Sunday, October 23, 2011

The New Talent System: A Moonkin's View

I must admit that when I heard there was a new talent revamp I was extremely sceptical that it would be worth while or have a good impact on the game. In fact, when I was reading through the opening comments on WoW Insider and MMO Champion I jotted down "Cookie Cutter Builds: Blizzard's Exercise of Futility" as the original title of this post, because I truly believe that it is impossible for Blizzard to prevent the cookie cutter builds. That said, after hearing more of the details of the new plan, I am a little less critical. Here's my take on the new talents tier by tier.

Two quick notes: First all comments are based on the limited information we have and assume that the talents go live as we currently see them. That is of course not true, but we have nothing else to go on. Second, the wonderful images below were taken from the MMO Champion website. If for some reason you don't know about MMO Champion, please check them out. They are hands down the best WoW news site out there.

Tier One: Mobility Tier

  • Feline Swiftness - It's not sexy, but it's a solid buff. This will probably be the most common choice of the three options.

  • Displacer Beast - At first glance it looks to primarily be a PvP/Leveling talent. However, it might have a role in PvE if it can remove Boss DoTs.

  • Tireless Pursuit - This one seems out of place given the other abilities we traditionally have. For example the speed boost is cool, but we already have that utility with Dash, Stampeding Roar and possibly Darkflight. In fact, I would probably replace this one with Stampeding Roar.

  • Tier Summary - I'm not that impressed with this tier, but it is the level 15 tier so I'm not sure how much could be expected.
Tier Two: Healing Tier

  • Nature's Swiftness - Making Cyclone and Roots instant cast could have some PvE and PvP benefits for Moonkin, but I doubt they are huge. Could also act as an "Oh Sh*t" button when macroed with a healing spell.

  • Renewal - This is a pure "Oh Sh*t" button. Assuming it maths out better then Nature's Swiftness, this is the talent I would choose for raiding.

  • Cenarion Ward - Some resto's have been asking for a shield type ability for a long time, and this is it. It looks like cool ability to my inexperienced eyes, but I don't see any purpose for a moonkin to pick it up.

  • Tier Summary - I think this tier is pretty well done. Healers have a definite choice between a shield and a cooldown. Non-healers have a solid choice in Renewal, and Nature's Swiftness might be useful in some situations.
Tier Three: Crowd Control Tier

  • Faerie Swarm - It's a Faerie Fire that you don't have to stack and that has a slow effect. Sounds great for bears but I see no use for it as a moonkin.

  • Mass Entanglement - A poor man's Frost Nova for Druids. I see some potential with this talent especially when used with other talents and abilities, but the 2 sec cast time has me a little turned off on it.

  • Typhoon - What's interesting about this one is that the damage portion of the spell seems to have been removed. That's not a huge deal, since the Typhoon is currently used more for the knockback then it is for damage, but it's interesting none the less.

  • Tier Summary - Another pretty well done tier. I think Typhoon will be the most common choice for moonkin since a knockback is generally more helpful then a mass root, but I can think of several situations where I would want to have Mass Entanglement instead.
Tier Four: Cooldown Tier

  • Wild Charge - This is an interesting option, because the effect is tied to your form and not your spec. Basically, you're picking up 4 abilities with this choice rather then just one. In Moonkin form it's a Disengage that generates energy. The caster form example could also be used as a movement cooldown if needed.

  • Incarnation - The tool tip doesn't list a moonkin example, but judging from the examples listed it looks like Moonkin finally will have the option to have a real DPS cooldown.

  • Force of Nature - Will summon three trents that may or may not behave the way it currently does for us. My guess is that this will be the same basic spell we've always had from a moonkin perspective, but maybe they will be casters for us instead of melee.

  • Tier Summary - We don't really know a lot about these options from the information given, but they are definitely some interesting options. Wild Charge seems to be a utility choice, and we will only pick it up if it provides something we need for a particular encounter or maybe for PvP. The choice between Incarnation and Force of Nature is likely to be a math problem. One of them will end up being stronger and that is the one we will pick..
Tier Five: Bear Tier

  • Demoralizing Roar - Nice utility, but is extremely situation and shifts me to Bear form.

  • Ursol's Vortex - This one has some potential, but again seems very situational. I can see where it might be helpful in PvP, but for PvE I think it's fairly limited.

  • Bear Hug - Again, it's interesting but very situational. I like that it does damage, but I don't like being taken out of the fight to use it. I also don't like being shifted to bear form.

  • Tier Summary - Of the six druid tiers previewed at Blizzcon this is my least favorite. There is just very little there for a moonkin to work with. All three abilities have their uses given the right situation, but my guess is that those situations will be fairly rare.
Tier Six: Shapeshifting Tier

  • Heart of the Wild - I get the concept. Create an ability that allows druids to be good at their other potential rolls, but it rubs me the wrong way. If I'm in a situation where I need to heal or tank we are likely screwed already, and this ability won't help. Additionally, as a moonkin, why would I ever want Agility and Expertise? If I'm going to DPS I'm going to do it as a Moonkin, not a cat.

  • Master Shapeshifter - Horrible! Just Horrible! So by shifting out of Moonkin Form to use a few cat or bear abilities I can get an average of a 20% buff for three spells. Minus what ever damage I would have done by staying in Moonkin form instead of shifting to Cat or Bear form. This wouldn't be so bad, if moonkin regularly had to switch into feral forms, but in my 5 years of playing this game I very rarely have had shift to use my melee abilities.

  • Disentanglement - Shapeshifting removes roots like it currently does but will also real you for 20% of your health. In short, it's a healing cooldown.

  • Tier Summary - I know I said that tier five was my least favorite tier, but tier six is making me seriously reconsider my words. Heart of the Wild and Master Shapeshifter are at best very situational and at worst completely useless. Disentanglement is good utility, but boring. For the top tier of the expansion I expect something better then this.
The Death of the Cookie Cutter?

Is this the death of Cookie Cutter builds? Will this, as Blizzard puts it, "give players interesting ways to customize their characters according to their preferred playstyle?"

In my opinion, it will not.

The problem Blizzard is up against is that there will almost always be a "best option," and players will always be able to identify that "best option" based upon the needs of the situation. In this post, I looked at all six tiers and in most of them I told you which would be the most common choice, and I could tell you the exceptions for most of those choices. The only time I can't is tier five, because all three choices are extremely situational and near useless from a moonkin perspective.

Final Thoughts:

Given my comments in the last section, I wouldn't be surprised if some of you though I hated this new system, but I don't. It won't eliminate the cookie cutter builds and some of the options are pretty bad. However, this new system has some advantages as well.

I really like the "theme" structure of the choices. I've always hated having to justify taking survivability talents over even the tiniest of DPS upgrades. DPS isn't the only raider quality that has value, but is the one that is focused on 99.99% of the time. I like having to make choices based upon something other then DPS.

The simplicity of the new system is also very nice. Having to make just six choices will make life a little easier and I'm glad that we won't have to go back to a trainer to change those choices.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

My Pre-Blizzcon Post

UPDATE: Clearly I have no clue as to what I'm taking about.

With Blizzcon starting tomorrow and the relatively few posts I've written recently I think it's a good idea to take a shot in the dark and address some of my expectations for Blizzcon. I'm actually quite surprised by the complete lack of information being leaked. As you probably remember, before the last Blizzcon we pretty much knew everything two weeks before Blizzcon was held. The Worgen and Goblin masks were in the datafiles pretty much confirming them as the new playable races. Cataclysm was trademarked and there were tons of lore leaks that gave us a good idea of what the trademark meant.

The big question now is if the lack if information is due to Blizzard protecting it's info really well or a lack of juicy info. In my opinion it's probably a bit of both. First of all, MMO Champion has been the primary source of leaks in the past, but it looks like Blizzard made a deal during the Cataclysm Alpha that turned off that specket of info. It's clear that MMO Champion has had early access to Alpha, Beta, and PTR releases, and my guess is that Blizzard gave them access to the information in return for not disclosing it early. So, my guess is that MMO Champion already has a lot of details of what's going to be announced this weekend, but is keeping their mouth shut as a part of the deal. That said, I doubt the next expansion will follow the traditional pattern of expansion updates and I wonder if there are really any big announcements to be made other then the existence of a new expansion.

Time to Eat Some Crow:

You probably remember that I predicted that the Mists of Pandaria trademark was red herring, but I am not confident in that prediction any more. With Blizzcon starting tomorrow, I don't know what else the new expansion could be. That said, I still think many of the assumptions made by players about what that title means are wrong.

First off, Pandaria and the Pandaren are completely undeveloped lore wise, and most of the lore that is out there is from the RPG books which Blzzard has said is not canon. I have a really hard time believing that Blizzard would base an entire expansion off of such and undeveloped part of the games story. It seems highly unlikely to me especially when Blizzard has expressed some regret at making the Draenei a play able race without much established lore.

So, if Mists of Pandaria isn't completely Panda focused, what kind of story can we expect. I think an Island focused expansion like the one outlined in a Know Your Lore post by Anne Stickney on WoW Insider, and I'm thinking of it as Cataclysm: Part Two. Lets remember that the original concept of Cataclysm was a bit bigger then what has been released. For example, Neptulon was originally intended to be a raid boss in Tier 12, but Blizzard scrapped it when they decided to shrink the tiers. Blizzard also has said they wanted to do something with Kul Tiras but couldn't get to it right away. Also, Blizzard did a lot of work to set up the Old Gods and the Naga with out either of them being a big part of Cataclysm story arc. Finally, due to the Blizzard timeline that was leaked a year ago, we know that Blizzard had next expansion (loosely) scheduled for 2nd quarter 2012.

In my mind, this all adds up to a clean up expansion that goes and fills in some of the holes left by Cataclysm and prepare the story for the the big Good vs Evil fight that is in Velen's Prophecy. My guess is that the new expansion's ending boss will be Queen Azshara with an Old God being an tier end boss. I'm expecting a one two punch much like we saw in WotLK with Yogg in Ulduar leading up to Lich King.

What I don't expect to see from this expansion is a new playable race or a new class. I know a lot of people got all excited at the idea of playable Pandarans but I don't see it happening. First, for game reasons I don't think they will ever make a race available to both classes. Blizzard is really big on player Silhouette in PvP, and having one race playable by both factions messes that up. Second, I don't think they would Pandaran to just one faction given how popular the race would likely be. In the end, I think having Pandaran as a playable race is likely to be a bigger headache then Blizzard is willing undertake.

I also think a new class is a bit unlikely since I don't see the advantage of having a new class. When the Death Knight was added in WotLK it made some sense. The game was a little light on Tanking Classes, and given the tanking shortage in general it made sense to have a tank that didn't have to start at level one. Plus, Death Knights fit in to the overall theme of the expansion extremely well. However, I think looking back the the process of adding a new class proved to be much more difficult then Blizzard expected. Death Knights had balance issues for most of the expansion, and I personally don't think they had a big impact on the pool of available tanks. For Blizzard to add a new class to the game again, I think they will have to see a very definite hole in the game for it to be worth the effort, and I don't think that whole currently exists.

Other Quick Thoughts:

  • What I would like to see from the next expansion is a more Alliance focused expansion. It may be my bias, but most of the lore for the past few expansions has been more Horde focused, and I think it's time to shift the story back to the Alliance a little. To expand on that, I hope they leave Thrall out of the Horde leadership and keep Garrosh as the faction leader. I also hope they continue with the evolution of Varian Wrynn started at the end of the new book Wolfsheart, and give the Alliance a senseble leader while the Horde has the hot headed idiot for a change.

  • I doubt there will be much if any Class specific info at Blizzcon, and even less info focused on Moonkin, but obviously I would like to hear something in that regard. Specifically I would like to hear their thoughts on the complexity of the Moonkin rotation. I personally have felt that it is a little over complicated for a while now and would like to see it simplified a little bit.