Thursday, June 3, 2010

Optional Talents: Do They Exist?

One of the themes going into the Cataclysm development cycle is allowing players to have more choices. There are more race/class combinations. The Path of the Titans will offer you more choices on how to customize your toon. Probably the biggest expansion of choices is coming from the revamped talent trees.

It is a stated goal of this expansion to allow players to spend more talent points on "fun"/optional talents. In a recent blue post Ghostcrawler said "we just want to see more cookie-cutter builds that say things like 'spend the last 5-10 points wherever you want.'" I understand the goal, but I have doubts about possibility of the goal.

What are Optional Talents?

You don't have to look any further then the Moonkin talent tree to realize that Optional Talents do exist. When new moonkin asked for the cookie cutter raiding build they typically get the answer of "use this spec, and spend the last two points how you wish." So we already have some Optional Talents, but what does it really mean that these talents are Optional?

In all the WoW specs I've played every talent falls into one of three categories:

  • Mandatory Talents - If you want be the best DPSer or tank or healer then you have to have these talents.
  • Situational Talents - These talents are not that useful most of the time but in some fights become very useful. For moonkin, I would consider Gale Winds and Typhoon situational talents.
  • Useless Talents - These talents have little or no impact on a players core function, and if it was left untalented the player would not notice any difference. Though it is very useful for Resto Druids, I consider Genesis a useless talent for moonkin.
Some of you may disagree, but none of these categories immediately strike me as "optional". By definition Mandatory Talents are not optional. I also have a hard time seeing Useless Talents as optional. Can a talent truly be optional if you don't notice an impact when you pick it up. And that leaves the Situational talents. These seem to fit the "optional" definition best, but in reality they are really Mandatory Talents part of the time and Useless Talents the rest of the time. Go ask your raid leader if Typhoon is really optional on Saurfang. I doubt he will say we are ok with out it.

Theoretically, if Blizzard didn't change our Talent Trees at all, and just gave us 5 more talent points, we would fit into one of Ghostcrawlers definitions of success. We would hand out the same basic cookie cutter spec and say spend the last 7 points as you wish. If I was in this situation I would put a point in Typhoon because it is needed for Saurfang, and 2 points in Gale Winds because there are a couple of fights where AoE is useful. For the final 4 points I would put 3 in Brambles and 1 in Genesis, but they don't really matter because both talents are largely useless as a raider who rarely PvPs.

What options did I really have in this situation? Currently, I use my second spec to pick up Typhoon and/or Gale Winds if either truly necessary for the fight. With the extra "optional" talent points I would just pick up both by default, and the other 4 points I could care less if I spent or not. To me it doesn't feel like I have any options in this scenario.

How Could it Work?

Despite my skepticism I don't think this is an impossible goal. I just think that Blizzard has to think bigger then we are used to. Here are a couple of ideas I've had.

Allow players to fill a secondary role in the same spec. This may be because I have no experience as resto, but I don't feel like I can heal as a moonkin in an emergency. I don't have the proper tools, my heals are weak, and I would go out of mana very quickly.

My thought is if I could place a couple more points in the Resto tree I might be able to become a serviceable (but substandard) healer in an emergency. This could happen by allowing Moonkin to pick up some of the tools like Wild Growth. Another idea would be to have a talent deep in the Balance tree that allows you to heal in Moonkin form for say 30 seconds and increase you’re healing in moonkin form by 200%, but has a long cooldown.

Another option may be to have more talents in the Feral tree that allow for more survivability. When ever you need a ranged tank most people think of a Warlock to fill that role. Why couldn't there be some talents in the Feral Tree that allowed Moonkin to fill that role as well?

The big issue with this idea is how it would affect PvP. Extra survivability talents could make moonkin extraordinarily difficult to kill. The extra healing could have a similar impact.

Have more creative minor glyph-like talents. I am having a hard time defining what I mean without stating the obvious. Blizzard needs to create more talents that have value without being purely situational or so powerful that they become mandatory to the players role. For example you don't want to create a talent that makes a tank significantly harder to kill or provides a moonkin with a bunch of DPS. I know this is a difficult needle to thread, and would probably look a lot like minor glyphs.

One thought I had was what if the new talents provided random bonuses that couldn't be counted on but were useful when they procced. For example, there could what if your Rebirth talent had a random chance to put a soulstone like buff on the target when he rezzed. That way if he died again in the next minute or two he could pop back up?


I can understand why Blizzard is making a big push for more choices in the talent trees with fewer mandatory talents. I just have a really hard time seeing how they will do it. If you make a talent to powerful it becomes mandatory. If it is really weak does the choice really matter? Situational talents could fit the design well, but in the end you’re just going to pick up what situational talents you can and change specs later if you need something different. Despite my skepticism I do think Blizzard can get around these issues by allowing players to provide more utility in ways that are not game breaking.


Jay said...

I'm mostly a skeptic on serious talent choice as well. I made a pretty long comment on it here (and below on the same thread):

Daedalus said...

While I mostly agree with you on Genesis being a useless talent, there is a good case to be made for putting a single point into it. Your only other option to advance past tier 2 in the tree, after taking all the good talents, is to put that point in Moonglow instead. As trivial as the DPS increase from Genesis is, it's still an increase, which is more than can be said for a cost-reduction talent.

Tyler said...

I agree with your assesment, however I disagree with the conclusion.

I do not like the new design of forcing players to take situational talents. Picking up one or two is alright, but we simply end up taking far too many. I cannot speak for many of the other classes, mostly because a majority of them haven't had their revamp released yet (or at least not leaked out,) but I can say on what I've seen in balance druids.

Going down the tree, you naturally pick up situational talents because you're forced to do so by means of requirements. A druid has to take Solar Beam, a mandatory PvP talent but situational in PvE, in order to get Starsurge and Lunar Guidance which would be considered mandatory for PvE. The same is true for Typhoon and Starfall, and again with Natural Shapeshifter and Master Shapeshifter. This isn't 'bad,' because these talents provide such a high degree of utility when they are useful that it doesn't feel wasteful to have them when they aren't.

The issue is that, after you've already gotten all of these mandatory talents, you're left with far too many situational talents. I could accept having 3 spare points to spend on whatever I wished even though they don't really do anything for me, but 7 is just far too many. Instead, I feel the choice should be between situational utility and nominal DPS gains. Basically, the choice should be between talents such as Genesis (which is a DPS increase, just so insignificant that it's ignorable) and Fungal Growth (which has really good potential (it would be completely OP on Suarfang and dealing with Viles on LK for example.))

The most recent update to the tree has made things somewhat better - the additional 'choices' irk me, but at least we have them. You spend a lot of talent points on highly situational talents, but they are useful frequently enough that they're worth taking.

After getting all of the mandatory talents, you can then choose to get some of the 'meh' DPS talents - Brambles, Genesis, Celestial Focus (which isn't meh on fights with a pushback mechanic,) Nature's Focus and Blessing of the Grove - you end up with only 1 point to spend on Owlkin Frenzy, Fungal Growth, Lunar Justice, Gale Winds or Moonglow.

The only reason I think this is a good choice is because the build also picks up 3/3 Moonglow, 2/2 Euphoria and Omen of Clarity. Currently, Moonglow and Euphoria are linked to one another, which I am hoping I can get changed before Live. Mana regeneration should be 'optional' in the sense that, as you get better gear, you should have the option to drop points from Moonglow (theoretically the weakest regeneration talent) and put them into a different utility talent. This means that, eventually, you'd end up with 4 points to spend (assuming you get all the hyper-compulsive DPS increasing talents) to get situational utility that you might like to have.

I still think far too many of our talents fall into the 'meh' category that Genesis currently has - we spend 7 talents points doing nothing but increasing the initial damage of Moonfire while we also spend 6 talent points to increase the DoT effect, and way too many of our talents, 8 or 10 depending on how you view it, are spent on nothing but increasing Eclipse generation (which is still just a 15 second buff with a 30 second cooldown HATE)

Duskstorm said...

I'm a pretty competent healer, and I'd love to be more equipped to situationally heal.

Give the moonkin tree a 5 point talent that reduces the cost of rejuv and nourish, and add a talent that buffs these spells substantially for 45 seconds (with a 5-10 minute cooldown). This would open up strategies that allow you to "zerg" some parts of the fight, and add extra heals during others.

I don't like the idea of enabling healing in moonkin form, even if it is on a cooldown, since 1. we can shift into caster form, and 2. the moonkin talent itself disables healing, it'd be weird to have a talent that re-enables it.

Honestly, the restriction on not casting healing spells made sense when a full balance build made you a decent healer, but now the disparity in healing between a balance specced druid and a resto druid is so high that I don't see why they don't lift the "no healing spells" ban on moonkin form in the first place.

Anonymous said...

The current ret (and to some extent prot) paladins have a lot of what I think Blizzad is looking to do for all classes and specs. Ret paladins sometimes take aura mastery or raid sac or imp hoj or vindication... There are a lot of useful talents available to them outside the pure dps talents, but they can't take them all.

The current setup of the druid tree has none of this. Ideally when the 3 trees settle for cataclysm there will be situationaly useful talents to choose from in possibly all three trees.

Anonymous said...

I'd love if moonkins and trees could also do each other's jobs just a little bit. In addition, here are some other ways to make talents optional:

1. Talents can change the play style without changing overall dps. For example, they could affect whether you use two dots or just one. As another example, isn't there already a glyph that improves starfall but decreases its range?

2. Talents can help the raid, but otherwise not be helpful. Improved mark could be modified to work that way, where all druids get an improved self buff but only talented druids get to apply the buff to the whole raid.

3. Design the dps talents so that only ~60 are at all useful. Currently, even 0.1% is enough of an increase that a pure raider will want to take the improvement. If there is no raiding benefit at all to the last 5-10 talent points, then the pressure is off to make the talent even situationally useful in raids. They could help travel speed, detection of different kinds of mobs, maybe add another teleport location....


Jharden said...

The rumination tag would be a lot more humorous if you were a tauren.

LXj said...

I'd like to make 2 points.

First, any talent which noticeably increases DPS, would be considered as mandatory. When we have too many different talents that increase DPS, moonkins start complaining that their tree is too bloated. Remember that? Now moonkins have less mandatory talents, while still (supposedly) staying competitive as damage dealer. So why do you complain now?

Second, I am actually a healer, but have a moonkin off-spec. First of all, because not having a dps spec just sucks. And of course, moonkins are fun :)

The problem is, between beeing a healer in PvE, and doing dailies/famring (and occasionally DPSing) as moonkin, I want to PvP sometimes. But I can't get 3rd spec. And cookie-cutter PvE spec doesn't allow me to pick PvP talents. If my tree will allow me to pick all mandatory PvE talents and at the same time keep most of PvP talents, that would make me a happy tree, not having to spend 100g every time I go into arena like in TBC