Scaling Up Content

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“The technology for scaling up old content is mostly in place now, but the devs haven’t come up with a good rewards scheme for scaled up old dungeons and raids yet. Today, players can go back and solo old content for transmog gear, but if they were going to go back and do it in an appropriately sized group, they would expect something useful other than transmog gear.”

So this quote on MMO-C as a result from the Vanion interview with Chilton and Stockton at Gamescom intrigued me last week. Blizzard have openly admitted that they have technology for scaling up old content, but don’t see the point in implementing it just yet, as they can just blast through the old content without the scaling now for transmog gear. Firstly, it would need to be a toggle-able thing where people that still want to go back and smash the back doors of Molten Core in can still do so.

The vocal minority for sure have certainly asked to be able to raid places like MC or BWL without facerolling through it, but when the reward of nostalgia has taken its toll, what could continue to bring people back to these places? Would pulling C’thun only to wipe 5secs later because people were standing too close together really bring back the fun memories of raiding back in the day? Especially with the LONG corpse run back.

Rewards

For one, Blizzard could turn the old raids into a pseudo-challenge mode, where not only could the mobs and bosses be brought up to level, but our gear gets taken down to a certain level, like in Challenge Modes or Proving Grounds. You could begin to compete on a world-basis for different raids. Though how long that would keep people interested other than the select few trying to overtake eachother for their own prestige might dwindle quickly.

Achievements are also a good way to get people to go along – but again this is really only a short-term method for keeping people interested, with the only way to increase longevity would be to turn the achievements into something similar to Ulduar in creating multiple achievements for the same bosses. However, Blizz have already mentioned that there is an achievement bloat, so this may not end up being the case.

Another reward might be useful in this difficulty of raiding, is to make ‘timeless’ rewards such as mounts that only drop in this difficulty – though mount collectors tend to prefer content to farm in places that they can solo (at least I know I’d prefer to farm for the ugly stone drake from Stone Core, rather than the awesome Astral Serpent from Elegon, despite the latter being my favourite flying mount model in the game).

Other ‘timeless’ rewards could include heirloom armour and weapons, that you can send to alts and use them as alternatives to the JP/Honor heirlooms, similar to the Garrosh weapons in 5.4, we could see something like the Bulwark of Azzinoth being an alternative tank shield for scaling level 70-90, for example.

Heck, we could see the scaled up raids act as stepping stones for gear, for those that care more about the purples than why they’re there. They could have similar iLvl gear as Flex raids, in the models of the gear that dropped there back when the raid was current content.

Why it shouldn’t happen

As much as it might sound like I’m being a hipster, I actually don’t believe these raids should be scaled up to allow for us to raid these old places again. I’ve had amazing memories of some of them, but they were back in a time when raiding mechanics were very simple. For example, just a single phase of a fight in MoP was pretty much the complexity of entire boss-fights in TBC and vanilla. If I went back to progressing on these fights, the only thing stopping wiping the place out in a few hours on launch would be gear checks. And Metzen help us if we have to force tanks into cloth gear because it has the best Nature resistance/stamina combo for Huhuran.

Which brings me to another point – the main throttle for progression back in those days were stuck behind requiring things like a special cloak for Nefarian, the materials of which you could only gain a limited amount of per week, or more importantly, many bosses had high magical damage that could only be beaten by having high amounts of resistance gear to that school of magic. You may complain about lack of space in your inventory these days, but that’s nothing in comparison to having to hold 4 different sets of resistance gear, on top of things like DPS gear if you were fortunate enough to be allowed non-tanking gear if you wanted to farm Tubers and the like.

As such, something between the two HAS to give, while I would enjoy seeing some of my guildies somehow forget to REMOVE THEIR HANDS FROM THE KEYBOARD on the Shade of Aran fight, either mechanics will have to become more complex, or we add these resistance blocks back into the game again, to ensure that we don’t burn ourselves out too quickly on these encounters.

I’d much prefer to look back on those encounters with rose-tinted glasses and have fond memories of them, rather than have to butcher those fights to suit today’s standard of raiding. What do you think? Should scaled up content be implemented in the game? What rewards would you offer people to make it worthwhile, yet not make it more important than the current tier’s raiding and other PvE content?

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WI Community Blog Topic: Should all classes get a fourth spec?

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Using an older CBT as the basis of my next post, I’m going to be tackling the subject of fourth specs, and whether or not the game really needs them or not. Druids were the first to get this treatment when their Feral spec was split into two – Feral and Guardian – at the start of Mists of Pandaria. Although it was a much needed change, especially with the Mists talent model, it would seem this paved the way for every other class to get a sense of entitlement and have a desire to create an entirely new specialisation for them, set with new abilities and everything.

At least in the case of Druids, the Guardian and Feral specs already had their abilities fleshed out – all that was needed was a snip of abilities from cat form for Guardian, and a snip of abilities from bear form for Feral, and the two specs were pretty much good to go. What all the other classes that are asking for a fourth spec are looking at, are complete new sets of abilities for them to use in a potential new role. I’ve toyed around with the idea in the past, but overall, is adding 10 new specs into the game going to be viable for balance concerns?

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Possible Spec Ideas

This image was “leaked” a few weeks back, though it is very likely to have a FAKE stamp all over it, though the icons do bring up some interesting options for what could end up happening. Here we can see potential specs such as:

  • Warriors: Dragon Roar image – Who knows what that could be? Could it be the buffing spec that Blizzard hinted at not long ago, becoming a morale-boosting spec that shouts at his allies to just “Walk it off”? Perhaps they could take a page from Dota 2’s Dragon Knight and become a plated elemental Warrior?
  • Mages: Blood Horror image – Hints very heavily toward a Blood Mage spec. Could it be the tanking spec that Mages have been asking for since they first set foot into Gruul’s Lair in TBC? A casting tank would be an interesting niche for sure, though my ideal 4th spec for Mages would have been them manipulating time to reverse wounds to heal, but oh well.
  • Rogues: Honor Among Thieves image – Quite hard to determine what this could be, to tell the truth. It’s something that Subtlety already has… Perhaps it’s another buffer spec?
  • Druids: Guardian – already ingame.
  • Hunters: Premeditation – Seems fairly Stalker-ish, perhaps an extension of their Camouflage and become a pet-less, ranged Rogue, essentially.
  • Shaman: Earth Shock – The long awaited tank spec for Shamans, waiting even longer than Mages as the only class to be able to wear shields and not use them to block attacks.
  • Priest: I can’t quite place where I’ve seen this icon before, and I have no idea what it could represent for the Priest class as a whole.
  • Warlock: Here we have an icon of a winged demon – perhaps they could split Demonology and this spec up, like they did with Ferals in 5.0 to give them their own tanking spec, and remove Dark Apotheosis glyph?
  • Paladin: Hey look, something that resembles something Holy! This time with a sword in the middle instead of a hammer – we could see an extension of BC and LK’s Shockadin spec. Either that or we could see a second melee spec that focuses on dual wield instead of 2h.
  • Death Knight: Purple skull! Necromancy spec? Although Unholy already covers this very well with its mastery of ghouls and minions of undeath, we could see Warcraft II’s Death Knights become more of a reality with this specialisation.
  • Monk: With feathers, and the only celestial not represented among Monks being Chi-ji, this has to be the icon  the Cranedancer specialisation. What that entails could be anything, as Chi-ji has been represented as the celestial for healers, while Yu-lon is the ranged caster (whereas now the Serpent is for Mistweavers). If it were the case, we might see some name changes for the spells of Mistweavers and Yu-lon gains some ranged caster spells.

These do all seem very interesting, and with the ~70 developers gained from TITAN, we might be able to see the workforce placed into them to actually make them a reality. Plus, in previous expansions the main focus has always been on the new class or the new race, with the occasional class receiving overhauling mechanics – but nothing to the extent of an entirely new specialisation to play around with.

Well with the exception of Druids, anyway. But as already mentioned Druids did already have 4 “specs” to choose from, with their Feral spec having two very different choices to have, but as a result were very cookie-cutter, unless playing in a hybrid role between the two.

It would certainly be very fun to have this sort of love to the characters we already have at level 90 (or if this was a case for a future expansion, 95 or 100, etc) so that the classes we like the mechanics of gets a new role to play in. Warlocks or Mages may enjoy their DPS, and if they don’t want to tank they’re not forced into it when their favourite spec is suddenly a tanking spec (much to the outcry of DKs back in Cata). However for those pure DPS specs they may finally get the option to have shorter queues in LFD/R, or may find themselves with viable offspecs for 10man raiding guilds instead of just choosing whichever spec pulls the most numbers for a certain encounter.

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Balance Concerns

As already mentioned, the main drawback for all classes getting 4 specs to choose from, is not that everyone has to learn a new spec they might not be interested in, but the fact that if everyone is getting a new spec, that’s up to 10 new specs that have the be balanced. I don’t know what side of the game you guys have been playing, but both on a PvP and PvE level just the 34 specs are trouble enough to balance, with some specs doing more than double other specs in equal gear levels, or certain specs just being unviable in PvP due to burst that dominates today’s games.

Another drawback would be the crappy guilds that are out there, that suddenly see “Hey, Mages now have a tanking spec – Mage go tank for us or we’ll replace you with a Mage that can tank”. I know that such guild/raid leaders should be kept away from, but they do exist – in some circumstances even when racing for realm/region/world firsts.

Would we get the Death Knight syndrome, where suddenly we have specs that aren’t very well tested (as 6 million testers are always going to be more thorough than a few hundred thousand) being completely OP and starting at a high level, should the end of expansion present us with plenty of people at level cap? Or end up with jokes of classes that become homogenised so much that they’re just new names and new colours to the same abilities? We can already see this with all healers having similar heal kits, all tanks having similar tanking cooldowns – what use is there to just extending that to other classes?

I can only imagine how a Frost Mage with Blood “general class” defensives would work out in PvP…

How it could work

So we already know that adding 10 new specs isn’t really viable to add at once – but won’t we have 10 new specs sometime down the road anyway, with new classes in new expansions? We could stagger the 4th specs for classes, basing them off roles that do need the new specs, for example the first expansion could see the pure DPS classes gaining non-DPS specialisations, then following that the other 6 could follow in one or two expansions following, perhaps leaving Death Knights and Monks for last, as they’re still the newer classes, as well as Paladins who can do all 3 roles regardless.

Of course, many people will complain that THEIR class has to wait up to 6 years down the line before they get to see their 4th specs, so that would be an issue to overcome – though in honesty using the defense of the idea behind it being to add new roles to existing classes, it should have great favour to give the Pures something to do first, followed by Warriors/Priests/Shamans, before Paladins/DKs/Monks get their look into it. Perhaps with a larger development force we could see new specs in patch cycles, rather than expansion cycles – as long as it doesn’t happen mid-season/tier, then it should be fine to work through. It’s more likely we’d see that kind of thing happen on an expansion-by-expansion basis however, as it is quite a major change usually reserved for that. Though we did get talent overhauls in Vanilla, come to think of it…

Leave your comments below about whether or not you think other classes should share the Druid Master Race’s uniqueness of having four specs!

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WI Community Blog Topic: Do we need an ability squish?

Hurricane Temple of StormsAmong many others bits of news that has come out these past few weeks in preparation for patch 5.4, another interesting idea that has brought up a bit of discussion is one of another ability squish, outlined in the Legendary interview at Gamescom.

As levels continue to increase, Blizzard have mentioned that it would be a shame to miss out getting new spells when we level in each expansion – and it’s true! In my case, I’m always looking forward to seeing what new toys each class will get in the upcoming expansion, but at the same time I’m looking at my 40+ keybinds I have on my Druid’s screen – that’s without including abilities in other forms, healing spells and PvP-specific bindings – and wonder just where I’m going to fit the new abilities on my bars.

We recently had a decent pruning in the Mists expansion itself, seeing the removal of certain lesser-used abilities such as Thorns, or abilities that became spec-specific such as Regrowth, Shred and Skull Bash. Ghostcrawler mentioned that in this expansion Blizzard were probably too nice to players, listening to their pleas of “We won’t be viable if we don’t have X – what happened to ‘Bring the player, not the class’ if we don’t have an interrupt” ending up with spell books that are still rather large in the case of certain classes.

What Was Discussed?

Now we have no information just yet for what abilities will get pruned back for patch 6.0, but one spell that is being looked at in the case of healers is the ‘base heal’ spell – so spells like Nourish, Heal, Healing Wave, etc are only useful at lower gear levels, and just don’t become used once healers have the regen to sustain the harder healing spells.

Other things that may get looked might be the wealth of instant cast heals and silences. In PvP at least, it has been an on-going war between countering healers and DPS – first the casted heals were getting interrupted all the time, so Blizzard opted to give healers more instant cast abilities, more ways to prevent interruption, but then that caused healers to get too powerful, making Blizzard implement these silences that would counter the instant cast spells, that led to healers getting locked down via stuns, silences, etc. We might end up seeing a pruning to both silences and instant cast spells to either become select few class niches or a complete rework where neither really exist (in a tree’s perspective there – gulp!).

Nourish

What I’d Like to Remove/Change

I’m all for an ability squish, by all means I don’t particularly want to go into the next expansion having to work my UI around to fit an ability I get at 93 or 95 or whatever that becomes quite rotational onto my bars. I already have enough trouble with Symbiosis depending on what spell I get. However at the same time, Blizzard said they wanted to get rid of the abilities you have to keybind, but don’t necessarily use all that often – I look at my bars, and I do use different abilities fairly often, depending on the content.

Soothe for example is an example of an ability I have to keybind, but don’t necessarily use all that often… until an encounter arrives that involves dispelling enrage effects or I find a Warrior on my ass – or I end up on a PvP server and spam Soothe on an Oondasta tank. Unless Blizzard ends up removing Enrage effects from the game, I don’t see Rogues and Hunters being the only ones to dispel that effect leading into the next expansion.

As I’ve already said earlier, Nourish is one of those spells we MIGHT see go for Restoration specs. I think the only time I’ve used it is when I don’t get a Clearcasting proc on the countdown of a pull to use Regrowth in its place, to get Harmony up. Even at the start of the expansion, despite playing Moonkin for most of it, I don’t think I really used Nourish at all, and wouldn’t mind freeing up the VuhDo slot for a more useful ability – especially if all healers get their similar spells wiped too, so that the same binding for the similar spell can all be replaced!

Of course, there doesn’t have to be outright removal of abilities to a certain specialisation either – we could see merging of abilities to cut down on the bloat. Much like how Moonkins got a new spell, Astral Storm, that changes on Eclipse between itself and Hurricane, we could see something similar between Moonfire and Sunfire. Though losing the double dot would be a shame to what Moonkins have had for years, I don’t really see the point in having essentially the same spell in a different flavour. We’d have to see an increase to our Shooting Stars procs and what pathetic movement DPS we have to make up for the loss of a second DOT, though for the latter the next change might work…

Plenty of people know how much I utterly despise Moonkin AoE in general since our Mushroom powerhouse was nerfed to the ground. Hurricane/Astral Storm is only really effective under Nature’s Grace, that will then end up gimping our single-target to get to the NEXT eclipse, and double dotting with Starcleaving requires mobs that will be alive for the dots to be effective. Although Balance have always had Hurricane as a signature ability for them, ever since it used to be their 31pt talent way back in Vanilla, I think it’s time to put it into retirement. In its place, I’d buff Mushrooms to leave a spell-storm DOT on its Fungal Growth similar to Hurricane’s damage (or 40% of it per Mushroom, for balancing reasons) – it gives us something to use on the move that’s actually effective in both Lunar and Solar, as well as on the move. It is a little bit fire and forget like Rain of Fire for Warlocks, but it’s still unique in that you could either stack all 3 mushrooms on top of each other for a larger amount of AoE, or spread them out for a larger area, but more importantly you can activate all of your AoE at once! It’s main drawback would be the 10sec cooldown in case the mobs have to move, but there’s got to be some drawback somewhere, right?

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Talents

Talents are also another way they can reduce on ability bloat, but only for the players that don’t want the extra buttons on their bars. For Druids at least, of the 18 possible talents we have, 3 of them are passive. Fortunately they are in different tiers, but that still leaves us with 3 extra buttons from our talents alone that could also give us the choice to remove them from our bars. 5.4 will alleviate this slightly by replacing Nature’s Swiftness (giving it to Balance and Resto) with Ysera’s Gift, giving us a passive 5% of our health in healing every 5 seconds. But what if we could extend this further to our two CC tiers of talents?

At tier 3 we have Faerie Swarm, Mass Entanglement and Typhoon, otherwise known as single-target spammable slow, AoE roots and AoE knockback/slow. Of the three, I’d probably axe the AoE roots as they’re still rarely used – in both PvE and PvP we’re still not seeing much more than 16% of Druids using the talent, despite its changes since their original incarnation. I’d axe the talent for a passive armour effect that slows down attackers by 30% or similar – could be called something like Grasping Vines to make it sound Druidic. This way, it reduces ability bloat if the casual crowd don’t want to remember to use the other two abilities, while also having the slow be not so powerful that it’s better than the actives in the same tier.

Tier 5 is also an ugly child, providing us with Disorienting Roar, Ursol’s Vortex and Mighty Bash – an AoE disorientate, a snare/grip combo and a stun. This tier is a bit more challenging to deal with, as they’re all very useful abilities that do all get used a fair amount by different specs in different playstyles. The only thing that I would suggest would be to make Ursol’s Vortex baseline for Balance (as it’s not widely used by the other specs, apart from Resto maybe in PvE to help tanks out) and replace it with Druid of the Wild, causing shapeshifting to root anyone in a 10yd radius around the Druid. It doesn’t reduce bloat for Balance unfortunately by keeping Vortex, but Beam+Vortex go hand in hand with each other – perhaps even bake the Beam and Vortex into the same spell as they’re both on a 1min CD? Probably not, quite a few times I prefer to just use Vortex to keep someone in place, but not necessarily silence them.

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On the Flip-side

However, I can see the argument AGAINST ability squishing, and it comes from the elitist standpoint more than anything else. In PvP especially, I know I have to use more abilities more often than I do in PvE, however I’d like to think that what I’ve done in my casual time in arenas and BGs has definitely helped me as a raider to use my entire toolkit that’s available to me for when the time arises. Having more abilities sets the casual apart from the hardcore, and it could allow Blizzard to design more complex heroic encounters with the knowledge that many classes have extensive toolkits to combat what is thrown at them.

Also, if we do squish abilities down so much and merge spells so much that we only need the 12-button hotbar (at an extremity I’d say), what would be the flavour that separates classes, other than the colour and names of the spells? What would be the ideal amount of abilities per spec before WoW turns itself into a MMO-MOBA?