Developer Watercooler - Battle for Azeroth Class Design Overview
Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
The development of World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth is well underway, and we want to share some insights into our philosophies and approach to class design for the expansion. While the launch of Legion brought lots of change to all of Warcraft’s classes, Battle for Azeroth will more closely resemble the example set by Legion’s patch content: targeted iteration based on player feedback and data.

The intro cinematic of Battle for Azeroth revealed at BlizzCon 2017 has an underlying theme that resonates deeply with the class design team: “Remember what makes us strong.” With that in mind, our goals for the next expansion are to promote what makes each class unique, focus on making group gameplay the best that it can be, and continue our efforts to improve combat visuals and effects. While we believe some specializations will need substantial iteration to achieve these goals, others will not, and our target is greater stability across the board.

Class Uniqueness and Utility
One area we’re trying to focus on across all classes is to better emphasize what makes each class unique and provide greater distinction among their various capabilities, especially when it comes to utility—tools that fall outside of core role functions like damage, healing, or mitigation. Part of what makes you feel excitement and pride in your class is pulling off a heroic moment and feeling the appreciation of your group when individually contributing to a shared success. That feeling is eroded when so many classes bring similar abilities, and you feel you’re rarely providing something distinctive. More differentiation in this area will create situations where another class can do something that you can’t, but you will similarly bring tools to the table that your allies lack.

That contrast causes members of a team to be more dependent on each other to succeed, and encourages different group compositions to approach encounters in different ways.

Pursuing this goal will likely involve adding some new abilities (or re-adding previously removed abilities) to give classes a more unique signature where needed. It will also likely involve reining in the availability of certain utility types, especially those that are so widespread that they rarely provide meaningful contrast between classes. As a notable example, Area of Effect (AoE) stuns, some of most powerful utility that exists, are so abundant that most groups have at least one or two. As a result, decision-making around that tool is often less about when it would be best used, and more about avoiding overlap with other AoE stuns. Not only does this sometimes drown out the importance of other crowd control in dungeons, but it means that a class bringing an AoE stun to a group is not the major strategy-defining asset that it should be. Our goal is that whatever powerful kind of utility a class brings, it’s something that group will be happy to have added to their toolbox as they approach a challenge.

The goal of contrast between the abilities of different specializations is not limited to utility. We’re also looking at different specializations’ strengths and weaknesses in their “main role”—damage dealing (or DPS), healing, or tanking—and making sure everyone has something to get excited about and an opportunity to shine. Some DPS specializations are “bursty,” doing fast damage; some live for attrition, wearing away their target. Some specializations prefer to isolate and drill into a single threat, while others revel in blowing up huge packs of monsters. Much of this plays out naturally due to the varying sets of damaging abilities, but we are working more intently than in the past to ensure an appropriate variety and spread of DPS strengths and weaknesses. Likewise, healers and tanks should have a bit more identity through their unique healing and mitigation profiles.

Another part of this approach involves working with our content design teams to collaborate on a world where quests, dungeons, and raids create opportunities for all different types of class strengths to shine. If we’re arming classes with distinct tools that provide powerful answers to different situations, it’s important that the game’s content provides a broad array of challenges that play into those different tools.

Talent System Refinements
The overall talent system will remain largely unchanged, but we will be refining our approach. One of the major challenges in setting up talent rows is that they serve two conflicting desires: choices within a row should be meaningfully varied, but also should not feel like they are simply a test of which is best in a particular setting.

If a row has three similar area-damage talents, your decision can feel like it boils down to a complex math problem. If a row mixes area-damage and single-target talents, you’ll likely feel you should change talents to suit the content you’re doing, which also rarely feels like a choice. The most successful talent rows are those with options that have a generally consistent role in your toolkit, but have very different delivery and mechanics, allowing players to thoughtfully customize their identity and complexity.

One other lesson we’ve already begun implementing in Legion patches is being careful with the effect that talents have on “pacing”—how frequently you get to press your buttons, and how often you generate resources and cooldowns. Of course, many talents affect the pacing of a rotation, and this will continue to be the case, as these are some of the talents with the most noticeable and fun feel to them. But if you have access to multiple talents that slow down or speed up your rotation, players can end up outside the bounds of what feels good to play (for example, by being resource starved or flooded). As we review talents going forward, we will try to avoid this by having strong resource-generating talents compete with each other, and better limiting the pacing change allowable from any single talent.

Artifacts Here and Gone
One particular challenge for the class design team throughout Legion was handling the introduction and eventual removal of Artifacts. The idea was exciting: design a large set of bonuses with the intention that they would be contained within an expansion, allowing us to make them flashier, more complex, and more numerous than we’d been able to in a specialization’s permanent set of core abilities. But the process of parting with Artifacts produces a complex set of decisions about how to adjust the base classes to play well in their absence.

The largest issue is where the pacing of a spec’s rotation was heavily affected by Artifacts. In that case, removing the Artifact may result in a rotation that’s too slow, or has too much open time where the core buttons aren’t available. In the process of reviewing and updating each specialization for Battle for Azeroth, we want to make sure all of them are paced appropriately after the removal of Artifacts. In some cases, we may do things like increase resource generation or reduce cooldowns to fill in some of the newly opened space.

For traits that go beyond simple numerical changes and have their own identity—such as active abilities or the powerful and noticeable procs—we are on the lookout across all specs for a small selection of traits that are worth turning into permanent parts of a class. The bar is high for a trait to become permanent. It’s an intended part of the experience of a system like Artifacts that the bonuses are layered on top of the core functionality of your class. You get to explore those bonuses thoroughly, but eventually move on from them. That leaves space in the permanent classes for new special bonuses from other systems in the future, as we’ll soon be exploring with Azerite Armor. That said, various specs will likely see one or two familiar traits from Artifacts showing up in their talent trees in Battle for Azeroth.

These are the broad philosophies that are guiding our design in Battle for Azeroth, and we were deliberately light on sharing specific examples of change, which are still in a state of flux at this stage. We welcome a community discussion on the principles we’ve outlined, and look forward to delving into detailed and specific changes as we move forward with our alpha testing in the near future.
This article was originally published in forum thread: Developer Watercooler - Battle for Azeroth Class Design Overview started by chaud View original post
Comments 210 Comments
  1. makketota's Avatar
    Sounds great
  1. lolbubble's Avatar
    Can someone TL;DR this. XD
  1. SkyTides's Avatar
    here's hoping for a steady flow of news and beta stuff from now on *crosses fingers*
  1. Sable17's Avatar
    I still think they shoulda went with my suggestion I submitted:

    I would like to see artifact traits baked into talent trees. Artifact weapons are really just talent trees with their make up on.

    They could keep the current Talents (15, 30, 45, 60, 75, 90, 100) and throw the Artifact traits in between the big ones. So it would go:

    Talents unlock at level 10.
    Level 10-14: You get 1 "minor talent points" per level to put into the first tier of minor talents. (The first few artifact traits). It would only be 5 talents total, so you could acquire them all, like Artifact traits currently work. This would make balancing easier at end game because you'd get every talent like you do with artifact traits.
    Level 15: You get to choose between one of the 3 "major" talents. (Current Live talents).
    Level 16-29: Repeat with the "minor talent points".
    Etc etc

    That way, we could keep Artifact traits, you still get all of the "minor talents" like you get all of the Artifact traits, and it adds something back to the game. Plus it would make leveling less atrocious. It would be awesome to get something like Share in the Light (Casting Power Word: Shield on a target other than yourself also shields you for 15% as much) at level 30 something.

    For clarity and for a shitty mock-up of what I mean: imgur.com/uuu6QlA.png
  1. ManiaCCC's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by lolbubble View Post
    Can someone TL;DR this. XD
    "Our purring was a shit and we may do better - we hope, also talents provide very little choice but we are to lazy to make our talent tree system interesting, so we will put similar talents into one row, because our metrics show, these talents rows are the most diverse"
  1. ro9ue's Avatar
    Sounds good but honestly I'd rather hear some specific examples of what they are planning on doing. Most of what they said doesn't excite me to look forward to anything, it's just broad philosophies that most of us already have heard a thousand times over.

    I would've liked to hear stuff like:
    • Their thoughts on how Survival Hunter played out - I feel like in the community it's viewed largely as a failure
    • What specific utility abilities they need to bring back - IE Smoke Bomb. And also how they view Talents vs PVP talents. Seems like a lot of utility moved to PVP trees, and that hollowed out PVE utility.
  1. Blackspiral's Avatar
    I like and appreciate that they said classes need work. The fact they acknowledge it is a good sign.

    My biggest concern though is if they will actually act on and read feedback given during Alpha and Beta. There was so much feedback given in Legion testing and so little communication that happened. SO many issues and concerns that were ignored.
    Guess we will have to wait and see what happens.
  1. Aggrophobic's Avatar
    Thats all great but this was just a big wall of text without actually saying anything.
  1. Siuo's Avatar
    sounds boring as hell.
  1. Taeldorian's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Aggrophobic View Post
    Thats all great but this was just a big wall of text without actually saying anything.
    Not true at all. Read.

    They’ve stated multiple times they went too far with the pruning and throughout this statement they are reiterating the fact they want to add more abilities back and continue to try to make classes unique. They understand some feel empty and want to add more back.

    I know you’re negative about damn near everything but it’s quite clear they want to find a happy medium After the Prune vs Before the Prune.
  1. Suar's Avatar
    Players- we do not want this shiet talent/spell
    Blizzard - yes you do

    Thats how looks they class design. If alpha/beta will start dont even bother with your feedback because they wont read it anyway.
  1. Risale's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Aggrophobic View Post
    Thats all great but this was just a big wall of text without actually saying anything.
    Same load of BS they spout in advance of every expac, then alpha/beta drops and they find out that all of it won't work and we will end up with something worse then intended.
  1. Enrill's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Suar View Post
    Players- we do not want this shiet talent/spell
    Blizzard - yes you do

    Thats how looks they class design. If alpha/beta will start dont even bother with your feedback because they wont read it anyway.
    I might be expecting too much , but I hope it won't be the same as legion alpha/beta.
  1. Taeldorian's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Suar View Post
    Players- we do not want this shiet talent/spell
    Blizzard - yes you do

    Thats how looks they class design. If alpha/beta will start dont even bother with your feedback because they wont read it anyway.
    Terrible approach. Sad negative people will tell you not to say anything but don’t listen. Just be loud.

    I understand a few betas in the past (like legions) had a lot of Developer vs Player interactions (ret Paladins and holy wrath is a good example) but they’ll never do anything at all if they don’t have feedback. Don’t listen to idiots, keep providing feedback and lobby for abilities to come back if you feel they should.

    Do all of that and hope we don’t get another scenario like Tom chilton yelling at players saying Holy Wrath is fun and good and we have to like it because he’s not going to remove it.
  1. familiar's Avatar
    Sounds like a good first step
  1. Ganimah's Avatar
    It's starting to smell a lot like Beta.....
  1. Vojka's Avatar
    Posted this in the comments section of that article on their website, putting here now, curious to see what you guys think:

    'Pursuing this goal will likely involve adding some new abilities (or re-adding previously removed abilities) to give classes a more unique signature where needed.'

    Good idea, getting rid of some stuns in favour of more interesting utility could be outright better for the game.

    For example: I'd love to see the return of Intervene, Shattering Throw, Piercing Howl (Arms), Spell Reflect (Mass Reflect even) and Charge Stun as BASELINE abilities/utility for Warriors and getting rid of Stormbolt, Shockwave, War Banner. It's totally okay for some classes to not have direct single target stuns.

    Also consider making Disarm a baseline ability rather then a PvP talent across all classes that traditionally had access to it.

    More engaging and complex gameplay for melee DPS in general, increasing skill ceiling to be apply pressure as a melee, more wiggle room for healers. Not alot of healers in pvp in general because they don't enjoy getting tunneled by brain-dead melee.. Gap between average melee player and good melee player getting smaller and smaller, need to extend that.
  1. Huntingbear_grimbatol's Avatar
    Remember how good classes and specs were in Mists of Pandaria? (excluding abusing the stupid snapshotting trinkets)

    Remember how they pruned class abilities in WoD and Legion? There's a reason Ret Paladins play like Arms Warriors with a bit of Fury mixed into it...

    Classes and specs are so interchangeable now that it doesn't matter what you play because 3 others do exactly the same but with different numbers, there's no flavor, nothing "omg nice xxxx, paladin, you saved us" and so on...
  1. Softbottom's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Suar View Post
    Players- we do not want this shiet talent/spell
    Blizzard - yes you do

    Thats how looks they class design. If alpha/beta will start dont even bother with your feedback because they wont read it anyway.
    This pretty much. Blizz is given so much feedback on the PTR and in Beta and don't listen to any of it.
  1. Connal's Avatar
    I've played a Priest for a long time. Holy in Classic/Vanilla, and Spriest in BC, and currently.

    One of the things that I loved about Shadow Priests in BC, as both the player playing a Priest, but also as a healer/mana user, was their combined heal/mana "HoT" from Vampiric Embrace and Vampiric Touch. I hope they add those back as the classes "unique" abilities.

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