World of Warcraft originally allowed for interesting specs to come about as a result of a flexible talent tree. When Cataclysm came out, it destroyed the flexible system by forcing players to choose a talent tree from the beginning. Supposedly, the idea was to help “new players” in creating a more focused talent tree and removed “some unnecessary talents.” With Mists of Panderia, this talent tree will pretty much be non-existent in favor of the one that has evolved in Diablo 3.
However, the real issue is that the class system is narrowly defined into three types: tanking, damage and healing with a PVP equivalent for each side. PVP has been a massive thorn in the class system from the beginning since most of the real crying over overpowered classes have been as a result from arenas in trying to balance every combination. So the class selection is pretty much dull and narrow and just small variations on each type (for instance a damage-over-time vs burst damage, etc.)
At the moment, this issue kicks in when people have to work in PVE teams like raids and dungeons. If a healer or tank goes down, pretty much the rest of the group is in trouble. Although there are certain classes like druids and death knights that can perform a battle resurrection, you’re pretty much at the mercy of a random party generator in getting enough of those classes. Things become worse as an imbalanced party (say all hunters or rogues) can make an instance a pure nightmare.
The problem is that some classes lack any useful utility at all. Or their utility is really situational. From that, everyone then becomes dependent upon a few select classes, which just makes the game horribly frustrating. This is why I propose re-doing the way classes work in the game.
First, I think that the notion of tanking, healing and damage as pure roles should be eliminated. I think each class should have some capability for each role. My ideal class is the enhancement shaman. I like the class because you have good burst DPS, some healing (both AoE and larger ones) and some tanking (rockbiter on a weapon along with their totem to hold aggro). What makes the enhancement shaman for me interesting is how they can be used as to help with healing using Maelstrom Weapon. For instance, let’s say you’re fighting Yor’sahj and the Mana Void appears. Your healers will pretty much be at the mercy of your DPS until it goes down. However, a smart enhancement shaman could help with healing since their mana pretty much never goes down.
That’s just one example of a larger potential picture. I know Rift did something like this where each class could perform multiple duties. An example someone mention was how a rogue could be a tank. Why not? What if a combat rogue utilized stealth to evade damage? What if they put Tricks of the Trade on themselves to increase aggro on themselves? Or what if Beast Master hunters could tank by using their pets? In Icecrown Citadel, one of the bosses required an additional tank-like toon. It wasn’t uncommon to see a hunter or a warlock use their pets to hold some aggro for that fight.
The thing is that the ideas for sub-roles have been around for a while, but the expansions have slowly been eliminating them in favor of some delusional balancing act. Worse yet I think removing the more flexible talent tree system hurt the game in forcing players into a very simplistic mind set of playing their toons. People know only how to kill things for the most part but don’t know how to fully utilize their characters’ abilities. Also, I think that the whole balancing act ended up creating more confusing specs as each tree would get its turn for the DPS of the month award.
From my point of view, I see most of the talent trees to be pretty much useless. For instance, you have a survival hunter and marksman hunter trees. Originally, I believe that survival was more of a PVP spec or perhaps even a melee spec. But now it seems to play more like a damage-over-time spec, whereas marksman seems to do just burst damage. Honestly though, I think both specs are redundant. To me both are just “ranged specs;” the only true difference is that one gets an interrupt and some healing while the other gets a secondary CC. Beast Master would almost be useful except that it really just is a leveling spec. However, I’ve seen people level as both survival and marksman, so what’s the point of having a leveling spec? BM as a leveling spec made far more sense in pre-Cataclysm since you needed your pet to hold aggro. But once you hit 85, BM pretty much dropped off. Maybe it has some PVP utility but the real power lies in the pet’s ability to tank.
That led me to realize that survival and marksman should be thrown away in favor of just a pure ranged spec. Since MoP will get rid of the secondary weapon slot for hunters (or ranged for melee), survival pretty much becomes a meaningless class, something far removed from the original intent (which, imo, was more or less a Legolas-type of ranger who could dual wield and fight in melee). That leaves an open idea for the hunter. I think that an interesting possibility would be to add a healing type of spec for them. They currently have spirit bond and marksman hunter’s chimera shot functions as a healing type of ability. So what if they provided a group type of healing ability? Maybe this spec could have a pet that could boost healing. Part of the spec might have the healing impinge upon doing damage similar to how Chimera Shot provides healing to the hunter. Perhaps, the pet could provide low group healing while alive while Chimera Shot does burst healing to the person near the target (or to the shooter).
The revamped hunter idea I proposed here is just one of how I see revamping the classes in order to make them more useful and more interesting. But let’s take my hunter example further. The main idea I see with revamping the classes is to provide degrees of healing, damage, etc. Let’s say in the case of the hunter healing is weak, but that they could put talent points into a certain type of healing or more points into aggro generation, damage reduction, etc. rather than just critical strikes.
Or let’s revamp the enhancement shaman so that they can tank. Maybe their earthen shield is their major damage reduction capability. Rather than just restoration shamans possessing it, any shaman can take talent points to use it along with rock biter weapon. Part of their rotation might be to use a greater healing wave on themselves whenever Maelstrom Weapon procs. And rather than just dual wielding weapons, they could use a shield.
What about priests? Although Shadow Priests are the favored class to solo/level, I see disc priest as being redundant. Some people say that discipline priests are more PVP healers, but it isn’t uncommon to see them being raid healers either. Their main ability is Power Word Shield, which, to me, is where tanking might be a possibility. The problem is that I think discipline priests were designed more for PVP in mind. So having two types of healing specs can make things a little confusing, imo. I like the idea of cross breeding the discipline priest and shadow priest for a tank-like spec. You get the damage dealing capabilities of the shadow priest with the protective abilities of the discipline side. Perhaps, part of the tree would be sacrificing some damage with damage mitigation.
Then you have mages and warlocks. I’ve heard arguments of how Warlocks became mages via the Destruction talent tree since Burning Crusade. The truth is that fire mages and Destruction warlocks look the same: DoT type of classes that burn things. The only difference is that Destruction warlocks get a pet imp. Demonology warlocks had some differentiation both from their pet and the ability to transform into a demon. Supposedly, their pet can tank to a degree, but the damage done by the warlock consistently hurts the aggro of the pet. But when you look at things in the overall scope, you start to realize that Demonology warlocks aren’t that much different from hunters (except that some hunter pets do a better job at holding aggro).
Either way, that makes me think that Demonology has to be revamped to make it even more distinct from hunters. Or rather the warlock class in general. I remember how back in the day warlocks were some of the most feared (literally and figuratively) classes in PVP. Just DoT some hapless victim up and fear them. I don’t really see that playing style used much in PVE though and it’s sad because it reduces one of their more useful functions (worse yet , shadow priest have nearly identical abilities except that their playing style seems far easier by comparison). The thing that made warlocks powerful back in the day was their crowd control. Although crowd control made a return in Cataclysm, it feels as though every class has some level of CC and that warlocks aren’t that special in this regard anymore.
So what to do about warlocks? Again, I think the three specs need to go away. I don’t want another burst mage. But having a tanking type does sound useful. Still, that idea is too similar to a beast master hunter by itself. You need to add more spice to make this class interesting. I’m not talking about just a rotation where you press buttons according to a priority list. I’m talking about defining situations to make what you do more interesting. Maybe make a warlock more like a necromancer, where they can use dead bodies to siphon part of their powers. For instance, group healing might occur by using dead bodies to channel some ritual. Or perhaps those dead bodies might enhance the warlock’s (or their demon’s) power. If Blizzard doesn’t intend to add a necromancer class, I don’t see a reason why the warlock could not perform similar duties.
Then there’s the death knight. Originally, when they came out there was tons of controversy over them. Either they were overpowered in battlegrounds after hitting level 58, or they were confusedly played as tanks in instances. But the idea of both a heroic class and being able to tank or DPS in any spec hit a nerve with me. That nerve was that both ideas were interesting. It was the execution that stunk all this time.
My first death knight was a blood death knight. This was during Wrath of the Lich King. They were interesting in that they had good self-heals and some threat generation. Later, when I switched servers, I started from scratch and tried an unholy death knight. I got annihilated and went straight to blood after the starting zone because I missed the blood spec. Of course, the damage wasn’t as great but they still were pretty powerful and fun to solo. However, when I started hitting instances, I went to frost and found a fun, bursty-type of DPS class. Several patches later, I found frost to be almost as boring as an arcane mage since you’re pretty much hitting 1-3 buttons at most.
So in seeing the different type of playing styles, I thought a bit about how this class could be made more interesting. In the past, I think with blood vs unholy vs frost, what you see mostly (or at least originally planned) was a class that could tank via self-heals vs tanking with a pet vs a class that could tank with AoE abilities. That makes for more interesting conceptual game play. I think the problem in WOTLK with death knights was just that they could get squished since they lacked a shield and that their damage reduction abilities were far too spread apart between trees. Right now, Blood DKs are supposedly really powerful since their Death Strike sustains them (if you do doubt Blood DKs, go check out various videos of some that solo the Lich King or Cataclysm instances).
The thing is that DKs actually have some hidden healing talents. Better DKs use their Raise Dead capability. However, they also can use their Death Coil for minor ally healing. I don’t think I’ve seen any Death Knights use that ability, but it’s there. If the ability could be expanded, the Death Knight class could be even more useful. The thing is that you have to look at the class in relation to everything else, especially the paladin, which, is traditionally what a Death Knight is the anti-thesis of. That idea is what really drives a class more than this stupid idea of game balance.
For instance, before death knights in Vanilla WoW, shamans and paladins were really their faction’s respective opposites. Shamans were pagans, having melee and some ranged capabilities while paladins derived their powers from the Gods, had good armor but lacked ranged abilities. With the introduction of death knights though, I feel that this class is the true anti-thesis of the paladin since their abilities are derived from an unholy nature. So motifs like corpses, dishonor, and ranged attacks fall more into what a death knight can do. Since Death Knights lack shields, they ought to do more damage as tanks while paladins might be able to reduce more damage by having a shield.
Again these are just some suggestions and ideas for improving the classes. But I’m noticing is that what you really want are categories of abilities that fall into degrees of powerfulness. The special effects that go along with these abilities and the situations are what will make each class distinct. The main thing is the degrees of powerfulness. That’s where talent points should be used again so that people can define their utility in each area to a certain degree.
Now, here’s where the tricky part comes into play: raiding and instances. What happens now in getting rid of core role types and splitting it into separate classes? What happens to things like 25, 40 or 10 man raids?
Personally, I hate the idea of raiding. I think raiding is just a big clusterfuck pure and simple. I hate having to wait for 25 people to show up and I hate it even more when people come and go, drop groups, pull unnecessarily, etc. The only thing about having 25 people is just a big, disorganized mess. Some people may argue about the whole “epicness” of having 25 people simultaneously together. But I see the situation as just having more random variables that are out of control on average. Also, I hate the idea of grinding for gear. It’s stupid and pointless, not to mention it puts the focus of the game on the wrong areas.
But how do you deal with the MM aspect of the MMORPGs? Well, given that LFR is still in its infancy, we have to give it the benefit of a doubt and see it as a system that will be in place for a while. The more critical question is taking my idea of eliminating the simplistic DPS/tank/healing classes into more broader ones per class and seeing how they fit into raids, LFR and dungeons. One possibility would be to do a computation on the server end for an LFR that would determine whether or not you have enough points in healing, DPS and tanking to survive. The problem is that really is just another form of gearscore or ilvl except that it’s placed on the talent tree.
In another model, you have pure versions of the three types of classes, except that each class can be of each type. In other words, a hunter can go tank or heals same with the rogue, mage, etc. That’s a good short term solution in that you eliminate redundant specs in favor of allowing any class to trade off. But for something like LFR, you’ll still encounter the problem where the vast majority of people only know one role. So even if a hunter could tank, they might not know how. As a result, you’re back to square one since people are just waiting for a certain type to enter the raid.
The last model is probably the most difficult to implement but potentially the most rewarding. The idea for this model is to eliminate pure roles from a raid (kinda like how PVE scenarios sound like they’re going). So instead of constantly waiting on healers to show up, anyone can heal. It then becomes the responsibility of the raid as a whole to ensure its survivability.
What happens if you get a situation where everyone just deals damage? Supposedly, in MoP they will be introducing a way to change specs on the spot for encounters. Depending on how that’s handled, it could be either really tedious or useful. I’m willing to bet on the later. Instead, I think what should occur is eliminating the idea of dual specs and making it so that you can purchase multiple specs instead. That might take care of some problems in providing more flexibility so that people aren’t forced to purchase a re-spec on the spot every time they hit an encounter.
Still that might not solve the issue of having enough damage, heals, etc. I think part of the problem in raiding is that it typically centers around fighting a single boss. Usually, the mechanics are pretty stupid. Two people trade off each other while healers keep them topped off while the DPS bring the boss down to health. Add a few more mechanics like adds spawning or the necessity to keep the raid up with raid-wide healing. Then you might have mechanics like moving out of fire or riding a drake. But for the most part the average raid encounter is stupid tank and spank.
The issue with this model is that you have a limited number of people absorbing damage while you have a limited number of people healing everyone up. I fail to see why the game has to be so limited in this manner. Why not have multiple tanks? Or what if spell caster likes a mage could provide some healing too? The problem with so many raid bosses is that they have wipe abilities where only tanks have enough life to withstand these capabilities and why you need certain classes to be able to top off these people.
These mechanics are too limiting. One this pretty much means that every encounter more or less is going to boil down to dealing with a single boss. And two, if it doesn’t deal with a single boss, then the encounter is about managing adds. But why can’t you have a big war where you have tons of adds, tons of melee just soaking up damage for the range to knock out? Can’t that be a raid encounter? And why just a single boss all the time? It feels like a stupid archaic arcade game where you fight all these smaller things leading up to the bigger thing.
The other thing is that some of these fights feel absolutely pointless. For instance, the dragon gauntlet before Ultraxion. All you’re doing is killing a bunch of adds for a few minutes and you can’t even loot them! Or the stupid slime encounter on Yor’sahj. What has colored boogers have any relevance in relation to Death Wing? But in each of these scenarios, you’re still dependent upon an egomanic tank or sleeping healers.
Now, I’m not sure how the PVE scenario thing might play out. What would be nice, if they took my suggestion for revamping classes, is that you pretty much “sign up” and the game does a check sum to ensure that certain minimum requirements are met. If not, then make encounters not boss centric but something more like a puzzle. You have to kill XXX in this section and that section. Or you need to solve a riddle by splitting up. Or maybe there’s a siege where your ranged are needed to take out people from a tower while melee hold their ground and absorb incoming damage from arrows.
At any rate, I think WoW has evolved to the point where it can be more than just hack-n-slash. Classes need to be richer. Raiding needs to be evolve too. Raiding at the moment is just for groups of people that have enough time to group up and coordinate against a boss. It can be more and linking that to how classes can and should do more will improve the game play overall.