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Gameplanet: You’ve talked about the reforging system in the past, where’s that at?

Street: Yeah, it’s really cool! It’s actually completely functional now. The way it works is, instead of being tied to trade skills, now there are NPCs in the major cities. You go to this NPC and tell them you want to reforge an item. The interface opens and you place the item in it. It then asks you to pick a stat to reduce, and then pick a stat to add. You can’t use primary stats like agility, strength and intellect, but you can use all of the secondary stats like hit, crit, haste, parry, dodge, things like that. Then you reduce one of the stats by – at the moment it’s 40% but to make the example easier, say it’s 50%. If you have 100 crit, you reduce that by 50, that then gives you 50 points to put on, say, hit. And the cost of that transaction is the vendor cost of the item, so if you later decide to sell that item, you’re not really out of pocket.

Gameplanet: Oh, that is cool.

Street: Yeah, it’s pretty elegant: You can do it on any kind of item, a green levelling item or on a purple item if you didn’t need all that hit on it, for example. We don’t want it to be a way to get the “Best Possible” items, we still want those to be rare drops, but we want it to make the difference between an item being no good for you and making it useful.

Gameplanet: The Mastery system: Do the bonuses change based on what talents you’re selecting within a tree, or is more “40 points gets you this much”?

Street: Yeah, the point is to give players more flexibility in how they spend their talent points. As soon as you spend a point in a tree, the Mastery system says, ‘OK, you’re this kind of player.’ So if you’re a Paladin and you spend your first point in the Retribution tree, you’re now a Retribution paladin and you’ll get those bonuses. You can get up to a maximum of 51 points worth of bonuses because we actually want players to get to the bottom of a talent tree, if you spend more than that there’s no additional [Mastery] bonus but no penalty either. So we’re assuming that most players will get the full 51 points worth of passive Mastery bonuses from their talent tree.

Gameplanet: How does the Mastery system feed into other systems?

Street: There is a Mastery rating bonus as an item stat that will start showing up on gear, levels 80-85. If you have that, it’ll improve the passive bonuses unique to your mastered talent tree. There’s 30 of them, and that’s a way of ensuring mastery is important to everyone because it affects something that’s important to them.

There’s also a slight Mastery bonus you’ll get for wearing the correct type of armour, so for example, it’s a way of making sure warriors wear plate instead of taking mail or leather.

Gameplanet: What are some of the benefits of guild levels and guild achievements, and how do you expect smaller guilds to compete against larger guilds?

Street: It was really important for us to avoid making Blizzard out to say, “Guilds should now be built this way,” because guilds have existed as long as the game has existed and there are all kinds of different guilds. Some guilds are gigantic 500+ member guilds, there are very small guilds, there are people who have social guilds and then do their PvP and raiding with other guilds completely, so we didn’t want to come in and tell everyone they have to change the way their guild is organised.

So for example, the guild experience system is based on a certain number of contributors. In a small guild, everyone’s contributing and in a larger guild, everyone can compete for who’s being a contributor at that time. So a large guild might still have an advantage, but a 500-member guild won’t level ten times faster than a 50-member guild.

Gameplanet: How do you weigh that against the fact that guild mergers and transfers are common? Will a player’s guild reputation status reset to zero when they transfer guilds?

Street: When you leave a guild your “faction” rating – your guild reputation – will reset to zero, but it’s not going to be an insurmountable thing. We’re horrified by the thought of a player sticking with a guild that’s not a good fit for them, just because they don’t want to give up the benefits they’ve gained there. They’ll be able to get back up into the upper echelons of reputation fair quickly by doing things with their new guild.

Gameplanet: How quickly? Could you provide some kind of estimate on how long that would take?

Street: Yeah, I would say in the order of weeks or months. It’s something that we’re still tuning and it depends on exactly what kind of bonuses will unlock to guild members at honored versus revered or exalted.

We’ve also put in some hooks because we know that some people like to kick members out of a guild as a joke and we don’t want people to go to zero as soon as that happens. You really don’t lose any reputation until you join another guild.

Gameplanet: Cool, and how about guild disbands, I take it that’ll wipe it entirely?

Street: That’ll wipe it. It’s possible we could retrieve it, the information will exist somewhere, but probably for practical purposes it’s gone.

Gameplanet: So just make sure you don’t have an irate or juvenile guildmaster, then!

Street: [laughs]

If you haven't already, read our interview with Blizzard's Lead Content Designer, Cory Stockton. Stockton talked about present and future plans for dungeons and raids, difficulties with continuity and the design lessons learned from Wrath of the Lich King.