In the developer talk they have a nice article about their thoughts on how many spells is the right amount and for the most part I think they hit the nail on the head with their number of four.
For DPS they need....
1) Standard damaging ability.
2) Medium damage ability with a short cooldown.
3) High damaging ability limited to 20% or less or a long cooldown.
4) AoE ability.
For Tanks they need...
1) High threat ability.
2) Damage and threat ability.
3) Taunt ability.
4) AoE ability.
For Healers they need...
1) Standard heal.
2) Big, long and cheap heal.
3) Big, short and expensive heal.
4) AoE heal.
Now, I don't know about you but that would be about as simple as it gets and for all intent purposes it is already like that. However, nothing is ever that simple and should it be?
For healers that is basically all there is but add an HoT there as well. So it is really five buttons for most of the basic healing stuff. Heck, for easier healing assignments it could be one.
My last heroic on my Shaman I used my earthshield and riptide on the tank of course because I had to but the only actual heal I used the entire dungeon was healing wave. That was all that was required. But wait, earth shield and riptide are not part of my four, so doesn't that mean six? So even with healers, which would be easy to limit to four spells it will always take more. My breeze of a heroic still required me to use three and two of those three were not even part of my four.
For DPS limiting to four would be easy as well. Just four different damaging abilities. Heck, I have seen hunters doing 14K DPS in heroics and all they ever did was put on a sting, use cobra shot, arcane shot and kill shot after putting on the hunters mark. Wait, sting, arcane, and hunters mark are not even part of their four. So even with the brain dead rotation three of the five used are not even part of the four.
Hell, I am not even going to try to think about tanks. Between having to have entirely different single and multi target rotations they have to have threat abilities for all cases, damage abilities for all cases and taunt abilities for all cases as well as silencing capabilities to round up casters. There is no way I could even imagine getting them down to four skills.
The concept of four skills however is ideal. In design that is the perfect number. I once read an article about how the human mind was best able to remember things if they are placed in groups of threes. Four is not far off from three so it should be enough to separate the good players from the average players. The average player would work on the theory of three and the good player would add a forth ability.
Would you really be interested in having all classes whittled down to just four skills for the most part?
Heck, if I had to choose only four for my hunter I would do no damage at all. Even if I considered all 5 traps and the trap launcher as one thing it would be traps, misdirect, disengage, and feign death. Darn, I would want to take concussive shot too. They might all be situational, but that is why the whole four spell thing could never work. Situational things are better then those four things basic ones, at least for the damage dealing classes.
WoW might never see the day of the super simple four skills but it can surely limit the situational needs if it wanted to but what fun would it be if you never needed to CC, to interrupt, to have mobility, to shine in a way only your class can.
If you where left with only four things to keep what would you keep?
I mentioned what I would keep and I can see the glaring weakness I would have. I could never kill anything but boy oh boy could I CC and kite it forever and a day.
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