One of the most exciting blue-tinted things I read in a while came from Wowhead’s exclusive interview with Ghostcrawler. It’s a great interview, so if you haven’t read it, go to it.
Here’s what got me all jazzed.
...really what we're trying to do—and with like, the passive talent trees we're putting into Cataclysm, we're trying to give ourselves better tuning mechanisms to be able to make easy changes. One of the things we're often up against is: Say we're going to make a patch. We want to, for example, buff mages. We have to do something that both does what we want it to do, and, you know, isn't buggy. It's not a good time to mess with, you know, "Hey we're going to add a new talent", or "We're going to put in this untested tech that makes this other thing proc" or whatever, because then we're just going to be fixing our own patches over and over again. So we have to be so strategic that we often can't make the changes that we really want to make, and we know "this is still going to leave Frost Mages underpowered in PvE, but we can't do anything else—we just physically, technically can't make the change we want." So what we're trying to do in Cataclysm is build in a lot of hooks to let us constantly tweak, and when we see something is too low we can dial it up a little bit, or dial it back a little more.
I’m a professional programmer, so I know how challenging it can be to tweak a complex system. Once you have something that works – and the definition of “works” can sometimes be quite sloppy, but hey – making changes to it is far more difficult than most people realize. Everything is tied together, and the more complex the system, the more delicate the connections.
So it looks like at last, for real and for true, Cataclysm will fix it. They just need to man the dials, and we’re good to go. *fingers crossed*
Deceive. Inveigle. Obfuscate.
Let’s be honest. Blizzard lies to us. It’s just a fact of life in an organization that has to work 24/7 just to prevent global riots. It gets a little extreme sometimes… remember how they were telling us for months that shadow was in a really good place, despite the mountain of data showing the contrary? They weren’t simply ignoring us; they said repeatedly that there was no problem. Eoy blogged about it, and Blizzard continued to deny. Then one day, out of the blue, shadow got a huge buff. No warning, no discussion. Suddenly we were competitive again.
I’m sure there are many reasons they don’t always let on that they’re looking at buffing some spell or class. First is the obvious, which is that it opens the door to everyone to whine about perceived deficiencies in their own favorite ability. Second, it’s such a complex system that even if Blizzard wanted to buff an ability or a class, there’s no guarantee that they could pull it off gracefully.
The more tweaky-hooks they put into the system, the easier it will be for them to make changes. And the less they will need to lie. There will be fewer instances in which Blizzard says “we can’t do that.” It will be more “we don’t want to do that,” and that’s a good thing.
Yes, I am a very optimistic person. I really do hope and expect that Blizzard will be far more responsive to real complaints, as they were (eventually) with shadow priests and frost DKs, even if both of those specs lingered at the bottom for months.
Aren’t you going to say anything about the new talents!?!1?
Yes yes, I’m getting there! In fact, that’s the whole point.
Honestly, I don’t really have much to say. It’s all “in theory” right now. Until we’ve played with it, what can be said beyond “I’m excited” or “I hate Smite” or other unsubstantial comments?
Here’s my unsubstantial response: I’m very excited! But I love change, and welcome the disorienting feeling of being a nub again, having to relearn everything. I hope you do too!
You see, there seem to be two basic objections to the new talent tree for healing priests. The first is, in a word, Smite. And the second covers a lot of ground related to balance: How much mana will we regen from Archangel? How much dps will we be doing with Smite? How much indirect healing with Atonement? What about talents that were removed, like Holy Specialization…are they nerfing our crit? Those sorts of things.
(Well, there is a third objection, one that I don’t see enough discussion about. Which is why the HELL is Improved Holy Nova so deep in the Holy tree? This is grave mistake, one that I hope Blizzard rectifies before it’s too late.)
The whole balance issue is one that will be tweaked until it works exactly as planned. Smite not putting out quite as much damage as they wanted? *Tweak*! Not enough regen? *Tweak* This is also obvious in the masteries; if abilities aren’t performing properly, or classes are imbalanced, they have a knob to twiddle to adjust these things relatively easily. They could even implement nonlinear scaling so that as you get more mastery from gear, the three masteries grow at different rates.
Oh, and don’t bring up PvP. It is, and always will be, an impossible balance to strike. Unless they implement Arenawell Radiance (which they damn well should), or some other debuff that tweaks coefficients when you step into PvP, balancing abilities for PvE and PvP will remain stormy and frustrating.
My big questions for Cataclysm are about creativity. Since we all know Blizzard is trying to encourage us not to shield spam (because we love shielding so much!), will we be given new fixed rotations? Like, five Smites, then power-heal for 10 seconds, then back to Smiting? Or will we be given room to breathe, room to be dynamic and creative again? Will encounter design follow the new philosophy of talent design, which (in theory) reduces the need to min-max in favor of choice? They say Smiting will be optional, but really? Once we get in there, will it become clear that there is really a best way, bringing us back full circle to cookie-cutter specs and rotations?
I’m as curious as everyone else about how it will feel in Cataclysm. But I’m not concerned about the balance issues. The new “CWFI” system (not such a good acronym, I’m afraid… will Cataclysm fix that?) will be used to adjust the numbers so that the big-picture changes don’t leave one class desperately behind.
As for Smite, it’s a big change. We don’t know what encounters will be like. We don’t know how much idling time we’ll have. But surely if Blizzard wants us to be Smiting, it will be obvious, and eventually, natural.
With this I bid you a temporary farewell. In about a week I begin a cross-country move, followed by lots of other stuff that will keep me mostly away from WoW and away from writing. Who knows, but it won’t surprise me if I’m away most of the summer.
So have a great one!