Yet again, a forum discussion of a singular topic (blood DK tanks and their diseaseless rotation, as discussed by our own Daniel Whitcomb last week) has led to some really fascinating perspectives on how the game is designed, how "intended" rotations were and will be discovered, and how much room there is to allow or discourage variant builds and rotations. Poster Deathsaint opened the discussion with the subject of relearning rotations, something we discussed last week in terms of DPS spec design. Things got interesting fast.
What's interesting here is the change in emphasis.
There are two separate and interesting ideas being held forth here. The first is that talent trees shouldn't be a sink-or-swim, figure-it-out-kid phenomenon. After six years, World of Warcraft isn't that game that debuted in 2004, in which the talents were there and people just had to play with them to see what they did. "The original philosophy was more, 'We'll just throw all this stuff at players and they'll figure out through trial and error how things work.'"
In essence, that original philosophy has been superseded by the past five and a half years. There are sites and resources out there that people consult to help them make talent choices and decisions anyway. Why not work this attitude into the game itself, so that through gameplay, people will start to be informed about how and why to spec their characters?
In essence, the goal here is transparency. While there will always be a need for more detailed information to help players come to grips with things, in Cataclysm, the design is intended to help fill in some of the gaps and to guide players to understand the systems and their interaction. In order to do that, the developers are thinking not just about how the talents intersect, but also how easy it is for players to see how they intersect.
I find that fascinating, but it's hardly the only tidbit to mull over from that initial post.
The idea of the design of a spec and its "allowability" based on outside factors is one worth contemplating. Of course, the discussion here is in part about whether or not diseaseless blood actually is (as is stated here) a sacrifice of threat generation. (My gut feeling is that yes, it absolutely is over the long haul, but it has much better snap threat since it's faster to get started. But Outbreak might well change the whole playing field.)
But more important is the idea that a DPS rotation might see adjustment whereas a tanking one wouldn't, because a tanking rotation is intended to be simpler and less elaborate. DPS rotations are made complex because making those choices to max your DPS is part of the gameplay, but tanking involves factors like placement, threat generation, and survivability management that are already demanding a great deal of the player's attention. In other words, making a DPS rotation more complex results in more engaging play for a DPS player, but making a tanking rotation more complex does not always reward with more fun because tanks are already stretched in more directions at once.
What this leads to is a discussion of just how much effort should the developers even be putting into this process.
In essence, the attempt to improve the game's design is taking into account the community that grew out of the original design philosophy. In essence, again we see a sign of an expansion that is attempting to look at what World of Warcraft has become after five years and to design itself around those elements.
The idea is that people should be able to make nominal guesses as to what their best talents will be based on the in-game experience; that deeper theorycrafting will come into play after players have learned the basics; and that this time, the game itself will be where players learn those basics of what to spec into. While the "throw them in the deep end and see if they swim" method was exciting for some and led to the creation of the community as it now exists, it was also a barrier to entry for people, because in order to really grasp talents and how to spend those points, many players really needed to go to an out-of-game source first. This change is an attempt to have design that gives players that first step through play, while still taking advantage of the work of those who will sit down and suss out optimal builds.
Likewise, the development of the talents and abilities needs to have a certain level of difficulty shared across different trees and classes. Diseaseless blood, to keep using that example, might be fine for a tank but not for DPS. Why?
So changes aren't made solely on the idea that something is overly potent or not. A change may occur because it makes a simple DPS rotation as effective as one that takes more effort to play, since the more complex rotation rewards skill. A change might be made because of flavor, such as the rogue spec above. No one minds rogues' doing higher DPS as long as they do it like rogues, not standing in the back using ranged attacks and generally acting like substandard hunters.
These two ideas dovetail. Players should learn at least the basics of talenting their characters by playing their characters, and changes will be made to classes and specs to keep players on track and rewarding them for mastering their classes (as in the ranged rogue example above; it's not the design goal for the class to be a ranged DPS, and any accidental discovery of talent selections that made it possible would be stamped out). All of this is aimed at a gameplay experience in which the barrier to entry is reduced, and while it will most likely always require some relearning and exploring outside sources of information, the basics are being contemplated and implemented to put some of those tools in a new player's hands as soon as he or she starts playing his chosen class.
A mention is even made of feral druids and protection paladins as classes whose tanking rotations were deliberately aimed at being more complex in Cataclysm in order to give players who master those rotations a sense of accomplishment. Rotations are about this feeling of mastery, and the design is aimed at fostering and rewarding it from an earlier point.
World of Warcraft: Cataclysm will destroy Azeroth as we know it; nothing will be the same! In WoW Insider's Guide to Cataclysm, you can find out everything you need to know about WoW's third expansion (available Dec. 7, 2010), from brand new races to revamped quests and zones. Visit our Cataclysm news category for the most recent posts having to do with the Cataclysm expansion.