In the cold light of day

Yesterday I published a short announcement about the fact that WoW Game Director Ion Hazzikostas, after months and months of silence, finally addressed — in very generic terms — the widespread unhappiness hunters have about our class in Legion. I described it as a positive sign. I still think it is a positive sign, but there are some significant events that must happen for me to keep that opinion.

First, the positive aspects of the announcement:

  • It was a substantive communication, one that outlined a plan — sketchy, but a plan nevertheless — for making the hunter class whole again. The base plan is: low hanging fruit (numbers/spec balancing) first, then talent trees, and finally spec identity and play style issues.
  • It was an actual communication, a huge change from the months-long silent treatment we had been subjected to.
  • He admitted that hunters underwent some of the most drastic class changes in Legion, that the devs had not followed up on the complex cascade of changes such a rewrite requires, and he said that they fully intend to address this shortfall in this expansion.
  • He acknowledged that the source of most angst among hunters is not damage numbers, but overall class feel.
  • He dropped a big hint that MM/BM might get traps back at some point.
  • He sort of weasel-worded an apology for his reference to Deterrence in Friday’s Q&A.

So there was a lot in the post that gives cause for optimism. But there are also some gigantic unanswered questions.

  • What took you so long to even acknowledge our concerns? Would it have killed you to stick in a few Blue posts that at least gave the illusion that you are working on the problems? Is your time so constrained that you could not have even used the word “hunters” in all your discussions of class concerns in the Q&A sessions you have had? Out of curiosity, what was the tipping point that made you finally address us this time?

Side comment: I am beginning to discern a pattern with Blizz here. They seem only to address major player concerns in response to quantity and emotional outpouring, not quality, of comments. Think back to the Big Huge Gigantic Flap over flying in WoD — absent a player tantrum, flying in the game would be but a distant memory. Think about the recent warlock bullying and spamming and holding-their-breath-until-they-turned-blue methods that did indeed get Blizz’s attention for their class. The hunter community — while declining to engage in warlock tactics — has refused to go quietly and meekly, has continued to express their anger about their treatment in Legion, piling up forum posts and tweets every day.

  • Why did you ignore everything hunters told you about before Legion went live? Our concerns have not changed since then, the same things we gave you for feedback in Alpha, Beta, and the PTR are what we are still pointing out. Hazzikostas said that it is complicated to make substantive class changes in a live expansion, and I get that, but this is a problem of Blizz’s own making. They had the opportunity to do it long before Legion went live, and they chose to do nothing. To say now that they have not figured out how to fix the class problems — as if they are just hearing about them for the first time — rings pretty damn hollow.
  • Realistically, what is the time frame for your third phase of class changes? 7.2? 7.3? Pre-patch for the next expansion? Come to think of it, when can we expect to see the second phase (talent tree) changes?
  • Will you now continue the dialogue with hunters, or was that Blue post intended merely to shut us up for a while? “Dialogue” can take several forms, including follow-through actions as well as additional feedback in forums and on social media.  I want to believe people when they make commitments, but the sad fact is that I — and many other players — still have a lot of trust issues with Blizz. They have yet to dig themselves out of the hole they dug for themselves in WoD. Hazzikostas himself has admitted that actions speak louder than words. OK, we just had the words, now let us see some action.

Honestly, here is what I expect to see unfold with hunters going forward:

  • Minor nerfs to BM and MM in the immediate future — we have already seen some of these — in the name of overall “spec balancing”.
  • Talent tree changes that will not buff the bad talent choices in certain lines, but rather nerf the currently very powerful (“only choice”) ones. Talent tree changes may also include a few new items designed to fill in some play style holes, as it seems unlikely that Blizz will actually give us anything back without also taking something away.
  • Some time in 7.2, traps in some form will be restored to all hunter specs, and possibly some additional mobility will be given to MM hunters. Unfortunately, I do not expect to see the baseline problems addressed. There are just too many and they are too fundamental.
    • For example, I do not expect to see a rewrite of MM play style that actually reflects the “class fantasy” of a real marksman instead of the current “spray everything in sight” approach.
    • I do not expect to see any help for the fact that MM is completely RNG-based.
    • I do not expect to see a skill-based focus generator for BM, nor do I expect any significant improvement in the whole beast control mess, or any fixes to the now-puny surge capability, or any move towards skill-controlled dps enhancements in the artifact tree.
  • Possibly, by the end of the expansion, hunters will be in a somewhat better position than we are now, but watch for Blizz to not learn any lessons and totally destroy the class again in 8.0.

So, yes, I am glad that the Game Director has seen fit to address the hunter community, but I am still angry that it took so long, and I will wait to see some follow-through before I let myself get too excited about it.

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.

3 Responses to In the cold light of day

  1. Grumsta says:

    Doesn’t Blizz’s plan seem backwards to you? “The base plan is: low hanging fruit (numbers/spec balancing) first, then talent trees, and finally spec identity and play style issues.”

    As I understood it, the plan for Legion was to look at the class/spec fantasy and then design talents to meet that vision, and then apply tuning and balancing as needed.

    The danger with the Blizz timeline you describe is that when they get to the third of those processes they inevitably will need to revisit the second and then the first again. Why go to all the trouble of balancing and tuning something that needs a fundamental overhaul anyway?

    Given the issues highlighted by the player base surely it makes more sense to re-visit the class/spec fantasy, get the player base opinion on it, and *then* have the talents and tuning to match? Otherwise you’re going to back here again in 6 months.

    • Fiannor says:

      Wow, yes, I completely blew past that huge point! But now that I read your comment, it is totally obvious. In fact, when you look at it, it makes their plan completely unworkable. And it means, sadly, that there really will be no significant help for hunters in Legion.

      I think my brain was dancing around the idea when I started to try and figure out what we might see in “Phase 3”, because I realized that the fundamental issues with the class could not be changed at that late date without completely unbalancing many other aspects of the game, but the whole “backwards” concept eluded me.

      What is most troubling about the realization, however, is that the Game Director described the process as he did. Did he fail to discuss the idea first with his class devs? Worse, do they think such a sequence of events would be feasible? Or is their ultimate intent merely to throw hunters a bone in the form of a couple of easy “fantasy” fixes like adding in a trap ability and maybe tweaking a cooldown or two? (In which case it seems like they could do it pretty soon, no need to stretch it out until 7.2 or 7.3.) None of these alternatives seem very positive.

      As is often the case, Grum, you have helped me to organize my thinking — thanks!

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