Does Balance Have to Mean Everyone Can Do Everything Every Time Equally Well?

July 15, 2009 at 3:58 pm | Posted in General | 2 Comments
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balance

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I don’t think it does.  Blizzard has been wrapping itself around the axle trying to get every spec in every class capable of doing every thing it was ever imagined doing as well as every other spec in every other class that has ever been viewed as capable of doing the same thing. 

My question is why? 

What’s wrong with having a PvP tree or spec?  What’s wrong with having healers that excel in one areas – insta-cast HoTs for a druidic example, but lack in other areas (AoE healing).  What’s wrong with having DPS classes that are definitively better than hybrid classes?   I know, I know, Bring the Player, Not the Class, diversity in roles opens up the game to more players, yadda yadda yadda.  But I think Blizzard does this with dual specs and their attempts to homogenize the game further takes away the uniqueness each class brings to the game. 

Let’s look at warriors.  They have their three trees are protection, fury, and arms, right?  Protection is the ‘tanking’ tree, obviously enough.  The bulk of the extra threat, extra armor, health-boosting talents are there.  But what about fury and arms?  Do warriors really need 2 different DPS specs?  Is there such a surplus of tanks that we want to stack our raids with Titan-gripped and Mortal Striking warriors?  It used to be that Arms was the ‘PvP’ spec because of Mortal Strike and Fury was the PvE spec because, well, it wasn’t Arms I guess.  But why was that so wrong?  Where is the huge difference between the two trees that it’s unreasonable for Blizzard to say – “we’ll ensure Arms is balanced for PvP and Fury is balanced for PvE.  You can play how you want, but don’t come crying to us if your Arms DPS lags in Uludar or your Fury resilience won’t stop a murlock icebolt.”elephant balancing

Back in the day, respecc’ing for PvE and PvP on a near daily basis was a pain, but that’s not the case anymore.  With dual specs, a warrior could save his PvE spec and PvP spec (or DPS and tanking or tanking/PvP) and be done with it.

The same goes for roles within the game, I think.  Why does every healer have to be just as good as every other healer at everything?  Shaman were once kings (and queens) of AOE healing.  They had enough extra to heal 5-mans, but if you had 3 resto shaman heading into Kara, you were most likely heading into trouble.  The same was true with Druids and Pallys.  Druids could cast on the run and their heals lasted through silences and other interrupts making them perfect for moving fights and PvP but their ability to handle spike damage was limited.  Pallys were the nuke healers – you put them on the tank and let them spam away.  Pallys couldn’t top off a raid or an off tank with a small quick heal though.  And Priests were the jack of all trades but master of none – they had a few HoTs, but not as many or as effective as druids.  They had some AOE and big nuke heals, but not at the level of Shammys and Pallys.  If you had to have 3 of any class of healer, you wanted 3 priests for that kara run. 

But here’s the thing – all four healing classes were in demand, weren’t they?  Of course they were – they’re healers!  But even with raiding – is anyone going to not have a raid if they don’t have a perfect healing setup?  No!  They’ll go with what they have.  But having that niche – knowing that the raid knows that the tank won’t die because he’s got pally heals, or raid damage won’t be a problem because a Shaman is on the scene?  That’s a good feeling to have. 

The only exception to this, that I can see, is tanking.  A tank, any tank, should be able to handle any fight thrown at them (unless it’s a special Gruul’s Mage tank-like exception).  You don’t want to be forced to bring a specific class of tank for a specific fight only then to switch them out again once the boss is dead.  I don’t think, though that all 4 tank classes need to be main tank material, for lack of a better phrase.  Let’s take druids.  I love tanking as a druid, but we’re the best OTs in the game – why not enhance us to excel there instead of forcing dodge nerfs here and HP buffs there to balance us with our plate wearing brethren?  Why not make it easier to pop into cat form and do better DPS in the middle of a fight than any other tank class, then switch back to bear form when the adds come?  We’d still have our place in raids, wouldn’t we?  Throw DKs into that mix – a presence shift and they go from aggro to DPS.  Wouldn’t that make it easier on the design team?   

These defined roles won’t break BTPNTC either.  Take a look at any guild recruiting post.  Are they looking for healers?  Tanks?  Nope.  They’re looking for Resto Druids or Prot Warriors or Holy Pallys or whatever.  They still want the class!  Why?  Because there is still enough uniqueness among the healers and tanks (and DPS, believe it or not) that specific classes help more than others in certain roles.  Blizzard should embrace that instead of work against it. 

However, thchair balancee biggest problem – the biggest imbalance if you’ll pardon the pun – remains PvP.  Some classes own other classes.  I don’t necessarily mind this as long as it’s circular and no single class cannot be dominated by another.  As long as it’s Druids who tend to own Shaman who tend to own Death Knights who tend to own Hunters who tend to own Rogues who tend to own Mages who tend to own Priests who tend to own Warlocks who tend to own Warriors who tend to own Palladins who tend to own Druids, I’m ok with that.  It creates rivalries and encourages outside the box thinking to beat your nemesis.  And when you do?  You are very very happy.  Unfortunately that’s not the case.  Some classes are so completely dominated by so many other classes, they just aren’t viable in PvP at all.  This is because Blizzard is trying to get all trees to work perfectly for PvP when they should be focusing on getting one per class right. 

Establishing acknowledged PvP trees would allow game designers to address PvP issues without impacting PvE play, and vice versa.  Lets say Mage DPS is too low in raids for example (I don’t know if it is nor not, it’s just an example).  Right now, designers can’t buff raid DPS without fearing that it will then make them overpowered in PvP.  But if there was a defined PvP tree (and PvE trees by consequence), the designers could adjust a talent deep in a PvE tree to buff raid DPS.  This talent would be unreachable for PvP specs.  A big reason DKs were so overpowered in PvP was because the talents they need to tank raid bosses made them effectively unkillable in BGs and Arena.  With a set PvP tree, Blizzard could offer a more desirable set of PvP-centered talents instead.  What is more desireable than being unkillable I don’t know, but you get the idea. 

PvP trees makes addressing PvP problems easier as well.  Too little resilience in the game?  No problem, a lvl 50 talent that boosts resilience could be buffed.  Too much resilience in the game after 4 seasons of arena gear?  Nerf that talent a bit. 

I doubt Blizzard will adopt PvP trees or go back to embracing differences among healers or tanks or DPS anytime soon.  But I do have hope that as they start to run out of fingers needed to plug the dam of class balance, they’ll reconsider having a WoW wetlands and let each class compliment and conquer the others.  Just as nature intended. 

What about you?  Do you like how Blizzard is balancing the classes and roles?  Will they ever get it ‘just right’?  or even ‘close enough’?

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2 Comments »

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  1. Came across your blog, saw the post, and had to comment. While I agree with a lot of what you say, I think that what Blizzard really needs to do is fix the trees so that there can be variations within each tree that make it more viable for PvE and PvP, as well as all of it’s other supposed capabilities.

    Here me out for a second. Let’s look at Druids first. In all three trees, there is enough variation to allow you to do your job in either a raid or PvP environment. Same for Paladins. Different talents are better for PvP or PvE, but with all three specs you can do all three. Great. We have 2 classes that are fairly perfect as far as versatility.

    Let’s jump to Priests, as an example. For PvP, people tend to heal with Discipline more than Holy. Why? Discipline has some defensive talents that outweigh the greater healing of Holy. Ok, fine…but why can’t Holy have something that Disc priests don’t have? Give them a few spells that make them *different* from Disc priests and require a different strategy, but still makes them viable for PvP. And while we’re on the subject of the Holy tree, why are there all of these spells for Holy DPS but there are so few talents to enhance it? Why is shadow the only priest DPS spec?

    And then Mages…why is Frost so terrible in PvE right now? Why does fire suck at PvP? We could go down the line and look at many of the other classes and say “Oh, yeah, that’s a problem” but I won’t now.

    My suggestion to Blizzard would be this: do a massive revamp of the talent trees with the idea that each tree should be able to PvE and PvP successfully, and then stop thinking that the only important thing is how big the numbers are. Instead, focus on class UTILITY. I don’t agree with “bring the player, not the class” 100%. Let there be a reason to seek out certain class members for something only THEY can do. In Burning Crusade, you didn’t seek out Shadow Priests for their massive damage, you sought them out for their ability to restore mana and health while doing damage. Give each classes special mechanics that can work both on bosses as well as in PvP.

    For example, similar to the Beacon of Light effect Paladins have, why not give Holy Priests to ability to tag X people with a spell that lasts for Y minutes, then any holy damage they do heals each tagged person for Z% of the damage done. You do less damage than shadow, as Shadow will remain the max DPS spec, but unlike Shadow, you can pick the targets receiving healing, and they’ll be healed more than if you were dpsing shadow. Thus, you bring utility, an overall benefit for the raid that can’t be captured in recount.

    I agree that Blizzard has been slowly making classes more and more similar to the point where now its just “doing damage in different colors”. But I think what they need to do is suck it up and change the class mechanics around a little bit with a nice big patch that allows players to customize their characters however they see fit, to do the jobs they need to do, and to bring something unique to the PvP team, BG, or raid.

    • @ Ten’nen

      I’d argue that Druids aren’t a shining example of PvP versatility as evidenced by their poor performance and lack of PvP players – especially balance from what I’ve heard.

      I’m not sure it’s possible to have viable PvE and PvP specs within the same trees, though mainly because PvP and PvE are so dramatically different from each other. You’d have to design the PvE talents with PvP in mind and vice versa which leads to talents that don’t fill either well (or fill the unintended role too well).

      I’m all for revamping the talent trees, but I do think there needs to be a PvP tree for each class – to start at least. As long as mages have a good bracket for PvP (frost, I’d guess?) then it doesn’t matter that fire isn’t. With dual spec, a mage can have both specs and can switch at will.


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