18
Sep
08

On class balance and homogenization, part 1

The idea of class balance and utility has been an overarching theme in a lot of the changes on WotLK. Blizzard is trying to make it so that no single class is indispensable, no one class is “better” than another. The newest thing is the removal of priest racials. This has been met with a mix of cheers and jeers by the WoW community.

My opinion – I think that this balancing act is a terrible idea, because it can’t be done successfully without losing part of what makes WoW great. The uniqueness of the classes is one of the very strong draws to the game, the PvE aspect in particular, even if there are minor balance issues.

For a lot of people, one of the best parts of playing the game is the character creation screen. You get to choose race and class, of course, but then you can fix the eyes, face, hair color, style, and facial hair. What is the point of doing that, and why is it so much fun?

Its fun because we WANT our characters to be unique. We desperately want our toons to be different than all the other ones standing in Ironforge or Ogrimmar. No one wants to play “Generic Warrior #2453″.

When I made my draenei priest, and then found out that it had this ability that was different than priests from the other races, that was COOL. It was UNIQUE. It gave the game a flavor and a level of personalization. Sure, some people specifically made a dwarf priest just for Fear Ward, and that was their only reason. Well, they are in the minority among WoW players.

Unfortunately, that uniqueness is gone, along with many other “unique” aspects of the game.

It was neat that Shadow Priests returned mana to their party… something that made Shadow Priests unique in their role. Now a bunch of classes can do it. It was interesting that hunters could redirect their threat onto the tank. Now other classes can do that.

As I see it, Blizzard has put the game mechanics ahead of the game play. Uniqueness is fun and makes the game interesting to play. See the key words here? Fun. Play. So what if druid tanks are a little better than warrior tanks, or vice versa? So what if BM hunters can out-dps rogues?

The hardcores are gasping at my audacity. “If warrior tanks are 0.5% better than druid tanks,” they’ll say, “then the game will be dominated by warrior tanks and no one will raid with druids.” Bull-pucky, I say. People who have fun playing druids will still play druids. That’s the way it has always been, and that’s the way it will always be. Does anyone think that top raiding guilds wouldn’t have been able to beat Kil’jaeden if they brought, say, a ret pally in place of a rogue? Baloney. If you play your class well you’ll be able to raid.

I’m very disappointed in all of these changes. WoW will become a more mathematically balanced game, but I think it might be less fun. Too much of this homogenization makes your toons just placeholders. Without the things to set them apart, there is no personal connection between you and your avatar. Time will tell.

At least we have haircuts.

About these ads

14 Responses to “On class balance and homogenization, part 1”


  1. 1 David
    September 18, 2008 at 11:20 am

    “The hardcores are gasping at my audacity. “If warrior tanks are 0.5% better than druid tanks,” they’ll say, “then the game will be dominated by warrior tanks and no one will raid with druids.” Bull-pucky, I say. People who have fun playing druids will still play druids. That’s the way it has always been, and that’s the way it will always be.”

    It happens today…it will keep happening. Hardcore raids will take only the best players and classes. You can call bull-pucky all you want…you’re still provably wrong.

  2. September 18, 2008 at 11:35 am

    David, how nice of you to speak on behalf of every single guild in existence. Although I agree that there may be some elitist types that will only take the “best class” for the group, there are plenty of groups that would prefer people that can play decently and don’t cause drama in vent every time there’s a wipe. Oh yes, some people pick good players OVER their preferred class.

    As for the OP, once again, I agree with pretty much everything you’ve said.

  3. 3 jando85
    September 18, 2008 at 7:25 pm

    I actually agree with David. The term min-max isn’t a misnomer, a 0.5% buff to tanking can get put into a spreadsheet and turn the spat out ‘FAIL’ to ‘WIN’. I think it was the Leeroy Jenkins video that parodied that (“34.33 (recurring of course) chance for survival”)

    START devil’s advocate

    I think what the OP forgets is that Blizzard has to tune the game for both casual and hardcore alike. While casuals would prefer uniqueness at the expense of balance, hardcore players will always exploit class and racial differentials to get ‘one up’ over the content/other guilds.

    “Does anyone think that top raiding guilds wouldn’t have been able to beat Kil’jaeden if they brought, say, a ret pally in place of a rogue? Baloney. If you play your class well you’ll be able to raid.”

    High-end guilds actually rotate classes within an instance for each fight (including some trash pulls) to mix-max the hell out of each encounter. To say that they could beat Kil’jaeden without min-maxing is probably true, but they will continue to min-max regardless.

    END devil’s advocate

    That aside, it is worrying how far Blizzard are taking the balance issue. In patch 2.4 there were a bunch of changes to balance arena that affected PVE (drinking, etc.). The reprehensible homogenisation of class abilities has left me almost speechless.

    What happened to the old adage ‘One Healer, One Tank, One Melee, One Ranged, One Patsy’? Blizzard are clearly trying to make almost any 5/10-man team capable of beating any encounter, but at what expense?

    For the record, I play Feral Druid (Tank), Frost Mage (PVP) and Combat Rogue (new, probably my WotLK main). I’ve also raided with a Priest and Hunter pre-BC. Basically, my 3 classes are being marginalised in WotLK and I’m sure as hell bitter about it :D

  4. September 18, 2008 at 7:55 pm

    “I think what the OP forgets is that Blizzard has to tune the game for both casual and hardcore alike. While casuals would prefer uniqueness at the expense of balance, hardcore players will always exploit class and racial differentials to get ‘one up’ over the content/other guilds.”

    Oh, I didn’t forget. I just don’t think that the game should be balanced around them. Its obvious that a lot of changes are being made to stop the min-maxing. That’s not because of my guild, I can tell you, or the guild of all the casuals out there.

    I believe that the ultra-hardcores often are not playing for FUN. They are playing to WIN. That’s why I feel that changes that are targeted at the hardcores tend to make fixes for the sake of mechanics at the expense of fun. To me, this is still a game. It’s not a job, its not something I brag about over the water cooler. Its not something my life and ego revolve around.

    If the hardcores exploit class differences to get an advantage, then good for them. Let them run through the raids, finish them quickly, and then get bored. Don’t sacrifice my fun to stop it.

  5. September 18, 2008 at 8:22 pm

    I actually thought this change was aimed at casuals. Now you can raid with your friends, on whichever alts they feel like playing today, and still have a hope of a reasonably balanced (read: successful) raid. There’s way more options as to which class can fill which slot, and the requirements for group composition are much more relaxed. This is doubly true for ten-man groups, which I suspect will be the staple of the casual raider.

    The classes still play pretty differently, and although there’s more overlap now there’s still no class that you can point to and say “well that’s just a strictly worse version of x”.

    I’m not sure I actually understand how the fact that (for example) hunters can now restore mana is going to affect your fun?

  6. September 18, 2008 at 9:22 pm

    @Chronic

    “I actually thought this change was aimed at casuals. Now you can raid with your friends, on whichever alts they feel like playing today, and still have a hope of a reasonably balanced (read: successful) raid.”

    I have successful raids now. Casuals have had successful raids since WoW began. What makes them casual is that they don’t raid 5 nights a week, not that they fail.

    Example: My guild killed Magtheridon on our third night of attempts. For a “raiding” guild three nights of attempts might happen in one week. For my guild it took two months. When we did kill him, we only had two warlocks, rather than the 4 or 5 suggested by the canonical online raid strats. The solution was to find another strategy, not to give other classes the ability to banish elementals so that warlocks are unnecessary.

    ————————————

    “I’m not sure I actually understand how the fact that (for example) hunters can now restore mana is going to affect your fun?”

    It doesn’t affect my fun. It affects shadow priest’s fun. What was unique about shadow priests is now just another generic raid ability shared by two other classes.

    In the expansion, rogues are getting what is essentially a misdirect to transfer threat to the tank. I’ll use it, of course, but I don’t really want it. Rogues are lacking in raid synergy, but I’d have preferred to get some raid buff that was unique to rogues, rather than “borrowing” one from hunters just so that there is more than one class in the game that can misdirect.

    Maybe I wasn’t clear in my post. The classes are just blending together. That’s boring. Just because the animation for a hunter’s mana restore looks different than a shadow priest’s, its still the same thing. As another example, I am actually disappointed that druids are getting an out-of-combat rez. Sure it will make wipe recovery easier. But I always thought it was appealing that druids had something *different*… that they had the only in-combat rez in the game, but made up for it by having no out-of combat rez. It was unique, and that made it interesting, all game mechanics aside.

    Your point that it will make raids easier to assemble is well-taken. I guess that just isn’t my priority when playing.

  7. September 19, 2008 at 6:33 am

    I won’t totally rehash my ‘response’ post (the trackback below) – but I will hit a few things here.

    “Casuals have had successful raids since WoW began.”
    Absolutely. However, often after the instance has been toned down a bit – mainly to allow for a looser class balance. By the time I saw Magtheridon down (and you too Dinaer, I believe) the “Warlock required” component had been nerfed significantly. The number of summons in the fight were reduced by more than half. Was the fight manageable before while short on warlocks? I’m sure it was. However, it’s current form makes it much more accessible for guilds that don’t want to stack certain class.

    However, that nit-pick admittedly isn’t the point.

    These changes increase the number of cases where my class does something cool. Period.

    I’ll use tanks as an example, since that is my focus – and the changes with tanks are far more extreme than in any other role.

    Warrior & Pally Tank DPS has always been sad. It is boring, dull and completely not fun. In WotLK, on a fight like The Shade of Aran, a tank would expect to put out serious numbers. Not just be dead weight. Much more fun.

    Prot warriors have done lousy AOE tanking in the past. It is far better now. Crazy better. Almost broken. Much, much more fun. “Let ‘er rip boys” is also far more entertaining than “wait for 3 sunders” for all involved.

    Are Warriors, and Pallies more alike now? Certainly?
    Are both classes now more *fun* to play? You betcha.
    Are runs tanked by either class now more *fun*, for rest of the group? Yes. No doubt. Not even close.

    *That* is my priority in playing.

  8. September 19, 2008 at 7:12 am

    I have to disagree (and just wrote a post on trying to homogenise and differentiate tanks), homogenisation isn’t a flaw if its done right, but rather giving each class the toolbox to perform its role. As it was Hybrids in the DPS / Healing area were few and far between (shadow priests), and you stacked them for that. In contrast Retribution Paladins were a minor dps, minor raid synergy. By giving them a hybrid type mechanic and giving them the tools to fill that role the game is more effective and fun.

    Nothing sucks more than being told “well x has y which is mandatory for this fight, you don’t get to stay”. Roll on sensible homogenisation at the toolbox rather than the flavour and implementation level.

  9. 9 Xtian
    September 19, 2008 at 10:33 am

    I agree with 2ndNin and Chronic on this one. Spreading out the necessary raid abilities over a few classes makes it easier for small groups to form successful raids, including the very hardest encounters in endgame content. One thing that 10-player teams – which constitute what is probably the majority of “casual raid” teams – will be able to do in Wrath is progress through all raids in their small group. Groups in that stage facing the hardest stuff in the game will need as many advantages as they can get. If it were a difference of .5% tanking efficiency, I’d laugh too, but instead you can look at shadow priests which are the only class that currently give a buff to their group equal to a couple hundred MP5. It is next to impossible for healers to make up that ridiculous buff through better potion use/gear/skill, and the encounters are tuned assuming some of your groups (probably your healer group) will be able to have access to that few hundred MP5. It’s better that 10-player teams won’t all need to have a Shadow Priest to go face down Arthas (or whatever encounter pushes endurance to the limits).

    Also, I don’t believe that spreading out a few mechanics is going to significantly decrease the playability or fun of the game (priest racials notwithstanding, but that’s because Bliz is taking away stuff, which is much harsher than adding stuff). There are millions of accounts with even more characters over about a hundred servers, so if people felt their character was unique before, I bet they will still feel unique after. Besides, I argue that Wrath is giving enough cool stuff to the classes to make up for any hard feelings about other classes getting the same mechanics. Rogues get a misdirect now? Pffft! Hunters have rhinos/devilsaur/woolly mammoths!

  10. September 19, 2008 at 10:42 am

    OK. We don’t have to agree. That’s what makes the world go around.

    I’ll say this. I have never played a warrior beyond the first handful of levels. I found them dull and repetitive. I did, however, level a pally to 70, specced full prot the entire way. Yes, my dps was low, but I knew that when I rolled it and it was never an obstacle. If I wanted a dps class I would have rolled something different.

    I liked the idea of weapons and gear with spell damage rather than strength. It made sense with the paladin archetype as a holy fighter. Now they will share STR/STAM gear with warriors. Why? So less gear gets disenchanted when it drops? Blah.

  11. September 19, 2008 at 10:47 am

    notcoding says:
    “These changes increase the number of cases where my class does something cool. Period.”

    Here’s where our points of view diverge. If my class can do a certain unique ability, its cool. If my class and 4 others can do it, it’s not as cool. Now its a generic raid buff that happens to be accessible by my class.

  12. 12 Xtian
    September 19, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    Dinaer – “OK. We don’t have to agree. That’s what makes the world go around.”

    Of course. I think we were all just trying to offer alternative viewpoints, especially when it comes to whether or not the changes are good/intended for casual raiders or hardcore raiders. And really, the changes are meant for raiders in general. I suspect that the casual non-raiding non-pvp population is seriously unexcited by the direction Bliz is going.

    As usual, thumbs up on the blog. See what happens when you say controversial stuff? All them ghost readers come out of the woodworks! =)

  13. September 21, 2008 at 8:29 pm

    Interesting; I guess it basically comes down to how much you care about the “flavor” or “lore” of the game. Personally, I’ll happily through that away in exchange for some more balance and interesting mechanics. Yes, I have a dwarf disc priest (for DP/chastise/stoneform, not Fear Ward, but still!)

    It was all downhill after space goats, anyway ;)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Armory

Dinaer - 90 Assassination Rogue (US - Sen'Jin)
Derence - 90 Prot/Ret Paladin (US - Sen'Jin)
Metius - 90 Shadow Priest (US - Sen'Jin)
Liebnitz - 90 Arcane Mage (US - Sen'Jin)
Fastad - 90 Subtlety Rogue (US - Sen'Jin)
Darishin - 90 Resto/Balance Druid (US - Sen'Jin)
September 2008
M T W T F S S
« Aug   Oct »
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
2930  
Add to Technorati Favorites
website statistics








World of Warcraft™ and Blizzard Entertainment® are all trademarks or registered trademarks of Blizzard Entertainment in the United States and/or other countries. These terms and all related materials, logos, and images are copyright © Blizzard Entertainment. This site is in no way associated with Blizzard Entertainment®

Blog Stats

  • 1,208,153 hits

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 39 other followers

%d bloggers like this: