Update: Added tonight's hotfixes, which include other Dragon Soul changes. Not all of them will be active until realm maintenance takes place.
Spine of Deathwing Heroic 25 Changes
It seems a hotfix went into effect tonight in the Heroic 25 man version of Spine of Deathwing that reduced the health of the parts of the encounter. We don't have any screenshots to share yet because guilds are being secretive until the boss is down.
Burning Tendons health reduced to 39 million, down from 42 million.
Hideous Amalgamation health reduced to 30.5 million, down from 34.5 million.
Corrupted Blood health reduced to 900k.
Corruption health reduced to 2.5 million.
Fall damage from canceling parachute removed.
Patch 4.3 Hotfixes: December 12
Originally Posted by Blizzard
(Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
Dungeons & Raids Hour of Twilight
Thrall should no longer despawn when no players are near him after the gauntlet has been completed.
Throne of the Four Winds
Wind Burst should no longer knock players back too far.
Earthen Soldiers, Ancient Water Lords and Earthen Destroyers now move faster.
Morchok's Resonating Crystals should now always target the closest players when they explode.
Yor'sahj the Unsleeping
Damage done by Forgotten Ones, Void Bolt AOE, and Searing Blood has been reduced on 25-person, Heroic difficulty.
Yor'sahj's health has been reduced by 10% on 25-person, Heroic difficulty.
Hagara the Stormbinder
Hagara’s Frost Shield can no longer be broken by Shattering Throw to avoid her Frozen Tempest phase.
Disrupting Shadows no longer deals AoE damage or knockbacks when the duration is reduced with Mage Armor on Heroic raid difficulties.
Shockwave can now be broken by trinkets and other effects that cancel stuns.
Blackhorn's Vengeance now accrues at a rate of 1% per 2% of missiong HP on Raid Finder difficulty.
After Warmaster Blackhorn is killed, the deck fire on upper decks is no longer present on Heroic difficulty.
Warmaster Blackhorn, the Twilight Elite Slayers, and the Twilight Elite Dreadblades are no longer able to attack players while mounted.
Spine of Deathwing
Blood Corruption: Earth will no longer morph into Blood Corruption: Death when dispelled.
Blood Corruption: Earth now applies two stacks of Blood of Neltharion when it expires on 25-player heroic difficulty.
The health pools for Burning Tendon, Corrupted Blood, Corruption, and Hideous Amalgamation have been reduced by 6 to 11% for 25-person raids on both normal and Heroic difficulty.
Hideous Amalgamations with the Superheated buff no longer pulse their AE damage after being thrown from Deathwing's back.
Madness of Deathwing
Damage done by Elementium Blast, Corrupted Blood, and Blistering Heat have been lowered on Raid Finder difficulty.
This encounter should now complete when all players die after Deathwing has been defeated.
Darkmoon Zeppelin should no longer be converted to a Horde Balloon during an Alliance to Horde faction change.
Bladestorm will now properly apply its immunities to spell effects that are in flight when Bladestorm is activated.
Originally Posted by Blizzard Entertainment
As mentioned in the original post, mailing an heirloom to your alt will strip any transmogrification effect. There was a bug that sometimes prevented this from happening, but it is now fixed. (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
LFR 10 Man Size
Having the LFR group size set at 25 allows for a more forgiving experience should errors be made by individual players — after all, we believe Raid Finder groups should be a fun way to experience raid content without feeling too punishing to new or inexperienced raiders.
In regards to the loot issues you mention, such as people winning the same item twice, we're working on a solution for this. (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
Different Deathwing Endings for Different Difficulty Levels
In terms of storytelling and content accessibility, there isn't a real difficulty. The way we handled Ragnaros was kind of unique, but he's not the final boss of this expansion.
Your idea is quite contrary to our motivation for implementing multiple difficulties. We want as many people as possible to be able to experience the story, while still preserving many of the more prestigious rewards and achievements for those who complete Heroic difficulty. (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
Why do we have to pay real money for pets/mounts?
Pets and mounts are entirely cosmetic, they don't give you any in-game benefit or edge over others, therefore they're not needed, and the statement that they're "much better" than the ones in the game is completely subjective.
There are some rare pets and mounts in the game that are only obtainable from certain quests or encounters. If you prefer collecting things through the game, you could focus on getting all of those. (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
Inner Sanctum Heroic Warmaster Blackhorn Kill Inner Sanctum provided us with a video of their Warmaster 25 Heroic kill, complete with their audio communication during the encounter.
NAO Invitational Arena Tournament
A new player run 3v3 arena tournament took place yesterday, complete with prizes and Vhell / Hoodrych talking through the action. The final rounds took place this afternoon, starting at 4PM EST. You can find the final scores on ArenaJunkies.
New Lore: "Charge of the Aspects" Story Available
Originally Posted by Blizzard
(Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
The Cenarion Circle's victory in the Firelands offers Azeroth a brief reprieve. With the elemental armies of Deathwing the Destroyer broken and the Twilight's Hammer still reeling from its loss in the Bastion of Twilight, the tide has finally turned in favor of Azeroth's defenders.
Emboldened by these triumphs, the Earthen Ring, the Cenarion Circle, and the remaining Dragon Aspects have completed the ritual to heal the World Tree Nordrassil. Now, the three groups shift their attention and energies toward using Nordrassil to mend their shattered world.
Their efforts may well be in vain, however, for they will soon see that they cannot afford to waste any more time before they deal with the true threat to Azeroth: Deathwing.
I have murdered one of my own.
The thought hit Nozdormu the Timeless One the instant he saw the desiccated bronze dragon. Zirion had shriveled into a husk half his original size. Lesions covered his body from head to tail. Instead of blood, golden sand cascaded out of the wounds in unending streams upon which shimmered ghostly images of his life that had not yet come to pass. His future was bleeding out of him.
Nozdormu strode across one of the isolated peaks of Mount Hyjal to stand by Zirion's side, every moment of history rippling over the Timeless One's sun-colored scales. As he loomed over the dying dragon, a wave of helplessness flooded through him. An impenetrable veil had descended on the timeways, one that not even he, the Aspect of the bronze dragonflight and the Guardian of Time, could pierce. The past and future—things he had once seen with clarity—had become muddled.
Blizzard Entertainment is proud to present the latest entry in the Expanded Universe short story series, "Charge of the Aspects"!
Race to World First
The Race to World First documentary that focuses on Blood Legion and other top guilds is now free to watch for a limited time.
MMO-Report The MMO Report has more SWTOR this week. If you are still looking for a guild, check out the list in the SWTOR forum!
Diablo III Cinematic
The Diablo III Cinematic was released at the VGA tonight, right after Blizzard won the "Gamer God" award. More invites have gone out recently and Currency Based Auction House testing has started, so be sure to visit Diablofans for updates.
NAO Invitational Arena Tournament
A new player run 3v3 arena tournament took place earlier today, complete with prizes and Vhell / Hoodrych talking through the action. You can find the current scores over on ArenaJunkies!
Check back tomorrow at 4PM EST / 1PM PST for the final rounds.
Rated Battleground MMR Reset
The MMR reset was intended for Arenas only, and not RBGs. Our messaging was a bit vague, and our apologies for that. We'll be attempting to correct it where possible. (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
Spine of Deathwing 25-H Correction Incoming
In the 25-player for Spine of Deathwing encounter, on Heroic difficulty, Blood Corruption: Earth appears to be triggering Astral Armor instead of the intended Blood of Neltharion. This issue will be corrected in patch 4.3.2.
In the meantime, we can confirm that Astral Armor is correctly providing same effect as two stacks of Blood of Neltharion. (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
Dev Watercooler and World PvP
Finding ways to make PvP enticing is not the same as forcing people into PvP. Please keep that in mind. I think there are too many people worried over something that isn't anything. We recognize that there are people who choose not to PvP. But, we also want to encourage those that may have an interest in it to be able to take part and still be competitive should they wish.
As he also said in his post that we are looking for feedback, just keep it constructive and keep in mind that the talents you see now are simply that. They are just the talents you see now. They are not final (in the "locked in place" sense). They can and will change as appropriate.
How? How do you intend to make it interesting for those of us who can't find anything interesting in it? How do you intend to prevent griefing, botting, ganking and all those nasty things that plague current BG's and world PvP zones?
I'm going to break this down a bit here. First off, there is hardly ever a consensus even by PvPers on what constitutes "griefing" let along "ganking". The act of PvP itself is all about killing/disabling the other person so you either win or help your team win. So "preventing" it would imply putting in specific mechanics that discourage a behavior that is naturally occurring in PvP.
As for botting, we're always working toward ways of being able to detect and negate bots. We also though, rely on players to help report these to us so they can be investigated. As I'm sure you're aware, we've taken action against bot programs in the past and what you may not be aware of is that we are regularly taking care of bots, but we don't spend time publicizing this. Bots continue to become more and more sophisticated, and we are doing what we can to find better and better ways to detect these. Again though, the report function is there for a reason. If you report, it gives us an action point to start from in looking into a behavior to see if it's truly a bot or simply a person.
Ghostcrawler's post is clear, they are planning to bring PvP and PvE closer together in ways that may not be appealing to those of us who dislike PvP.
This is true, that we're trying to bring them closer together. But, I think it's a bit early for you to determine that this means you will be "forced" into PvP. It's about making choices in engaging in PvE and in PvP seem less punitive and make switching quickly and easily for the situation you're in easier all around whether you engage in PvE or in PvP. What may seem like a purely PvP talent now, may actually have a use still in PvE depending on the situation as well. Again, we have plans for the future in opening up more opportunities for PvP, but that doesn't necessarily mean that you'll be forced into it.
Right now, I have a working 31 point talent tree that allows me to make a character. In MoP, I will have a bunch of pvp talents I don't care about. That's the whole picture for me. Every PVP centric MMO has failed, and now to see WoW pushing recklessly into it is depressing.
No one is "pushing recklessly". This is another embellishment that isn't necessary to the discussion. You will still have a working character in Mists of Pandaria. Your choices will matter more than choosing +1% to X etc. You will be able to adjust your character more quickly and easily to situations and to your preference. World of Warcraft is not becoming a "PvP centric" game, but it will continue to consider the impact of all changes on both PvE and PvP and as a part of that consideration, find the best "sweet spot" for making them more harmonious with each other so that IF you so choose to engage in one or the other, it feels rewarding.
Just a quick additional point in regard to "bringing PvE and PvP closer"; When we say this, we're also talking about making the idea of having to collect separate gear for each less of an issue (like it became in Wrath of the Lich King). For those who are concerned about having to "grind" to get good enough PvP gear to even step into a Battleground, our intent is to make this less of an issue. We want PvE gear to be useful in PvP and vice versa, but neither should be quite as good as the other. You'll still be able to be viable either way. Meaning, if you want to go from your Raid into a Battleground for a bit, you won't necessarily need to swap gear, and if you go from PvP into a dungeon, people shouldn't get immediately incensed that you didn't change for the occasion.
While we would like to explore some options for adding more world PvP (because clearly many players keep asking for it) it would purely be optional. PvE players with no interest in PvP should be able to ignore it and vice versa. We just want to provide more opportunities for crossover (again for players who keep asking for it) than exist today.
I don't think cookie-cutter talent builds as they are now are so terribly detrimental to the game as we are led to believe. You can't remove cookie-cutter builds without either concealing mechanics completely or making everything uniformly bland. If you remove cookie cutter talent builds, there would be cookie-cutter specs, that simply perform better than others. If you fix those, there would be cookie-cutter classes.
By your argument though, you're saying that cookie-cutter specs aren't bland. If you talk to players who have been "forced" into cookie-cutter builds, I think you'd find many of them do find this detrimental to their ability to play the game the way they want to play it. We're working to provide options that avoid the "you must" mentality as much as possible. We tried to tweak the current talent system as a part of Cataclysm, and it just wasn't where we wanted it. Yes, this is a more "drastic" approach, but the freedom it allows for making choices that matter on an individual basis have the potential to be far more fun for people to make those choices they want. (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
Priest Discipline T13 Bonus Hotfix
I apologize for the typo. The hotfix should (and now does) read:
"The priest tier-13 two-piece set bonus should again trigger a 23-second Temporal Boon for non-Discipline priests, up from 20 seconds."
Holy Nova Changes
We are exploring the possibility of Holy Nova being Discipline’s AE and Prayer of Healing being Holy’s AE. Divine Aegis would be changed to work with Holy Nova and we would make other changes that make sense to support this change.
Our intent is to make the healing styles between the two as different as possible, while cutting down on the number of rarely-used-yet-core spells that each spec has. By that, we mean that some spells are designed to be situational, such as Fade or Leap of Faith. When you look at Holy Nova in 4.3, it feels like a spell you should use a lot, but the situations just don’t come up often where another spell isn’t better.
In 4.3, Holy Nova doesn’t have a really strong niche, and priests have so many AE heals that we’re not convinced the right call is to make Holy Nova used in X situation and Prayer of Healing used in Y situation. It might just be that priests have too many AE heals.
As with nearly all of the talent design though, this might very well change before we go live.
LFR New Heroics When Queuing for Random
We didn't really like having separate queues for each tier of Heroic 5-player dungeons. The random option should be all-inclusive. We also changed the Valor Point reward structure in 4.3, which kind of nullified one of the main reasons for splitting them up in the first place. Now the Random Heroic Dungeon option will choose any random Heroic, though you'll never get the Zandalari or Hour of Twilight Heroic dungeons if you're item level isn't high enough.
If you want to run the newest dungeons, you have that option. But if you want to run any random Cataclysm Heroic dungeon, we want the system to choose from all of them.
As others have stated in this thread, you're probably getting the news ones more frequently because more players are queuing for them specifically. You're being grouped with those people by the system so the wait times are as short as possible. (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
LFR Loot Roll System
So, just to be clear, we're certainly aware that the loot system in Raid Finder needs to be smarter, as there's currently not a way for the system to determine loot eligibility based on talent specialization or class. To use the OP's example, if a Strength weapon drops and a hunter rolls on it, the system says "Yep, a DPS player is rolling on it. Okie dokie. Here's your +100." (We should really find ways for the game to say "okie dokie" in your chat log.)
This obviously needs to change and we're in the middle of discussing potential short-term solutions, as a more long-term solution will require programming new tech into the system which will account for class/spec.
We only ask that you keep in mind patch 4.3 is our first implementation of Raid Finder and the "Need Plus" system. The design is quite complicated and requires further iteration to make loot distribution more intelligent.
We recognize the issue with duplicate drops being won by the same person as well. This is something we need to fix.
What about the issue where DPS are getting the +100 roll on spirit gear, which should have obviously been marked for the healing role?
You pointed out the reason in the rest of your post. Technically, it's the same issue as the example I covered with hunters rolling on a two-handed Strength weapons. Spirit is a DPS stat for some classes which, therefore, means items with Spirit are flagged for healing and DPS. This is exactly what I mean by the system needing to be more intelligent.
So when exactly do you expect we will see this so called intelligence?
There are some loot scenarios that can potentially be improved via hotfixes, if the idea is to manually set up different flagging on specific items. Larger changes to the way the loot system functions though, with regard to what information it's able to recall while determining eligibility and bonus roles, will have to be done via patches. (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
LFR is Awesome
A lot of posts in this thread make me happy. It warms the heart to hear that players are having a good time experiencing the final raid of Cataclysm and putting the "death" in Deathwing. Raid Finder was specifically designed to make raid content more accessible. We do, after all, put a hell of a lot of work into designing that content. To that end, if we need to take more time with each raid to develop a Raid Finder version so that a vastly larger percentage of our playerbase can take part, then it's well worth it.
Could you guys please make large raids again? By large i mean Karazhan/Ulduar/Icecrown sized, so people don't get all burny-burned out after the first 3 weeks or so.
We definitely don't want to stick to any formulas when it comes how many bosses are in each raid tier or expansion. You might see raids on the scale of Kara, Ulduar, ICC, Naxx, etc. in the future. It's just a matter of what feels right for each tier. Having three separate difficulties, however, does require much more development time for each raid.
It was cool that we got to do Dragon Soul in 2 parts instead of having to commit all the time to one.
Glad you like it! We did feel it'd negatively impact the dynamic if we suggested a group should complete the whole dungeon together. While we can tamper with numbers and change the lockout rules a bit for this system, the raid content itself is still largely designed with organized raids in mind. To counter that, it just feels a little less daunting when Dragon Soul's split in half for groups being assembled via the Raid Finder. (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
LFR Loot Rolls
The issue regarding the bonus roll on strength items for shamans has been passed on for investigation.
When it comes to player knowledge of raid encounters, please try to be patient, and keep in mind that this is new content, people will take a while to learn exactly how to tackle it. (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
Diablo III Cinematic World Premiere at the VGAs
Originally Posted by Blizzard
(Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
Be sure to tune into Spike TV’s Video Game Awards tomorrow night, December 10 at 8:00 p.m. / 7:00 p.m. Central. Diablo III’s full opening cinematic will make its world premiere during the show. It seems an appropriate time to share how the tone is set for our forthcoming game, as Spike has announced that they’ll bestow their second-ever Gamer God Award upon Blizzard Entertainment’s three founders, Mike Morhaime, Allen Adham, and Frank Pearce.
Check out Spike TV’s official announcement for all the show’s details and make sure your /popcorn is at the ready.
Originally Posted by Blizzard
(Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
Soon, we’ll be introducing a new feature called Battle.net Balance that will give players an alternate way to purchase Blizzard products and services directly through their Battle.net account. Players will be able to “charge up” their Battle.net Balance using a variety of payment methods, and then use their Battle.net Balance to buy services like World of Warcraft character transfers, digital products like pets and mounts, and more. Players will also be able to use their Battle.net Account Balance to buy items and store their earnings from Diablo III’s currency-based auction house once the game is released.
We’ll be rolling out the new Battle.net Balance feature in the weeks ahead -- but in the meantime, check out our Battle.net Balance FAQ to find out more about how it’s going to work.
What is Battle.net Balance?
Battle.net Balance is a new Battle.net feature that will allow players to store value in their Battle.net account, which can be used to buy Blizzard Entertainment products such as World of Warcraft game time, paid services, digital versions of games, and in-game pets and mounts.
With the upcoming launch of Diablo III, players in certain regions will also be able to use their Battle.net Balance to acquire items from the game's currency-based auction house. Diablo III players will also have the option to store earnings from items they sell on the auction house in their Battle.net Balance, to be used on future auction house purchases or to buy Blizzard products. For more information on the Diablo III auction house, read the auction house FAQ.
How will I add value to my Battle.net Balance?
When you log in to Battle.net Account Management, you will be able to add value to your Battle.net Balance through a variety of different payment methods, such as debit or credit cards or a variety of region-specific payment methods. Please note that depending on the payment method, it may take some time for the Battle.net Balance you purchase to become available to use.
Can I convert my Battle.net Balance into cash?
Once funds or Diablo III auction house earnings have been added to your Battle.net Balance, you are not able to convert that Balance into cash. Battle.net Balance can only be used to buy designated Blizzard Entertainment products or to acquire items from Diablo III's currency-based auction house.
In certain regions, Diablo III players who wish to "cash out" the proceeds from the sale of an item from the currency-based auction house instead of storing it in a Battle.net Balance will be able to do so via PayPal for an additional fee. Players will need to determine which method they wish to use at the time they post their auction. For more information on the currency-based auction house, see the FAQ.
Will I need to use Battle.net Balance to make Diablo III auction-house purchases, or will other payment options be available?
Diablo III players will be able to make purchases on the currency-based auction house directly (without using Battle.net Balance) via several popular payment methods, such as major credit cards. A wider range of payment alternatives will be available for those who wish to use Battle.net Balance.
What currencies can I use to charge my Battle.net Balance?
In general, you will be able to add value to your Battle.net Balance using your local currency (in EU, for example, players will be able to use Euros, GBP, and RUB). In certain regions where game realms and servers are shared by players in multiple countries, you may also be able to use additional countries' currencies. However, please note that Battle.net Balances for different currencies are tracked separately and cannot be used interchangeably. For example, you cannot use Battle.net Balance purchased using U.S. dollars in a non-USD-based auction house, and you are not able to transfer Battle.net Balance purchased in one currency to or from Battle.net Balance purchased with a different currency. We'll have further details to share closer to release.
Will there be a limit to how much I can store in my Battle.net Balance?
Yes, there will be limits on how much can be stored in your Battle.net Balance. We'll have more information closer to release.
Can I transfer my Battle.net Balance to another Battle.net account, or give Battle.net Balance as gift?
Your Battle.net Balance is non-transferrable. At launch, there will not be a way to give Battle.net Balance as a gift to another Battle.net account holder; however, we're looking into the possibility of adding that feature in the future.
How long will my Battle.net Balance remain in my account? Will it ever expire?
Depending on local laws and regulations, we may be required to remove the Battle.net Balance from any Battle.net account that hasn't been accessed in over 3 years.
Will I be able to track purchases made with my Battle.net Balance?
Yes, you'll be able to track your purchases through Battle.net Account Management.
Can I use my Battle.net Balance as the automatic payment method for my recurring World of Warcraft subscription?
No, though you are able to pre-purchase World of Warcraft game time using your Battle.net Balance.
What payment methods are available to charge my Battle.net Balance?
All of the payment methods we currently support through Battle.net will be available to charge your Battle.net Balance, with a few exceptions. We'll have more details to share closer to launch.
Can I use Battle.net Balance in combination with other payments to make a purchase?
You will be able to use Battle.net Balance in combination with another payment type to make certain purchases through Battle.net Account Management, such as World of Warcraft paid services. However, you will not be able to combine payment types to make Diablo III auction house purchases.
Are there any fees associated with using Battle.net Balance?
Blizzard Entertainment does not charge additional fees to add to your Battle.net Balance or to use it to buy Blizzard Entertainment products. However, there are listing and transaction fees associated with the Diablo III currency-based auction house, regardless of the payment type.
Where can I see my Battle.net Balance?
Your Battle.net Balance will be visible in Battle.net Account Management, as well as in-game in Diablo III.
Is Battle.net Balance available in the Diablo III beta test?
In the Diablo III beta test, we are currently testing the in-game functionality of Battle.net Balance. Players are given a limited number of "beta bucks" to use on currency-based auction house purchases. These "beta bucks" reflect how Battle.net Balance might be displayed and/or used when Diablo III is ultimately released, though as with all things in the beta, this is subject to change. Please note that any "beta bucks" earned in the beta test will not be retained when Battle.net Balance is released.
Originally Posted by Blizzard
(Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
We’ve gotten a lot of feedback on our crazy, exciting, and scary talent overhaul, for which we are enormously appreciative. For real and for true. We *want* your feedback on the new talents. That is why we are presenting so much detail so early. While we will continue to iterate on talent specifics, your feedback is an important part of that process. Don’t abstain because you’re convinced that things will change without you. Your input is one of our most important tools for improving the game.
We have seen a few consistent responses from players concerned or dismissive about the model, so we thought we’d take the opportunity to explain the philosophy behind some of our decisions, to provide a better framework upon which you can continue giving us feedback.
1. "I have fewer choices."
This is the big one, and the truth is it is ultimately correct. You will have fewer choices. But you will have more choices that *matter*. One of the important philosophies of game design is that interesting choices are fun. The word ‘interesting’ is key. Choosing between a talent that grants 10% damage and one that grants 5% damage, all else being equal, isn't interesting (unless perhaps you’re a superstar role-player). Choosing between a talent that grants you 5% haste or 5% crit might be interesting, but more than likely there is still a right answer (and like most of us, you'll probably just ask someone else what the answer is.) Choosing between a talent that grants you a root or a snare can be interesting. Which does more damage? Hard to say. Which is better? It depends on the situation.
This is why we don't have a clear damage, tanking, and healing talent choice every tier. In the case of the old trees, choosing the talent you want from among the talents that don’t interest you isn’t an interesting decision -- it's a multiple choice test, and an easy one at that. Are you Ret? You probably want the damage option. But what if the Ret player had to choose from three healing talents and couldn't sacrifice healing for damage? Now it gets interesting. Worst case scenario is the player just picks one at random because he refuses to heal. However, he has the ability. Maybe he'll use it in some situation. Meanwhile, other players will be happy that they can benefit more from the hybrid nature of the paladin class without having to give up damage to do so.
To be fair, we did manage to engineer most of the Cataclysm talent trees to include a few legitimate choices. These typically occur when you need to spend enough points to get to the next tier of a tree to get the good stuff. Many specs had 1-4 points to spend wherever they want. That's a huge victory compared to pre-Cataclysm talent trees, but ultimately nothing to really brag about.
It is possible of course to strike a blow for individuality and use a non-cookie cutter build. Ninety-nine percent of the time, these builds are just going to be less effective. The remaining percent of the time, they will eventually become the new cookie-cutter. When players talk about their love of options, I think what they are really saying is they are in love with the idea of having dozens of interesting talents. We just don't think that will ever happen.
Look, we tried the talent tree model for seven years. We think it’s fundamentally flawed and unfixable. We know some of you have faith in us that someday we’ll eventually replace all of the boring +5% crit talents with interesting talents and give you 80 talent points that you can spend wherever, and that the game will still remain relatively balanced and fun. We greatly appreciate your faith, but we fear it is misplaced. It’s not a matter of coming up with enough fun mechanics, which is challenging but ultimately doable. The problem is the extreme number of combinations. When you have such a gigantic matrix, the chances of having unbeatable synergies, or combinations of talents that just don’t work together is really high. That’s not lazy design. That is recognizing how math works.
So given that we don’t think it’s humanly possible to have 40-50 fun, interesting and balanced talents in a tree, the alternative is to continue on with bloated trees that have a ton of inconsequential talents that you have to slog through to get to the fun stuff. A lot of you guys have stuck with us for years, continue to play regularly, and still love World of Warcraft. You are the reason we’re still making this game. We think you deserve better, and we think we can do better.
3. "We'll still have cookie-cutter builds with the new design."
I am slightly amused by the number of comments that say "The theorycrafters will just math out which is the right talent and we'll all just pick that one." But the theorycrafters aren’t agreeing with those comments, because they know they won’t be able to.
Just to make sure, I chose several specs at random and researched their builds. Sure enough, even with the Cataclysm builds today, you see quotes like “spend the last two points wherever you want” or “choose X or Y at your discretion.” It is “easy” (which I put in quotes because theorycrafters devote a lot of time and neurons to it) to determine the value of a DPS talent like Incite or Ignite. It is hard to determine the DPS value of Improved Sprint or Lichborne. Most of the Mists talents are things like the latter. Now there are still some pure throughput (damage, healing, or tanking) talents in the trees. We expect there will sometimes be a right answer as to which talent to take for those roles. On a fight like Baelroc (one boss, no adds), Bladestorm and Shockwave probably aren't competitive with Avatar. We're okay with that, because on Beth'tilac (lots of adds) they definitely can be and it will depend a lot on your play style and the role you have in the fight. However, given that we know a player can only have one of those three talents and that the synergistic effects from those talents with other talents are limited, it is much easier for us to balance say the healing value of Archangel and Divine Star. Despite what you read on the forums, we actually have gotten better at balancing World of Warcraft over the years.
4. "No rewards for leveling."
Once upon a time, you got a new talent point every level. That worked okay for a game with 60 levels. It works less well for a game with 90 levels. It probably is totally incomprehensible for a game with 150 levels, should we ever get there. We keep bumping the level cap because frankly it’s fun and we haven’t yet come up with a progression mechanism that will feel quite as good.
Leveling is pretty fast these days and fairly rewarding, in that you see lots of new content and get gear quickly, which is something we have trouble replicating at max level (though stay tuned for Mists of Pandaria). On top of that, you’ll still get lots of abilities as you level up. Instead of having to click Raging Blow, we’ll just give it to you, because frankly if you skip it, you’re making a mistake (or you’re RPing a Fury warrior who has taken too many blows to the head). There are gaps in getting new abilities, especially at high level, because we don’t want players to have to have four rows of action bars to play their character. Again, that is just the blessing and curse of having a game with so many levels.
Third, I’ll challenge the notion of just how interesting it is to get that second point in Pain and Suffering or Rule of Law while leveling. Do you really notice that you now kill a creature in 2.9 GCDs instead of 3 GCDs? (But see below for a bit more on this.) There are some game-challenging talents of course, like Shadowform, but as we just discussed, you'll still get those.
Finally, the reality is that for many players, WoW has become a game focused on max level. Back in the day, leveling a fleet of alts was really compelling gameplay, but for many of the old-timers, there just isn’t a ton of interest in making a second mage or whatever. Hopefully account-level achievements will help with that somewhat, but at the same time, I don’t think it’s realistic to expect all of our long-term players to have thirty or more characters at some point in the future. It’s a fair concern that the new talent system is geared more towards making max level exciting, but that’s also where players tend to spend most of their WoW-playing hours these days. We don’t know yet what we are going to do for players who want to play a monk but just can’t stomach the idea of hitting Hellfire Peninsula one more time, and how we solve the problem when you get a friend to try WoW, only to discover that your pal will need to spend several weeks or months getting up to max level before he or she is ready to join your Arena team or raid group. But these feel like problems we are going to have to solve at some point.
5. "I like being better than noobs."
It was surprising and a bit disappointing at how frequently we saw this argument. The players in question fully admit that they don't experiment to find the best build. They accept the cookie cutter spec that is offered from a website, but then they use the fact that they knew the cookie cutter to mock players who don't. Intimate knowledge of game mechanics certainly is and should be a component of skill. But knowing how to Google "4.3 Shadow spec" doesn't automatically make you a better player. Sorry, but I’m just going to dismiss this one as an illegitimate concern.
6. "The talents are all PvP choices."
We see this response from players who say “I don’t care about PvP,” or “raid bosses can’t be snared,” or even “I am a solo player, so I don’t need a defensive cooldown.”
First, a lot of players do care about PvP, and almost every choice in the new talent model will be interesting for them. We are also taking some steps with Mists to encourage more crossover between PvP and PvE as the game once had, so even if you don’t care for PvP now, maybe we can get you interested in the future.
Second, a lot of raid bosses can’t be snared, but their adds and trash sure can be. We don’t do a lot of Patchwerk fights these days. Crowd control, movement increases, and defensive cooldowns are all an important part of raid encounters these days. They are even a part of dungeon encounters until you overgear the content.
Now if you're a solo player or a fairly casual raider and you don't often find the need to use crowd control or hit a defensive cooldown, then maybe the choice isn't compelling. But we think that's a problem with the game. I think it’s a fair complaint that our outdoor world creatures have become a little monotonous over the years. Once upon a time, you could choose to take on that camp of gnolls, or you could try and handle the elite ogres, or you might get a patrolling kobold. While we don’t want outdoor leveling to be brutally difficult, that doesn’t mean that every situation needs to be solved with 3 Sinister Strikes. Imagine a cave full of weak spiders. You can choose to AE them all down, use a movement cooldown to get through the cave quickly, use a defensive cooldown to survive the damage, or use your heals to keep you up. When players use their full toolbox of abilities intelligently, they tend to feel good about their character and the game. But it is our responsibility to engineer more of those situations into the world.
7. "Spec doesn’t matter."
This is a concern especially for warriors, priests, DKs and the pure classes (those characters who have multiple specs of the same role). What we have concluded is that many players want to choose their spec based on flavor (“I want to be the mage who uses Frost magic”) or rotation (“I like the fast gameplay of the Frost DK”). While the raid buff / debuff matrix and spec utility helps to encourage diversity among groups and discourage raid stacking, it’s also a little lame when the Affliction lock is asked to spec Demonology (against the player’s desire) in order to bring a specific buff. In Mists, we want players to have even more flexibility about which character they want to play. Asking a player to swap from damage to tanking for a couple of fights is acceptable to us. Asking someone to respec from Unholy to Frost just for the debuff is not.
There will still be some utility in the various specs, but less than we have today. You should pick a spec because you like the rotation or the kit. Fire is about crit, Hot Streak, and Ignite. Frost is about Shatter combos and the Water Elemental. Arcane is about mana management and clearing Arcane Blast stacks.
8. “It must be new to be good.”
This is a tricky one. Specifically, the warlock and druid trees include a lot of new talent ideas simply because we felt like those classes needed them. While we want to make an effort to add some new mechanics every expansion just to keep things fresh, we don’t want to arbitrarily replace fun talents that have stood the test of time just in the name of change for change’s sake. Bladestorm is fun. Body and Soul is fun. Shadowstep is fun.
From a designer’s perspective, the half-life of a new spell or talent idea is fleetingly short. You know how when you buy a new car and drive it off the lot it immediately loses a huge chunk of its value? New game ideas are like that. Seeing something brand new is super exhilarating, but that thrill just doesn’t last. I suspect even by the time Mists launches, we will see a lot of comments along the lines of “When are druids going to get something new? We haven’t seen any new ideas since November!”
It isn’t our goal to come up with 18 new talents for every class. We want to come up with 18 fun talents, and that’s going to mean a mix of old and new. Try not to confuse “shiny” with “good,” and we’ll try on our end not to fall into that trap as well.
9. “You overhaul talents every expansion. Please leave well enough alone.”
This is another tricky issue, because neither extreme (stagnation versus constant design churn) is appealing, and every individual player (and designer!) has a different definition of where those extremes lie. We changed talent trees in Cataclysm to try and fix some of the underlying problems the talent design had since its inception. We actually considered going to the Mists model for Cataclysm, but we were worried that the change would be too shocking to players, so we went with a more restrained design first. As often happens with compromises, it didn’t fix the underlying problems. Our hope is that this new design solves them once and for all. That isn’t a promise to not change talents for 6.0, 7.0, and beyond. But we hope that an overhaul this drastic isn’t necessary again for a long time to come.
MMOs are inherently living designs that are going to change over time. This is particularly true of subscription models, where players rightly expect to see something for their monthly payment. We don’t think it’s fair to cling to designs that aren’t working just because that’s the design we shipped with. As we have discussed a great deal lately, we will try to limit our big design changes to new expansions, but it’s just not in our DNA to leave something at a B- level if we think we can make it A+.
10. “You’ve got your minds made up and don’t care about what we think.”
You’re wrong. Next!
As I have said a million times, good games (maybe good anything) can’t be designed by popular vote. Our design feedback process is about making informed decisions. The developers will make the decisions we feel are right for the game, but we’ll do that armed with the feedback from players about what is fun and not fun for them. If you want to provide the best feedback possible, try to be succinct (we get a lot of feedback), try to be specific (why don’t you like something), and don’t assume you speak for everyone (game design, like art, is often subjective). Don’t get upset if we don’t implement your idea -- that’s just not a realistic expectation. Don’t confuse the echo chamber phenomenon that can occur in forum discussions for consensus. Most importantly, try to remember what will be fun for everyone, and not just your character.
One more thing to keep in mind: Playing with the new talent system in-game is really different from choosing talents on “paper.” Some of the decisions we made didn’t come about until we could get into the game and see how leveling and playing actually felt. Once we’re in alpha, many of you guys will be able to give us some more concrete feedback. We understand that, and we’re pushing for doing that just as soon as we can. In the meantime, enjoy the Hour of Twilight.