Ghostcrawler posted another edition of the Dev Watercooler last week, and this one talked about the Role of Role. I know, it is kind of a funny sounding title, but it makes sense once you think about it for a bit. He talks about the part (role) that the different specs that classes have (role) play in the game and different ways to think about balancing them.

Mists of Pandaria, priest talent tree, class roles
Another interesting thing to consider is how all this will exactly fall our when talent trees become much simpler with Mists of Pandaria

This has always been a very interesting topic for me, since I enjoy looking at how different games balance gameplay for players that like different things, and how classes are balanced or not. Even if I don’t agree with the way that some things are balanced or not, it is always interesting to know the thought process that goes into the balancing act.

The specific balancing that Ghostcrawler goes on to talk about are the classes that have multiple different DPS specs that all fit the same overall role. By this he means mages and warlocks are all ranged caster DPS, hunters are all ranged physical DPS, rogues are all melee DPS. It can also apply the warriors and death knights that are not tanks as both alternate specs are melee DPS.

He talks about several different possible models that can be used when looking at these classes and what they mean. I want to talk about a few of the ones that he mentions here and then provide some of my own.

You can find the whole article here: Dev Watercooler – The Role of Role , but make sure you come back and check out the discussion about it here.

Model One- Everyone is Equal all the time

This basically means all the specs put out the same DPS in all situations, and therefore have much the same effect in each spec. Instead of frost mages doing less damage but having more control, and fire doing more but having less control, all do about the same thing. He ends the description with a comment about it being more balanced, but does it lack depth or flavour and is it fun?

My comment there would be absolutely is would not be fun, and it is a complete design disaster. If every spec did the same thing, then why have specs at all. In fact going further if all the classes have to be balanced to each other, why have more than 5 classes at all? Why not just have tank, healer, caster DPS, melee DPS, and ranged physical DPS. All done.

The fact is we all like difference, as much as we complain about it, therefore the classes should all be different and do different things. The same goes for specs, each should be significantly different from one another.

Model Two and Three – situations and utility

The next two models I like better than the first. They are both very similar in that each spec offers something different. In one case you use the spec to match the situation, meaning if you need burst you go with a burst spec, if you need control you go to a control spec. The other option is specs providing utility and going with the additional buffs or options that you need.

I really like both of these options and in fact this was the case back in previous expansions, especially Burning Crusade. There you had to bring certain classes to certain fights or raids to get the buffs that they provided. While some players didn’t like this as it meant certain classes were not needed for certain fights, it certainly made each class and spec feel very different from each other.

Model Four – PVP and PVE

This model proposes a best for PVP spec and best for PVE spec. This is one that I really like, and wish that it would go a step further. Why not have the spec, talents, and spells all be PVP and PVE specific? It has been done in other games and works very well.

Having abilities and talents being the same between the PVP and PVE game is a constant source of complaint for both types of players. At one time or another every single class has had an ability buffed or nerfed due to the effect it has had on PVE or PVP making the ability less useful than it was before, just to fix an issue on one side of the game. Just because an ability is too good in PVP why does it need to be nerfed for PVE as well, if it isn’t causing an issue there. Easy answer, it shouldn’t be. Just make the PVP and PVE meta games completely separate.

Model Five – Don’t have multiple DPS roles

This one really scares me as it talks about either having classes that have one spec or all classes having all specs. Both are really bad ideas. One direction means that Rogues for example are all the same there is no difference in spec between them other than how you spend your talents. The other direction means that all of a sudden rogues get a DPS spec, healing spec, tanking spec, and ranged spec. So every single class is a hybrid. Sounds like crap to me. Luckily Ghostcrawler flat out states that this isn’t the kind of change you can make to an established game, thank god.

While all of Ghostcrawlers models offer different ways of looking at the issue, there is at least one that is missed completely that I can think of, and some additional thoughts about the specs as an overall theory.

Messiah's Model - Ignore Balance for Specs – Kind of…

I have argued for this in the past and I still think it is a good solid idea. Hybrid classes are a great thing for those players that want the ability to flip back and forth between things, however they should not be the normal. They also should have to give up something to gain that ability.

To me that has always meant that if you play a class that can do multiple things then they do each of them worse than a class that does one thing. Going back to the basics there are essentially 3 different class types: tanks, healers, DPS. You could then expand DPS to be make up of 3 additional sub-types called: caster DPS, melee DPS, and ranged physical DPS. The thought being that the more things you can do the less effectively you can do each one. Say for example a 10% hit for each additional major spec you can do and a 5% for each sub-spec you can do.

This would mean something DPS falling out like this for some class examples:

  • 100% damage – Rogues, Hunters, Mages, Warlocks
  • 90% damage – Warriors, Death Knights, Priests
  • 85% damage – Shaman
  • 80% Damage – Paladins
  • 75% Damage - Druids

Their healing and Tanking would roll out being similarly adjusted based on the number of classes that can do it. This means that since there are no classes that can only tank that warriors and death knights 90% becomes the 100% standard, paladins move to 90% and Druids to 85%.

While I am sure there would be complaints about this type of system as well, why wouldn’t it be considered the fairest? The more things you can do, the less capable you are at each of them.

It could also bring back some balance to the numbers of players that you see as each class. Where currently you predominantly see hybrid classes as no one likes getting pigeon holed into one role. If you could do that role better than everyone else, those numbers would likely come up.

class census at level 85
As you can see single role classes such as the rogue and warlock are among the lowest played classes at level 85.

On an overall note about class specs, roles, and balance, I think that a bit too much goes into making them all even. There is no way to be exactly balanced in all situations; some classes by nature do better in certain fights. Some are able to move and do damage, others must be stationary, others rock at AOE, some at single target.

While it is frustrating to run into this in PVP situations, I have never been frustrated by it in PVE. PVE is all about finding ways around things, and adjusting as required. A little class imbalance doesn’t hurt all that bad other than on a few specific fights, but then it flips around on other fights as well making it all even out.

The place where classes not being balanced to a razors edge really hurts is in PVP and especially in the arenas. There it is easy to see the balance issues and each season a new team composition reigns supreme. Even when one combination doesn’t win everything, many times it is a rock / paper /scissors game of group comp A looses to group comp B 9 out of 10 times if they are equal ability. Both of those situations are badly wrong. In PVE you are never of no use, while in PVP there are times a whole class is completely hopeless in the arenas or the battlegrounds.

This goes back to my comment early about just making the PVP and PVE meta games completely separate and being done with it.

The Messiah has had his say, what about you? What are your thoughts about classes with multiple DPS specs and how they should be handled? How about classes with multiple different roles entirely? Post your comments below.

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Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Byron 1
Byron has been playing and writing about World of Warcraft for the past ten years. He also plays pretty much ever other Blizzard game, currently focusing on Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone, while still finding time to jump into Diablo III with his son.