The legacy of Blizzcon 2011

Alright, it’s official: the new expansion’s going to be Mists of Pandaria, as reported by Boubouille at MMO-Champion. So far, there’s a few things to be excited about: Panadaren race which will choose to be Alliance or Horde, depending on your choices after building the character/finishing the starter zone. And a Monk class, which will probably be the new plate-less and shield-less Paladin. Right.

Some of the other things that can work out really well:

  • Level Cap Increased to 90: Learn potent new spells and abilities while exploring uncharted zones and taking on challenging new content.
  • New Zones: Explore the lush Jade Forest, treacherous Kun-Lai Summit, and other exotic areas of Pandaria designed for high-level characters, and uncover the mystery of the Wandering Isle.
  • Scenarios: Join up with some friends to achieve a common goal, such as mounting a defense against invading monsters, in a flexible new type of PvE challenge.
  • Dungeon “Challenge” Modes: Master the ultimate 5-player time trial and earn prestige rewards in a new dungeon mode that will put your resolve and coordination to the test.
  • Pet Battles: Challenge other players’ companion pets with your own collection in a new tactical mini-game, and find out who’s king or queen of the pint-sized battlefield.
  • New Talent System: Customize your character to suit your play style with the newly overhauled and improved talent system.

I heartily recommend you to watch the trailer, honestly. It softens the blow when I start talking about the new talent system.

And check out the details on the Minipet battles – they are awesome. On one hand, it’s just Pokemon, really. But it’s fun because it’s using all those Minipets we already had anyway. So expect to have your Tortledy-…err I mean Toothy, come out of its bucket for a scrap.

  • You will be able to collect, level, and battle with companion pets.
  • It will be accessible to all players.
  • Works with almost every pet
  • Pet Customization, you will be able to name your pet, give them visual abilities, etc …
  • There will be “Wild pets”, you can find them in the world and engage in battle with them. You will then be able to get that pet and add it to your Pet Journal.
  • Pets have random stats, some of them will be very good at tanking, some will have a CC ability, etc …
  • Some pets will only be found during a specific season, while it’s raining, or during the day or the night. Some of them will only spawn in the spring, when it’s raining, in elwynn forest at night!
  • Most pets will become tradable, even after it’s leveled, etc …
  • Pets will be account wide
  • Your pet journal will display info on all your pets, including stats, skills, and also drop locations and lore info for the pets you don’t have yet!
  • Winning battles earns you experience, and levels your pets.
  • You will learn new abilities. Every pet can use 3 abilities in a battle at one time.
  • Every time you level you will also increase the stats of your pet.
  • You will level multiple pets to build your team.
  • You have 3 battle slots, one for each pet in your team.

So yeah, Pokemon. Totally.

Talent System

The talent system will be overhauled completely – again. Last time it was heavily simplified, and a base set of abilities have been tied into your choice of primary tree. This will now follow evolution to its eventual end: every 15 levels you will get to pick a single talent from among three choices. Generally, one of these will be Utility/Healing/DPS/PvP, depending on the available specs for the class.

We’re screwed. Two of our trees are healers.
Druids and Paladins and triple-screwed. They have a lot of options, but still only three boxes to put them in.

Check the ideas they have for the priest, in the picture below:

The key here is also that these seem to be toggle-based, meaning that outside of combat and for some fee/reagent you will be able to choose a new set of (6) talents, and then click Learn to finalize it. No more talent point ranks, no more complicated respeccs. Most likely dual-spec will still be available, so that you could have more than one primary talent set to choose from.

It’s quite likely, considering the design philosophy they extolled here and the main Pandaria FAQ that we will not be able to heal much at all, even out of Shadow Form. It feels a bit like more and more of the regular class abilities (especially if one spec is hinges on them) are confined to talent tree abilities. On the other hand, it would make little sense for a healer to not be able to quest or PvP.

Warning concerning Shadowform

I certainly hope it’s not going to happen, but – in the pictures, references are made between Caster Form and Shadow Form. I hope with all my heart this is not an early reference to making Shadowform a cooldown (like Tree of Life) rather than a stance. It would be pretty bad, for the community as well. When Tree of Life became a cooldown, the resto druid community practically collapsed. A dozen bloggers vanished without a trace (I kid you not) and more restos simply respecced because they hated the Macho Tree. They didn’t return until the glyph was introduced that returned its original form.

But it would be a bad thing for us too – not purple means not a Shadowpriest. That’s it.

Recap of the philosophy

Talents 2.0

  • Major change to class talent trees, and this is a new phase of development for the talent system.
  • The goal is to have you sit to another next to another combat rogue, and this combat rogue will actually have different talents than you do!
  • Character customization was the original point of talents in the first place but overtime cookie cutter builds dominated the scene.

New Model

  • Class Abilities are available to all specs in the class. All warriors learn heroic strike for example.
  • Spec Abilities are available to certain specs. Only Arms warriors learn Slam. Retribution and Protection paladin get Hammer of the Righteous, etc …
  • Talents are optional skills/bonuses available to all specs. Any warrior can choose Throwdown, and you will have to pick between 3 different crowd control abilities on this level of talent.
  • Level 15 – You pick your first talent. For example, warriors have to pick between Juggernaut / Double Time / Warbringer and players will have to pick which mobility ability they want to pick depending on their playstyle.

Talent Philosophy

  • Access to stuff you never could before. If you were a subtlety rogue you knew you weren’t going to get something like Killing Spree. And because talents are going to be all in the same tree, you’re going to be able to combine them in a way that you never could before. For example, any rogue can have Shadowstep!
  • Several new, overpowered (feeling) talents will be added to the game.
  • If you don’t see a beloved talent in your new talents list, don’t worry, it’s probably something we gave your spec as a baseline. For example all Holy priests now have Circle of Healing.
  • No mandatory talents anymore.
  • Every choice should be hard but fun!

Talent Preview

  • Design will iterate a lot on individual talents
  • Don’t obsess about the numbers

Initial feel on the talent changes

The first five seconds of me reading these changes made be go “nononono” considering I could see a new leveling player being sharply regimented into a “Choose spec at 10, get reward at 25+” sort of game. Having rewards spread out too much will make leveling even more of a grind. But it looks like they are planning to take some spec-iconic abilities and add them to the class abilities while leveling. For example, I could see for us that Shadowy Apparitions (not in the trees now) becomes available at around level 55 or so.

Tier 1 – Psyfiend for PvE, Psychic Scream for PvP. The tendrils are nice, and could be used in specific add-based fights, but otherwise are not that special.
Tier 2 – Phantasm for PvP and any fight with roots – else Body and Soul to shield yourself for movement. Don’t take Path of the Devout since Levitate is broken on damage and thus no good in any environment with damage.
Tier 3 – From Darkness comes Light (Surge of Darkness) will provide more DPS in all likelihood – Dark Archangel looks good as well but without a mana regen component, it’s basically a 15% damage buff that is up every 90 seconds. RNG is more involved in the former than the latter.
Tier 4 – Final Prayer on average, for when your healer is asleep
Tier 5 – Power Infusion – Twist of Faith is only good for boss battles with insane time at 25% or lower (Ragnaros) which is also a burn phase.
Tier 6 -Vampiric Dominance – with Void Shift for specific fights

So while it seems “hard” to make a cookie cutter build, it’s not hard to make a baseline. Going Psy/Pha/FDcL/FP/PI/VD will give you enough utility in most fights and you can always swap for specific fights. However, just like with glyphs today, it will probably not happen much.

Pros:

  • Clean talent trees, easier to balance
  • True hybridization
  • Utility and Survival is a personal choice, basic DPS should be baseline
  • Easier to swap and switch

Cons:

  • Less choice, and most often the logical choice is obvious
  • Slower progression might discourage newer players
  • Pidgeon-holing and alienating older players (again).
  • Healers get to our goodies – and we don’t want theirs.

Will Smite priests survive? Will Shadowpriests actually have any benefit from these changes? To me it just sounds like we’re on the short end of the stick since Disc/Holy will have a use for all our talents – even in PvE. We don’t have any use for their talents. I mean, Vow of Unity is a poor man’s Divine Sacrifice (Paladin). Why take it? A healer might, but why would a DPS other than because the specific fight dynamics demand it?

This also means you will have a hard time explaining an average simple-minded puggy that he needs that talent, or you won’t win the fight. He’ll go “meh, I am DPS – I take the DPS talent”. And there you go, stranded until you can make it clear.

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One Response to “The legacy of Blizzcon 2011”

  1. Check out the official information on Mists of Pandaria at the official website: http://us.battle.net/wow/en/game/mists-of-pandaria

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