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.
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.