Euxxa here. I wanted to share something with you that has been a subject of high importance for me for a long time: the class specializations in World of Warcraft. This is my first post here in WoW Weekly and hopefully many more will follow.
So allow me to start off by asking the following question: Are we playing a class exactly how our talent tree suggests?
Is our character really supposed to look, feel and perform the way we have come to know this far?
This question has haunted me for a while and now that we are approaching the release date of a new expansion, it becomes clear to me that this is not as trivial an argument as it may look.
Perhaps this is due to the fact that with a new expansion, we are given the opportunity to make big changes; correct errors of the past, address poor attempts to patch a problem or fix a mechanic that isn’t broken in the first place.
I wanted to write this article to share some of my views on this topic, debate on a few things that I feel at some point should be addressed and, why not, get feedback from what others may think of it – as I may be completely out of line here. So here it goes…
It starts with something as simple as: does my character play exactly as it’s supposed to? This may be a silly question at first but, before we can even begin to jump into the question and its subsequent response, let’s analyse a few things.
First of all, what each class is supposed to be?
WoW has taught the MMO industry that we can only play characters that belong to 3 very distinctive categories: Tanks, Healers and Damage Dealers. Is even easy to understand why this concept works so well, it’s easy! One takes the damage away from the group distracting from the rest, one keep that character alive while others kill the enemy.
This allows players understand the logic in grouping up for a dungeon, a raid, a group-quest and the mechanics work pretty much flawlessly: each individual focus on their role, with a varied list of spells and abilities and if everyone does their part well, the success is almost assured.
It’s a very nice way of putting in practice the idea of “breaking a big problem into small bits”.
In a gaming environment, this translates into a great recipe for fun while providing a sense of individual responsibility that all must take part in and carry out at its best, or the inevitable failure will be the result.
My early days in WoW came to be due to a very influential friend who at the time, was at a top guild in Emerald Dream. Initially there was very little explanation into why I should purchase the game, I just had to do it.
I remember vividly how it all happened, and I understand why my friend was so eager to get me to playing it, afterall, coming from Warcraft III and WC III – The Frozen Throne world, it just made sense to continue onto World of Warcraft.
Despite the fact that I was completely delving into uncharted waters, everything I managed to experience on those first two hours were amazingly appealing and I wanted to dedicate more time to see everything that the game had to offer.
My first character was a Mage, a class I quickly understood wasn’t for me since the mechanics and play style were completely different from what I was accustomed to in the Diablo series. Not a very good comparison I know, but that was instinctively my reaction to the game.
When I told my friend about my initial experience, she just wouldn’t have it. She explained all about her class, how she plays, the awesomeness of it, the versatility, the contribution her class brought to raids and so on. Once I returned home, I followed to the letter her instructions of the class I should dedicate my time in playing that evening… funny to say that said class, has become my main since almost 8 years ago. The Demon Summoner, the Master of Corruption: The Warlock.
Although I would be stating the obvious here, is important to note that everyone is different. Different players have different demands despite being in the same environment.
These demands most often than not, come in variations of what one wants to accomplish or experience. Afterall, doing the same thing over and over has its limitations and if this isn’t addressed properly, causes the fun of gaming to exhaust rapidly.
Bearing that in mind, we then came across different flavours of how each class could play and what abilities they would have, bringing a remarkable choice of play styles to the mix.
This automatically increases the enjoyment for each player. By having different and specific talents per class, brings more fun and uniqueness to their experience, creating an almost psychological shroud that bonds a player to their chosen class.
And this is the subject of discussion: is my class really playing as it should?
To further put this into perspective, let me give you a bit of trivia facts from WoW Lore.
Rexxar – Champion of the Horde. His first appearance was during Warcraft III when this Mok’Nathal aided the Horde in a crucial mission: deliver a message to Thrall from one fellow fallen soldiers in battle.
Besides his importance in WoW history, his is a very powerful character that has clearly spiked the interest of many players when following the lore a bit more closely. A Beastmaster! Master of the wilds, able to befriend and bring at his side powerful allies to help him in his journeys. Beasts to follow, assist and fight with him in any given situation.
The choice 3 talents per class was implemented back in Vanilla. Beastmastery in particular, was associated with Hunters as they were a class that had the ability to command beasts in their attacks. However, there’s a particularity to note: although Beastmastery has the logic of using these powerful allies in their combat techniques, Rexxar never really used any type of ranged weapon. In fact, his notoriously robust figure and muscly build aligns perfectly well with his weapons of choice: two huge axes, for which he had no shortage of skill and ferocity when using.
So I guess one would wonder if Hunters using the talent tree of Beastmastery, should really be using a ranged weapon. Would it be possible that there has been a significant overlook on the character mechanics?
When I first asked myself this very question, quickly others came to mind that followed the same principle.
Let me give you a few more examples. Let’s continue on the Hunter for just a sec.
Hunter – Survival
So this spec would suggest that a character has mastered the skills of survivability, right? Doing all he can to avoid strikes, make their opponents to waste their attacks, deceive enemies and escape with relative ease. But if we stretch this concept a little more, could we imagine a situation whereby Survival Hunters could actually share his skill in a group-wide manner? Pehaps off-healing? Healing arrows to help his allies to stay alive. Or how about highly effective crowd-control abilities?
Now let’s jump to another class and see what we can delve into.
Shaman – Enhancement
So this class is definitely one that brings a lot of versatility into the fun experience.
Let’s focus on what this specialization actually suggests.
Now we have all come to quickly grasp the concept that Shamans, make use of totems to enhance their spells and abilities. Over the years, we have come across a shared group of individuals who believe this mechanic is quite cumbersome due to the constant need of replacing totems around.
What if we could remove the use of stationary totems but rather channel their powers to specific players to enhance and increase their attacks and abilities?
Wouldn’t it be an interesting concept to have a character that magnifies other character’s skills and abilities in a more focused and exclusive way?
Imagine a 25-man HC Garrosh:
The encounter itself is considered healing intense due to consistent AoE damage to the entire raid.
Now imagine if an enhancement shaman would cast something like “Elemental Barrier” on the raid group, to increase damage mitigation by an additional 15%, giving the healers a brief time window to regain some of their mana.
Then mid fight he would turn his sights to a damage dealer to increase his abilities to deal more damage and take care of a pack of mobs and prepare for a quicker phase transition. And perhaps later on, cast a healing-boost spell on one of the healers that are tasked with AoE healing.
I’m sure it wouldn’t be hard for any of us to understand how this slight change in mechanics could make the game so much more engaging, as it stretches the versatility of each player to be less of an individual and more of a support, group-wide performer.
Here is where we can really start to speculate at the idea, of how the we could use a class in more creative ways, shattering the already established system we have come to know.
Blizzard has continuously showed us they embrace the concept of new ideas and improve the fun and gaming experience in all of its franchises.
World of Warcraft has matured immensely over the course of 8 years of success with interesting content along the way, either by implementing something totally new or adapting and putting its own style on it.
Perhaps this could be a good opportunity to explore other options and mechanics of the game, having the prosperous future of our beloved game more in the hands of players.