In just a few moments, Blizzard's second developer Q&A hosted via CoverItLive will begin. Last time around, players were invited to ask questions about all things Mists of Pandaria, and it really went quite well. This afternoon, in a session timed to fit European players' schedules, the Q&A will sharpen its focus and discuss class balance and design. The Q&A will be hosted and moderated by Blizzard Entertainment community managers Zarhym and Bashiok with developers Celestalon, Ghostcrawler, Koraa, Watcher, Wradyx, and Xelnath in attendance as panelists.
If you wish to attend the event, the CoverItLive client has been embedded behind the cut below. To participate, you can log into CoverItLive with your Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, or OpenID credentials. If you don't want to use any of those, you are allowed to sign in as a guest. If you're unable to attend to event at all, don't fret: we'll have a transcript for you right here on WoW Insider once the panel has concluded.
Update: The Q&A is now live! Update #2: The Q&A has ended and our transcript will be available shortly. Update #3:Here's our transcript!
Hot off the heels of its wildly successful Mists of Pandaria live Q&A, the WoW dev team plans to hold another online Q&A, this time on the subject of class design and balance. Community Manager Zarhym's just announced that it will take place on Wednesday, Nov. 9, from 10:45 a.m. to noon PST. The chat will be held on CoverItLive, hosted by Bashiok and Zarhym. Answering questions will be Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street along with Celestalon, Koraa, Watcher, Wradyx, and Xelnath.
As with the last Q&A, the chat will use the CoverItLive system, so make sure you're signed up and familiar with it if you want to ask a question. Check after the break for the text of the announcement.
Soon. This used to be Blizzard's favorite word, a nebulous term that assured us that they were working hard on things. Blizzard always used the phrase "when it's ready" to describe something they were working on. Historically, getting things ready could take a long time. Years, even. This was the Blizzard we all came to know and love. They took their time with things, but at least you knew that they weren't going to release anything half-baked. 'Soon®' was actually a very reassuring word to us.
This time around, though, 'soon' is actually November 13, Wrath of the Lich King's shipping date. The announcement came as a surprise to some of us, specially those who were in the Beta and knew a lot of the classes still needed balancing. But a confirmed release date is always exciting and I suppose that overshadowed whatever doubts we might have had about Wrath being ready in time. And then yesterday, Koraa posted something over at the Hunter forums that greatly disturbed me. Talking about Trap Mastery, he said: "this will now be the 41-point Survival talent. Granted, not very sexy for a 41-pointer but we'll do some changes there in a future patch (after WOLK ships)."
Did I read that right? Did Koraa actually admit that they'll be shipping Wrath of the Lich King with a Hunter talent they know isn't ready for primetime? Didn't he essentially say, "we know it doesn't work, but we'll fix it after we release it"? I don't know about you, but that just doesn't sound like the Blizzard we've all come to know and love. Even Ghostcrawler mentioned that the 51-point talent Riptide wasn't going to ship with the intended sounds and animation. Am I supposed to be apprehensive now? Because honestly, I am.
In an effort to further balance the game, Koraa levitated over to the PriestBeta forums to drop the bomb that Blizzard was canning all Priest racial abilities in an upcoming Beta build. This comes long after Fear Ward, formerly a Dwarf racial ability for Priests, was made baseline and trainable at Level 20. However, Koraa makes a few important points, the most notable being that Desperate Prayer, the Human and Dwarf Priest racial ability, will become the 11-point talent for Holy. Holy Nova, on the other hand, will become baseline. Desperate Prayer will likely be retuned to better fit an 11-point talent (it currently has a 10 minute cooldown).
Koraa adds that the formerly Undead Priest racial Devouring Plague will also become a baseline spell, with a reduced cooldown of 30 seconds (down from 3 minutes) and "greatly reduced" mana cost. The Draenei racial ability Symbol of Hope will be renamed Hymn of Hope and also become a baseline ability, now restoring 5% of total mana every 2 seconds for 8 seconds to the priest's party members. All other racial abilities, from Starshards to Shadowguard, will be removed from the game. Enjoy them now before Patch 3.0 hits!
Since the addiiton of Tricks of the Trade to the Rogue repertoire in the Wrath of the Lich King Beta, Hunters have felt a little slighted. Not only did Rogues get Misdirection, a somewhat defining Hunter ability in PvE, they got Misdirection on a much shorter cooldown that also augmented the tank's damage for even more threat. Koraabrought good news late last night, mentioning that Misdirection's cooldown will be lowered to 30 seconds (down from 2 minutes) to match the cooldown of Tricks of the Trade.
While Misdirection still doesn't have any secondary effects like Tricks does, you have to consider the fact that it can be used at range which is a pretty big deal. While the abilities have similar effects, they'll be used for wholly different things. It's a threat management tool for Rogues, whereas it's a pulling ability for Hunters. The two abilities fill different roles despite their similarities. Hunter threat tends to have some pretty wild spikes sometimes, but I think they have all the threat management they need. Feign Death is on a 30 second cooldown, and the Rogue threat wipe is at 3 minutes.
We're a little miffed about recent priest changes here at WoW Insider. Both Holy and Shadow were worked over pretty well with the nerf bat in build 8926. Fortunately, Koraa (class designer) has announced some upcoming changes that are, for the most part, buffs, and that show that they're definitely thinking about the class. Let's see what's behind the curtain.
Holy Concentration will "scale with spell crit instead of just a flat %." I read this as meaning that instead of being a 6% chance to gain HC, the chance will be some fraction of your Holy crit chance. But why not just make it a 50% (or whatever) chance on heal crit?
Divine Hymn now has an HoT in addition to the CC. This makes it more obviously a clutch spell, and I think it will be handy.
Blessed Recovery is getting buffed to "roll" like Ignitesdo used to: each new crit will add to the HoT and refresh the duration.
Lightwell is gaining the ability to show how many charges are left on it by clicking it. OMG, finally! This spell is now totally worth taking. Please scrap Lightwell already, people.
Scattered Shots occasionally wanders around collecting arrows and bullets when they totally miss the target.
The key to understanding hunters in the beta is to look at the big picture. This is something affecting all classes currently, but I'm going to discuss it in relation to hunters in particular. Beta testing buffs and nerfs ultimately come down to a matter of perspective -- do you see your class changes happening in isolation, for now and forever as long as you and your pet shall live? Or are your particular class changes happening as part of an ever-evolving system involving you, me and everyone else over time?
The class designers have filtered out a little more information regarding our Mind Flay upgrades, and it's very pleasant to hear. In addition to the higher coefficient on Mind Flay and gaining an ability to crit, Shadow Power will give Mind Flay 100% bonus damage crits, rather than the baseline 50%. This is very good news, because 50% crits just don't cut it anymore. Almost everybody has 100% bonus crit damage via talents, and not having the option to spec that way is quite a hurdle when you're trying to be competitive. Very good news indeed.
In less game changing but still exciting news, Mind Flay and other beam-type spells (Drain Life, Drain Soul, etc) will be getting a graphical overhaul. Perhaps they'll be more like Penance's fancy missiles? Or maybe they'll just be more of a beam than "behold my blue/green/purple/yellow squiggly line of doom!" Either way, I'm happy to hear it. I'm a firm believer in 'shinier is better.'
Hot on the heels of Blizzard asking Warlocks for feedback on Metamorphosis, the Wrath development team shows how amazingly fast they work and how they actually listen to players. Koraa and Ghostcrawler materialized into the WarlockBeta forums to announce -- simultaneously on separate threads -- that Metamorphosis was going to change significantly in an upcoming Beta build, with the changes happily incorporating most of the feedback that players threw in.
First of all, Metamorphosis will no longer replace a summoned demon -- a no-brainer feature that should have been there from the start considering that most talents in the tree buff up the Warlock's demon! It will also now increase armor by 600%, up from 360%, a coefficient that scales better with a Warlock's base armor of... cloth. Significantly, the demon form will now also increases all damage by 40%, after players realized that turning into a demon with many melee abilities and being cut off from normal spells actually reduced their DPS. Speaking of normal spells, Warlocks in demon form can now cast those, too. These changes come in addition to a few others that Blizzard is working on such as a few demon form-exclusive abilities -- and it seems like Demonology will finally be truly, diabolically fun. [EDIT: In my excitement I forgot to mention that the spell was reverted to a 5-minute cooldown and the form lasts 45 seconds. Still awesome!]
I griped about this on the last Blood Pact along with a throng of other Warlocks, and it seems like Blizzard has heard us -- Corruption will now be baseline instant cast! It's a change that has been a long time coming, and it's finally turning real. Improved Corruption will instead increase the damage of Corruption by up to 20%, effectively negating Empowered Corruption and hopefully freeing up space for a new, exciting talent or at least more points to use in an already bloated tree.
Shadow Priests have been eagerly anticipating some love in the Wrath Beta for a long time now, and we've finally received some feedback beyond a pat on the head and a "hold on a bit." Koraa has just posted some great news in a thread started by the ShadowPriest.com community.
While it won't fix all things, it's definitely a start, and a good one: Mind Flay's coefficient will be raised by roughly 30% "to start," and it will gain the ability to crit. Yes, that's right. The coefficient will be de-gutted, and it will benefit from crit. After months of nothing, this is like a ray of sunshine from the heavens. Koraa also mentions that they'll be looking at the rest of the Shadow tree, but states that most people agree the tree itself is fine, the issue is the Shadow spells themselves, which I will more or less agree with. While some new spells would be nice, the class is plenty functional with what they have assuming the numbers will be tuned properly, and our gear matches up with that.
Hopefully we'll be seeing the new and improved Mind Flay in the next beta build, but it may take a little longer than that since it will be a complete rebuild of the spell. As soon as it's in, I'll be back here raving about it, I promise.
The state of Hunters in PvP is perhaps one of the most debated subjects in WoW PvP. Some call Hunters overpowered for their dispelling Arcane Shot (which is going away in Wrath, to be sent to the non-damaging Tranquilizing Shot), while others point to their low Arena representation and the ease of using line of sight to negate most of their DPS and Abolish Poison to get rid of their main PvP utility as proof that they need buffs. Regardless, even the devs acknowledge that Hunters probably need some help in PvP, and class designer Koraa recently spoke on the subject on the Beta forums. In his post, he covered the problems he sees Hunters having, and how Blizzard will be helping with those moving forward into Wrath.
Unfortunately, his solutions seem confused in and of themselves. They involve giving Hunters more melee attack power (instead of more way to break from melee so they can use their ranged weapon) and a variety of talents scattered around many trees in such a way that it will be difficult for a solid PvP build to get them all. And, as I mentioned in a post yesterday, they still aren't giving pets resilience.
Other Hunters such as Megatf have done an excellent job responding to some of Koraa's points in the thread itself, but I'd like to address and respond to the post myself in this week's column, and see how they stack up to the problems Hunters face in small scale Arena PvP.
A while back, class designer Koraa told Warlocks that their pets would be getting their master's hit percentage. Today, he confirmed the same for Hunter pets. This should definitely be a godsend for raid level DPSers of both classes. Conventional wisdom is that reaching your personal hit cap is pretty much the single best way to increase your personal DPS total, and being able to do the same for pets should only provide a noticable increase to DPS, as well as keep any special buffs or debuffs said pets apply coming in with a minimum of interruption.
Unfortunately, something else Koraa said on the same post is a little less exciting -- resilience is nowhere on the table for being shared. They believe that they currently have the right amount of survivability for pets. In a group situation, you or your group should be healing the pet, and in Arena play, any time spent killing the pet provides a benefit in the form "crowd control" while the DPS is focus firing your pet.
Unfortunately, as the player of a level 70 Hunter and Warlock who have both seen extensive 2v2 Arena play, I'm not sure it's that simple.
Blizzard has been rather vocal in the community lately, a nice change from the long bouts of silence that usually echoes in the official forums. In the Wrath of the Lich King forums, particularly, Blizzard has been wonderfully candid. One blue response addressed the apparent "bloat" in the new talent trees, a sentiment I've heard more than a few times, including from our readers.
Koraa says that bloat is another term for "I can't have everything I want" and that Blizzard actually intends to make every class tree feel a little "bloated", forcing players to make tough yet interesting decisions regarding the talents they take and, ultimately, the talents they sacrifice. I said as much in a response to one reader, noting that talents look so good now that it's hard to ignore a lot of them.
This is actually a good thing. This allows for creative gameplay and diversity in builds... although of course, with millions of players looking to min/max, I have no doubt that there will eventually be cookie-cutter specs. If anything, it might be what Blizzard is trying to avoid. It would indeed be refreshing to see a little less homogeniety in viable specs in the game. Looking at the Wrath talent trees, do you think that they're bloated? Are there too many good talents to pass up on? In this case, I think, a little bloat is perfectly fine.
A change went in with the last Wrath Beta patch that's deceptively simple, but may have far reaching ramifications for many of the classes in game: Both energy and mana regenerate on a per second basis, rather than the previous ticks. Instead of a chunk of mana or energy every few seconds, you'll now see a steady trickle reappearing constantly at your bar (outside of the 5 second rule for casters, of course). As a friend put it, "Woah. It feels like I am playing Diablo II now."
You can see an example of the change in action in the video above from Youtube user koblec.
The energy change should be especially helpful for Rogues and Feral Druids in that they won't have to obsessively time their attacks to the rhythm of the energy tick system, and should be able to use extra energy from talents in an easier and more fluid manner. Likewise, mana and energy users alike won't be waiting for that one last tick to cast a crucial spell or ability, but can cast as soon as they have the mana.
Plus, it's honestly sort of empowering to see the mana bar running up like it does. Technically, I'm not regenerating mana any faster, but watching that blue bar go up so quickly makes it feel like I am, and makes it much easier to tell when I'm stuck in the 5 second rule, besides.
Of course, as with all changes, this is Beta, so things can change, and Koraa is asking for focused feedback and bug reports on the concept, but it's something I'm certainly hoping makes it live.
Scattered Shots is for Hunters. Your host this week will be Daniel Whitcomb, who will continue his foray into the wide world of Wrath of the Lich King talents.
Beastmastery has pretty much dominated the world of Hunters in Burning Crusade, with Serpent's Swiftness alone nearly singlehandedly allowing for the most efficient damaging shot rotations possible -- With a little bit of wrangling between haste and ranged weapon speed, of course. While the changes to Auto Shot clipping in Wrath will likely make shot rotations as we know them a thing of the past, Beastmastery is still looking to be a very viable tree in Wrath of the Lich King, thanks to some clever synergies and some amazing pet buffs.