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Encrypted Text: Ghostcrawler explains it all


Every week, WoW Insider brings you Encrypted Text for assassination, combat and subtlety rogues. Chase Christian will be your guide to the world of shadows every Wednesday. Feel free to email me with any questions or article suggestions you'd like to see covered here.

Greg Street, more commonly known as Ghostcrawler, is the lead systems designer for World of Warcraft. While we can never know exactly what his responsibilities are internally, we do know about his external presence: He is the authoritative voice concerning class design. Players flock to his increasingly rare blog and forum posts to read about the direction their classes are headed. There are a slew of developers working on WoW, but his words are the ones that seem to guide our fate.

In a completely unprecedented event, Ghostcrawler has been replying to dozens of posts in a Mists of Pandaria beta rogue thread. His posts are so frequent on this thread that he even had time to reply to my comment personally. He's shared several pages of information with us about rogue design in Mists, Blizzard's concerns and design for the class, and class design in general.

I'm two for two

Ghostcrawler confirmed my suspicions regarding the possibility of combat rogues using two slow weapons in Mists. While a fast off-hand weapon may still be the mathematical best option, the truth is that we're often limited by what drops we actually see. Rather than being forced to stick with a dagger from last tier, we could utilize a second No'Kaled in our off hand and still perform admirably. I think this is the best possible solution to allowing us the aesthetics of dual non-daggers.

The choice between Preparation and Shadowstep is exactly as difficult as I made it out to be, and that's intentional. While we can argue that subtlety rogues have worked for years with both cooldowns at their disposal, the truth is that we can't really say if we'll be unviable with just one. While I'm sad to see two of our most useful talents become mutually exclusive, I'm excited that all three rogue specs will have access to the most important tools in our PvP arsenal.

Fixing our biggest problems

If you ask 10 different rogues what the class' biggest problem is, you're likely to get 10 different answers. Everyone has their own frustrations and difficulties with the class. However, I think if we got together and actually held a poll, ramp-up time would be the weakness that most rogues could agree on. Aldriana has complained about it, I've complained about it, and many of you have complained about it. The good news is that our arguments reached Ghostcrawler, and the dev team agreed.

In Mists of Pandaria, our ramp-up capabilities are being dramatically improved. The new Deadly Poison, the new Bandit's Guile, and the new talents Anticipation and Versatility are all improving our ability to swap targets and to apply damage immediately. Blizzard listened to the feedback of many rogues over several months, examined the problem, and designed a solution. Our biggest weakness is dissolving away in Mists of Pandaria, and that's something to be excited about.

The entire story is very reminiscent of the Cataclysm launch, where Vanish saw its rebirth into the working ability that we know and love today. The biggest problem plaguing rogues was identified and rectified. The devs have worked towards making our lives easier with each expansion and patch.

What's a rogue, anyway?

I know a lot of rogues who hate combo points. They love poisons and daggers and Stealth, but combo points cause them nothing but frustration. Whenever the topic of ramp-up times came up, they'd simply call for the complete removal of combo points to fix the problem. When holy paladins gained their self-stacking holy power, they complained about rogues' missing out on that design. When monks were revealed to build up charges of chi, they said that's how rogues should've been designed since day one.

I would argue that there are a handful of mechanics that define the rogue experience. Combo points and the larger rotation system are literally what define the rogue class in combat. Poisons and Stealth are definitely integral to our flavor, but the rotation system is what we're working with the majority of the time. I am going to say it directly: If you don't like the rotation system, then you don't like playing a rogue.

I am using nearly the same rotation on my rogue today as I used nearly eight years ago when the game was released. Sinister Strike until my finger goes numb, keep up Slice and Dice, and finally unload an Eviscerate when I can. We've been using this rotation through multiple expansions, and it looks like it will survive into Mists of Pandaria as well.

Why would I expect anything else? Why should we expect for our rotation to change dramatically between expansions? Raiding isn't even about our rotations, as it's assumed that we can apply damage competently. Raiding is about new mechanics and learning new encounters. Our rotations go into autopilot mode so we can focus on the fire and void zones. If you're expecting for the core of combat's rotation to change, you are always going to be disappointed.

It can be tough to continue loving the rogue after years of the same rotation and mechanics. The fact is that our core systems like energy, combo points, and rotations aren't likely to change -- ever. You can either embrace the class' consistency or complain about its stagnancy. Either way, we're going to be playing the same rogue for years to come.

Your idea sucks

The problem is self-entitlement. There are a ton of players from every class, rogues unfortunately included, who feel like their opinions are so good that Blizzard should simply put every word they spout on their to-do list. There are rogues who are, in this year of 2012, still asking for the removal of combo points. There are rogues who are convinced that rogues will be underpowered at level 90, regardless of the fact that there's no way to measure DPS or to even raid on the Mists beta. There are rogues that are sure that their idea of how to completely redesign the rotation system is foolproof and that the devs are idiots for not implementing it already.

Now, that said, the developers have made some awful design decisions in their time. The original Main Gauche mechanic was so broken that I wondered if it was a joke. I'm not saying that the devs are infallible, but the fact is that they were hired to do a job. The developers are the people who crafted the rogue that I fell in love with so many years ago, and it's been their class design ideologies that have guided its course.

It's their game

Regardless of how loudly we yell or how noble our cause may seem, the truth is that the ultimate design decision falls to Ghostcrawler and the developers. We might feel like our class is the only one making the hard choices in Mists or that our choices aren't as fun or interesting as what the other classes got.

Ghostcrawler makes the apt point that there are thousands of players who will tell you that their class has Serious Issues and that the devs are ignoring them, regardless of what they're receiving or not receiving in Mists of Pandaria. My Twitter feed is constantly populated with ignorant players (usually druids) complaining about how weak their new talents are, how mandatory/useless their spells are, and how difficult/simple their playstyle has become. Mists has them wondering if they even want to play their class anymore.

Are these players the majority? No, not even close. The majority of players' voices will never be heard, because they will never post on the forums or make their opinions heard. The majority of players will take the patch notes head-on, and they'll stick with their class through hell and back. The majority of players don't care if priest mana regen outpaces druid mana regen by 10% -- they just love playing their class. As long as Blizzard can keep each of the specs and classes roughly viable, then it's serving the greatest majority of its fans and customers.

Ghostcrawler notes that Blizzard doesn't have the luxury of changing things just for the sake of change, as there are plenty of rogues that are satisfied with the class. Why risk alienating your loyal players simply to attract a few players who don't even like the rogue anyway? Revamping our rotations might bring in a few newcomers, but it could easily upset the old-timers.

Rogue class design is not a democracy. You have the right to voice your opinion, but that doesn't count as a vote. The developers have the right -- and the imperative -- to ignore your requests. I would rather have a handful of professional game designers shape the future of my class than leave it up to the 0.01% of disgruntled rogues who found their way to the feedback forums to rant about their pet peeves.

If it ain't broke

Ghostcrawler hit the nail on the head: Rogues are the best-designed class in the game. Energy has always been the strongest resource system -- just ask Matt Rossi about how awful rage is. Our combo point and finisher model has always been the best rotation system, as it stays consistent between specs. The rogue PvE and PvP toolboxes are quite robust in both width and depth. We don't worry about procs or RNG; we simply kill and continue killing until our last breath.

If you think rogues are due for a major overhaul, you are wrong. Rogues are performing well in both PvE and PvP, our specs are more balanced against each other than they've ever been, and our biggest issues are slated to be resolved in Mists of Pandaria. If you're not happy with the rogue class as it stands today, then you're never going to be happy playing one. The rogue of today is the rogue of yesterday and the rogue of tomorrow. There's a reason that sharks haven't evolved in millions of years -- they're already perfect killing machines.

Sneak in every Wednesday for our Molten Front ganking guide, a deep-dive into the world of playing a subtlety rogue -- and of course, all the basics in our guide to the latest rogue gear.

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