Many people have wondered whether Blizzard may add a fourth spec to the existing classes in the next expansion. They've talked about a tanking spec for warlocks, a ranged DPS spec for paladins, a healing spec for mages, etc. It would be an amazing addition to the game for patch 6.0, and I would fully support it. However, fourth specs also seem highly unlikely.
Blizzard would have to implement and then continually balance 10-11 more specs (depending on whether druids get a fifth). That's a big kodo to rein in. It's almost like adding three new classes to the game.
We only have a sample size of one, but Blizzard chose not to add another class in the expansion following Wrath's death knight. It wouldn't surprise me if they chose not to during the next expansion, either. With declining subs, if they aren't adding another new class in the next expansion, they need to add a flashy new feature to our existing classes.
The next expansion has to get players excited about playing our classes. One new spell per class won't cut it. Talent trees are probably staying the way they are. Blizzard seems hesitant to add tri-spec, and I'm not sure tri-spec is a good thing for WoW anyway.
What could this new feature be? The radical new system I'm proposing would not just energize players -- it could also solve one of the game's longstanding problems. I'm going to call it dual class dual spec, or DCDS for short.
Dual class dual spec
What is it? The way I imagine it, you can switch between two specs just like you can today. Instead of being limited to the specs within your class, though, you can access the specs from two different classes. This isn't a gamewide Symbiosis or a "subclass" system like in Final Fantasy XI. You wouldn't be able to use any abilities of the other class while you aren't spec'ed for that class. But you could switch between two different specs as needed, without the limitations of a single class.
For example, an assassination rogue could switch to a holy paladin. An enhancement shaman could switch to a blood DK. A disc priest could switch to a fury warrior.
Now immediately, a host of drawbacks spring to mind, but we'll cover those later. For now, let's look at why this would be awesome, and why Blizzard might actually do it.
Why it could happen
One of the oldest problems in the game right now is the fact that pure DPS classes have no role flexibility. It's inconvenient for players and bad for the game as a whole. Queues for DPS are far longer compared to tanks and healers.
DCDS would solve this issue. Players can play whatever DPS spec they want and still have the ability to help out with other roles. Players who want to use two DPS specs still could, but in this regard they'd also have much more flexibility, if they wanted it.
DPS queues would be shorter, while queues for tanks and healers would only be marginally longer.
And Blizzard wouldn't have to invent 10 new specs out of thin air.
The system has other convenience benefits. Players who aren't into alts because they hate grinding reputation or Lesser Charms on two different characters will no longer have to. They'll be able to play two classes without doubling up on all the work.
For veteran WoW players who have played many different classes, DCDS would be a godsend. After nine years, I've played almost every spec in the game at one time or another. Many classes have a spec that I love along with two specs that I dislike. The ability to combine my favorite DPS spec with my favorite healing spec on one character would be a dream come true.
The extra flexibility in raiding would also help many guilds who struggle with progression or attendance.
From Blizzard's perspective, this is such a crazy idea that it would get players excited about a new expansion. It could get people talking about WoW to their friends who might have quit. This is exactly what Blizzard wants from an expansion announcement.
A system this powerful needs tight restrictions to prevent players from abusing it. To enable DCDS, the player should have to level both classes to max level. DCDS would only unlock once you've leveled two different classes to 95.
Of course, one of the specs would have to be from the character's original class.
The character would also have to be a race that supports both classes. As awesome as a Forsaken or a Gnome druid would be, I don't see it happening anytime soon. Granted, this would make certain races more popular than others due to their versatility.
If necessary, DCDS could limit you to choosing only one other class that is permanently fused to your character.
The loot situation
Loot in theory would become a much more complicated affair. However, the ideal solution is already in place. The LFR system only drops loot for the spec that you want. We don't even have to be playing that spec to get loot for it anymore. Bashiok has stated that Blizzard will probably use the LFR system in the next expansion's dungeons.
So, if you're a BM hunter and a brewmaster monk, you could queue for a dungeon or an LFR raid as a tank, enjoy the instant group, and gear up your hunter spec.
The only type of group play that still involves loot decisions is organized guild raiding. Guilds could figure out on their own who is committed to which offspec and distribute loot accordingly. Far less loot would be sharded this way, especially in ten man raids.
Many characters with dual specs already require two different sets of gear, so I don't see that as an issue.
The DCDS system will be quite confusing for newer players. That's a big part of why it should be reserved for max level.
DCDS also confuses the identity of a player's character. When you look at your guild's roster, you know what each class -- and therefore each player -- is capable of. However, is it really any different than a player who can switch to another character? It just involves less needless summoning.
Alts may become less relevant. In a sense, though, leveling alts will become more relevant with DCDS. Hitting max level on an alt will affect your main character like never before, since it will enable more options. It's true that alts will become less relevant for the endgame, since whatever spec you wanted to gear up can simply be transferred to your main. However, you still have the option to work on alts. But with DCDS you'd have the option not to, as well.
And then there's lore. Could lore ever support the idea of a person becoming both a death knight and a paladin? It would be quite a stretch. One way around this is to consider the two class specs as two different characters. Respec'ing wouldn't be like switching one person's disciplines or philosophy so much as "tagging out" for another "team member." That interpretation could also get around race restrictions. Or maybe we'll finally get those playable two-headed ogres . . .
Will it ever happen? Is Blizzard willing to take the plunge? Probably not. Still, I think it's more likely to happen than a brand new fourth spec for every class. What do you think?