In the upcoming Warlords of Draenor expansion, one of the major features is actually a removal: enchants, statistics and gemming will not be the same. Part of this will stem from removing the reforging aspect and eliminating statistics which some feel probably do not really belong in the game anymore. I want to discuss some of the ideas of the pro’s and con’s in this direction that Blizzard is moving towards.
First, the statistics that will be removed from my understanding are things like expertise, hit, dodge and parry. Expertise is somewhat of a legacy statistic that was related to your actual weapon skill that you would level pre-Cataclysm days. You would require a certain level of expertise in order to hit higher level monsters. When Cataclysm came around, the statistic was flattened out into a raw stat for melee classes. However, it had a similar function to hit, which would determine more or less whether or not a boss could dodge or parry an attack depending on which direction you aimed at as well as whether or not your attack would succeed. In short, these statistics are practically redundant of one another, especially after expertise’s re-working into Cataclysm.
Similarly, you have dodge and parry which might sound interesting on paper but over time have lost their meaning. Even block is a silly stat since you have armor. The problem with these defensive stats is that they are all passive but have no true visual component to make them worth keeping. In turn, all of these statistics are what I call “statistics for statistics’ sake.” While they make the game seem more complex on paper by forcing players to pay attention to more attributes on their character and gear, they really add no depth to the game itself.
On the other hand, if these statistics provided an active component it would be a different situation. For instance, block could be translated into a shield attribute that might allow a player to use an ability more frequently depending on their block score. Or parry could allow certain heavier weapons to have higher scores and provide a similar parry ability. However, as it stands these statistics do not do these things and really serve nothing more than an overly complex calculation that occurs in the background to determine whether someone gets hit or not as well as dealing with damage absorption.
In that sense, removing these statistics is better in the long run since they do little outside of forcing players to reforge their gear each and every time a new piece is acquired. Similarly, equipment enchants and gemming fall under the same issue. Right now, gemming and enchants more or less do little outside of making people spend more gold to maximize what they can do in combat. However, when you look at the game structure from a larger point of view, gemming and enchanting are pretty silly in their implementations. All you’re really doing is just providing more damage, more mana, more healing but not having anything more that is useful than a stupid statistics buff.
From a game design point of view, all these elements really add nothing to the RP/world value. But let’s compare how these meaningless statistics and professions do against something that does have significance: engineering. Of all the professions that augment one’s abilities, engineering at the moment almost exclusively provides a few unique perks that make it stand out. And the two perks are the glider and nitro boost. Unlike the other statistic boosting professions, engineering provides these two perks which actually impact the game play beyond just adding statistics for a tier. Let’s say you’re in a movement intense combat fight. Your nitro boost can provide an edge if you’re required to get out of the way really quickly (say for warriors when you have to dodge the Devastating Blows in the Will of the Emperor fight).
For me things like gems and enchants need to function in a similar manner. I mean, it feels really stupid where you have tons of recipes but are limited to a select few because you want to edge out more DPS. I mean, why can’t one play more defensively and use more armor or dodge if they’re not a tank? Your experience as a player just becomes so boxed in that there is no creativity in how you play your character.
I would love to see gems and enchants behave more like the nitro boost from engineering or glider. For instance, have gems that augment the radius of a fireball or add a DoT effect. What if you had a sword that you added a gem that made it have a freezing ability that slows the target? Or perhaps an enchant that causes your body to be surrounded by blades that increases your defense and outputs some damage?
Right now, I hear people ripping on the idea of removing these statistics as a move to make the game more “casual friendly.” Quite honestly, that’s a pretty asinine statement since the truth is that the current statistics, enchants, etc. are quite frankly useless in the first place. They add no depth to the game outside of wasting one’s time trying to get an optimal build and providing a pointless gold sink. If anything having these statistics around makes the game more “casual friendly” because you just need to plug your character into askmrrobot or some other optimizer to figure out your best build. That’s absolutely brainless.
I think making gems and enchants have special capabilities would make the game more interesting though. I’ve been playing Path of Exile for a little bit recently and one of the interesting things they had done is with their gems. Although I think copying Path of Exile directly is a bad idea, the general feeling of making something like gemming more useful beyond a statistic boost should be the goal. Perhaps, rather than just augumenting statistics, gemming should augment abilities. In that manner, you’re not really gaining new, confusing abilities, but improving what you can do with them in some unique manner. Similar, enchants might give a new ability or two like the nitro boost or glider.