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Posts with tag class-balance

Spiritual Guidance: What few shadow priest highlights BlizzCon 2010 could scrape together

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Spiritual Guidance for discipline, holy and shadow priests. Even weeks when your shadowy messiah, Fox Van Allen, is nursing one heck of a headache -- along with, presumably, everyone else who's still suffering from the non-stop party atmosphere of BlizzCon 2010.

Let's start by saying that BlizzCon 2010 was an absolute blast. I met most of the WoW Insider crew, got to smell Mike Sacco's hair yet again, got some amazing swag and got to eat at Jack in the Box no less than five times. The best part, though, was probably meeting Orkchop (pictured above with WoW Insider's moonkin blogger Tyler Caraway, who can only aspire to be as amazing as Orkchop). The dude is an internet celebrity. For real.

But enough about how awesome Orkchop is. Let's talk shadow priests, and how awesome they are.

Now, I'm not good at sugar-coating things, so I'll just come out with it: BlizzCon 2010 was pretty disappointing in terms of World of Warcraft-related content. The biggest news out of the convention was the new loading screen for Cataclysm. Really. That was the big news. Seriously. And it's just a palette-shifted version of the Sindragosa loading screen.

Despite the lack of earth-shattering news, I made sure to take note of all the shadow priest action. There wasn't a heck of a lot of it, but what little ground was covered was hugely important to the future of the spec. The good, the bad and the non-answers -- we'll go over it all after the break.

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Filed under: Priest, BlizzCon, (Priest) Spiritual Guidance

Class balance from 1 to 80 getting developer attention

If you've played World of Warcraft for any length of time, you've probably heard the refrain that game balance is most important at endgame. Whatever endgame happens to be at that time (level 60, originally; level 85 in Cataclysm), the idea is that a little weirdness in talents, abilities, survivability or damage output as you level up isn't as important as making sure things are working properly at maximum level. While it may still be true, recent forum posts indicate that the leveling game and even the current, soon-to-be-moribund maximum level of 80 are seeing more balancing passes now than one might expect.

Ghostcrawler - Re: Question about design priority
We are going to spend some effort adjusting numbers for 1-80. It's not as big a priority as 85 because frankly, more players care about balance at 85 than they do lower level balance. As some folks have pointed out, inexperienced players almost by definition, don't place a premium on balance, and experienced players tend to not worry about balance much until they're at max level since things are changing so quickly.

Rather than adjusting everything independently, we tend to focus on max level and then work backwards from there. It doesn't help to nerf say rogue damage by 5% from level 1-60 if we then find we also need to nerf it at level 85 and then buff the 1-60 numbers to compensate.

There is some goofy stuff going on at lower level, but we'll get it all straightened out. After spending so much effort revamping the old zones and quests, we don't want the leveling experience to be an odd one.



I wouldn't call it a change of direction, as Blizzard has never said it doesn't adjust lower levels, and clearly a great deal of Cataclysm's focus has been on content for leveling players, but it does show a willingness to make changes in the face of oddities of design. (The original poster notes things like rogues soloing Scarlet Monastery while level-appropriate.) With more people than ever leveling through battlegrounds or the dungeon finder, the lower-level experience is actually pretty compelling and important. It's good to see some design time aimed at fixing its problems.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, News items, Cataclysm

Wrath Retrospective: What we learned from death knights


With the final content patch of this expansion on our doorstep and Cataclysm following close behind, we'll be taking the next several weeks to look back on Wrath of the Lich King and everything that made it what it is, for better or for worse, in Wrath Retrospective.

Wrath of the Lich King
is coming to an end, and with it one of the largest experiments that Blizzard has ever done in the history of WoW. At the onset of this expansion, we were all introduced to a new class; the death knight. The addition of a new class has major complications on the game as a whole: how they fit into PvE, how they work in PvP, what buffs and debuffs they bring, what roles they fill, what unique utility that they provide. All of these things have changed the face of the game as we know it. though fairly new arrivals, death knights have been integrated into the game almost seamlessly; the craters that they made when they first arrived, however, are still highly visible to those that know where to look.

There were a lot of misconceptions about death knights when they were first released. Once they were announced, Blizzard classified them as being a hero class, not to be confused with your ordinary, run-of-the-mill class. To many people, this caused worry that death knights would be grossly overpowered and far superior to all of the others. Blizzard was quick to point out that this was not the case, but it did little to assuage many of the fears that players had. Still, death knights have had their ups and their downs all throughout this expansion, and if that is not a case for removing then from hero status then I don't know what is.

What can we learn from death knights? What has all of the work done with the significant re-balancing changes and the major talent changes taught us about WoW in general? How can we apply that knowledge to all of the other classes in the game? That is what I wish to explore to day, and I hope that you will join me.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Death Knight, Wrath of the Lich King

Balancing class strength and flavor

One of the things I hear a lot from other tanks (especially paladin tanks) is how much they envy Charge, and especially being able to Charge in combat. "Man, I'd give up X for Charge." Usually what they want to give up is their shield throw, or their AoE taunt, which of course is not a terribly compelling idea: warriors have parallels for these abilities and charge isn't one of them. Heroic Throw is our weaker form of Avenger's Shield and Challenging Shout is our stronger but longer cooldown AoE taunt. As soon as they gave up Righteous Defense (which rocks on the Lich King fight, btw) they'd just say "Man, I'd give up X for Challenging Shout" anyway. If warriors actually managed to give up Shockwave for Consecration they'd want it back in a week.

What it ultimately comes down to is the difference between a necessary ability and one that is useful but not necessary. You also need to take iconic roles into account. I doubt many would support giving warriors Blessing of Kings, Blessing of Sanctuary, Lay on Hands, the paladin system of Auras, or what have you. The ability to die without taking equipment damage via Divine Intervention? How much, exactly, is Charge worth and if it's so pivotal to tanking why are you rolling a paladin to tank instead of a warrior? How do we keep classes compelling and interesting while giving them the tools to do the same job?

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

Tom Chilton explains early WoW class balance (or lack thereof)

We see a fair amount of pining for "the way things used to be" in this community -- rose-colored hindsight that is, by all accounts, horribly wrong. Maybe you enjoyed the sense of wonder upon going through the game the first time. That's completely understandable. But no one really enjoyed running Molten Core. Or the old honor system. Or the horrible class balance and several patently useless talent trees at launch.

Speaking of, I wonder if there's anybody that could shed some light on that last bit. Maybe Tom Chilton, the lead Game Director could, in his latest interview on the five-year anniversary mini-site.

As it turns out, Chilton was brought in in early 2004 to work on the PvP portion of the game, but ended up handling a lot more when the honor system was put on hold to handle more pressing concerns, like making gameplay interesting.
"From April until the game shipped, the vast majority of my time was spent working on the design for the auction house, the mail system, and implementing the talent trees for every class. I was the only person available to do that -- our other class designer, Kevin Jordan, was mainly focused on ensuring that all of the classes had spells and abilities up to level 60, and managing the flow of when you'd get which ability. Kevin and I, and Rob Pardo, and Mike Heiberg from the StarCraft team, all worked on that part of the game. It was exciting, but it was weird -- my experience with some of the classes was making a character of that class on an internal server, playing it up to level 10 to get a feel for how the class played, and starting to make 60 levels worth of talents. A lot of my early experience was trying to get familiar with every class."
Kind of explains a lot, doesn't it? Like Lacerate, for example. People who complain about balance nowadays really have no idea how bad it used to be, or how much Blizzard's process for fixing it has improved. Chilton goes into more detail about WoW's early development in his full interview on the Battlecry site.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Interviews

Breakfast Topic: The effect of nerfs and buffs

A question for the readership this morning (well, two) -- is a recent nerf to a specific class a strong incentive against playing it for you? Conversely, does a buff to a class make you more likely to play it?

Blizzard's observed in the past that there's often a correlation between the perception of a class as overpowered and the number of people who choose to play it (witness the proliferation of rogues in classic WoW, for example), so it seems fair to say that at least a portion of the player base's class choice is impacted by the conclusion they reach on design decisions. Then again, my own experience in-game -- and the pattern of comment votes here on WoW.com concerning class changes -- leads me to believe that yo-yoing between classes based on which one is doing "best" at any given time is not the overwhelming trend. The Warcraft Census' numbers on class population also seem to be evening out, slowly but surely, from a little bit over 6 months ago (which was itself an improvement over very lopsided numbers in favor of death knights and paladins shortly after Wrath went live). This would seem to suggest that, over the long term, people continue to play the class they like most for reasons that survive design changes. Or is it just that each character represents such a significant time investment that most people don't think it's worth it to switch mains?

I'm sure that arena and PvP as a whole wind up driving a portion of this, but what impact do class nerfs and buffs really have? If your main was ever nerfed, did you wind up playing a different toon, or did it just not matter that much to you? If your main was buffed, was it genuinely more fun to play?

Filed under: Breakfast Topics

Upcoming class and item balance changes

There has been a lot of good discussion lately concerning various aspects of the DPS status quo. Some classes are putting out too much compared to their cloth counterparts, and others have suddenly found themselves too powerful in certain areas of the game. Blizzard recognizes this, and this evening the Lead System Designer, Ghostcrawler, came out and enumerated a few things Blizzard believes are true.

Ghostcrawler has left the door open to these class and item balance issues being fixed (if Blizzard decides to pursue such fixes) in either a hotfix or through an upcoming patch. Chief among these changes are an increase in warlock DPS, a decrease in rogue DPS, a change in protection warriors to limit their utility in PvP, and refinements to Icecrown Citadel weapon procs.

When looking over this laundry list of areas to change, it's important to remember that Ghostcrawler is not promising a fix, and that he and his team are not ready to share specifics. He has not promised you the pony, so don't be mad if some of these changes don't happen.

Ghostcrawler's full statement after the break.

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Filed under: Patches, News items

The argument for paladin stances

Righteous Defense lays out an intriguing argument for an idea that I still personally can't get behind: paladin stances. The recent changes around patch 3.3 have shined a light on paladin versatility, and basically, paladins are forced to pay the hybrid tax three times over -- because they can do it all without limiting themselves, they can't do anything as well as other classes. So RD makes the suggestion: instead of letting paladins have all of their spells under any aura, it's time to narrow things down a bit. Devotion Aura becomes tanking stance, gets Righteous Fury's threat bonus added to it, and enabling it makes pallies lose some other abilities (Avenger's Shield is RD's suggestion). Retribution Aura becomes a DPS "stance," with added benefits and costs, and so on. By forcing paladins into a playstyle, you can give them extra power, because you've taken away versatility.

Unfortunately for those in favor, I don't think it'll ever happen. First of all, we already have a class in the game that uses stances, and I think that this type of gameplay is too close for Blizzard's comfort to implement in the same way on paladins -- they want the classes to play different. Second, the paladin class design has always focused on the versatility of being a hybrid. While paladins may want to limit themselves to see buffs, Blizzard has never shown an inclination to limit pallies' versatility just to make them more powerful. I like the idea of Righteous Fury's buff getting linked up to something else (it definitely seems like it's out there on its own as an arbitrary tanking buff), but paladins getting a fully implemented stance system doesn't seem likely at all.

Filed under: Paladin, Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Raiding, Classes, Buffs

Ghostcrawler on balancing and the community reaction


One of the most, if not the most, contentious issues in all of WoW is the near constant balancing act of the systems design team. These are the guys responsible for virtually every class ability and talent nerf, and their herald, Ghostcrawler, is oftentimes the sacrificial messenger which all the hate and vileness of the internet is spewed forth onto.

But it's all good, because he's also the leader of the systems design team and leaders often have to place themselves front and center to take the worst of the damage. And the WoW community can do a lot of damage.

Recently it was discussed how and why the community reacts to class changes, in particular nerfs, and why Blizzard does what it does when it comes to them. While most of this information is not new, it is interesting to see how clearly the message has developed since Ghostcrawler began posting on the Wrath beta forums over a year ago.

After the break we'll take a look at what Blizzard has to say on class balancing and the community's reaction. We'll also pick apart a few statements and look at alternative ways which can accomplish the same goals.

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Filed under: Warrior, Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Buffs, Death Knight

Blizzard to focus on battlegrounds more

Ghostcrawler has posted a little paragraph on the forums, reaffirming something we've already heard from Blizzard: that in the past, they've spent more time on Arenas to the detriment of battlegrounds, and that battlegrounds are going to be gaining a little more focus in the future. They've already started, actually, with the Isle of Conquest in 3.2, but GC says there's even more on the table, and that future plans will be revealed at BlizzCon.

He also brings up another good point, however: in terms of class balance, Arenas are a much more striking example of imbalances than battlegrounds are. Battlegrounds have all sorts of things going on, and so you don't get as good a picture of just how the different classes work with and against each other as you do in Arenas. And so, if you're a dev trying to figure out class balances, of course you'll spend more time looking at the Arena gameplay than the BGs. GC also says that the majority of issues in BGs tend to be map-based rather than class imbalances, which is really a whole other science. Not that BGs aren't relevant to how the classes work, just that there are many more variables in there than the relative vacuum chamber of Arenas.

All good points. I'm a fan of battlegrounds much more than Arenas, but I don't particularly feel that Blizzard has ignored them necessarily. The real problem, to my mind, with BGs is simply how faction imbalanced they are: it seems like on every realm in every given BG, one side always seems to have the upper hand, for whatever reason. Sometimes it's a population problem, sometimes it's a map issue. But GC is right: those problems are more pressing than class balance in the BGs.

Filed under: Horde, Alliance, Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Odds and ends, Blizzard, PvP, Classes, Battlegrounds, Arena

Ghostcrawler on class representation and balance

Ghostcrawler has a nice exchange on the forums (and it's not marked "Not Tracked", so you know he wants us reading this one) about how much of a role class representation actually plays in class balance. Obviously, balance itself plays the biggest role in class balance -- if (using GC's completely hypothetical example) Feral Druids are overpowered as tanks, then Blizzard would have to look into nerfing Feral Druids.

But what if Feral Druids only make up a small percentage of the tanks in Ulduar? Should Blizzard nerf the 5% of tanks that are Druids down until they're only 2% of the population? Just because classes are overpowered doesn't mean that actual class populations are, and all of these things go into the mix when Blizzard makes decisions about how to balance the classes.

Look at Hunters as well -- just last week we talked about how the class population is falling off, and yet they're one of the top three classes played on both factions. So should Blizzard buff or nerf them?

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Filed under: Druid, Hunter, Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Instances, Classes, Death Knight, Forums

ESL interviews Tom Chilton


Jay Harding from ESL TV was able to catch up to Blizzard Lead Designer and the resident PvP guru Tom Chilton at the World of Warcraft Arena Tournament Regional Finals in Cologne, Germany last June and got to squeeze a decent length interview. Because of the focus of the event, Chilton talked a lot about PvP changes, particularly the impact of the upcoming Patch 3.2. Chilton, also known as Kalgan, expressed Blizzard's intent on trying to keep different comps viable while taking small steps to curb the dominance of extremely popular comps such as RMP and cleave, which he stopped short of calling a "faceroll comp" (still goes to show he was thinking it, though!). Highlights from the video include:
  • Resilience - the change to Resilience in Patch 3.2 will make the greatest impact in Arena PvP, slowing down matches and likely impacting the effectivity of "burst" comps.
  • The nerf to the 2v2 bracket is intended to equalize class representation since 2v2 isn't always a good bracket for all classes. Chilton mentions that "as the bracket size comes down, you lose a lot of those different synergies between different classes"
  • Chilton says, "there's room for competitive Battlegrounds," and that "rated Battlegrounds is something that (Blizzard) has been thinking about for quite a while." He says they'll provide more information in the future.
  • Isle of Conquest is intended to be epic, they want to "bring back a little of that crazy, big battle feel" and intergrating some features of existing Battlegrounds with new ones.
  • Kalgan and his girlfriend will kick your butt in 2v2.
It's a nice interview for ESL's WoW Wednesdays, and while it doesn't give too much information we don't already know (especially since you obviously read WoW.com...), it's always good to hear news straight from the proverbial horse's mouth. This actually got me all excited for the PvP Panel during BlizzCon, hopefully we'll hear a bunch of new stuff there.

Filed under: Fan stuff, Blizzard, Interviews

The dying Hunter?

The folks over at Ten Ton Hammer have a post with some anecdotal data about Hunters -- they claim that Azeroth's ranged DPS pet class is on a decline lately, and they've got only some guild application numbers to back the theory up. Mem over there says that there are a few diehard Hunters still floating around, and lots of alts, but that as a class, it's fallen off in terms of popularity for sure.

Is he right? Fortunately, there's a site that tracks numbers (as reliably as you'll find for public information, anyway -- certainly Blizzard has access to much more information) on exactly that. WarcraftRealms' list of classes over time does prop the "declining Hunter" theory up -- as you can see (from both Alliance and Horde totals), Death Knights took a nice bite out of all the classes for a little while, and Hunters have been on a pretty steady slope down since mid-January, when patch 3.0.8 hit the realms. That, of course, was the harsh Beastmaster nerf, and ever since then, Hunters have had some real trouble recovering (not to mention that all class playtime is declining in general -- despite their slope downwards, Hunters are still in the top three classes played anyway).

Is this the end of Hunters? Not at all -- Blizzard has already said that they are cyclical about balancing classes, and a heavy set of nerfs on one side of the cycle is usually accompanied by a burst of buffs on the other. Not to mention that the most interesting Hunter changes, the ammo revamp, hasn't yet found its way to the game. Reworking of ammo (in addition to some likely buffs there), will probably bring lots of Hunters back to the stables, so to speak. But it's true, Hunters are on a downward turn lately.

[via WoW LJ]

Filed under: Hunter, Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Odds and ends, Classes, Talents, Buffs

Groupcrafting: The art of getting a group together

Tales of the Aggronaut sent us this multipart guide he wrote on one of the things we all do in the game that might nevertheless be tough for a lot of people: actually getting a group together. It sounds like a simple thing (just ask people whether they want to group up or not), but as you probably know from experience, sometimes it can be pretty tough. So TotA set out, instead, to do a from-the-ground-up guide, from how to find and network with people in the game to how to build a group piece-by-piece.

And I like it a lot -- he starts with a preamble with some general networking tips, including finding social channels to join (many guilds and realms have a few social channels constantly filled with folks LFG or interested in playing socially) and putting together a solid friends list, then goes on to explain how to communicate (probably a great read for anyone in any part of the game) and then how to actually build a WoW group, from core classes to splitting up class roles. Very impressive -- while most veteran players have probably heard or done this stuff before, it's nice to see a clear, concise guide that starts at the beginning.

And it's even nicer to see a guide that emphasizes the social aspect of gameplay. Even here at WoW.com, we're all about gameplay tips, from profession insights to class balance discussion, but sometimes we overlook that to play a social game like World of Warcraft, you sometimes need to focus on social skills. As much as theorycrafting and gear upgrading can help, sometimes it's better to learn how to be friendly and social instead.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Tips, Fan stuff, Virtual selves, Instances, Raiding

Blizzard discusses the state of PvP


One thread over at the forums sparked quite a discussion when it asked what the problem was with World of Warcraft PvP. It's a pretty good question and definitely not something with a simple answer, but Ghostcrawler took up the task and addressed several issues in his usual forthcoming fashion. In a nutshell, Blizzard views the following issues as the primary problems of PvP:
  • Too much emphasis on Arenas and not enough on Battlegrounds.
  • Too much emphasis on 2s and not enough on 3s and 5s.
  • Not enough class / spec representation in Arena. Warlock, hunter and shaman numbers in particular are too low, but they're not the only ones.
  • Too fast-paced.
Ghostcrawler proceeded to explain the last point in detail, talking once again about burst damage and reiterating their intent that PvP should be a balance between damage, healing, and crowd control. He says that Blizzard plans to "add an extra GCD or two" in the small window where a player can either be healed to full or fall to enemy fire, allowing players to better use their full toolbox. Anyone who has ever played Arenas should know that that's a pretty tall order.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, PvP, Forums, Battlegrounds, Arena

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