The matter of why
The debate in of itself is a rather simple one. There are players who want to see Moonkin Form removed for various reasons. To some, the model is ugly. For others, it's the fact that being shapeshifted into a single form all the time means we can't enjoy a lot of the other neat things that other players can. Silly as it may seem, players really do enjoy the ability to change their appearance nearly any way that they can. All of our guild engineers abuse their portals to obscure locations no one cares about anymore simply because it has a chance of changing them into something else. We get all sorts of fun things like Tauren rogues, Gnome paladins, and the like. Another of our paladins still uses the flask that turns him into a Storm Dwarf for every single encounter.
Frivolous, silly, stupid, inconsequential, however you want to classify it, players love to change their models. They like getting new gear, they like how certain things look, and they like for their characters to look pleasing to them. Transmogrification is a clear indication of this; players everywhere are going absolute bonkers over it. Yet balance druids don't get the same effect. Sure, we can transform our gear to look however we want for running around town, but I can already do that. When I go into battle, when I enter raids or dungeons, I'm in Moonkin Form.
The argument for the removal of Moonkin Form is one of choice. It is blatantly clear that players love choice, that players would do nearly anything if only to get that certain look that they want. On its own, I honestly feel that is a strong point to stand on. The vast evidence that can be used to support it is everything that Blizzard has added into the game that allows players this level of customization -- and frankly, there's a lot. Be that as it may, there are a few common arguments against the removal of Moonkin Form; let's look at them.
Druids are about shapeshifting!
Wrong. Every time I see someone bring up this point, I want to smash my head against my desk so hard that I fall into the floor beneath me. Druids were not originally all about shapeshifting, not in WoW and certainly not in other games. When WoW was first released, druids had only two combat forms, Cat and Bear. There was no Moonkin Form; there was no Tree of Life. Balance druids rarely, if ever, shapeshifted during this time period. It wasn't until the druid class review that our then end talent, Hurricane, was replaced with Moonkin Form.
Druids are not a class centered around shapeshifting; shapeshifting is merely one of our many tools. Shapeshifting's original design, and the design that it still follows today, is that we do it in order to fill into different roles completely; this is why Moonkin Form was not an original form. Cat Form allowed us to be a melee damage dealer similar to a rogue; Bear Form allowed us to be a tank. There wasn't a need for a caster variant because we could cast in our original shape.
Moonkin Form is central to the balance spec!
Wrong again. Moonkin Form is in no way central to the balance druid design. Back when Cataclysm
was in early beta, Blizzard attempted to make Moonkin Form entirely optional. The original utility that it provided was completely stripped away; all you got was an armor increase and the aura which was brought by three other specs. Provided you didn't need the haste increase, you could easily go without Moonkin Form. That last fact was all that the beta testers knew, however, and so we questioned this design intent. It wasn't until Blizzard changed its mind from community input to have Moonkin Form increase damage that we even knew the real reasoning behind the design.
It is beyond easy to remove the need of Moonkin Form -- not to mention, Moonkin Form has taken on a totally different function than it originally held. The first Moonkin Form was all about the buff. There was the armor buff, supposedly for PVP purposes, but honestly the original design was probably just thrown in there for flavor. At the time, Blizzard did jack-all for PVP balancing, and balance druids were purely designed to be a leveling spec. Since it was added into the game and through The Burning Crusade
, the utility of the aura was all Moonkin Form really had for it, it was the only reason that we bothered to use it at all; or did you really think that melee for mana concept Blizzard added in The Burning Crusade
Come Wrath of the Lich King
, Moonkin Form slightly changed. Melee for mana was removed, to be replaced with mana from critical strikes. The form was somewhat optional, given that the aura wasn't nearly as important anymore, but the fact that our mana was tied into it meant that we had to use it or we would go OOM. It wasn't until Cataclysm
that we saw Moonkin Form take on the shape of actually being used for raw damage; being out of Moonkin Form reduces your damage by 10%.
I feel that shift was rather radical. To go from being a passive utility, to a means of supporting mana, to optional, to utterly required or your damage is going to tank is drastic. There just wasn't a need for Blizzard to take it that far.
We've heard the lines before
Let's face it: Blizzard has constantly been making us false promises. Back when Cat and Bear Forms got their update, Blizzard said that balance and restoration were also slated for form updates, but it only had time for feral. Besides, those two had been around for long, so it made sense to update them first. Fine and dandy.
Then Blizzard turned Tree of Life into a cooldown and
created a new look for it. More than that, after players complained that they liked the old look better, Blizzard created a Glyph
to allow them to keep the old look. At this same time, Blizzard said that it would get around to updating Moonkin Form as well; it also said that Worgen and Trolls would have unique forms of their own -- which they got, just not for moonkin.
The update to Moonkin Form never came. In Wrath,
it was promised but pushed off until Cataclysm
release. In Cataclysm
beta, it was pushed off again until either the first or second patch, when they'd have more time. Now we can't even get a comment on the matter, but it certainly isn't coming out this expansion. Blizzard clearly has no interest in committing its art team to a task that impacts so few players. I mean, it didn't even create new moonkin models for Trolls or Worgen; both use the Night Elf model that is recolored, as is evident from the gigantic, purple Night Elf ears poking out of them.
If the art team can't take the time to create a new form, why can't the design team at least make the form optional?
Matters of player choice
All in all, it boils down to a matter of choice. Players should have the choice to customize their characters in ways that they see fit. Given that this is the central theme of patch 4.3, it is clearly obvious that this is something Blizzard knows their playerbase wants; why then does it completely ignore a portion of its players? Frankly, it's insulting to see Blizzard use druids in the transmogrification promotional images. Why would I want to waste thousands of gold so that my character can look like he's wearing a different outfit while walking around town? I have an equip macro that does the exact same thing, and it's free. Out in the world, I'll be stuck in Moonkin Form.
Remove Moonkin Form? No. Make it an optional talent? Absolutely. Players should have choice. This entire game is central to players having choices. Why should my customization choices be limited because of the spec that I play? It is absolutely infuriating, the type of hypocritical statements we've seen from Blizzard on these types matters lately. As recent as this past beta, it was reaffirmed that Blizzard wanted to keep druids locked into their forms because the silhouette of a player was super-important. That it is grossly unfair to not know what form a druid is in by looking at their character image. After all, no other class can change the way they look, so I mean, I know that skeleton running at me is a warrior ... or maybe a death knight ... or it kind of looks like a hunter.
Now, with transmogrification and in the various interviews they've given recently, Blizzard reps have said that the silhouette of toons isn't nearly as important any more. Does that mean that Blizzard is finally going to allow druids to enjoy all of the fun things that other players do? I, for one, would love to waste my gold on transmogrification. I would love to go out and farm ridiculous transformation items. Hell, I would love to be able to dismount and start DPSing just like anyone else. I can't do any of these things, purely because of Moonkin Form.
Options -- all I ask for are options. It isn't that difficult.
Every week, Shifting Perspectives: Balance brings you druidic truth, beauty and insight ... from a moonkin's perspective. We'll help you level your brand new balance druid, tweak your UI and your endgame gear, analyze balance racials and abilities, and even walk you through PVP as a balance druid.