Tweaks and fantasies and names

A few days ago at Dragoncon 2015, a WoW dev — J. LeCraft, aka TheCrafticus — talked about Legion. I was not there, as far as I know it was not live streamed, so I have no idea what the context was, but a couple of game bloggers were, and they live tweeted the conversation/discussion. You can read MMO-C’s summary here. This was the game reporters’ best summary of what was going on, but it is not a transcript, and it is severely limited by the Twitter word restriction, so take it for what it is worth.

Before I launch into today’s topic, an obligatory note about the medium.

(ahem) BLIZZ, WTF?!?!

You have a major expansion coming out within a year, you have made an effing huge hoopla announcement about it, you have both tantalized and pissed off players by dropping little “nuggets” (or “turds”, take your pick of terminology) of information here and there, and then you slammed down the Cone of Silence on everything. And now you have some heretofore unknown WoW dev (sorry, TheCrafticus, I am sure you are a very nice person and a competent game designer, but you have not exactly been leading the charge on Blizz-player interface), at a minor game conference almost no one has ever heard of — let alone attended — making apparently random comments that add new information to the paltry amount you have given us? And then you don’t deign to capture the comments in an official forum? Or for that matter even stoop to acknowledging them? (Wait, I take that back, there was a tweet from @Muffinus that cautioned against putting too much credence in “second-hand information”, by which he meant the third-party tweets everyone was driven to by Blizz’s refusal to actually stand behind TheCrafticus and put his comments out officially.)

This bizarre approach to disseminating product information just boggles the mind. Seriously, what are they thinking at Blizz? Who is making these nutty decisions? Here is my theory about their plan for Legion info: They have a big box in the lobby of Blizz HQ, and devs write little snippets of Legion info on slips of paper and put them in the box. At random times (possibly tied to their RNG algorithm, possibly a function of sunspot activity), devs who are about to attend a conference, or who are just bored, are permitted to grab a small handful of the snippets and release them in whatever form they want. Could be “released” over a beer at a conference, could be a blue post in an obscure forum, whatever. But the rule is, they cannot add anything to what is written on the slip of paper, cannot expand on it or clarify it.

This is the Public Relations equivalent of jumping puzzles — tedious and annoying, no significant reward, but you must engage in the activity if you wish to progress. Yes, Blizz could actually give out decent, controlled, cohesive information in a more structured format, but that would take all the “fun” out of it. It would not be truly “immersive.”

What ever happened to the concept behind DevWatercooler? I loved the idea when it was first introduced by Ghostcrawler.

When we started these blogs, the idea was to foster developer communication to the players without some of the inherent problems of posting in forums. Some players have pointed out recently, and we totally agree, that the blogs up until now have been from a very high vantage point. We looked for topics with universal interest that would feel important and newsworthy. That has worked overall, but we also feel like we’ve lost something from when I used to be down in the metaphorical trenches talking to players in the forums.

So we’re going to try something a little different. We’re going to unleash some blogs that are much more conversational and less proclamational (that’s a word now). If we deliver on this, it will hopefully feel like you’re eavesdropping on our design meetings. You won’t always learn a lot about exciting new features coming to the game, but you will (ideally) learn something about the design process itself. (When we have big, exciting news to share, or ‘State of the Game’ style blogs, we’ll still do those as well.)

What a great idea. Too bad Blizz is now either too afraid or too arrogant to do them. It would be a perfect opportunity to share not only some of the actual changes coming in Legion — even if only the ones they are sure of — but also some in depth philosophies driving the changes. Such as class changes.

Which — finally — brings me to today’s topic: class and spec changes in Legion. This was mentioned in the initial xpac unveiling, but one of the pooplets added at Dragoncon was that most specs are getting overhauled, that they will be “tweaked” to “fit the fantasy of the spec”, and that some will be renamed.

First, what a dizzying array of major changes that short tweet suggests. One has to wonder, for example, if the total destruction of SV as a hunter spec is what Blizz means by a “tweak.” (The vindictive, schadenfreude side of me hopes so, and further hopes Blizz makes similar “tweaks” to every other class, just so that I can listen to them all wail as they have accused SV hunters of doing.)

More interesting is the reference to “the fantasy of the spec”. I would love to know what this is. Where exactly can we find this, Blizz? I have looked and all I can come up with — not counting third-party sites — are the class description pages on battle.net. I found the hunter page interesting, mainly because in Legion nearly everything on it will not apply to the hunter class, only to certain specs, and I wonder therefore how exactly Blizz sees the hunter class “fantasy” not to mention the individual spec fantasies.

I am calling you out, Blizz. Tell us what each class and spec “fantasy” is, and how you intend to fulfill them. Because honestly I doubt there are such baseline philosophies, you just use these vague terms to justify any random changes you want to make. Tell us what traits the real hunter class is supposed to embody. Then tell us how the current SV spec does not fit the SV fantasy, whatever that is, and how the change to melee fixes the misfit.

I suspect we will see some spec name changes, and honestly I can’t get too excited one way or the other about the prospect. Oh, I suppose I would be a tad upset if they renamed Beastmastery to something like Puppycuddler, but I am far more interested in the baseline principles guiding the spec balance and feel. (Although I am moved to suggest a new name for SV: Demonhunter Light.)

Here is my prediction: We will get new names for some specs, and we will get some very significant “tweaks” to more of the pure damage classes, but we will never get an explanation of how such changes reflect the basic spec fantasy. Because there is no such thing, and because Blizz is unable to do anything with their class balance mess other than hype form over content.

About Fiannor
I have a day job but escape by playing WoW. I love playing a hunter, and my Lake Wobegonian goal is to become "above average" at it.

5 Responses to Tweaks and fantasies and names

  1. Grumsta says:

    Blizz are showing no signs of improvement so far then. But it’s not just in the PR department that standards are low.

    The eagerly-awaited 6.2.2 brought us flying, and top of my list of things to do was Archaeology. So guess what? Archaeology has frustrating bugs with the drawing of zones (I think they used the same code they use for working out flight paths judging by the random zigzagging lines). It’s not game-breaking by any stretch, there are workarounds available, but it’s so annoying after the dev and PTR time they sunk into it.

    I also read that there are bugs with the new Mercenary PvP mode too, where erstwhile “allies” are targetable and cannot be healed.

    Plus ça change and all that, again.

    • Fiannor says:

      I’ve read about the bugs you describe, and as you say, it shows that Blizz’s quality control is almost non-existent. In my opinion, WoD was the beginning of shake and bake expansions and patches, where pushing them out the door with minimum effort is the goal, and commitment to excellence has been left in the dust.

      I would like nothing more than to have to eat my words, but I think Legion will end up being WoD redux. The indicator will be how Blizz responds to serious player comments and concerns once the beta starts. If they are responsive and forthcoming, then there is some hope they learned lessons from WoD. If not, well …. And by responsive I don’t mean they make every change players want, but they at least take the player comments seriously and have open discussions about why they are doing it such and such a way, or how technical limitations prevent them from changing something, or that making a player-requested change would have a cascading negative impact on other systems, etc.

  2. gnomecore says:

    I don’t like how there are several Restoration and Protection spec names shared by classes.
    Also I would definitely want the 4th Warrior’s spec – Gladiator. Now it’s timidly hidden in Protection, but it’s designed and played as DPS. Make it separate at last because I enjoy dpsing with shield, and I want it to have a name 🙂

    I laughed at the idea of small slips of paper 🙂 Still I think there’s a VERY huge chunk of structured information coming at Blizzcon, most probably immediately followed by beta.

    • Fiannor says:

      I was hoping for a fourth spec for hunters, too, or at the very least a change of one spec to a tanking spec. I know almost nothing about the warrior class, except that Blizz started out WoD by royally screwing with it as badly as they did with hunters, but I suspect that there will be no more 4-spec classes. In fact, I could even see Legion doing away with one of the Druid DPS specs — not a prediction, just that it would not surprise me.

      Honestly, I am hoping for a gigantic shakeup in all the classes. If hunters have to start from scratch, it seems only fair everyone else should too. 😉 Seriously, though, it seems like the big picture of class/spec/role balance is currently so delicate and complex that the most promising way to fix it is to basically start over and do a major redesign of everything.

      And I hope you are right about a huge Blizzcon dump of info, along with a beta by the end of the year.

      • gnomecore says:

        Removing a druid spec is impossible: they already announced new boomkin form and they already announced feral “artifact” form.

        With the Warrior, 4th spec makes sense. We have Protection – tank – can’t do anything with it. We have Arms – 2-hand weapons. We have Fury – double-wielding berserkers.

        WoD added this talent at level 100, playing Warrior as Gladiator. You are still “Protection”, but some defensive abilities change to DPS, and you are supposed to queue as DPS. What is unique is that it’s the only DPS dude who fights with a shield and actively uses it in combat. And it’s the only reason I’m playing Prot. So I hope they evolve this idea further.

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