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9-11-2009 @ 10:40PM
As a warrior tank since vanilla, I found this an engaging read even though I can't help but roll my eyes whenever GC or any Blizzard dev speaks of "balance" between classes. Blizzard has been failing abysmally at this since November 2004 and shows no sign of stopping now. But sarcasm aside, all the tanking classes should ostensibly be viable for PvE, barring a handful of annoying gimmick fights. Blizzard stated that one of their goals with WotLK was to make all tanking classes viable and fun, and they have largely succeeded. Player perceptions are beyond Blizzard's control, but design and tuning are not. Tanks are the class most often shuffled out of boss fights as it is, and if poorly designed encounters make any tanking class come to be regarded as "the clear favorite", all the rest will be in trouble.As a raid leader, I would rather wipe a dozen times than kick someone out of a raid for a specific fight because they are "not the right class" to make it easy mode. Our guild doesn't run on epics; it runs on loyalty. Luckily, our members all agree on this point and some have made alts to swap in for a fight, so the character can be shuffled out if absolutely necessary, but the player still won't be. Going all the way back to Karazhan, which was many BC era players' first raid experience, we can see bad design at work. Most guilds used two tanks for Kara, with fights like Attumen and Moroes pretty much demanding it. The off tank was not really necessary on Maiden, but the fight was still doable with even with a Prot warrior DPSing (which was a sad and worst-case scenario in those days). All was well until you got to Curator, the first true gear check of the instance. This was the point where if one of your tanks wasn't a feral druid who could change to cat for DPS, one of the guys who worked and wiped to get you this far was forced to respec or go home. It didn't help that Curator dropped a tier token and the best tanking leggings in the game up to that point, either. Later in the same instance, the Prince and Nightbane broke up the group again, with one dropping a tier token and the other droppng a tanking chest, and it was no fun tanking all the trash only to get swapped out right before getting a chance at the epics. In short, being an OT in Kara was a "thanks, but now get out" experience and nobody wanted to do it.I'd like to think that three years of testing, tuning, and design experience since then has made this a thing of the past, and Blizzard will design more of the ten man (and even 25 man) raids with the mindset being to keep the same group together for the entire run and allow for some flexibility in tactics, rather than adotping a "best in slot" mentality for raid groups where one group composition is ideal and anything else is doomed to fail. Time will tell if they will succeed, but every time I hear a raid leader casually say "Okay, kick one of the tanks and bring in another DPS," it makes me cringe. Dual spec has gone a long way toward addressing this problem for those who can afford it; now all we need are bigger bags for that second set of gear!
9-11-2009 @ 11:41PM
"Blizzard has been failing abysmally at this since November 2004 and shows no sign of stopping now."To be fair, they have gotten MUCH better since 2004.
9-12-2009 @ 12:07AM
"To be fair, they have gotten MUCH better since 2004."Yes, I definitely agree that they have. What puzzles me most about class balancing issues is that Blizzard has stated that when creating items, they use a "point system" where every stat and even unique proc powers have a numerical value, and once the item reaches its cutoff point, nothing more is added, and existing powers are tweaked and tuned (again, always with the point system used) until it feels just right. Thus, all level x items are created equal. Why don't they attempt to quantify talents and use this approach to "even out" talent trees and class abilities? Barring the variable element of players speccing and gearing in different ways, some classes are so uneven at the talent tree level that an experienced WoW player can look at the talent trees for classes he has has never even played and instantly spot a few glaring inequalities, such as Shield Wall versus the current iteration of Ardent Defender. At Blizzard, balance seems to be a pendulum that swings from one extreme to the other, but never stops in between. Until it does, tanks of all classes with have to fight an uphill battle for raid slots against the "flavor of the month" class.
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