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Blizzard's Macro Koegler Economy & Patch 5.4 Interview Transcript
We were lucky enough to be able to interview Marco Koegler, Technical Director for World of Warcraft at Blizzard, on Episode 071 of The Power Word: Gold Podcast.
During the interview we discussed topic ranging from how Connected Relams will be chosen in Patch 5.4, how Connected Realms may affect the in-game economy, how Blizzard developers work with the in-game economy and a discussion of the default auction house interface.
Marco shared a lot of really great (and often very candid) insight into Blizzard's development process with much of it relating directly to gold-making. Thanks again to Marco for doing the interview. It was great.
Below is a transcript of the entire interview.
Listen to the interview audio on Episode 071 of the Power Word: Gold Podcast.
Jim Younkin: Today we have a special interview. We have an interview with Marco Koegler. Did I say that right Marco?
Marco Koegler: You said that right.
Jim: See, I planned ahead. I asked people how to pronounce it. Actually, when I look at it it doesn't seem like it would be that hard to pronounce that but I figured that… Are you from Germany I'm gonna say?
Marco: I'm originally from Germany yes so in German it would be "Marco Koegler" [pronounced in proper German] but that's impossible for anybody to say so just pretend the "e"'s not there and say "Kogler" instead.
Jim: Well my last name is German also "Younkin" was originally "J-U-N-G-H-E-N" so "Jung-keen" or something like that so. Alright Marco you are the Technical Director for Blizzard.
Marco: That is correct. That's Technical Director of World of Warcraft, not at Blizzard.
Jim: Technical Director of World of Warcraft and so we're so excited to have you on The Power Word: Gold Podcast today. If you don't know, which I think you do, we're a blog podcast and livestream about making gold in World of Warcraft so…
Jim: …today's questions are going to be aimed a little bit more at that side of it but I wanted to see… Could you start off by telling us a little bit about yourself and what you do at Blizzard.
Marco: Sure. I've been at Blizzard a little bit over four years. I started working on the engine team for World of Warcraft so I've done things like redo the water for Cataclysm…
Jim: Which is beautiful by the way…
Marco: …and the sunshafts…
Jim: …both beautiful.
Marco: …thank you. The lighting changes from Mists of Pandaria and just generally graphical improvements and as of earlier this year the Technical Director and as Technical Director I am now in charge of basically all the programming work that goes into making World of Warcraft.
The tools that we use internally to build the content. The client that everyone is playing as well as the servers that are actually running the game.
Jim: I worked with a few Blizzard people back in the day.
Jim: Bo Bell, I don't know, this was probably before your time…
Jim: …yeah he worked, they were the original developers for original World of Warcraft. Some of the original World Builders. Bo Bell and Josh Kurtz and Stu [Rose]. So I got to hear lots of intersting stories about the…
Jim: …tools and my wife was playing Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 the other day and I was looking at, she was you know raising the terrain, lowering the terrain. I'm like "Hey I did that…"
Jim: "…that's how the games are made."
Marco: That's a terrain editor right there.
Jim: Well and I also heard lots of horror stories bout the terrain editor, you know, just basically like… I don't know. I don't want to give away all the cool secrets that I learned about the terrain editor but…
Jim: …I think it's probably improved over time.
Marco: Yeah. It's definitely a matured toolset at this point.
Jim: As a former World Builder I have to say that your artists and the terrain has just gotten so amazing as far as the looks and everything like that. Especially in Mists of Pandaria. With each expansion I think your World Builders gotten better and better.
Marco: Yeah. Mists of Pandaria got a nice tech bump. We improved the way that the terrain textures can blend together and that's allowed them to do fantastic things.
Choosing Connected Realms
Jim: You are the Technical Director. Now I wanted to jump right in and see if you can tell us… Tell us what can about… The major news that has come that has kind of "rocked", not "rocked", but the major news that has kind of effected…
Marco: Shocked. (laughs)
Jim: …yes, "shocked". As a gold-making community we're always keeping our eye on patch notes and what could possible be affected and usually it's like "Well this little item's going to change or that item's going to change but this is like "BOOM". The Connected Realms was kind like, at least in my eyes, was like "Oh my gosh."
When we saw that they were going to be connecting the auction houses, and I'm gonna talk about that in a little bit, but I wanted to see if you could tell us what you can about how the Connected Realms will be implemented in Patch 5.4. I think we all have a pretty good understanding of what they will be but one of the questions I haven't heard too much about is how will you choose the realms.
Do you guys have some sort of algorithm? Is it going to be playing it by ear? What can you tell us about that, if anything?
Marco: It's going to be a manual selection process. So there is no "uber-algorythm" that makes a bunch of assumptions about "what this realm is" and "what that realm is" and that "these two now need to live together". So It's definitely going to be a decision made by humans.
The key idea behind Connected Realms is to focus low population realms, people that are currently just dealing with, like, "I cannot buy anything on the auction house because everything is so expensive." or "I cannot find people to PVP with." or "I cannot find people to join my guild" or to form a raid team.
We want to give them a better play experience. Usually games would do realm merges at this point and that means that then you have a group of people that are like "Oh. I now need to change my name because my name's already been taken on this realm that I'm supposed to move to."
We just felt that, looking at where the CRZ [Cross-Realm Zones] tech was, that we had a lot more options in how we would be able to approach that problem and give players a way to get some of the benefits of being kind of "permanently connected" with another groups of players but still maintain your realm identity and your player identity.
Jim: I had a question from a twitter user, we asked for questions. One of the people was asking if there's already a name on one server, when the servers are connected does that lock out the name from all the other servers?
Or is it completely independent, the name selection, so if he has his name on one will he be able to create a character with the same name on the other?
Marco: I believe you would be able to create a, Yeah. I don't think there is anything that would prevent you from creating a character with the same name as long as you're on a different connected realm.
Jim: Will the name show up as "name" dot "realm" kind of how it is now with a pound sign (#)?
Marco: Yeah. The philosophy we've tried to follow is that people that people that are playing on your realm will appear the same way to you that they did before. And people that are from another realm they will get called out with an asterisk (*) so that you will at least know that there is something special about them.
And there's a bunch of tweaks I think that we'll do as we're iterating on the feature in terms of making chat do the right thing. If I have a person that's called something in my guild or he is near me, who do you want to chat to? And there's a bunch of assumptions that we're making,
Jim: If you're slash-whispering and there's two people with the same name.
Marco: Yes. I mean you'll always have the ability to fully qualify it with the the actual realm name but we also thinking of just convenience and you don't always want to type that so we'll have some quicker ways to select those, hopefully the right things.
Jim: Actually I've been flipping through a couple realms as I've been doing some auctioning and it is interesting the difference, just from standing in the same auction house on multiple realms. It is interesting…
Jim: …this auction house doesn't have a lot of people and when I'm at the mailbox on this server there's like twelve people all stacked on top of me so.
Marco: Yeah. I mean I understand that for people who are into dominating the auction house it's going to create more competition.
Marco: So I definitely how, for your community, how this feature, yeah, is something that is very interesting.
Connected Realms And The Economy
Jim: Well that perfectly leads me on to my next question. I kind of thought about a lot and it seems like out of all the communities out there, out of all the things that are positive, maybe the only people I could think of that are thinking "Oh. This won't be a good idea." is people like us, the gold-makers, because being a "big fish in a small pond" is kind of a nice thing when you're able to work the auction house and be one of the few people putting up items and able to control it and having two or three ponds now all kind of shoved together you have you know…
If, say, for glyph sellers there's two major glyph sellers on each server and now there's like a "Royal Rumble" of glyph sellers when the all come together.
Can you speak to Blizzard's thoughts on economic effects, positive or negative, that Connected Realms could have in 5.4? Was that given any consideration?
Marco: I mean it was obviously something that was discussed but, like at the moment, people that completely dominate a market can create a more negative play experience for the other that are on that realm right?
And I hope that the types of players that are really into playing the market and learning the market, I think the challenge, even if you're on a connected realm, I think that the type of thing that makes that interesting is still going to be interesting.
It's going to be a bit more challenging because you're have more people that maybe factor into that but I think the overall type of thing that keeps people interested in playing that type of game does not really change.
Jim: Yeah. When I was thinking of it myself, and we've been talking about it on the show a few times here that there, for the average player is seems like this is going to be great.
Jim: You're going to have more items on the auction house. Prices are gonna go down and it'll be more like a high-population realm. And I've talked to lots of people who play on high-population realms and they say "Well, you make less gold per item but you sell a lot more items because there's a lot more customers.
Jim: So for the average player I think you'll see your prices go down and stabilize as people come in. My opinion is if you're a good gold-maker you make gold…
Marco: You find a way.
Jim: Yeah. (laughs)
Marco: You'll figure out the new market and the new situation and you'll find a way to exploit the fluctuations in the market.
Jim: (laughs) Nice. Alright…
Marco: I think if you're an "OP" (over-powered), like, if you're kind of like the only guy on a low pop realm you're almost like an OP class.
Jim: Yeah. (laughs) You're a Death Knight in early Wrath of the Lich King.
Marco: Exactly. I just hope that the people that the people that are interested in that type of play they see it as a challenge to succeed.
Jim: It's like anything. If Facebook makes one change everybody complains until they realize "Oh wait. This really is better than the way it was." It's just the change that… You know recently in our community TradeSkillMaster, which is one of the most popular addons…
Jim: …had a major update to 2.0 and now everybody's, not everybody, but people are like "Ahh! You move around all my stuff."
Marco: "I used to have this system for doing things and now I need to change it all."
How Developers Approach The Economy
Jim: Yeah so a lot of us bloggers and livestreamers have been trying to spread the word and share changes but in my opinion change happens and I think we'll get used to it.
Alright. Next question I wanted to ask is what can you tell us about Blizzard's developer resources that are related to the in-game economy? I've always found this kind of fascinating. I've always wondered "How much does Blizzard think about the economy?"
Can you tell us a little bit about Blizzard's resources related to the in-game economy?
Marco: We have quite a few, I actually don't know the exact head count of people that are doing this but, we obviously look at trends in the economy and we have ways of getting statistics on gold flow and those types of aspects and some of our designers are actually playing the "auction house" game and the "making gold" game and they're very much in-tune with what's happening in the game but, as you say, it's also very server specific and I don't know if we actually have somebody that looks at that on a global level.
Jim: It's always kind of interesting when something happens in the game like… a few examples I know are like early in Cataclysm there was some vendor prices for uncommon gems…
Jim: …like nine gold to sell to the vendor and so…
Jim: …that made it very easy for people to make money…
Marco: Make money. Yeah.
Jim: …and as time went on it was kind of like "Well, now they nerfed the vendor price down to this."
Marco: Accidents like that happen and, in a way, those things are kind of like, they're almost on a category of gold dupe [duplication] bugs because you're creating gold out of nothing at some point and those things need to be quickly fixed because they get exploited en mass, that the moment the news spreads around, and at the start the first person that notices it keeps it very quiet…
Marco: …so that they can exploit it a lot. And we do have statistics on people that exploit those types of things and if there's something very egregious we may even take action. But in the end if we made an honest mistake we try to fix it as quickly as we can and hopefully don't "blow up" the economy too much.
Jim: It is always interesting and as somebody who tries to share ideas for it I always am looking for new ways and you'll hear things.
One of the most recent one's was Zhu's Watch which was spot where you would get onto a certain quest in Krasarang Wilds and kill these little Sha beast guys…
Jim: …and they would be killed relatively soon, not too quickly, but they had some pretty nice…
Marco: That their loot table was too…
Jim: …kill rate…
Marco: …yeah. They were too easy to kill and their loot table was too good.
Jim: …so that was funny because as I went back through and leveled my characters "this" characters was on the quest and "this" character, 'cause I actually would grind there to level up just a little bit and get some green items.
So it is interesting that Blizzard… Blizzard is paying attention to to that kind of stuff it seems.
Marco: Yeah. You're probably aware of nerfs that we've done to exploits like that in the past so we're definitely watching.
How Marco Makes Gold
Jim: Yeah. (laughs) I had a couple more questions for you here. What are your favorite ways to make gold in World of Warcraft?
Marco: I was more doing Jewelcrafting and Enchanting type stuff at the end of Cataclysm. For Mists of I haven't really gotten into the mode of "I just want to make gold"…
Jim: (laughs) That's 'cause you guys gave us so much stuff to do that there's, (laughs), there's like…
Marco: My primary gold source is probably disenchanting gear I get from raids and selling Haunting Spirits and stuff like that.
I do have a few profession alts but I'm not, at the moment, shuffling around major resources to kind of min/max that because I'm not buying huge, expensive mounts and stuff like that.
Jim: (laughs) I still haven't bought the 120 thousand gold mount with the reforger on it.
Jim: Every time I quest through there I always stop for a second, look at the guy and go "No." 'Cause like, once you get a certain amount of gold it's kinda hard to have that go back down (laughs) a little bit.
Marco: I see. So it's too big of a dent?
Jim: Too big of a dent. I mean, it's relative. You get to a million and you're like "Yay! I hit a million." and then you're like "Awww man. I can't spend this because then I'll go below a million."
And then you're like "I'll wait 'til I'm like one (million) twenty five or one twenty and then you're like "Yay! I hit two million." You're like "Awwww. Not I can't spend it."
Jim: So, what's the most gold you've ever had in World of Warcraft?
Marco: It's probably around 180 thousand gold or so.
Jim: Do you spend your gold on raid stuff or…
Marco: I usually spend it a lot on, whenever I bring up an alt, kind of getting him that initial set of gear in order to just get into LFRs [Looking for Raid] better.
That initial hump "I dinged level 90 and I want to be able to run the right LFRs in order to gear up quickly." That's what I use most of my gold for.
Default Auction House Interface
Jim: Alright, one last question. When will we see an update to the default auction house interface (chuckles) including features that are already…
Jim: …available in some of your other…
Marco: In addons?
Jim: …auction inter-…
Jim: No. Not addons.
Jim: I'm trying to keep it strictly to Blizzard.
Marco: Oh. Like the web…
Jim: The web interface and say the Mobile Armory have some really nice features like price matching and price checking and…
Try to just go sell an item and try to match a price on the default interface and it's really painful. Or is that something you guys think that the third-party addon makers do a good enough job?
Marco: I think it's definitely something where we feel that third-part addon vendors have… They're kind of part of that infrastructure for the people that do that type of trading.
Usually just matching a minimum price wouldn't be enough for the people that really want to play the auction house game. They want more statistics and more features and the third-party sector covers that very very well.
And actually UI [user interface] resources is some of the more scarce resources that we have on the game because every new design feature that we come up with usually requires a lot of UI work and a lot of UI iteration so we'd rather focus on spending our bucks on making new things and new game systems for players to enjoy.
Jim: (jibingly) Alright. Alright.
Marco: I think we'll get to it at some point…
Marco: …but it's a low priority.
Jim: After the dance studio and the model refresh.
Marco: I think we'd get to it before dance studio.
Jim: (laughs) Alright. Well thank you…
Marco: Promise we'll get to it before dance studio.
Jim: (laughs) Well thank you so much for being on the show today.
Marco: Thanks Jim.
Jim: Is there anything you'd want to share with the listeners here at the end?
Marco: It's been great talking to you guys. I was expecting to get more grilled on the economic side than I actually did…
Marco: …so thanks for going easy on me.
Marco: And to the listeners, if you guys have suggestions on how I can make gold I'd be very curious on hearing them.
Marco: 5.4 is coming out soon. I hope you guys have a lot of fun playing it. It's one of the biggest patches that we've done in years and don't be afraid of Connected Realms but use it to make more money.
Jim: Thank you so much Marco. Marco Koegler the Technical Director for World of Warcraft at Blizzard. Thank you Marco.
Marco: Thanks Jim.
Jim: And maybe we'll talk to you again some time in the future.
Marco: Yeah. Looking forward to it.
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