Editorial: Doing it Right, and Doing it Best

Last week, if you recall (and you do, because you hang on my every word), I whinged about how game developers keep changing things, even within the same series. I stated the obvious truth, which is that if players enjoyed a concept or mechanic, it is acceptable to re-use it occasionally in sequels or even in different intellectual property. On a similar vein, then, the first part of this week’s post must be a resounding “THANK YOU!” to NIS for not taking a dump all over the Disgaea series. Honestly, if you were to look up “ur doin’ it rite” in the online lolz dictionary, there should just be a Disgaea logo there. From game to game they keep roughly the same game mechanics and general mood of the game which players enjoyed, and just add to them, flesh them out a bit more, tweak them ever so slightly. Enough changes to keep it interesting, but similar enough to keep me from ranting and raving.

Doing it Right
Anyhoozle, Disgaea is not what I really wanted to write about today. At the risk of stepping on Lane’s toes, I actually wanted to discuss something that came up in the recent talent previews for World of Warcraft: Cataclysm. Before you all change the channel to another blog, no I am not going to analyze each class and talent. What I did want to prattle on about is Blizzard’s new (as of Wrath, and gathering steam into Cataclysm) philosophy of “bring the player, not the class”. What they are basically saying is there should not be a preference regarding which class your group uses for healing, tanking, or dealing damage. Everyone should be equally viable, thus leaving your group leader free to invite players based on skill and even personality. Sounds like a cool plan. If there is a choice, for example, between taking myself or Lane to DPS a raid, the raid should be able to take me, because I am awesome and adorable and sound hot over Vent. Blizzard does not want the raid leader to have to worry about whose class abilities and statistics make them a better option. What they have done, essentially, is give multiple classes the same abilities, just with different names, or slightly altered mechanics.

Too bad this does not work.

Doing it Wrong
If a raid needs, say, Replenish (this means other players will regenerate lots of Mana, which makes your Mana users very happy), they can take a Ret Paladin, Survival Hunter, Shadow Priest, or Frost Mage. I can guarantee you, no raid leader worth his or her salt is taking the Frost Mage. Their damage just does not compare to the rest. Many would also not take the Paladin, because in general, ranged DPS = preferred DPS (because we are not slaves to a Boss’ positioning). So basically, Blizzard took the Shadow Priest’s one cool gimmick, gave it to all these other morons, and most of those morons will still not be invited to the raid, and in the meantime the Shadow Priest loses a lot of its specialness. Now they are doing this to Shamans, by giving Magies something that is essentially Bloodlust/Heroism. Way to take away the only reason you’d ever take an Enhancement Shammy with you.

The fact of the matter is, in any game where there are multiple classes that fill the same role, there will always be the best. Games will never be perfectly balanced. And those who strive to mix/max their experience will always take the player who is the optimal race/class/spec when given a choice. Taking away the little things that makes each class unique will only make it harder for people who find themself on the low end of the min/max scale. Soon there will be even less reason to take them along. And while the Mage’s new Time Warp of Stupidness ability is what prompted this, this is a concept that is definitely not WoW-exclusive.


  1. The idea, at least with Cataclysm, is for there to be no reason why you wouldn’t take a shadow priest over, say, a hunter or a ret pally or even an awesome warrior such as myself.

    It’s an evolving concept.

    Back in Vanilla, and through most of BC, you pure DPS classes had it all: positions of, armies of slaves, Norwegian lesbians to feed you grapes… because at level 60 all you could do was DPS.

    As we’ve approached 70, 80, and now 85, we’ve all gotten a little more in the way of solo viability, and therefore, precise min/maxed group make-up is less necessary. Kmart versions of most “essential” raid buffs like Blessing of Kings, Fortitude, and Gift of the Wild are available for raid comps that lack certain members. For a 25-man group, it’d be unheard of to not have at least a shaman for Heroism/Bloodlust. It’d probably be rare not to have a paladin for Kings, and Might/Wisdom (which are being consolidated). For 10-mans, though, this is radically different: attempting ideal class balance is nearly impossible.

    With current balancing, yes, taking a Frost mage would be less than ideal if that mage had, say, an arcane spec, because Frost is a PVP spec (mostly). With the availability of dual spec (and, I hope, triple-spec soon) this should be less of an issue for classes like our Frost mage. And I know that Spriests are getting some love in Cataclysm, because, as Ghostcrawler explained, he wants raid slotting decisions to be based on “does this guy know what the hell he is doing?” rather than “oh, I have to have that class.”

    I know how frustrating it can be to see a unique buff given away because we fear that we will lose our slot in the great game of min/maxing. But I think with the changes that are coming down the line, we’re going to see a lot more interchangeability between players. I know as a raid lead myself I sometimes fall in to the habit of saying, “Oh, we really need Replenishment for this run, so I’ll slot so-and-so,” but after last night’s attempt on Arthas, my motto is: I’m going to slot who can get the job done, and if we have to work around a tricky mechanic (like no tranq shot on enraged Shambling Horrors) then we have to work around it.

  2. Also, let me say that as much as I love EJ and Tankspot and other theorycraft sites, they spoil us a bit with what the “theoretical best comp” is, and lead us to believe that appropriately min/maxed gear will automatically equate to better players. That simply isn’t true. Ceteris paribus, they’re correct: 25 EJ players in an optimal raid make-up with synergistic buffs and playstyles will always be the ones that get world and server firsts. But for the majority of us outside the hardcore guilds, player skill and situational awareness will trump theoretical performance.

    Let’s use the Frost mage example. Right now, Frost will do anywhere from 1,500-2,500 less than an equivalently-geared Fire or Arcane wandjockey, assuming a no movement fight. But then let’s put them both on Sindragosa, and the Fire mage suddenly can’t figure out when to stop DPSing ice blocks, doesn’t have Tuskarr’s on his boots and can’t move out of Blistering Cold, and lets Mystic Buffet stack to 7 before removing it. The Frost mage, on the other hand, has excellent situational awareness. 7,000 actual DPS versus a theoretical 9,000 DPS is a much better choice when the high-DPS Fire mage spends most of his time making sure the floor doesn’t get up and run away. If I were going to slot one of them, I’d slot the Frost mage, and if our raid really, really needed it, we’d open the guild bank to buy a second spec for him.