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Class Balance Q&A: Classless miscellany

Alex Ziebart

Moveth asked:

When are we gonna get a crack at the official Talent Calculator for MoP? Even just a work in progress one that perhaps could change as you guys make changes. Would be VERY cool to see how the talents progress form now until release.

Ghostcrawler answered:

We are working to get one up soon (TM). We want to include all of the core class and spec spells, because the main concern from players (especially those not at Blizzcon) is what happens to various spec spells. The talent calculator will also help alleviate concerns about leveling up, because you'll be able to see that you get new spells about as often as you do today. Just remember that the individual talents and spells will change a lot before we ship 5.0.

MayplesMind asked:

ITEM SQUISHING QUESTION: Item squishing sounds smart, but have you guys thought about the possibility of using item scaling like you do for Heirlooms but backwards? Sets between ilevel xxx for level 85 and xxx level 90 curve downward. Example would be at level 85 the item has 200 str but at level 90 the item has 100str because the ilevel doesnt match the content. This would allow you to stay at roughly the same numbers possibly.

Wradyx answered:

We've looked at the item squish problem from many different angles, and definitely considered this approach. However, the solution you mention has problems. Players are already very unahppy that their ratings get nerfed as they level up. Doing what you describe would make that feeling of getting weaker as you level even worse, as you saw your primary stats decline as well. You could even have the effect of creatures getting harder as you gain levels.

David Stewart asked:

In the Dev watercooler 'Threat Level Midnight' GC effectively stated that the short term solution for tank threat was to increase across the board and a long term solution, if any, to be decided upon at a later date. Have you decided what the long term solution(s) is going to be yet? Can we get a followup on where you see threat going into 5.0?

Celestalon answered:

We're currently investigating a form of 'Active Mitigation' for each tanking class. This means that tanks will continue to do similar damage (relative to DPS specs) as they do today, but that their skill usage in combat will directly impact their ability to survive and mitigate damage. We aren't firm on any of these mechanics yet, but we're considering options like no longer generating rage from damage taken, only from ability usage and white swings. For example, Shield Slam could generate rage instead of costing it, and Shield Block could cost a large amount of Rage, but have no cooldown. This would lead to offensive stats (such as haste) increasing rage generation, and therefore increasing mitigation.

Ikekudeyg asked:

Where is our moose at?

Zarhym answered:

There's a pony you can ride in the new 4.3 Darkmoon Faire. :D

Zalayera asked:

Sometimes it seems you try to fix 'underpowered' class specs by increasing numbers, rather than trying to solve the underlying issue (like RNG in fire spec: you just increased numbers rather than making the dps more stable)

Ghostcrawler answered:

RNG is what you are signing up for when you play Fire. We don't view that as a crippling problem that needs to be fixed. Now there is such a thing as too much RNG, but we don't think Fire is in that spot. Sometimes you'll get a lot of Hot Streak procs etc. and sometimes you'll get less. Our design intent is that if that bothers you, play Frost or Arcane instead. (Obviously the DPS needs to be similar overall for that to feel like a real option.)

Cataia asked:

I have been very interested in the thoughts/discussions around item level inflation, and the proposed solutions you have/are considering. My question is more centered around how items will scale in the future. Wouldn't it make more sense to try and keep the item level gains uniform? If they begin to grow exponentially again, you would have to 'squish' again, which might disrupt things even further in the future.

Wradyx answered:

We don't anticipate changing the way item levels scale in the future. We've founf that in order for item upgrades to feel good, they need to be a percentage increase over prior items. That's the very definition of exponential growth. Using a very simple example, if your first item is +1 str, and second is +2 strength, etc., when you get that item upgrade that goes from +100 strength to +101 strength, the upgrade is clearly not as worthwhile. So, percentage growth has to exist in some form. Knowing that reality, we are exploring to find ways to mitigate the impact of very large numbers on the game, including the item squish as one option.

L asked:

In the old talent trees, a lot of the talents gave players spec-specific gameplay mechanics that are core to its gameplay, such as the Mage's Hot Streak talent. Others, such as Infected Wounds for Druids, also provided important benefits/mechanics, but might not be necessary to take depending on raid composition (i.e. if another player brought the debuff). With the new talent system, how are these mechanics going to be incorporated into the classes? It would seem overwhelming to players to roll all of the core spec mechanics into the Level 10 Pick Your Spec decision, and are talents like Infected Wounds going to be made choices of some sort, or are they also just going to be rolled into the spec?

Ghostcrawler answered:

In most cases, if it's a fun mechanic, we give it to your spec. All Fire mages get Hot Streak at a certain level. Feral druids (but not Guardian druids - the new bear spec) learn Infected Wounds. As with every expansion, we are taking a close look at buffs and debuffs, simplifying the matrix a bit, and making sure you don't feel like you are locked into a certain debuff.

HunterSalty asked:

If there's no hybrid tax, what's the point of playing a pure DPS class? Raid/pug leaders will always prefer players that can fill multiple roles. When hybrids like Boomkin and Shadow Priests are out DPSing the four pure classes across most parses, I think something's wrong.

Ghostcrawler answered:

We want to make sure there are pure DPS classes in raids. That doesn't mean that hybrids just have to be support classes as they were back in the BC days. But it does mean that you should neglect mages, locks, rogues and hunters at your peril. There may very well be more hybrids, because they just have a chance at more roles, so you can't just look at popularity of classes, but we will take steps to make sure the pures don't vanish.

Poncho asked:

Since in MoP you guys plan on getting rid of relics for pallies, shamans, druids, and stat sticks for hunters are you planning on boosting stats in other areas to compensate? Or are the range slots for the other classes being removed as well?

Celestalon answered:

The ranged slot is being removed for everyone in 5.0. Relics are gone. Ranged Weapons will be usable in the main hand by appropriate classes. Wands will become a type of main hand weapon. This effectively is a slight nerf to the stats of everyone equally, so doesn't cause class balance concerns.

Walstad asked:

You talked about making resilience a base stat that would increase with level. Are you going to make a way for people who spend their time obtaining PVE or PVP gear do the PVP / PVE content in the gear they are in and be able to stand a chance. It seems right now that PVP gear can enter PVE content with ease but you can't obtain PVE gear and stand a chance in PVP.

Wradyx answered:

The goal of providing resilience as a base stat is to make players who primarily do PvE content able to enter the PvP space with their PvE gear and remain competitive. We feel resilience is doing the job we intended of slowing down PvP combat, but has become a must have to play. This change will let you play PvP content in PvE gear without feeling like you die much too easily.

Aure asked:

Regarding healers : do you have any plans for more proximity spells ? That is spells that use your real position in the world rather than clicking on health bars ? I really can't stand the UI anymore. I miss so much of the fight.

Koraa answered:

We did do some of that in Cataclysm, with Healing Rain and Holy Word: Serenity and Light of Dawn. The Monk healer will also involve a lot of non-targeted healing. Anything can change, but I'd like to say you could heal as a Monk competitively without ever having to target a friendly player.

Donovan asked:

Is there any possiblity of giving us a few more talent choices? to decrease the chances of having everyone in the same spec, some abilities will end up being a given in certain fights

Wradyx answered:

We actually looked at having more than 6 rows and having more than 3 choices per row, but felt that both options did a couple things we didn't like. They introduced additional combinatorial complexity which would make it much more difficult to balance and tune. The number of different ability combiantions on a potential PvP opponent shouldn't make your head explode. In addition, we found that when we had more choices and rows, the choices often weren't very compelling or creative. Lowering the number of choices let us focus on a good strong design. New rows may always be introduced in some future expansion.

Gentlemen asked:

Class homogenization has been problematic in the eyes of the player base. How are you planning to make classes feel unique while still maintaining the bring the player, not the class ethic?

Ghostcrawler answered:

Homogenization is one of *the* hardest challenges we face. Players become upset if they feel like they are losing what is uniquely theirs, but then they get just as frustrated when they lack e.g. self-healing or mobility or a cool toy that another class gets. With 11 classes and parties, (some) raids and PvP teams much smaller than that, we can't make every class mandatory and we don't think it's reasonable to have 11 (or even 34 if you include specs) spells, buffs and mechanics that are unique but completely equal. We just try to keep the pulse on the community and see when players think we have gone too far or not far enough. This next bit might start a firestorm of controversy, but we heard from a lot of 10-player raiders who asked Why make a rogue legendary? We don't have a rogue. When we asked why, they said 'Rogues don't bring anything we need, so we don't want them. That's not cool. I'm not saying the legendary is the answer for why bring rogues, but you should feel like you have room for rogues without sacrificing something else and that rogues should bring something that makes you happy they are there.

Ikekudeyg asked:

How exactly did you land on 6 talent points?

Xelnath answered:

Originally, we had a grid that was 10x3. When we sat down and looked at the talents we had, we realized that the number of permutations to balance was immense - and that we were diluting our design to fill out that many slots.

Kalgan asked frankly - how few rows can we do and make them feel awesome. We started cutting until we had 6.

Kazmeme asked:

I'm glad to see you guys are still interested in making the talent system as unique as possible, but it seems like by giving so few choices that cookie cutter specs will be even MORE easy to come up with then now. i know there will always be the best choice. but if you guys do all this redesigning just to have the same outcome, what do you have in store to try and fix it from there? and are you concerned the new talent trees might not offer the unique build options players want to have?


Since so many of the talents focus on survivability, movement, and utility we are skeptical that there will ever be a talent build that is the perfect build for every PvE fight in the game. It is likely that as players learn specific encounters, each spec finds an ideal set of talents for that encounter. Those will be the cookie cutter builds. However, that will mean that players are interacting with the system and picking a unique set of customizations on a frequent basis. This is a vast improvement over a system that is solved once by a dps spreadhseet and then everyone copies that build once and ignores their talents for the rest of the expansion. In addition, there will be likely disagreement over which talents are best for which encounters.

Whicker asked:

How do you plan on balancing healer mana management in MoP? I for one enjoyed the beginning of Cata when healing was a little more challenging but now Disc and Druids barely have any worries while shamans and Holy priests have a little harder time.

Watcher answered:

We agree. It's a nearly-unavoidable consequence of gear scaling under our current system. Fresh level 85s in mostly quest gear need to have enough mana and regen to be able to set foot in dungeons and sustain a healing rotation for a couple of minutes in the face of reasonable incoming damage. But then a healer in Heroic Firelands gear now has nearly double the stats of a healer fresh out of Uldum questing, and the mana cost of that healer's spells is unchanged, often resulting in a large mana surplus.

Our current plan for Mists is for Intellect to no longer directly increase the size of player mana pools. We intend for our mana-based DPS and Tank classes to be entirely self-reliant regardless of mana pool, so the gameplay impact for those players will be nil. For healers, Spirit will remain as the pure regen stat, and healers after multiple tiers of raid progression will clearly have far more mana at their disposal, but there will be more of an inherent tradeoff between regen and throughput stats. A healer with amazing regen will have amazing regen because of a choice to focus their stats in that direction.

Tsutey asked:

Some of the MoP talents seem really OP, is this intended?

Wradyx answered:

One of our core design philosophies is Make it Overpowered. As much as possible, we like to start with abilities being very strong, and then correct problems as they occur.

Mick asked:

Why won't Blizzard hotfix overpowered classes between major content patches more often?

Xelnath answered:

Sometimes a spec is genuinely broken and trivializes the other classes. In those cases, we try to address the issue. However, sometimes players just haven't discovered the optimal way to play a particular class. For example, Unholy, Survival and Subtlety have the capability to perform far better than most people realize.

Ghostcrawler added:

To add to that, we do it when we think it is necessary. The community has a tendency to always think balance is the worst it has ever been, but if you look back objectively, it's probably the best it has even been. We also see a tendency for players who lose a PvP engagement or get beaten in DPS by a friend view that things are HORRIBLY OVERPOWERED and then assume everyone agrees with them. Try to keep in mind that forums have a huge echo chamber effect.

TLDR: They may not be as broken as you think.

psicozona asked:

Once there are no more cookie cutter builds, a player doing low dps will have no excuses. He will not be subpar because he has the wrong talents. He will just be bad at his rotation. Do you see it as purely a good thing? Or some inevitable outcome?

Wradyx answered:

Separating dps choices from the talent trees will be a good thing, but I would not call the new trees cookie cutter. There are a host of decisions that can make one player worse than another at dps: gear choices, talent choices, glyph choices, latency, ability sequence used. Removing choosing bad talents as a way for a player to go wrong will raise up the players having the hardest time with the game, and make them better able to compete and have fun.

Peter asked:

At first excuse my english. It is not my first language. As a person who is playing in a very ambitious 10 men raiding guild we have problems to bring all the buffs out there to our raid. So sometimes I, as a rogue, have to raid without melee-haste oder without sunder armor. You may know that it is very frustrating to fall behind in damage because of reason like this. We are also trying to recrute the missing classes for our setup, but can not find players who are good enough. Are there any plans to bring all the buffs more easily to a 10 men raid?

Ghostcrawler answered:

The current 5.0 model is that there are 8 raid buffs: health, attack power, spell power, melee haste, spell haste, crit, mastery and stats. We'll get CATERING TO THE CASUALS feedback on that, but we don't want the fun of raiding to be assembling the group. Neither do we want you to be able to stack just the highest DPS or healers for certain fights. Also remember there are still debuffs and utility abilities, such as knockbacks and snares.

thelock asked:

how are you planning to rework glyphs with the new talent system?

Celestalon answered:

We're not happy with how Prime glyphs have worked out, and are considering removing them. Don't worry, scribes, if we do this sort of change, we'll keep you heavily in mind; we don't intend to 'nerf' Inscription in any way with this potential change.

Toraka asked:

Are the new spec abilities replacing must have talents going to be in the order you would get them now, or are you going to change it around a little bit (For instance, getting Hot Streak together with Pyro)?

Wradyx answered:

We are completely reflowing when you get spec abilities to make the gameplay the most fun we can make it. We want to spread the abilities out over as many levels as possible, but core mechanics should be learned early, and more situation or raid-oriented abilities come later.

Brenton asked:

What is the reason for adding additional resource management to so many classes now? (combo point systems). How is it any different in gameplay than a proc? ie, in both cases, you wait a certain amount of time to use a certain ability or choose between a couple. Why not just use the cooldown system? It's all essentially the same. Cooldowns are just the most reliant.

Xelnath answered:

That's a great question. We try to keep our classes as simple as possible.

Resource bars are more visible than a proc, but consume more of the player's attention. The line between where a stacking buff and a resource bar comes to play comes down to how often the player cares about that value.

For example, we could make make the enrage effect on Warriors a resource bar - one that goes from empty to full. However, that would be more annoying than helpful.

tl;dr - its a tough judgement call with no easy answer

Brettshock asked:

Hey, you guys said that Talents would be as easy to change as Glyphs are, how do you plan to go about this?

Ghostcrawler answered:

The current idea is that Dust of Disapperance becomes a Training Manual or something and that the same consumable can be used to blank out a glyph or a talent. The cost of the consumable means that players can change when they think it's important but won't do it for trivial gains. Remember it only needs to compete against the inconvenience of visiting a class trainer.

Jay Laudick asked:

What is your plan for dealing with all the interrupts currently in PvP. There is a greater risk/reward for a healer trying to juke an interrupt than their is for a DPS trying to interrupt it. What I mean is, if a healer gets interrupted, they can't heal for 4 secs which is a long time in PvP. But, if a DPS gets juked, the onl punishment the face is the have to wait 10 secs to try again.

Koraa answered:

We want mana to be a finite resource in PvP that you want to spend intelligently. So if you have two healers on either side, the one who spends his/her mana more effectively has an advantage. Because of lot of factors (self healing, too much mana regen, class mechanics) that is diminished a bit. So you shouldn't be killing healers just because you burst them down and keep them interrupted, but because you cause them to have to use mana inefficiently. We aren't there yet, but that's the goal.

Darknessclaw asked:

How will low level balance be fixed in Mists of Pandaria.Right now you can one shot a lot of npcs or players at low levels.

Wradyx answered:

We plan to put some additional careful effort into balancing low level combat for MoP.

Brian asked:

Is it possible to get another character slot for MoP? I know it's a big tech problem, but would really like to try out the monk class without without having to go to another server.

Wradyx answered:

We are exploring that option.

EldacarJS asked:

@Community Managers, Is there any chance of a PVP-focused Q&A in the future? =D

Zarhym answered:

It's possible. It all depends on what we feel fits and is relevant to what's going on within the development halls. We'd also like to start doing some live Q&As for Diablo III and StarCraft II as well. ;)

jasiones asked:

You guys must have nerves of steel when visiting the official forums. do you ever take what players say about class design & balance seriously or just brush it off as angry nerds venting?

Xelnath answered:

I actually spent about a week reading through the class feedback threads. There was a ton of well-written, thought out posts.

Believe it or not, we really do read those threads. A lot of the changes that came in 5.0 were the result of players pointing out broken or difficult mechanics.

Valesheres asked:

One continues result of character design and stat inflation that devalued my experience in wow was that characters started feeling too powerful, back in vanilla it would take skill, knowledge and consumables to solo an even leveled elite mob (unless playing a paladin or bm hunter) as opposed to this in cataclysm players seem to have little issue soloing a mob with 7 times their hitpoints and a fair ammount of damage output, are there any plans to bring the players power back in line and return the feeling of being mortal once more?

Wradyx answered:

If you play through Twilight Highlands with a fresh level 84 character, I believe you will find that you cannot attack multiple creatures or elites with impunity. It is quite possible to overpull and get killed. This philosophy will most likely continue in our end zones for Pandaria.

Bellajtok asked:

A lot people are worried that with druids being able to do well at our other roles, we'll see the return of the hybrid tax. It's the same old story: if we can perform any role when needed, raids will stack us, unless we don't do as well in our specific roles, in which case we're bad at what we most want to do. What assurance can we get that we won't have this problem?

Celestalon answered:

We are very interested in opening opportunities for more hybrid gameplay in druids, as you can see in the level 90 talent tier, while still allowing an option for players who want to never do anything outside their role. We don't intend for that added hybridization to be offset by any sort of DPS nerf. While DPSing, a druid's DPS will be entirely competitive with other DPS. We hope to see druids that do things like, DPS in Cat Form most of the fight, but during one phase, when healing is super difficult, pop out of Cat, hit Heart of the Wild, Tranquility, and spam heals on the raid to help top everyone off, then go back to Cat and resume DPSing. In that sort of the situation, the Cat will have spent less time DPSing than other DPSers, but his/her DPS while DPSing would have been competitive, and in exchange helped save the raid when healers were falling behind. You can probably think of many situations where this would be useful in raid content, or in some 5man content, and frequently in PvP. To clarify a bit further on how the druids will perform at their off-roles: Ferals and Guardians will have Nurturing Instinct, which increases spell power based on Agility, and Balance and Restoration will have Killer Instinct, which increases attack power based on Intellect. They will have a smaller toolbox of spells for their off-role, but the strength of those spells will be competitive, when under the effects of those hybrid talents.

Lodur asked:

Firelands seemed to do a good job at highlighting a disparity between healing classes and specs. Some, like shaman, have had to struggle to maintain healing numbers that were reasonable for the content and comparable with other healers, while other healers just shot ahead of everyone else with seemingly little effort. Are there going to be systems in place to keep this from happening again? Is this problem something that has been actively reviewed? How will healing balance be maintained while adding a 5th healing capable class?

Watcher answered:

We've made some class-level adjustments to healer balance for 4.3, but healer performance often ends up being as much a reflection of the encounter design in a particular tier as anything else. Healer specs in their current form have strengths and weaknesses, and niches in encounters that play into those strengths. Using your example of shaman, there were fewer situations that were ideal for shamans in Firelands than in Tier 11 (or in Tier 13, for that matter) -- If there had been more encounters like the second phase of Beth'tilac, for example, perceptions might be different.

We feel that it's important to maintain those niches to ensure that the different healer specs feel distinct from each other, and that means that some fights will play to some specs' strengths and less so to others. Of course, just because a fight doesn't fall squarely into the niche of a given spec does not mean that anyone should feel unable to perform adequately in that situation. Our ongoing healer balance efforts aim at ensuring viability in all setting, but particular encounter mechanics will often dictate what is strictly optimal. Our class and encounter designers work closely with each other to keep things diverse and balanced on that front.

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