Saturday, October 22, 2011

Talent Review: Not As Advertised.

The run down before I babble:

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!
Once again they are redesigning the talent tree in an effort to fix things.  They have said on more then one occasion that they want to make a break from the cookie cutter design and even touch on it again with it's statement that you can stand next to someone that is the same spec as you and be different from them.

Forgive me for being rational here but sometimes I feel it is my job to point out the obvious.

You will choose your spec.  Everyone that chooses that spec will have the exact same abilities.  You will not even be given the choice of having different abilities because once you choose that spec you get all the abilities that spec offers.

Sounds about as cookie cutter as you can get to me so far.  So cookie cutter in fact that you do not even have a choice, everything is handed to you, like it or not.  They are not giving you the materials to make the cookies and then letting you figure out the proportions you want to use, they are giving you the cookie itself, the finished product.

This surely has its place.  I have seen some horrible specs in my day.  I've had a few horrible specs in my day too before I started reading up on what is best.  This is basically cutting out the middle man when it comes to deciding on what abilities to choose.

In the past you would go to a site, Elitist Jerks for example, and look up the best marksman spec for a hunter and copy it.  Easy enough right?  Well, if the number of horrible hunters with even worse specs out there shows anything, most people have not figured out how to use the internet yet to search.  Blizzard decided to make it so they did not need to search any more.  Want the best marksman spec now?  Just choose marksmen.  You have it. There are no options.

Sounds cookie cutter so far right?

To defeat the concept of cookie cutter they added new talent points.  One every 15 levels.  You get an option of three abilities and can choose one of them.  Simple enough.  All three of the abilities have their place somewhere in the game, all it really is doing is letting you choose the flavor of the cookie you are getting.  Chocolate Chip, Butter Crunch or Oatmeal Raisin.  It is still a cookie made with the same cutter, it just has a different taste.

Having only 6 talent points to spend means less chance for error, less chance to choose bad options.  Even someone that knows nothing can not mess up choosing 6 things too badly and like I said, all of the three options have their place.  Looking over most of the them for all classes I have found very few that I looked at and said, that would be a horrible choice.  Some might not be optimal, some might not be great, but none are going to keep you from doing your job one way or the other.  You will still have all your markman abilities, like it or not.

Lets take the first tier of hunter choices for an example of how truly cookie cutter this is, even more then it has ever been.  Two hunters, both marksmen, both have all the exact same abilities.  Both are given 1 point to spend on one of three things.

Frozen Arrows - Your arrows and ammunition are chilled with frost, causing your Auto Shot to have a 30% chance to reduce the target’s movement speed by 30% for 10 sec.
Arcane Arrows - Your arrows and ammunition are infused with arcane magic, causing your Auto Shot to have a 50% chance to restore 5 focus when it deals damage.
Venom Tipped Arrows - Your arrows and ammunition are mixed with serpent venom, causing a stacking poison damage over time effect on the target dealing nature damage. Stacks up to 5 times.

All three of these options have some appeal for sure.  One gets thrown out immediately however when you are talking about PvE.  Frozen Arrows is a PvP talent even if on rare occasion it might have a PvE use.  All marksman that are doing PvP will have that one most likely.  Cookie cutter right?  Now the choice is between the other two for the PvE hunter.  Both seem good, one hunter will take Arcane while the other chooses the Venom option.   There we go, now the two specs are different but are they really?

I am sure they are going to do their best to not make one so much better than the other so the difference between the two hunters and their respective DPS should be so minimal it would not be noticed at all, assuming the same gear, skill and connection of course for example purposes.

There are no really wrong choices here because of that fact.  It becomes a choice of what sounds cooler to you.  Perhaps as a marksman Arcane might be a better option, to restore focus, and as survival Venom might be a better option if the mastery effects the nature damage.  But again, I am sure the difference would not be huge.

As some point sites, like Elitist Jerks, will decide that in marksman that Arcane works out to have a 35 DPS advantage over venom and all the hunters that read often will choose arcane just for that extra 35 DPS.

The hunters that do not choose arcane might lose 35 DPS but who would ever really notice that?  Unless you are raiding hard modes and going for a world first you do not need to min/max anything to the point where 35 DPS really matters.

So it would still be cookie cutter because even if you choose different things it will not be enough of a difference for anyone to notice.  The only "wrong" option would be to take the PvP talent in a PvE spec and in truth there are times where said PvP talent might have a place in certain PvE fights as well.

Now lets add to the fact that they said changing talents (all 6 points of it) will be as easy a changing glyphs.  So even those choices that might be harder, like silencing shot or wyvern sting or intimidation (which are the level 30 hunter choices) will mean nothing.

I am sure the raid leader would tell their hunters if they need CC and need wyvern or if they need interrupts and need silence and even if they don't all hunters have other forms of CC to use and all melee classes have a better silence than a hunters so even the choice of support abilities means nothing.  It can be changed on the fly and it is only support, something other people could do anyway, and probably do better.

What this all adds up to is the fact that everything will be more cookie cutter.  You will have the same base spec and your six points will all be placed in support abilities that are not make or break to begin with.

The only huge thing I see here comes with PvP.  No longer do I need to completely respec if I want to do some PvP.  I just change my 6 talent points, as easy as changing glyphs, to the PvP option that is best and now my PvE hunter is a PvP hunter in less then 10 seconds.

Most of the options, for all classes, have an obvious PvP option as one of their three choices which means that for the PvE player it is almost always the choice of  two things, not three.

Basically what Blizzard is doing here is not trying to break away from the cookie cutter design, they are trying to reenforce it. They are making it so people that do not read sites will get the optimum abilities and have as little chance to make bad choices as possible.

Even if we figure a right choice and a wrong choice making as much as a 100 DPS difference we are still talking a total of 600 DPS difference if they choose everything wrong.  In the end who cares if someone does 24200 DPS or 24800 DPS.  Like I said, unless you are doing hard modes or going for world firsts that small difference is not going to make a difference and lets face it, the people doing hard modes and going for world firsts are usually the ones that wrote what is the best option, so it is not like they don't know to begin with.

In the end the new talent system is more cookie cutter then ever before.  By not giving options at all, they are taking away one of the biggest parts of this type of game, the ability to make your character what you want.

What they started in cataclysm by destroying the options in spec making forcing you into one tree for 31 points they have finished off here.  Spec design has officially died.  We will all be the same, even if they try to tell us otherwise, because we have no choices what so ever in our specs.

I think the reason for this is to help the clueless players in the game and cataclysm really helped point out who those people are.  I have no problem with helping them out but I do have one concern.  If they where so clueless that they did not have a good spec that means they where so clueless as to the point of not knowing how to play said spec even if it is given to them.  This will not help them.  It will only hurt the people that want a choice.  A bad player will remain a bad player, even if you force the correct spec on them by taking away their choices.

This is not a break from the cookie cutter, this does not allow for any character customization, this is the exact opposite of what they say it is, it is not as advertised.


  1. I mostly agree. The developers develop something here, because they like developing.

    Apparently they have a lot of influence with the management, because if I owned that company I had told them long ago to start making the game better instead of re-developing the character customization with every expansion.

    Did anybody dare to say yet that some more casual players might not like their characters changing so much over night ?

  2. Your argument seems as follows:

    1. Cookie-cutting is when choices are removed from the game
    2. Before, I could choose one of dozens of talents, even in other trees, every level. Now I can only choose one of three every 15
    3. Therefore, MoP is more cookie than Cata which was more cookie than Wrath.

    I disagree with your first premise. Cookie-cutter builds are not an absence of choice, but an absence of *real* choice. In every stage of WoW up until Cata, there was one choice, the right one. Elitist Jerks determined it, EJ readers administered it, and casual players stumbled across it. This is not a choice, but instead a calculation, a weighing of mathematical equations to find the highest result. If you decided to make a 20/20/20 druid, you weren't making a choice. You were making a miscalculation. To run with the cookie analogy, you were adding black tar to your mixture, cranking the oven to 600o, then setting the oven on fire.

    Cataclysm reduced the possibility for miscalculation, not the number of choices. Mists of Pandaria will do the same, only better. Whereas in Cataclysm, there were one or two reasonable choices that could be make in one spec, in MoP there shall be as many as 729 (although with the pressure for optimization, we may get as many as 20).

    Methodology drawn from:

  3. I think I follow you there The Man. It is the appearance of choice but there really isn't, there is a set right choice which means no choice.

    In the end it will still come down to what is the correct calculation when it comes to maximum potential in PvE and PvP. There is still no choice.

    That is not the fault of Blizzard. That is just basic mathematics. Can't fight numbers.

    I liked the more choice version even if I could make the "wrong" choices because it allowed me to make specs capable of doing things that where not just for maximum raid potential.

    While soloing having the ability to make split specs like a 20/20/20 druid spec is a wonderful thing and that as an option is gone now.

    Before I had the choice to spec "wrong" if I wanted to, now I don't.

    That is why it is more cookie cutter then ever.

  4. And I see where you're coming from as well. Talent points, when they are plentiful, act as a form of self-expression. The 20/20/20 druid could be a humorous statement, a declaration that I want to do it all, maybe even have roleplay elements involved in the player's mind.

    To someone in the Elitist Jerks WoW culture, though, such a spec would be anathema. It would define the player as a terrible player, inspire ridicule, maybe lead to the 20/20/20 druid becoming socially ostracized. And I can't imagine a subculture arising that would counter this Elitist Jerks opinion. In all the time WoW has been around, the closest thing is the idea of "casual" play.

    So, how do you allow for a peaceful equilibrium between Elitist Jerks and self-expressionists? Make any talent choice the correct one, or at least, reasonably correct.

    I could argue that the Frozen Arrows talent would be wonderful for solo PvE: the target takes longer to get to me! I've heard focus drains quickly for Hunters in PvP, so Arcane Arrow is useful there, despite our draw toward Frozen Arrows. Going through the list, justifications can be made for any of the talents in a variety of PvE/PvP content.

    Now, instead of being a bad hunter, you can be a "unique" hunter, choosing a different utility than other hunters normally do. Can you explain to me why such a concept, "The Unique Hunter" is worse than the 20/20/20 druid?

  5. Things could never be more cookie-cutter spec than they are right now. Yes, if you choose Marksman you get the same core MM abilities as other MM hunters. How is that different than how it is now? I guarantee 95% of all PVE MM hunters have identical talents distributed in the MM tree.

    You used the first tier as an example, and admittedly, this is one of the least exciting options. THOUGH, still interesting. But look at other tiers, or other classes, and you will see some legitimate difficult choices that really reflect your own personal playstyle. For example, I LOVE the tier that buffs our Disengage in various ways. And I know for Death Knights, their level 90 abilities are completely different and really cool. Going to be some hard choices to make.

  6. Unique won't last long.

    Best secondary abilities will be decided on and we will all follow the pack and use them.

    The unique hunter is not worse then the 20/20/20 druid. Apples and oranges there.

    Just because the bad hunter is now a unique hunter doesn't change anything. They are still going to be a bad hunter. Giving them the perfect spec is not going to magically make them a better player. Bad player are bad because they are bad, not because they have a bad spec.

    I think they are doing this to stop 20/20/20 druids from happening. Take away peoples choice, so they can not make the wrong ones.

    It won't make them better players however.

  7. @Rades - I agree, 95% of all MM are the same now but that is because we choose to be.

    If I wanted to make a spec that is MM for soloing and change some things around I have that option now. I won't with the change.

    That is what I am getting at when I say lack of choice.

  8. I think they are doing this to stop 20/20/20 druids from happening.

    You couldn't do 20/20/20 since Cataclysm, so by all rights you cannot blame MoP for any of that.

    I'm with The Man on this point. The "cookie-cutter" Prot paladin build is probably going to take Ardent Defender since that is what we had before. Not I. I've always hated Ardent Defender (Divine Protection v2, now with triple the cooldown, yay!), but now I can take Sacred Shield and get a mini-Vampiric Blood in exchange. Or I can solo as Prot with Blessed Life (or if I'm off-tanking adds, it'll probably still be good).

  9. @ Azuriel I only used the 20/20/20 druid as an example because he did and I was responding to him, but I know what you mean.

    While looking at my warrior tanking things I was in the same position as you. There are what would be considered standard prot abilities and what might be utility. A few of them I can see me taking what might not be considered normal.

    That is only giving me the illusion of choice however.

    Like the piercing howl ability. I had made a spec just to get into fury enough for that skill for one fight. It changed a lot of my abilities and it worked out well.

    Making a completely new spec just to get to that gave me the choice, loose some of the standard things I need to get to it or try and do the fight without it.

    Now I just change the color of sprinkles on my cookie and turn it on for that fight only.

    See, illusion of choice. Before I had to make a choice to respec to get to use it. Now I just flip the switch and it is on.

    Honestly, the flipping the switch makes life MUCH easier and I do like it, I like it a lot. It is just not as different as they are trying to make it sound. It is just easier and being you can change back and forth whenever you like mid raid it isn't so much about choosing the right thing any more because you can always adjust on the fly.

  10. Considering re-spec is just a few coins away, and Talents for the most part didn't matter much during levelling anyway (except to a degree for XP-Off Battlegrounds), I think this whole 'can't spec wrong for E-Jerks anymore, huzaah!' vibe the Devs try to create is silly.

    There will always be an optimal spec etc. according to the bleeding edge that those that aspire to be bleeding edge will 'have to adapt to' anyway, those that aspire to it but just are plain bad will always be plain bad, and those who don't care about bleeding edge will just see choices taken away from them.

    (much like now also SM and Scholo will be changed to loot-hallways to fit the VP-grind at end-game, even when they'll already add extra VP options in the form of Dailies and Public Quests).