torghast fully stood up and then add rewards.
  • Legendary items are craftable, unlock recipes from sources in Torghast, Maw, and Shadowlands. Recipe unlocks will be account-wide.
  • Infuse crafted gloves in Torghast to make them legendary.
  • The guy crafting the gloves may have made the Lich King’s helm or the Legion legendary items. He has access to knowledge and materials.
  • You might be able to put some of the old bonuses on the legendary items.
  • Torghast can have new environments, creatures, powers, and rewards throughout the expansion. No plans for leaderboards right now. Team wants to let Torghast evolve and then support whatever direction it goes.

World Quests

  • World Quests are coming later in alpha as the level cap goes up.
  • No Emissaries. Replaced with Covenant callings. A little more flexibility. Remixed.

PvP and PvE

  • Having both feed into a shared chest, allowing you to do the one you prefer to get more options should help to reduce the pressure to do both PvE and PvP.
  • Some amount of crossover is healthy. If you can excel in both areas, you should have a slight advantage over someone that just does one. This can go too far, it should just be a slight advantage.


  • What can the team do to make the WoW community stronger and make it easier to find friends.
  • Want to return to the social roots and potential of WoW from Classic.