Who are you?

(Be forewarned that I am not sure where I am going with today’s topic, so expect a little bumpiness.)

I have written several blogs about my feelings for the hunter class. In those blogs, I have laid out what I love about the class, and what I feel is iconic about it, namely that it is a highly mobile, ranged, physical damage class with complex damage-dealing pets. To borrow a civil engineering analogy, for me these four characteristics together form the keystone of the hunter class. Take away any one of them and you weaken the keystone so severely that the entire class collapses. In my opinion, this is exactly what Blizz intends to do in Legion — Marksman hunters will have limited mobility and no pet, Survival hunters will be melee, and only Beastmastery hunters will retain the keystone intact. This is why I say that the hunter class as a class will no longer exist in Legion. Beastmastery will be the last vestige of what was once an entire class.

Anyway, today’s topic is not about hunters. It is about how any of us define the class and/or spec we love the most, and about how Blizz apparently not only has no such definitions, but that they are oblivious to the need for them. To explore this, we will do three practical exercises.

As a starting point, think about how you define yourself as a player. What is your first response if someone asks you what kind of character you play in WoW?  The first thing you think of in answer to that question tells you a lot about what is important to you in the game. For example, I have noticed that many tanks and healers define themselves exactly like that –“I’m a tank,” or “I’m a healer.” On the other hand, most damage dealers define themselves by their class — “I’m a rogue,” or “I play a mage.” My sense is that players who play a hybrid class damage dealer will usually define themselves either by class — “I’m a druid” — or by spec — “Oh, I’m a Boomkin.”

I am not going to overthink this, but it seems pretty clear to me (drawing on my vast psychological knowledge from Psych 101) that for someone who says “I’m a tank,” the game is all about raiding. That is not to say the same is not true of someone who answers “I’m a rogue,” it’s just that there seems to me to be a fundamental difference in how the two players perceive their game experience. Maybe it’s a function of population — there are a lot of damage dealers but comparatively few tanks and healers, so maybe it is important to immediately define what kind of damage dealer you are. I don’t know.

At any rate, the point of this exercise is to get you thinking about how you define yourself, and what if anything that tells you about your play style, your perception of what is fun in the game, and so forth. There are no right or wrong answers, and your response may change over time. For example, right now I define myself as a hunter, but I suspect after Legion goes live I will feel the need to always define my spec, “Beastmastery hunter.” (Or whatever new name Blizz may give the true hunter spec.)

The next exercise is to think about what it is that makes your defined character unique in your mind. This is harder than you might expect, but one way to get at it is to consider what characteristic Blizz could remove or change, that would make you feel like it was a betrayal. For me, I did not arrive at my definition of hunter uniqueness until Blizz announced they would be taking away the characteristics of ranged, mobility, and pets from two of the specs. I felt there was something fundamentally wrong with that, and it caused me to consider that these traits are key to my perception of hunters as a class.

When you are done with this part, you should have a list of characteristics that make up the keystone of how you perceive yourself as a player. Removal of any one of those characteristics will weaken the keystone so severely that your entire perception collapses.

The last exercise is to guess what list of characteristics Blizz has for your defined character. Do you think it matches yours, either wholly or in part? What makes you think it does or doesn’t? Unfortunately, all we really have to go on is guesswork, since Blizz has not defined classes or specs for many years, and even when they have done so, they feel no need to adhere to those definitions. In spite of devs from time to time nattering about the “fantasy” of a spec or class, it seems evident they really have no notion of what that is, let alone what most of the players perceive it to be. As an example, the hunter page on Battle.net seems to describe the hunter class, but Legion will pretty much destroy everything written there, except for one spec of the class. Thus, the hunter description does not represent anything fundamental about hunters, at least in Blizz’s opinion, else they would not feel so easily able to violate it at will.

Now, of course not all hunters agree with my class definition, and not all players who define themselves as you do will agree with your definition either. That is fine, it is to be expected, it is part of the wonderful variation of being human. I do not expect Blizz to subscribe to my hunter class definition. But what I do expect — and what every player has a right to expect — is a good explanation of how Blizz does define each class and spec, the foundation of each, the principles they will honor over the course of the life of the class or spec, the keystone components they will not break, no matter what changes they may make in the name of variety or balance or homogenization.

One of the greatest sources of player objections for class changes is when Blizz’s supposed definition of the class is wildly different than the one held by many players.

By giving us their vision for each class and spec, Blizz could let us know what to expect when we choose that class. They would be giving us a way to trust them, that there would be some baseline principles about the class we could rely on and confidently structure our play style around.

I honestly don’t know how you go about developing a class and spec without such a statement of class principles. If such statements exist, why will Blizz not share them? If they do not exist, well, I suppose you end up with the class balance chaos we have now.

At any rate, I am going to stop thinking about this now and go start my weekend.

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.

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