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Blizzard: No triple spec on the horizon, but it's not ruled out

When Blizzard introduced the dual spec system in patch 3.1, speculation almost immediately turned to the concept of the "triple spec." The idea seemed like an all-too-real possibility, gated behind the caveat of "We want to see how the system works first."

Two years later, we have plenty of information on how the dual spec system works. Its initial price tag of 1,000 gold kept it limited only to the most serious of players, but even that high cost couldn't keep the more casual set away. The pricetag has since been slashed all the way down to a mere 10 gold, making it something that everyone can, should, and will train. Dual spec has become so popular that Cataclysm's new stat system seems as if it was built around it. You can now be a successful shadow priest and healing priest in the same gear; a feral DPS druid can change into an able feral tank with very few gearing changes.

Dual spec's been such a terrific and natural fit that it's hard to imagine the game without having it. To that extent, it's been a smashing success. And so, if dual spec has worked so well, why not consider triple spec? For paladins and druids especially -- both of whom can heal, DPS, and tank -- it'd be a godsend. Triple spec would lead even more people to create a PvP spec, an aspect of the game that Blizzard wants more of us to experience.

Unfortunately, triple specs aren't on the horizon, or so said Community Manager (and blue poster) Bashiok on the official Blizzard forums today:

So ... Why don't we have Tri-spec yet?
Obviously having an array of possible specs to choose from would be convenient for any number of reasons, but it would also encourage situations where people are using it to shift their builds around for each individual encounter or task. Those are the kinds of options that quickly stop being options, and instead become a requirement. And as they become a requirement our necessity to design and balance around it changes it from a nice convenience option to a core piece of the game design puzzle.



If you're a little disappointed by the "you're not getting a triple spec" news, you're not alone. There is some good news about it, though, and that's the fact that Blizzard doesn't quite seem ready to declare triple specs an impossibility and issue us a hard no. The full post:

So ... Why don't we have Tri-spec yet?
The question used to be, why don't we have a way to keep a spec for PvE and PvP? And to a lesser extent, wouldn't it be great if I could swap roles with my hybrid if needed without having to hearth and make everyone wait on me?

Those are the specific reasons for why we agreed with the sentiment of those questions, and dual spec now exists in the game. It's great (kind of) that some people have found uses for it outside of that, having two slightly variant builds of the same spec for different situations, however, it's not our intent with multiple specs to encourage that type of gameplay, and thus it's not our intent to offer tri or quad or quint, etc. specs.

...

A lot of people like to throw the phrase 'slippery slope' at us when we make certain changes, and dual spec is actually truthfully one of those systems. Once we have two specs, why not three? If three, why not four? But, we have our hiking boots on, and don't intend to lose footing on this just yet. BUT sliding down muddy hills is a lot of fun, so you never know.


Would triple specs really break the game?

To answer the question, you first need to think about dual specs and the impact they've had on the game thus far. As Bashiok says in his post, prior to dual specs, players would frequently hearth out of raids to change specs to meet the requirements of certain encounters. Is the next boss healing-intensive? Send a ret paladin back to Orgrimmar to respec holy. Sure, it was expensive, but for progression raiders, paying 50 gold here and there to respec for a singular encounter was nothing.

Dual specs made it such that pretty much everyone who raids (or is even thinking about raiding) has more than one talent build, whether it's DPS/heals, tank/heals, or even DPS/DPS. Has it resulted in some changes in the way raiding is handled? Sure -- most raid applications these days ask you about your dual spec, and many hardcore raiding guilds require their raiders to have an off-spec and be ready to use it on short notice. But given that hardcore raiders were hearthing and respeccing anyway, is that really anything new?

I'm a shadow priest at heart. When I raid, I want to raid as a shadow priest. It's as simple as that. Thankfully, despite the widespread nature of the double spec, I'm allowed to do this. I've let my raid groups know that I'm not especially comfortable healing a raid, and they (generally) respect my choice.

Introducing a triple spec wouldn't change any of that. The slippery slope, as Bashiok says, is already in place -- if the world didn't end for me with the introduction of the dual spec, it won't end with the triple spec.

Cataclysm changed everything

It's an abused cliché around here, but it's true. Cataclysm heralded major changes to the game world, but beyond that, it heralded some major changes in design philosophy. There's been a push toward more homogenization between the classes. More so than ever before, we're bringing the same buffs to a raid. We're also bringing, to some extent, the same abilities; most DPS specs now have an interrupt, even if some have longer cooldowns than others. It's the concept of "bring the player, not the class" put into action.

Cataclysm also brought a severe simplification to our talent trees. Our choices are far more limited now, and they're also far more obvious. It's easy for a beginner to pick out the "mandatory" talents. There are only a few points left up to the players' discretion, but they're hardly make-or-break. For a caster like my shadow priest, it comes down to making a decision between reducing mana costs, reducing the damage I take, or adding a PvP talent.

What does that mean for triple spec? Well, in a very real way, there's not much reason for my shadow priest to switch between one DPS spec and another for a given raid or encounter. Sure, I could decide that, say, Magmaw is more mana-intensive for me than Omnotron, so I'd rather have more mana-preserving talents on Magmaw and more damage-reducing talents on Omnotron. At the end of the day, though, the changes won't make or break either encounter. Micromanaging my dual spec to that extent isn't worth it.

Admittedly, for some players, that level of micromanaging is worth it. For them, the limitation of having only two specs isn't stopping anyone -- that triple spec is still just a hearth cooldown and ~50 gold away.

The bottom line

Bashiok -- and by extension, Blizzard's development team -- seems to hint that the introduction of the dual spec two years ago hasn't had a significant impact on the way encounters are designed. If that's true, then you can easily make the logical extension that triple specs won't change anything either. We're at the same exact place now that we were two years ago: If someone wants a third spec badly enough, it's easy to get. It's a simple matter of convenience -- it's not convenient to do it, so we largely don't.

Is that convenience really a terrible thing? Every time I log in to my druid, I wish that I could easily have a healing, tanking, and DPS spec on that same character. And occasionally I do -- I want to dabble in the different abilities that the spec has to offer. I want to try tanking and see if it's right for me, but I don't want it to be all I'm about. I want to be able to heal the occasional heroic for my guild and friends as the need arises. But at the same time, I also want to be able to head into Tol Barad and run my dailies solo as a boomkin. There are just so many possibilities and options there in that one character. It seems so painfully limiting that I can't enjoy it all.

The triple spec doesn't seem like a gamebreaking change; it seems like a logical next (and final) step. After all, each of our characters has access to three separate talent trees -- we should be able to better enjoy the variety that Blizzard offers us. Afraid that will break encounters? Then limit us. Put a cooldown on switching between specs. Change the triple spec mechanic such that each spec has to be in a different tree than the one before. There are plenty of options here for Blizzard to limit the negative consequences of a triple spec while still allowing us all to enjoy the benefits.

Introducing a triple spec option offers a terrific opportunity for Blizzard. It creates a brand new money sink (and with Cataclysm-induced inflation, the game is really hurting for a new one). It gives players more options -- in a good way. There are potential negatives, but the negatives are nothing that Blizzard can't design into the triple spec mechanism itself. After all, Blizzard is in full control here: That slippery slope is only as slippery as Blizzard wants to allow it to be.


World of Warcraft: Cataclysm has destroyed Azeroth as we know it; nothing is the same! In WoW Insider's Guide to Cataclysm, you can find out everything you need to know about WoW's third expansion, from leveling up a new goblin or worgen to breaking news and strategies on endgame play.

Filed under: News items, The Daily Blues

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