Designing World of Warcraft: Tom Chilton interview

Tim Edwards at

PCG: The splitting of 10 man and 25 man raid groups seemed to get less vitriol than I was expecting. Do you feel that?

Tom Chilton: I definitely feel that, but I was expecting it. I feel like a lot of people do 25 person raiding because that's where the gravy is, right? If there's one thing our experience tells us, it's that people will go where the rewards are. It's not necessarily because most people felt like 25 person raiding was the most fun experience. I think that, at least anecdotally, from talking to people on the team, talking to people in the company, players at Blizzcon, stuff like that, I think that more people find the 10 person raiding experience more enjoyable. If what this change means is that they get to do that and not feel like second class citizens doing it, then that's awesome.

PCG: I don't really feel like I contribute that much in 25 man raids, unless I'm tanking it which … well I'm not very good, so I tend to uh, avoid them... But in 10 man it feels more close and near, more friendly.

Tom Chilton: And there's less role overlap, I know that's a big deal for healers, right? In ten person, you've got two healers, one of them's healing the tank, and one of them's healing everyone else, it's very clear what you're responsible for. Whereas in 25 man, if you've got two people healing the tank, or three people, then it's like “tank didn't get healed in there, is that my fault, or your fault? I'm not really sure.”

PCG: Alex (Afraisiabi - World of Warcraft's Lead World Designer) said that one of the reasons he likes raiding is that because the systems that underpin it are always changing. Do you think that with the changes you're making to badge loot, with the two tiers of emblems, and the ten man lockouts and the heroic modes, that you've finally got the perfect mix for raiding?

Tom Chilton: (laughs) Yeah. Maybe. I think we've got it every time, though and then we end up being wrong every time. But I do think we're zeroing in on it. I would think that the number of significant mechanical changes that happen from tier to tier would slow down, but I don't know. You never know, we could be proven wrong on that.

PCG: During the presentation you gave earlier today, Greg ('Ghostwalker' Street) said that you'd like it if you didn't have to go to a website to find information to play the game.  He was talking about guild calendars and rosters. That seems like an admirable goal, yet you've actually built out a very complex website in the Armory. Have you ever considered putting the Armory in-game?

Tom Chilton: We definitely have. We've had ideas for being able to pop open an interface and see a lot of that armory information. We think that'd be really cool. Sometimes it's hard to justify, because it's the amount of work we'd have to do to to make that work vs. saving someone an alt-tab. You know, In some cases it's maybe not worth it. The armoury information isn't critical to someone's play experience.

Where we try to start is: how do we get information that's critical to improving somebody's play experience into the game? A lot of that is more around the kind of stuff that you would see on Wowhead, or whatever, and that's the kind of stuff that we try to get into the game first.

PCG: When sites like Wowhead started popping up, how did you feel about them at the time, and has your opinion changed at all?

Tom Chilton: It's interesting because I think it has. I think that as game developers our philosophies of what is good for a game and what isn't were more hardcore. Even before Wowhead there was Thottbot. We used to try to come up with sneaky ways to hide things from Thottbot. We'd say 'let's try and make it so they can't data mine the loot and stuff' because we thought it led to a better game experience for it to be a surprise to players. Over time I think that for the most part what we found is that those sites in a lot of ways add to the game, and a lot of times they just point out flaws in our game where we need to be giving people information that we're not giving them. The same can be said for UI mods.