WoW Classic Season of Discovery devs are aiming for 'fun,' not 'perfect balance'

WoW Classic: Season of Discovery
(Image credit: Blizzard)

One of the reasons World of Warcraft Classic's new Season of Discovery servers can be kooky is that the developers aren't too worried about balance.

Does that new rune make paladins overpowered in the 20-man Gnomeregan raid? Do melee hunters suddenly rule the roost for damage? Do druids with Windfury imbalance PvP? It's all part of the plan, so long as people are having fun.

"It lends to our goal of balancing for fun rather than perfect balance," said Nora Valletta, lead software engineer. That doesn't mean changes to how things work or how much power they have don't happen, she said. It's just that achieving perfect balance across all races, classes, or specializations isn't their goal. "That's kind of how we're learning and iterating on what works, what doesn't."

The key is listening to players' reports of what they enjoy, she said.

"When balancing for fun, we are a lot more in tune with players' feedback on what is fun," Valletta said. "Some feedback we receive is along the lines of, 'This ability is good, but I don't really enjoy using it.' And sometimes our data may reflect that. So we're definitely spending more time focusing on, 'Okay, maybe this ability is powerful or strong, but is it fun? Is it just a button you press or is it something that you can use at opportune times that interact in a way that is really fun and exciting?'"

Not having to balance everything perfectly lets the team focus more on how abilities feel, she said.

"It's very much divorced from the idea that everything has to be pristine from a numbers standpoint, as if we have to be focusing on some kind of competitive game mode in Season of Discovery, which we don't," said Valletta. Even with the world PvP on SOD servers and its "nice juicy rewards," the team merely has to ensure that realistically, anyone can get them.

A nice side effect of this approach is that when they do try to balance abilities or factions, it's more about what they can give players on the other side, rather than what they need to take away.

"When we are aware that there's going to be some kind of potential imbalance in something that we implement, we also start to think of ways we compensate in the other direction," Valletta said. "It may not look identical across both factions. And we think that that's some of the unique fun and flavor that Classic has always had."

If you're playing an Alliance character, you have one experience. If you're playing a Horde character, you have another experience entirely. So that's one of the things that we are careful not to make too 'across both,' if that makes sense." 

Phase 3 of WoW Classic's Season of Discovery went live today.