Q: How early in the planning process did you settle on stables?
Cory Stockton: I would say it was definitely one of our first solid building ideas because we knew we wanted to do something that involved World of Warcraft’s mounts. Mounts are a big part of the game for almost every player, so we knew we wanted to do some sort of building that would enhance mounts in some way, give you the ability to earn mounts, and also the ability to display mounts to other players like a trophy room. So it was one of our stronger concepts from the beginning.
Q: How have stables changed since you first envisioned them?
Stockton: The biggest change has been integrating the core concept of different gameplay. That’s affected almost all the buildings, and the large ones in particular. So it’s the idea that when you build the stables, you’re going to get a series of quests. Those quests will direct you out into the zones in which you can find unique mounts. You have to capture those mounts, and then go on a series of quests to train them. After you’ve done that, you can actually then convert it into a mount that you can ride around the world.
Those mounts only come from the Stables building, you have to have stables to have access to get those mounts. That concept, and everything behind it definitely came later in the process.
Early on we knew the stables would let you display mounts from your mount journal, and we still have that concept. Also perks. As you go through the different levels of the building, you get different benefits to your current mounts. That stuff stuck around through a number of modifications.
Q: Who is the kind of player you had in the back of your mind as the kind who would use the stables?
Stockton: Mounts are one of the big ways to show off in World of Warcraft, they’re one of the biggest forms of prestige that we offer. In general, I think there’s a pretty wide audience that the stables apply to, so I think it’ll be a pretty popular building in general.
With the mount journal that’s in Warlords of Draenor we have a list of favourites, and what’s cool about that is that we prioritise that list of favourites to be what’s shown in the stables. So if you do have some very specific mounts that you always want to show up, you can use the favourites list to get that to happen.
Q: One of the stables perks that players are likely to be especially interested in is the 20 percent mount speed increase.
Stockton: Oh yeah, especially as there are no flying mounts in Draenor.
Q: Yeah. Does that perk apply across Draenor’s PvP areas and instances, and so on?
Stockton: Yeah, the 20 percent mount speed bonus only applies in Draenor, but it definitely works in Ashran and other areas like that. For sure.
Ashran is our third stab at a world PvP area. We’ve had Wintergrasp, we’ve had Tol Barad, and we learned a lot of lessons from that. We’re trying to apply those lessons here, and create a unique space.
We’re also trying to involve that space in other places in the game that will drive you to it. Hence the idea that most of the perks you get from your Garrison will work in Ashran.
Anything we can do to encourage people to try PvP is something that we like. We know not everyone likes PvP, but I think many people are scared to even get into PvP. Anything we can do to reduce those barriers and get people to have a shot at it is something that we’re going to try.
Q: How do you measure success in designing a building? For example, if you have four large building types, is success defined by the fact that a quarter of the playerbase chooses to use it?
Stockton: No, I think we look at it the same way we look at classes. Fewer players play certain classes, but that doesn’t mean that class isn’t great. The people who play that class absolutely love it, and in many cases they would not play another class.
What we’re trying to do is to create variety, and create decisions that matter. That’s the most important thing. Think of it like your talent tree. If you imagine your talent tree has five different buildings and you can only pick one at a time, we want each decision to be meaningful. That’s where the core gameplay comes in on that.
If you’re into mounts, clearly this is a building you’re going to want to build. If you do a lot of outdoor world questing, Barracks and the fact they give you a lot of bodyguards that you can take with you anywhere in the world might be really interesting to you. That was really what we put the most effort into: trying to come up with something that felt very compelling, but also unique to each individual building.
Q: Is there any concern that Garrisons will really isolate players and detract from cities as social hubs?
Stockton: That’s something that we’ve thought a ton about. We knew when we went into it that we weren’t planning to build a space that people were going to hang out in like an instance and be there all by themselves. That was something we didn’t want from the beginning. That’s a core concept behind why we built so many things in the Garrison to work for other players. For example, the Mage Tower building unlocks portals, and you can get different portals to different zones in Draenor. Those are going to work for everyone. Once you’ve unlocked them, you can invite your guild into your Garrison and they can then use your portal to go to the raid zone.
We have invasions. Your Garrison can be attacked. That generally happens about once a week. Those are multiplayers options. You can have two other players with you, and when you finish it for the week you’ll get your reward, but you can also help out all your friends, and earn gold. The rewards are linked to our raid bosses, that’s why we’ve blocked those out once per week.
The idea was that if you’re in your Garrison, you’re there for gameplay. You’ll be fighting, or getting something. You wouldn’t be hanging out the way you might in Stormwind.
Q: There are no Followers attached to the stables. Can you explain why that is?
Stockton: Yeah, so the stables have no specific Followers that you can slot in there. We didn’t have anything that made a ton of sense there. It was always more about having an area to display your mounts.
We’ve tried to ensure that we’ve inserted Followers into buildings where it felt natural and where it made sense. In profession buildings, for example, it made a ton of sense to slot in a Follower who could make that profession building better, and where you have that Follower crafting items for you. That feels meaningful, that feels like it really matters.
We didn’t want to just jam a Follower slot into every building just to try to make Followers cooler. In the end that would just make it feel bloated and forced, and that’s something we generally try to avoid.
Q: The mount quests come with modifiers that increase the difficulty. Can you talk us through your thinking in implementing that?
Stockton: Yeah the way that works is that there are six mounts, and first you have to find and capture it. The mechanic on that is probably similar to anything you’ve done on the Hunter, where you have to find pets and get them. It’s a very similar mechanic. You then bring the mount back to the garrison, and then that mount will spawn in the stable.
After that you can get daily quests and you can take that mount out into the world and ride it, and defeat other creatures while you’re riding it. That basically trains that mount to be stronger, that’s the fiction there. As that mount grows stronger, you finally get to a last quest where you fight a big boss and then the mount gets added to your mount journal as a real mount that you can use anywhere.
You can do that for six unique mounts. We also have mounts that come from achievements on the stables that you can get in addition to that.
Q: What have you learn from the public beta that you didn’t take away from the alpha?
Stockton: Tons of stuff. The biggest thing we always get from any beta are player collision issues, which is when multiple players are trying to do one thing at the same time. You can imagine a designer might have an idea, then the designer might implement that idea at their desk, then they playtest that idea – that’s one player.
World of Warcraft is not that situation. You could have hundreds of players trying to do that same thing at the exact same time. The Garrison presents that same issue. All players’ Garrisons are in exactly the same spot, so we have hundreds of players in one spot at one time trying to do different things. Getting into beta gives us a glimpse into some of the issues we might run into when things go live on the wider servers. Generally that’s what we react to.
Q: Are there particular synergies between buildings within the Garrisons? Do you envision theorycrafting will come into it? Will there be such a thing as the progression raiding Garrison, for example?
Stockton: It’s pretty hard to build anything in World of Warcraft where there won’t be some optimal way for someone to do it! We have such a huge passionate fanbase. When you look at who is playing, many are people who’ve been playing for a very long time. We still get new players, but a lot of our players will always try to figure out what’s the best way to do something.
It’s obviously something that we work hard on, and to make decisions matter. In the end those most hardcore people are going to find [an optimal configuration], and that’s totally fine. They enjoy that, that’s something they want to do. Many of our players will pick buildings based on what they think is fun. They pick it because they like it, they think it’s cool.
That's the thing about World of Warcraft: we cater to every type of player. We’ve got our new players, our casual players, and our really hardcore players. I think it would be crazy to think that there’s not going to be a webpage somewhere that tells you ‘If you’re this type of player this is the optimal thing to do.’ But I also think a lot of those things are quite clear [within the game]. If you’re not into PvP, you’re not going to build a Gladiator Sanctum. That’s clear. If you’re not into professions, you probably won’t build a lot of profession buildings.
Q: On other building types, were there any buildings or ideas that just never made it out of prototype?
Stockton: Yeah totally. We had a building called the infirmary. We couldn’t really come up with any cool ideas around it. Generally the concept of an infirmary is that you’re healing injured people, but that doesn’t really feel very heroic. We thought about bonuses where you could get better first aid bandages and things like that.
We went through a lot of iteration. We actually went through a couple of verions of the building, but in the end we just didn’t think it fulfilled a fantasy. So we cut it. If we come up with a cool idea for it later, we can totally add it back in.