Monday, February 9, 2009

Our fear for class changes

So we’ve got our first little taste of the 3.1 changes. A few statements by Blizzard, quite vague if you look at the mage class, will now be debated and interpreted, syllable for syllable in hundreds of blogposts in the weeks to come. Have we seen it before? Oh yes. Even the tiniest little adjustment in the mechanics of a class will always result in an outcry of “OP!” or “Nerfed to the ground!”, depending on the perspective. It’s a ritual. You’re sort of supposed to build up your rage, so you can defend the territory of your class with teeth and claws.

Honestly, I’ve never been able to produce any aggression in those situations. Maybe I would care more if I was into PvP, where it probably matters more. But as it is now, news like this leave me indifferent. Even when they made my TBC Arcane raid spec impossible to raid with, I just shrugged, respecced fire and silently bided my time. Eventually things would work out, I thought. And of course they did. I’m now back to arcane, happier than ever.

Seriously, does anyone think that Blizzard would let a class suffer so much that it became unplayable, thus displeasing about 10 percent of the customers? Probably not. Changes are a part of the game and all classes will shine in some aspect sooner or later.

What really matters
Sometimes when you hear the outcries you get the impression that it’s a matter of life or death. It isn’t. I don’t think the minor tweaking of a class will decide if a raid will be a failure or a success – at least not in the casual-friendly raids that are offered in WotLK. The changes that are suggested won’t make any more impact than a few wavelets in the middle of a sea storm.

“Bring the player, not the class”, is the Blizzard mantra for this expansion. And I believe them. If I was a recruiter for a raiding guild, the changes in the next patch is the last thing I would consider when picking my team. What really matters is something else. What really matters is performance.

First: It’s about doing your job properly. Does the player do what he/she’s supposed to do – healing, tanking, dps? Does he move himself around correctly while doing so - be it the Heigan Cha Cha Cha or the dragon dance around Malygos?

Second: It’s about being a team player who doesn’t only follow the written rules, but also have a good judgement and some basic social skills. Does this player fit in to the puzzle? No one wants to spend 15 hours a week in company with an extremely annoying person, no matter how often he tops the dps charts.

The classes change a bit. Player X will make 100 dps more doing the same spellrotation as he used to before and Player Y will make 100 less. So what? Who cares?

What we are afraid of
I think the ones who care most are the ones who deep inside lack self confidence. If you’ve based your raiding spot on the fact that your unique buff is a “must” to bring to the raid, but know that you’re not quite as good at Cha Cha Cha as you should be, you’ll feel threatened. When several classes can bring the same utility – mana, cc, intelligence, crit buffs – the one thing that differs will be our ability to dance.

It all goes back to our basic instincts. It’s about our fear of being left out, our fear of not belonging to the clan and our fear of ending up unwanted and lonely.

Mae at Electronic Escape wrote about those fears from the perspective of a shadow priest the other day. Since I often indulge myself to sessions of frustration over my own incompetence I can very well understand the emotions. But seriously, aren’t they pretty exaggerated?

To form a well working raiding team is a long term project, which requires passion, commitment and an abundance of patience. You want to reach a level of cooperation where the raiding team seems to communicate almost telepathically. You know the feeling when everyone knows what the other players are about to do without having to say anything about it. But to reach there you have to play together for a very long time. I don’t think any guild that ditches well working parts of the raiding machinery in order to get room for more players of the Trendy Class/Spec of the Day will be successful in the long run.

So to the worrying shadowpriest and to anyone else out there, who now is trembling for upcoming nerfs of your class or buffs of other classes I just want to say: cut it! Worrying doesn’t take you anywhere at all. You can surely use your energy better. Turn your focus to The Big Things. Go take some dancing lessons. Do the daily dragon flying quest at Nexus to prepare for Malygos. Bite the sour apple and keep doing your homework. And I’m pretty sure you’ll keep your spot in the raid. Class changes or not.


Anonymous said...

I think it may be fear of change itself - you are comfortable playing your class now, know all the little twirks and tricks, but when the class mechanics change you will have to relearn how to play.

I see the changes coming concerning mana regeneration and I fear I will perform badly on my holy priest (stupidly though, she is still only 71 and won't be raiding for a long time still), and I don't know how to gem or enchant her gear anymore.

But usually it's the wait that's worst, and these fears usually passes once the change comes for real, and you get to try it out for yourself :-)

Also, if there were no changes there would be no new challenges and no new things to learn!

Dragon's Den said...

What gets me about all this is the incessant nerfs and buffs going on. I can;t understand why Blizz keep doing it.

They nerfed BM hunters, going against statiscal advice they'd been given, carried out the nerf and have now said they'd gone too far and have to un-nerf them a bit!

Some tinkering is obviously fine, but they seem to be doing to much at the moment to my way of thinking.

I also have a view on those 'best spec' chasers and think you make a good point about the stability of raid teams.

If I'd been 'in fear of changes' I#d have stopped being an MM hunter a long time ago but because I haven't I know my spec inside out and can adjust to any changes that are made because I know how we work best.

Carra said...

It's a good point. If spec A > my spec B next patch, I'll just spec A. I kind of hope a different spec will be better, I want a change of playstyle now and then.

It's however bad if they do miss the ball and nerf your class too much (such as the BM nerf). This really shouldn't be happening, they have all the stats.

Gevlon said...

Theoretically you are right. Practically people want OP spec. That's why they whine about nerfs. They don't afraid that their spec becomes unplayable. They afraid that they will have to work.

Those who don't fear hard work like you has nothing to fear.

Anonymous said...

I am quite looking forward to this patch coming, i think there patches in general have been pretty good for over a year now (exept the last one which was broke)

Fish said...

I have thought long and hard about "trendy class of the day" and I really truly believes it comes down to personal preferrence. Blizz has done a great job of making things relatively balanced and most every class/spec viable.

Play what you like, everything else will sort itself out. You may not be the absolute "best" (which is really a relative and subjective term anyways) but you'll have fun.

Siha said...

"does anyone think that Blizzard would let a class suffer so much that it became unplayable"

They have before. Ret paladins were a joke, PvE-wise, for classic WoW and a good chunk of TBC. Balance druids, shadow priests, beastmaster hunters, even protection paladins -- all of these were in a very bad way in classic WoW, to a greater or lesser degree. Retribution for paladins was the poster child of 'unplayable', but all the others I mentioned had significant problems.

Technically, they probably weren't unplayable; however, they were so badly disadvantaged compared with other specs/classes, that they were _very_ hard to play and few groups would even give them a chance.

Heck, a Blizzard dev (can't remember which - possibly Kalgan?) said that Ret was intended for PvP and shouldn't be taken seriously for PvE.

So yes, people /do/ worry about changes, because Blizzard has a bad history with certain classes/specs.

Anonymous said...

Larisa. On this one we disagree. You say that people who are opposed to change lack self-confidence. In fact, those who embrace change lack identity. The definition of identity is the fundamental inability to transform it.

While I remain indifferent to the minor changes that happen from patch to patch I cannot ignore the fundamental pattern that Blizzard has been on: everything becomes a different shade of gray. While this may not make a big difference
for raiders, indeed, it may make their life easier; it makes a HUGE difference for people like myself that play on RP servers and take RP seriously. This is why I totally disagree with the idea of "bring the player not the class." In WoW, I play a class; my class is fundamental to my identity. When Bliz manipulates my identity they impede my fundamnetal ability to actually *play* the game. I no longer play the game, the game plays me.

For a raider who just cares about damage meters, switching from Frost to Fire may make no difference at all. OTOH, for a RPer who has built their entire character's identity around a Frost build, such changes can cause havoc. I resent the cumulative affect of Blizzard class changes not because I lack self-confidence but because it is, as a RPer, not what I want out of the game.

To me, your post just reinforced to my mind the bottom-basement nature that RP has in WoW. People may disgree whether Blizzard favors PvP over Raiding or not, but I don't think there can be any real dispute that RP is a the bottom of the barrel, the "red-headed step child" as the American idiom goes.

Hagu said...

My opinion is these changes are such a waste of time. Unlike life, change is not inevitable and your point is they can't really change anything significantly. So why do it??? Yes, it does make things more challenging for the skilled, hard-working, modest players like Gevlon and yourself. But then, so would Blizzard randomly deleting 30% of your gold and gear every month - and the latter would be easier to program. It does mean that if you want to level a character to 80, you don't ask yourself what I would rather play, but can I guess what Blizzard's change-for-change's sake policy will be when I reach 80.

My point is a main part of these virtual worlds is buying into them and that something in there matters. And I think that trust and stability are part of that. Who would be grinding Hodir rep if they announced that WotLK was shutting down next month? How motivated are you to work for a +agility trinket if last month haste was what you needed and the month before that it was spirit? Since as you say these changes can't really matter, why do them?

I think that if Blizzard announced that all classes were frozen for four months and spent all that development effort on new content, it would be more enjoyable for the players. There would be change; there would be new challenges and without a lot of the downside to this change for the sake of change.

Anonymous said...

"bring the player not the class." is pretty standard (RL) recruitment practice. Pick the person that fits the organization (Guild), then give them the tools to do the job (gear & experience).

So yeah I think that Blizzard has this right... too many guild putting up with idiots on the basis that they are the best (class, spec, geared etc). So I think the flexibility helps.

As for the constant tinkering with classes, well this has always been, and most likely always will. I think until mid-TBC people were crying on a monthly basis, but then it settled down, balance (of a sort) was gained, and the biggest buffs/tweaks started to come in game content rather than class attributes.

People here have some good points, particularly from the RP point of view (and I would include non-RPers like me in this... I like fire... I don't care if it gets as bad as Arcane in Vanilla WoW, it is incredibly unlikely I would change to either Frost or Arcane).

But then, I am not in a progression raiding guild. I am not concerned whether 1% +/- will keep my raid spot. I am not concerned that every man and their dog can make food & water (for a whole raid no less), which actually has some addition benefits beyond restoring mana/health bars. I am not concerned that You can pick up an intelligence buff off the nearest street urchin, or that no one needs portals these days, they just hearth to Dalaran and go where they want.

I dare say that if I did care, I would care a lot... but at least, from where I stand (yes I am standing... no short jokes at the Gnome please), I get to have a chuckle at the QQ that ensues...


Anonymous said...

Another wonderful post, Larisa.

It's interesting the way people will react to class changes, whether they be major or minor. Or any change to the game really. "Oh no, rep is so much easier for people to get now. You've lessened what it meant for me to reach exalted with my own faction" for example.

I don't really think leaving class abilities as set in stone vs. changing them should form the basis of why someone chooses to play one class over another. You play a class because it fits you, your style, and you enjoy it. The buffs and nerfs come and go, but your love for one class should not be based on this.

I've played an Affliction Warlock for well over a year. Did it matter to me that affliction was not considered the raiding spec? Nope... I worked on my rotations and dot upkeep to try and be competitive with my dps while I was raiding. Then with WotLK, there were a lot of people wondering where the warlocks were hiding... but I kept playing mine. And I will keep playing mine.

But, all just my opinion of course. :)

Anonymous said...

@Tessy: yes, I think you have a point there. I’m not particularly interested in theorycrafting and when I read the EJ forums I do it rather out of duty than of pleasure. Changes mean that I have to look at gems and spellrotations once again and it isn’t always what I long most of all to do.

@Dragon’s Den: Could it be lack of time perhaps? They don’t have time to do enough of testing before they have to release for some reason, and then they see things didn’t work as they wanted them to and then they have to do a too-quick change again…

I think your stick-to-one-speck strategy is a winner in the long run.

@Carra: well either that, or you do like Dragon’s Den and stick to your speck anyway and become a true expert at it. It is a challenge to show the world that a supposedly inferior spec can work anyway, if played properly!

@Gevlon: It becomes a bit silly when you think about it. Everyone wants to get OP. And then they whine about content being too easy… Is there ANY way to make WoW players happy?

@Esdras: I both look forward to it and dread it. Patches often means broken addons and a lot of unintentional problems (lag in Naxx going insane etc). I hope it won’t happen to much of those things this time. What interest me most of course is if we’ll get a new raid instance.

@Fish: Well, I guess it may be so that every spec isn’t really good for every purpose. There are some trees that are better for raiding and others better for PvP. But as far as I see it at least every class should be able to get a spot in a raid or compete in PvP.

@Siha: Yes, you’re probably right about that. I haven’t played WoW so long (two years now, but it’s pretty short if you compare it to most other players). There may be historical reasons for people to be so much on their toes when changes are announced.

@Defty James: Since I’m not role playing I tend to forget that perspective too. I think you have some good points here and I too can see the backside of that Blizzard are making all classes too much of the same. There is a certain value in the differences. I may make a blog post about it one day, right now I just wanted to say that I agree that RP:ers shouldn’t be neglected as much as they are now.

@Hagu: I don’t say that I love the changes or ask for them. I just don’t let them affect me so much that I cry out of fear or joy whenever they happen. Don’t you think that the changes are a part of the idea that the game is developed not by some developers in a far away country, but in a tight cooperation with the players. WE are a part of the developing. They ask for our input, we give it, they test it on the PTRs… It’s a constant flow of creative ideas bouncing back and forward between the developers and players. And that makes the game feel alive and not as something static that once was developed and then abandoned.

@Gnome: you think you’re not a RP? I think you’re deceiving yourself. Your blog is proof enough. I honestly don’t know exactly which classes that can give intelligence nowadays (I have a vague feeling that hunters can?) and I really don’t care. If the only reason to bring me to a raid was to get my buff I’d rather not go at all. It would feel like being a child trying to buy friends by handing out candy.

@Syrana: Thank you. And I agree!

Anonymous said...

I think, for me, it's just one nerf too many. Having been a mage for a long time, I was always disheartened by the lack of buffs and attention paid to mages. Now, I'm a shadow priest and they're changing replenishment again. It's just disconcerting.

Thanks for the mention and I apologize to anyone who clicked the link and found it empty. Also, thanks for the nice words, you certainly didn't add in any way to the decision to close up shop.

I think, though, that all the nice words I got recently have made me at least entertain the notion of not giving up on WoW blogging after all. I suppose time will tell.

Thanks again, truly!

Anonymous said...

@Mae: I'm glad to hear there's some hope that you'll come back to blogging again. You know you could think about it the other way - be a little bit flattered by all the attention. It's only Great Bloggers like Big Bear Butt who get those blizzards of hateful comments... So you're in good company.
Big hugs and hope to see you soon again when the wounds have healed.