Posted Wed, Aug 08, 2007 by Xerin
The class discussion was a one hour discussion about the changes to the various classes in World of Warcraft in the past, present, and future. A few details about upcoming changes in World of Warcraft: The Wrath of the Lich King was mentioned along with explanations of past changes.
Blizzard started things off with a little bit of the history behind how they created the current classes. This began by explaining how they wanted to keep their focus towards more traditional RPG based classes while having an option for players to enjoy more of the Warcraft III heroes that are so heavily entwined in the lore. Many of the heroes from Warcraft III didn’t make it, so they wanted to have that option available for the future.
Blizzard also explained showed their stance that more classes are not exactly better. Many MMORPG veterans will cheer at this statement as the more classes you add the less unique they become. Each class should be both unique and different enough that it’s fun to play.
Classes must also be balanced properly and meet a special balance criteria before they could be implemented into the game. The actual list that Blizzard gave is:
There is nothing surprising on this list other then Blizzard pretty much demanding that each class must be able to reach the maximum level solo. This means that on the way up to level 70 (and the upcoming 80) that a class shouldn’t ever need to group. Other then that, the rest are fairly standard.
Next Tom Chilton took the stage and began a discussion on the talent system and its origin. They wanted to find a way to customize characters in a way that was both fairly balanced (with no real way to ruin your character), unique, and interesting. The end result is, of course, the talent system we currently know.
They first showcased some of the older game mechanics put in for advancing your character as you leveled up. They first started with something that allowed you to assign stat points then they added in the ability to spend points to gain skills. They didn’t really like the way it was panning out, though.
So they went and looked at D2’s skill tree and choose a path that had both a limited pool of points along with mostly passive talents and a few powerful active talents that would more or less define the character. The end result is the talent system we currently have in the game.
Blizzard is currently looking at the alternative talent specializations and the related gear for them. They mentioned Shadow Priests, Feral Druids, and Protection Paladins who were mostly taking shared gear and nothing really in tune with their role. They are currently planning on expanding the itemization so that all specializations are full itemized, but they do have a few priorities.
They currently plan to increase the hit points of characters once again between levels 70 and 80. They find the increasing the amount of hit points to a certain point can make battles last long enough that they’re fun but not so long that players find them to be rather boring. That’s why you see a lot of stamina on the new gear from Outland.
Following the discussion on hit points, Blizzard went into how they looked at class balance. They want to make sure each class is balanced for solo, group, raid, and PvP. This ensures that each class is viable for all the different styles of play.
They are attempting to balance talent trees so that they are optimized in such a way that offspecs are viable in all styles of player. One example given was the Protection Warrior which currently isn’t very viable in PvP. They’re looking at ways of changing this to make these less common specs more fun to play and useful outside of certain niches like PvP or PvE.
Speaking of changing talents, they do not want to change the game so much that it “shocks the system”. In other words they do not want players feeling as if they’re playing an entirely new game due to changes to the game. That’s why many major talent changes are introduced over a period of time with lots of testing.
Afterwards, Kevin Jordon took the stage to discuss the past and future changes to the various classes in World of Warcraft.
Druids have been changed a lot since the launch of the game and now bear and cat forms are viable in gameplay. However, Druids are still healers and it’s important that they be able to heal even in a feral or balance spec. So they are always looking at ways to make one spec sort of compliment another. One change to make healing better for Druids is the upcoming ability to decurse/depoison in tree form.
Hunters originally found that they were relying on feign death for everything. Blizzard fixed this by making traps usable in combat which returned feign death to a threat wipe. Blizzard has also improved pet scaling and added in misdirection to give Hunters some raid utility.
With mages they want them to be the AoE (Area of Effect) DPS (Damage per Second) kings and not focus so much on single target DPS. They were given the water elemental ability along with spell steal and invisibility to help them stand out.
The most important addition to the Paladin class was the ability for them to be Horde playable. Blizzard wanted each spec to be viable and not just one or two specs (like how retribution is currently not as viable as Holy or Protection). Blizzard has noticed that the retribution tree to be rather lacking and are working on itemization to kind of help make Paladins have more viable DPS.
Shadow Priests have gone a long way from the start of the game, however there are some problems with the “holy trinity” which is Circle of Healing, Lightwell (LOL Well as shown on the monitors), and Spirit of Redemption. They are looking at making Circle of Healing and Lightwell more attractive while making Priests in general heal better in the future. The Discipline tree will also be looked at in the future.
Like the Paladin, one of the biggest changes to the Shaman was it being Alliance playable. However, one of the bigger problems was its ability to meld in with the Paladin so they had to balance totems, blessings, and auras. Blizzard also needed to look at the viability of totems vs. blessings which don’t need to be better then one another but instead work together nicely. One of the current problems is scaling, as they do not scale as well as others. It’s being looked at along with some form of high level crowd control ability.
Rogues are designed to have the most single target DPS but they currently do not have enough utility. They have already taken action by adding Improved Sap. Swords vs. Daggers are being looked at right now. They’ve also fixed the issue of PvP stunlock by adding additional health to everyone with the expansion.
Pet scaling and Demonology have already been handled. Blizzard isn’t very happy with the Warlock’s reliance on fear which isn’t always fun (especially for the people on the receiving end). A comment was made on how Warlocks are the best dueling class but WoW isn’t a dueling game.
Rage is more fun the more you get of it, but also becomes more unbalanced. The more damage you do the more rage you get meaning the more damage you can do. If you don’t do enough damage then you don’t get enough rage then you can’t really have fun. So they’re looking at more rage normalization. Blizzard is also looking at the need for lots of gear and respecs to do what they need to do (being best at DPS and best tanking). They want to find somewhere in between. Blizzard also do not like how Warriors are seen as Rogues in plate armor and are looking at balancing that as well.
Blizzard started off by talking about what exactly hero classes are. Hero classes are going to be your classic Warcraft III characters brought into WoW. Blizzard wants the hero classes to be unique and have a very epic feeling to them.
They looked at many ways for the hero classes to be handled:
Following that (see our Death Knight coverage on their plans on how to become a Death Knight) they discussed balance. Blizzard felt having the hero class be more powerful wasn’t exactly going to be fun for everyone who wasn’t a hero class. So they are going to balance them along side the other classes.
Not much else was said, other then they do plan on adding more spells and abilities between levels 70-80 along with extending the talent trees. At the end they also made mention to the Horde getting fear ward or something similar.
Overall the class discussion gave us a few insights into the future many of our dear classes hold while shedding some light on past decisions. With the upcoming expansion, World of Warcraft: The Wrath of the Lich King, and the hero classes we should see a lot of updates to make the game more fun and balanced then ever before