Last week I wrote a rant about Dual Specs. It was fairly incoherent, written from an initial emotional reaction to the dual spec process. It was not my best writing – I really don’t rant often, and it just came out in a rush. It was also written for a relatively small audience of people who read this low-traffic blog.
Since then, BBB, WoWInsider, and Tobold have linked to the blog and the rant. In light of that, I want to restate my main objection to dual specs, but in a more rational and coherent way. Its not about bag space, or a$$hole raid leaders enforcing specs. Those are annoyances, but not the big problem, as I see it. In fact, my main objection didn’t come across well in the initial rant at all.
I’ll start with baseball. To those who know absolutely nothing about baseball, this analogy won’t mean much, and I apologize.
Baseball and the Designated Hitter Rule
Historically, in the sport of baseball, the majority of pitchers have been pretty mediocre hitters. Pitchers spend most of their practice time working on their pitching, and not their hitting. Thus, when they are called upon to hit in a game, they don’t do very well. For decades, this was just accepted as the way things were. Every time the pitcher came up to bat, you expected him to make an out.
Good teams would try to strategically maximize the contribution of the pitcher. They would have the pitcher bunt, or do something else that was productive. However, more often than not, the pitcher was dead weight on offense. Their presence on offense restricted the number of runs, curtailed rallies, and kept scoring down.
In 1973, baseball introduced the Designated Hitter. This player does not pitch or play the field. He hits in place of the pitcher every time it would be the pitcher’s turn at bat. This takes the pitcher off the hook for being a bad hitter. It increases the number of home runs and runs scored. It reduces the emphasis on strategy and defense and pitching, and promotes winning by outscoring the other team with brute force.
Many fans were pleased. More runs meant more entertaining games. However, other fans (traditionalists or purists) were unhappy that traditional strategy became less important. It is worth mentioning that only half of the teams in baseball adopted this. One baseball league uses the Designated Hitter, while the other does not.
Was this change necessary? That point is still debated. You can walk into a sports bar and bring up the Designated Hitter, and you will likely start up a spirited debate, and this is over thirty years later. The point is that this was not a minor change. It had far-reaching effects on the basic strategy of the game.
Minor vs Major changes
I am not opposed to the idea of dual specs in the game. A lot of people respec frequently, especially for going back and forth between PvE and PvP, and its a huge inconvenience to re-select each talent point every time. I’d like to see a setup where the game could “memorize” two (or more) different specs, and the process of changing between them would be simpler. It would still have to be done at a trainer, perhaps with reduced cost. Such a change would make the game easier without having far-reaching effects. Players who were going to re-spec anyway would still do so, but quicker and easier.
Blizzard has made a lot of such minor changes. For rogues, for example, they made it so we no longer have to create our own poisons. That saves us time, doesn’t save us any gold, but is more convenient. In the end, rogues still buy and use poisons, but the process is streamlined. I’d like a dual spec system built on that philosophy.
They are planning to change the way hunter ammunition is handled. That won’t change the way hunters are played, except make things more convenient for their bag space. You could also make a similar argument that Blizzard could remove the Candles that priests use, or the Soul Shards that Warlocks collect. None of those things would have any far-reaching effect on the way the classes are played, or on the WoW economy. It would just streamline things for those classes.
I think that Dual Spec as it is proposed is a much more major change, with significant effects on game play.
Currently, a typical 10 man Naxx raid (with players who don’t outgear the raid) is composed of two tanks, three healers, and five dps. Some raids run with two healers, but that is hard on healing-intensive fights like Patchwerk. So a lot of raids tend to bring a third healer until they are geared up.
For the first fight, Anub’rekhan, both tanks are needed. Same with Faerlina. When you get to Maexxna, you only need one tank. So the second tank is put into a dps role, doing very mediocre dps. That’s the “problem” that is being “solved” by this change.
Raids have been working around this problem for ages. Raids need to make sure that their five primary dps + one so-so dps is enough to defeat the boss. Maybe the boss takes a little longer. Maybe thay have to use more consumables. Maybe that off-tank is a druid, and can cleanse poisons when not tanking. Maybe its a paladin and can off-heal or Cleanse debuffs. Having to work around that one player with limited dps created some strategic decisions, much the way that pre-1973 baseball managers worked around the limiting hitting abilities of their pitchers.
In the currently proposed Dual Spec system, hybrid classes will be able to switch roles at a moment’s notice. So the second tank could switch to dps. That changes the raid makeup to one tank, three healers, and six dps. The raid’s DPS just increased by around 15%-20%* with that “switch spec” button push.
We can increase raid dps by 15% with the push of a button?
That is a major change. That is a game-altering change. That is a turn-challenging-content-into-trivial-crap change.
Now, it wouldn’t be a big deal if Blizzard was going to structure raid encounters around this. Lets say that all bosses that require two tanks would need lower overall raid dps, and all bosses that only need one tank need around 15% more dps. Then the dual spec system would play well in raids.
However, Blizzard has already said that they do not plan to tune content around dual specs. That means that in a 10-man raid where two tanks are necessary, if one of them is a dual-specced hybrid you have an advantage. Any time you can get by with one tank, your off-tank presses that button and bumps your raid dps up by 15%.
Of course people are happy about this. Much like in baseball, there are a lot of people that like the Designated Hitter, the additional runs, and the greater number of home runs. In WoW, Dual specs are adding more “offense” into the game. Seeing all those DPS numbers on the screen is fun.
However, as a purist, I think that the on-the-fly Dual Spec switching system is unneeded. I think that it has the potential to make some raid encounters much easier than they were designed. It could remove some of the strategy of raid team makeup and the need to work around the limitations of every class.
In the end, not everyone will agree on this. Much like the Desingated Hitter is still debated thirty years after it was introduced, the Dual Spec discussion will continue. It is my hope that, before this goes live from the PTR, Blizzard will think on the extent of this change. Do they want to go with the Designated Hitter philosophy, that the best strategy is more offense? Or will they think more like a purist, and appreciate the balance that had been previously established in the game?
Even all of that doesn’t get to the heart of the issue for me. I really just feel like this adds to the trend of homogenizing the classes. I think a lot of people look at the game from a purely game-mechanics point of view. If that is your approach, then mechanically this is certainly an improvement. However, I look at it from a borderline RP perspective. I like the distinction between specs within classes. I like the fact that a resto druid is very different than a feral druid. I like the fact that my alts are a “Disc Priest” and a “Prot Pally”, and not just a “Priest” and “Paladin”. That’s something I like about the game in its current form. No amount of arguments about game mechanics and convenience is going to change the fact that I dislike this change for personal reasons. Even if someone completely disproves my discussion about raid composition, I still won’t like the Dual Spec system because its removing part of the uniqueness of different characters.
Maybe I’m too much of a purist. Maybe I should be on an RP server. That;s the way I play the game. And there are a lot of others like me out there who see the game as more than numbers and rotations and keybindings and add-ons.
Other people’s claims
- In comments, some people have said that raids are doing this anyway. They are porting people to cities to respec and summoning them back. I’m sure that some raids do that, especially the leading-edge-of-progression guilds. But I don’t buy that claim for the majority. I know that in all of my raids, PuG or otherwise, I can only recall that happening a couple of times – once recently on Thaddius out of necessity, and once on Shade of Aran back when Kara was tough. I feel that my game experience is pretty typical of casual players. Of course, just because I’m not seeing it, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. However, I am skeptical that it is as widespread as people make it out to be. Its too inconvenient.
- Some commenters have said that I’m just bitter that “pure” dps will lose raid spots. On the contrary, that is not going to happen at all. In the typical raid makeup (2 tanks, 3 healers, 5 dps) the only spots where it is preferable to have hybrids are one of the tanks and one of the healers, so they can switch back and forth as the need for tanks and healers goes up or down. The five dps spots will stay in a dedicated dps role through the entire raid, and so are just as well filled by “pure” dps classes. This change will have no impact on raid spots for pure dps classes. The ones who might be negatively impacted are hybrid classes that refuse to have (or can’t afford) a second spec. They might be passed over in favor of hybrids that can switch back and forth.
*I came up with 10-15% assuming that a dps-er in a tanking spec can do only 1000 dps, and in a dps spec can jump up to 3000 dps. With a raid total dps of 12000 dps (just enough to kill Patchwerk) that would be an increase of 16.7%.