Answering Nils’ Criticism

Nils made a comment in response to yesterday’s post, and I feel a rebuttal is important enough for its own post.

Ok, so in BGs where you can blow people off edges you take typoon. In the others you take Fearie Fire. Was that a hard choice?

Yes. Because I want Typhoon all of the time… but Faerie Swarm could be useful in Arena… but what if I get Dalaran Sewers where the shock value of a Feral druid knocking someone off the edge would be priceless… but endlessly kiting people DK-style would probably be fun too… and hey, would Typhoon be more or less powerful on Magmaw than the AoE root… etc.

The consequences of choosing Typhoon over Faerie Swarm is that you won’t have Faerie Swarm even when there may be a good situation for it. In a raid, there is probably a clear-cut answer of which is more useful, and if it is EotS weekend, then Typhoon would likely be the answer. But that’s not a problem between the Typhoon vs Faerie Swarm choice, it’s a problem with encounter design. And I would still take Typhoon in an encounter where Faerie Swarm is more optimal, as long as Typhoon wasn’t completely useless (i.e. the delta between their usefulness wasn’t too great).

I think everything has been said there. Choices have to have consequences, otherwise they are meaningless. Blizzard repeated attempts to get around this is ridiculous. The reason you have a few choices left in the current talent trees is because it doesn’t matter where you spend your last points!

And it didn’t matter because up until now they were treating the first ~31 talents as “choices” when they really were not. If you are a Ret paladin, you take 3/3 Crusade, period. You take 2/2 Long Arm of the Law, period. And so on. Now, they can give you choices that matter (in the sense I’m talking about), as evident by the druid talents you went over and all the other classes.

You say that there is an optimal, cookie-cutter EJ solution to these problems but I am saying that that is irrelevant. Yes, there will always be an objectively optimal choice assuming the choice has a measurable impact on anything. The only relevant thing though is the distance between the EJ solution and the 2nd best (or 3rd) solution. As long as they are close enough, I can choose which of the two is more fun for me (Typhoon) and still feel happy about that decision even if the “correct” answer is something else. My fun, enjoyment, familiarity, stylistic inclination, ease, etc, will make up the difference.

The only change of note with the new talent trees is that you can change them on the fly. This makes them a mandatory part of the preparation before you do anything of importance (boss fights, arena games, rated BGs …)

Other than every spec of each class having access to cool abilities that were hitherto restricted to individual specs, right? Hell, a Resto druid can have Typhoon and summon treants! Nevermind Assassination rogues with Shadowstep, Arcane mages with Cauterize and Ice Barrier, etc etc. And by removing the ~31 redundant talent “choices” that each spec takes regardless of PvE vs PvP vs leveling vs raiding, this should allow Blizzard to focus on keeping the six actual talent choices we have now interesting and difficult to choose between.

And just based on the rough draft we saw at BlizzCon, I would say they are off to a good start.

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Posted on October 23, 2011, in WoW and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Let me say this very clearly:
    I do not think that Blizzard’s new talent system is bad. It is not. It’s probably going to be good. It’s probably going to be a bit better than the Cataclysm talent system; but that’s not hard.

    Where I completely disagree with Blizzard is the importance of this thing. It requires a hell of a lot of development resources to balance this, and I think the effort is completely out of proportions considering the benefit.

    I also see a few problems, like having to switch talents before every boss and thus annoying adjustments of actions bars. But these issues are manageable.

    I also made two posts on this topic today that contain a few new ideas, I think. I’d love to read your response (1) (2) :).

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    • As I mentioned on Elder Game, I disagree that this new system is necessarily more difficult to balance and/or that a lot of developer resources were needed compared to what they were already committed to. More levels = more talents = every spec gets access to 3rd tier talents of other trees.

      For example, this is the EJ-approved MM hunter spec. Even if Blizzard did something like only let you have 1-2 talents across another 5 levels, that MM spec would have the option to go into Point of No Escape, Fervor, or Focus Fire. All three of those options put another cooldown on the MM hunter bar, have to be balanced around (while preventing BM or Surv hunters from being nerfed) and so on. Now multiply that out by 30 specs, along with PvP ramifications like Surv hunters getting Silencing Shot, etc etc etc.

      If you think about it, Blizzard has never just let the talent system grow deeper into the other trees. Even going from TBC –> Wrath when the trees got deeper, they made the 41-pt talents basically required for your class, while still only allowing the most superficial of cross-spec splashes. Remember the drama in early Wrath when Holy paladins essentially specced pretty deep into Retribution, like 20/0/31 or whatever? They rearranged the entire Ret tree multiple times just to fix it, and then made 31 talents in one tree required in Cata.

      One could almost say that they have always been running away from the craziness that would erupt in more than a surface off-spec splash.

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      • >>Even if Blizzard did something like only let you have 1-2 talents across another 5 levels, that MM spec would have the option to go into Point of No Escape, Fervor, or Focus Fire.
        But they already dealt with that in previous expansions… it’s not rocket science, they either moved talents higher up (remember 30/0/31 holy paladins?), reworked talent/specs, or just accepted that yes, one of those abilities now is new cookie-cutter choice and balanced around that.

        All still significantly less work then total rework of talent system.

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  2. One more thing. Your example with the Faerie Swarm and the Typhoon is a good choice, in my opinion. It has the potential to completely change your way of fighting in the arena and thus your style of play. And this is basically what my posts say.

    If you want to have a meaningful choice, it either has to be more efficient or have a completely different style. Since more efficient options are meaningful, but stop being choices once figures out, the only way to have a meaningful choice that never stops being a choice is having options that dramatically differ in style, but are equally efficient.

    If Typhoon and FS turn out to be equally efficient (which is not completely impossible), this might very well turn out to be a very good choice in arena.

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  3. But they already dealt with that in previous expansions… it’s not rocket science, they either moved talents higher up (remember 30/0/31 holy paladins?), reworked talent/specs, or just accepted that yes, one of those abilities now is new cookie-cutter choice and balanced around that.

    All still significantly less work then total rework of talent system.

    I do remember 30/0/31 holy paladins, having used that very example in the post you responded to. And I remember them gutting the Retribution tree three separate times (killing Ret leveling in the process) trying to fix the problem. All for one spec of one class just in PvP. By keeping all the +damage talents “client-side,” so to speak, they can now tweak damage numbers in flat ways instead of nerfing actual abilities or talents or rearranging entire talent trees.

    What I’m getting at is what you already admitted to: they were already committed to X amount of work. The MM was one example, perhaps Ret itself would be another: access to Wrath of the Lightbringer (+100% extra Crusader Strike/Judgment damage, +30% HoW crit) and/or essentially 6% bonus resilience from Sanctuary… or perhaps Denounce as Ret? Wrath of the Lightbringer would not be balanced around, which means they would need to rearrange it, changing the way Prot level up, and moving/adding something else in reach, etc etc etc.

    Under the new system, instead of X time they spend Y time coming up with 6 sets of 3 choices for 11 classes (the majority of which are already-designed talents from other trees), instead of theorycrafting 33 specs * 3 trees * PvE/PvP/raiding/leveling. You can say X takes less time than Y, but I would disagree… nevermind how much time they save in the future by doing things this way (things may change again next expansion, but I doubt they go back to formal talent trees).

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    • Oops, sorry for missing paladin thing… I reread that comment a few times while replying, but still missed it. Selective attention at it’s finest. :)

      Developers, as any human, have limits of complexity they can manage, even if they work with that complex system all the time with many support tools available. And sometimes just adding a few points can lead to complexity well beyond human limits. Obviously, only developers themselves can decide when threshold is reached and current system should be changed.

      I think current system can still be tweaked not quite as radically, and has some room for extra complexity, but then again that’s just my area of expertise – tweaking things that already work as minimally as possible to get required results, making sense of legacy code and non-transparent old decisions in light of new requirements. And i enjoy finding ways to make things work.
      I can easily imagine working Ret/Prot with Wrath of Lightbringer – after all, Subtlety rogues already live with their combo builder Backstab doing higher damage then their Eviscerate finisher… any remains of choice that exist now will disappear though, it would be WoL or no-raiding-for-you. I guess those extra points will actually reduce options instead of increasing them as talent trees stand now – which might be bigger problem then available abilities themselves.

      Their more-or-less total rework for Warlocks and “extra” Druid spec, with other usual “exciting tweaks” (rotation reworks were already mentioned) and new abilities that are undoubtedly coming, shows that they think they’ll save a lot of time with this… and i think they’re overestimating actual saves with this change :)

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