Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Class Q&A and Blizzcon Follow Up

I already took a look at the big talent changes announced at Blizzcon, but that wasn't the only thing that happened there. Plus, Blizzard has been busy doing Q&A and other things to get word out on the new talent systems and such. In this post I want to try and round up round up some of those items I haven't commented on yet (and even a few I have).

Putting the Hybrid back in Druids:

In the Class Design & Balance Q&A there were several questions about, Hybridization for druids and the "Hybrid Tax," and I think Blizzard's response is summed up best in these quotes:

The overall philosophy of the Druid talent tree is to bring some hybridization back to the Druid class. The 4 Druid specs have become very focused on never using the forms that they do not specialize in. We would like to bring the whole class back together more. So, interesting functionality themed around the different combat roles has been introduced.

We don't intend for that added hybridization to be offset by any sort of DPS nerf. While DPSing, a druid's DPS will be entirely competitive with other DPS. We hope to see druids that do things like, "DPS in Cat Form most of the fight, but during one phase, when healing is super difficult, pop out of Cat, hit Heart of the Wild, Tranquility, and spam heals on the raid to help top everyone off, then go back to Cat and resume DPSing."
From a high level perspective I support this design goal. I like the idea of Druids being able to temporarily fill another role, and that's why I suggested it back in June of 2010. Theoretically it makes a lot of sense. From a raid composition stand point, you don't have to bring as many core healers if you were only bringing that many handle a few sort periods of high damage. Or, you could stack a few restos and have them pop their cooldown for a temporary burst of DPS.

That all sounds good in theory but I worry about how it will work in practice. For example, the version of Heart of the Wild previewed at Blizzcon said "Healing spells generate Lunar or Solar energy and will benefit from Lunar and Solar Eclipse." Unfortunately, that's a horrible idea. The concept of Eclipse works for moonkin, because DPS occurs over an extended period of time. As a moonkin, I know that I am going to be switching between Lunar and Solar multiple times in a given fight and good and bad luck should balance each other out. For a temporary buff like Heart of the Wild that falls apart.

How would Blizzard balance Heart of the Wild? Should they balance it around having Eclipse? If that is the case then Moonkin heals could easily be too weak to be of any significance when not in eclipse. What if they balance HotW around not having Eclipse? In this case, HotW could be way to strong. Obviously, there would be an advantage for holding Eclipse to use it if possible. This could be devastating to class balance in PvP. Balancing it round some point in the middle would just be picking up the disadvantages from both sides.

My other concern is that applying Eclipse to healing might be too foreign of a concept for players. By doing so, Blizzard is basically adding a second healing style to class that already has a healing spec. Moonkin that are already familiar with resto would be forced to learn a new style to take advantage of the ability. Moonkin, who do not typically heal are already learning something foreign, but Blizzard would be missing a big opportunity to introduce them Resto, but continuing with the Eclipse concept.

My suggestion to Blizzard is to keep it simple and to not get to creative. You're already asking someone to do something they are not necessarily familiar with. There's no need to complicate it further. The buff should be consistent and include a mana cost reduction so that players don't need to concern themselves Eclipse or mana over these short periods of time. The suggestion I made a year and a half ago was to allow moonkin to heal in moonkin form temporarily and buff the heals by some percentage. I think this would meet all the goals Blizzard has in mind.

Troubled Tier Six and Master Shapeshifter:

As I said in my last post, the tier 6 options at level 90 were some of my least favorite, and after looking around the internet it was clear to me that a lot of moonkin agreed with that sentiment. So, it's not surprising that the tier 6 talents were addressed in the Class Design & Balancing Q&A. Unfortunately their response only made my fears worse.

The level 90 Druid talents deliberately come in 3 different levels of work required. Heart of the Wild is perfect for an encounter where there is a period where increased healing is needed for a short time, and dps is not the need of the encounter. Something like the Chimaeron encounter where more healing is needed at certain times, and dps is less important. Master Shapeshifter targets the Druid who is willing to do a lot of work shifting back and forth or occasionally needs to heal or damage, such as Blood Queen Lanathel, where a Tranquility boosted by the talent would help your group a lot during her air phase. Disentanglement is there for the "lazy" Druid who doesn't want to do that work, but still gets some benefit from a well-timed shapeshift.
Though I am sure Blizzard doesn't intend for us to interpret the comment this way but here is the way a majority of players will apply this comment. "Good players will take Heart of the Wild or Master Shapeshifter depending on the fight. Bad players can take Disentanglement so they can at least have something." I'm honestly really surprised Blizzard would make a comment like this, because it's such an obvious trap.

The comment I particularly hate is when Blizzard says "Master Shapeshifter targets the Druid who is willing to do a lot of work shifting back and forth or occasionally needs to heal or damage." If Blizzard actually believes this it shows a shocking lack of understanding of the player base by Blizzard at least from the moonkin perspective.

As you know Master Shapeshifter as we know it allows a druid to buff his primary role by doing something out side of that role. The example provided by Blizzard was that our melee abilities could buff our spell power and vice versa. If this buff is significant then it becomes a required talent, because as Blizzard knows, there is no such thing as an optional DPS talent. That simple truth is the entire reason for the last two Talent System redesigns. If Master Shapeshifter provides a significant DPS buff then, no one would take Heart of the Wild or Disentanglement, because that would tell all of the other players and potential guilds that "Hey, I'm a bad player." And no, one wants to think that they are a bad player or to tell other players that they are bad.

To be fair, Master Shapeshifter does make a lot of sense for someone specced into Resto or Guardian spec. I could easily see a healer doing a little DPS when things are not busy to buff the heals for when they are. Tanks are in a similar situation when in between add phases and tank swaps. But for cats and moonkins this makes little sense and could over complicate two already very complicated rotations.


The Blizzcon version of Incarnation didn't mention how it would impact DPS in moonkin form, but Blizzard was nice enough to address this talent in the Class Design & Balance Q&A. The

Incarnation for Balance transforms the Druid in to the Chosen of Elune Form, which currently increases spell damage done and Solar and Lunar energy generated. That is, of course, subject to change.
This seems fairly straight forward and I'm fine with that. It's still impossible to say if we will use it or not yet since we don't know the math behind it or the MoP version of Force of Nature, but it's obviously a promising DPS buff.

That said, I've seen some comments indicating that some people are upset that it doesn't do more. If I am reading them correctly they would like it to be more unique like Tree of Life form or the Warlock Demon form where we would get new abilities or have our current ability's modified in ways other then pure damage. I can see that perspective but at the same time I don't think it's really necessary.

Bi-Polar Hurricane and Moonkin AoE

During the Blizzcon Class panel it was said that "In 5.0 Hurricane will have a new arcane function to make sure you can use it whenever you have to," according to MMO Champion. I interpret this to mean that Hurricane will behave in a way similar to Moonfire. As in it will be buffed by Solar when in Solar and buffed by Lunar when in Lunar. If that's true, I think it's a good change, but I don't think it will have a huge impact on Moonkin AoE unless there are other changes as well.

Current Moonkin AoE center's around Wild Mushroom because it's the strongest whether that's by design or not. We hold solar during AoE periods because all but one of the spells we use in an AoE situation are buffed by Solar Eclipse. Giving Hurricane an arcane function won't change this situation because we would still be encouraged to stay in Solar for WM and the DoTs.

So, if that comment was a small preview into a larger goal of revamping Moonkin AoE, I think Blizzard will find a lot of support among players. I and a lot of players I've talked to haven't been happy with Wild Mushroom in AoE situations because placing three mushrooms feels contrived and difficult during the run of play, in fights like Maloriak and Rhyolith. However, in fight's like Rag where we can place the mushrooms before the Elementals spawn, it works great. I think it would be nice for Moonkin AoE to follow a model of WM being a DPS opener, but Hurricane providing a bulk of the damage done. However, Hurricane would have to be buffed (or the other spells nerfed) to make this happen, and Blizzard would have to address how WM is affected by Eclipse or we will still hang out in Solar during AoE phases.

One possibility suggested to me would be to turn Wild Mushroom damage into fire damage for example so that it's not buffed by either Eclipse and can be balanced around a consistent damage output. I find this idea very appealing since it should make holding Solar Eclipse insignificant because only Insect Swarm would be buffed by Lunar Eclipse.

Good Riddance to Relics:

I know there are druids out there that are morning the loss of relics, but I couldn't be happier that they are getting the boot. While relics did provide a few interesting gear choices in TBC, in most of my years with this game they have been more of a headache then a help. For most of TBC there was only one option. In WotLK, the Tier 8 relic was worse then the Tier 7 relics. And when they were converted to stat sticks in Cataclysm they were boring and almost impossible to upgrade. I say good by and good riddance.


Ohken said...

My main complaint about the hybrid talents is that they are on the last tier. Hybrid play is most prominent in leveling dungeons. If you really know the class, you can even play a role that you aren't specced for in the slightest. So it would make more sense to put the hybrid talents as the first tier rather than the last.

Beware the balance issues, though! As you point out, it will be very tempting to bring dps druids who can cast tranquility during the rough spots of a raid. Unless other classes have something similar to bring to the table, druids will end up being preferred.

My favorite solution is to make hybrid play something you do in emergencies and in content you overgear. That would address the balance issue, and it would also solve the problem that overgeared content is extremely boring for healers, moreso than other roles.

Anonymous said...

Not sure I get this quote:

"If Master Shapeshifter provides a significant DPS buff then, no one would take Heart of the Wild or Disentanglement, because that would tell all of the other players and potential guilds that "Hey, I'm a bad player." And no, one wants to think that they are a bad player or to tell other players that they are bad."

If the new talent system is just going to be like a beefed up glyph system, then there may be fights where it's beneficial for a Moonkin to pick up HotW for the extra healing (assuming this gets fixed per your worries).

For other fights where dps is at more of a premium they can pick up MSS because it will let them do better DPS during times when they wouldn't be able to otherwise do as much damage or deliver dps in a more useful way than they normally would (bursty, mobile dps for moonkin, ranged dps for cats). Hitting that sweet spot just requires blizz to get the numbers right in terms of how the MSS buff works for each dps spec.

For other fights you can pick up Disentanglement to help recover from your own mistakes without over taxing healers (thinking engulfing flames during p3 rag, for example).

That type of talent switching seems as inevitable as the current glyph system, which doesn't bother me at all.

Tj said...

"We don't intend for that added hybridization to be offset by any sort of DPS nerf. While DPSing, a druid's DPS will be entirely competitive with other DPS. We hope to see druids that do things like, "DPS in Cat Form most of the fight, but during one phase, when healing is super difficult, pop out of Cat, hit Heart of the Wild, Tranquility, and spam heals on the raid to help top everyone off, then go back to Cat and resume DPSing."

So are they going to make raids with the intention of forcing druids to do this? Don't even know where they are try to go with this load of trash. The whole talent system appears terrible, I guess we'll find out. Rogue tears about not getting Prep AND Shadowstep might be the only reason I'll play MoP. Then again we are talking about rogues, they'll just get another OP ability so meh.

Dart said...

Slightly off topic but I was thinking about the abilities that automatically switch you into another form (e.g. Cat for a stun etc.)

It was mentioned that you were saved 1 gcd from switching into Cat and you only need to waste 1 switching back into Moonkin.

BUT if you are resto then you would even waste one switching back as use automatically switch out when you use a healing spell.

As this means resto gets all those abilities for 'free' (in terms of lost gcds) do you think the loss of moonkin form (or changed to become a dps cd - my prefered option out of the two) might be on the cards?

I do like moonkin form but it would be nice if it acually did something special rather than a static buff, same goes for shadow priests I guess.

Anonymous said...

If they make the talent choices dependant on the raid encounter and the dps equivalent to pure dps classes, the question will be why a raid would bring a mage/rogue instead of a druid.
Because if the raid encounter requires an offtank/offhealer at one point in the raid, a hybrid will be the only viable choice. Without a certain enrage timer bringing 3 druidoffhealers will be better than bringing mage/warlock/druid combos.
Also, Blizzard is forcing people to play the whole druid instead of a cat OR moonkin OR tree, if they make the change good enough. A druid/shaman/paladin will need a specific specc for a specific encounter and perform very hybridlike the whole time.

lissanna said...

A lot of druids prime Eclipse by shooting at critters in the instances. With Heart of the Wild, wouldn't moonkin take it and prime before fights by healing? I think that problem alone might be reason enough to not have healing ever interact with Eclipse.

Kelvin Zevallos said...

It's very likely we will have to think about possible combinations of talents instead of just thinking that every talent should "synergize" with the others.

For example, MSS and Wild Charge can work out very good together as mobility tricks with some improvements in melee range. Or Incarnation and Heart of the Wild as CD reliant Druids.

The way the talent trees are and the "synergy" between talents once again put us into the choice of some optimal combinations. Yet some of these "OC" can be quite more difficult to play in the practice and can go against one of their objectives of "making classes easier to play".

Actually I think they will throw this last objective, seeing what is happening with the "Glyph of Inquisition" of the Paladins as a test run, they might be considering the "harder to play, better the reward" posibility.

Korda said...

I understand the whole "hybrid" theory Blizzard is pushing, but I don't agree with it being as "fluid" as they are aiming for with MoP. For one, I see it being incredibly difficult to balance in PVE and PVP. I can't even imagine how OP this could be in PVP in the right hands if a player could dps as well as a pure class then pop a talent and heal as well as a pure class. I just see balance issues abound with this formula.

Secondly, I HATE healing, if I were forced to heal in a raid because I'm a balance druid and have a talent that says, "hey I can off heal" I'd probably reroll to a different class. I don't want to be forced into filling a roll (healing or tanking) that I don't particularity want to fill. The obvious reply here is, "well then don't play a hybrid". My response to this logic is that I've been playing my druid for years now and have been very happy with the separation in specs/rolls. Changing this now disrupts the play style many of us have come to enjoy.

Anonymous said...

I think right now there are very few good examples of hybrid activity that take place within a single fight. The best example in current content would probably be moonkin aiding healers with tranquility at a well-timed moment.

The proposed Heart of the Wild builds on the "DPS does healing" aspect by providing another way to boost healing output on a long cooldown. HotW also goes the other way "healing does DPS" by giving resto a way to put out good damage for a short time when there is not a need for high healing and without heavy impact to their mana (normally healers wouldn't DPS even when healing needs are low because they will need the mana later).

So HoTW looks ok. What looks BAD is Master ShapeShifter (MSS). MSS does not open up any "hybrid" play. Hybrid in the traditional sense is a class that can perform two of the three roles of the triad heals/DPS/tank, usually one role really well, and the other role competently but only at crucial points during a fight. MSS tries to be clever by mixing physical/melee with range/magic but the bottom line is it is still just DPS. No healing, no tanking. If you are only doing DPS then it is not hybrid, it is just an over-complication of the DPS rotation.

If top performance of moonkin OR feral DPS in PVE situations requires heavy use of MSS I would predict there will be a large movement away from these specs because I can't see a way for this to not be incredibly clunky and therefore not fun to play. It almost seems MSS is geared towards PVP since Druid is usually already doing chain shapeshifts in PVP to pull off chain CCs (small scale PVP anyway). MSS will add bonus damage on top of that which will probably be very attractive. Of course by the looks of Disentanglement it sounds like Druid is going to lose the base ability to shift and dispel snares which would probably make Disentanglement the PVP talent of choice. So MSS ends up being a black sheep talent. PVP would take Disentanglement, and die hard PVE moonkin/feral might take it and use it if theory shows it can give teh top numberz but that's about it. Others would move away to another spec because rationally if you cannot play a spec close to optimal while having fun then you switch to another spec.

As a last point the idea behind MSS isn't entirely new. During BC moonkin had the practically-useless mechanic of doing melee to regain mana during a fight. I may have used this once during an actual boss fight when I ran out of potions or something. It was useless otherwise, EXCEPT (and this draws back to my points above) in PVP arena situations where moonkin would carry around a 2nd staff with high attack power and take warlock/hunter pets behind a pillar and beat them up for mana. Blizz scrapped the melee/magic mixing idea from then, they shouldn't try to bring it back now.

Thedrun, US Stormrage