Sunday, October 24, 2010

When ordinary is better than special

New patch, new consolidation of buffs. It seems that every new patch Blizzard takes us one step closer to giving everyone the ability to buff with everything. I notice I don't even have to use Fortitude in raids anymore because Blood Pact or Commanding Shout is already up (ok, fortitude is better than those because of its longer duration, but still)! I am anticipating the day when Blizzard just gives every class a skill called "buff" that simply does everything. Hey, why not just buff every class and be done with it!

This wasn't always so of course. Once upon a time Blizzard intended for each class to bring their own special value to the group. Even the different factions where made special by giving Alliance the paladins and Horde the shamans, who had similiar but not entirely the same buffs. Special soon turned out to be a problem. Blizzard noticed the problem with this system when alliance guilds had a hard time killing Viscidus because they didn't have a shaman with Nature Resistance Totem, Cleansing Totem, Frostbrand Weapon and FROST SHOCK (hah, that doesn't even begin to cover it, few alliance guilds could ever hope to down that boss).

So they thought - Maybe making an entire raid rely on the existance of one special class is a bad idea? Still Blizzard kept this system for a long time. They did eventually spread many of the buffs across the classes and also made it so you could roll alliance shamans and horde paladins (oh the abomination). But still today we have some classes that bring unique and very powerful buffs, yes I am of course thinking of Bloodlust (I refuse to recognize the term Heroism, bah). But not for long! At level 85 mages will also be able to give this buff, but until then we have to accept the fact that most serious raiders would want at least one shaman in the raid just because of this buff.

And not only buffs, roles used to be set in stone too. Back in Vanilla druids/priests/paladins/shamans were healers. Warriors were tanks. There was really little exception from this rule. The only ones who deviated where lucky enough to be in guilds that accepted a little crazyness. A tanking paladin? Haha, don't make me laugh... When I rolled my first warrior, in BC, this concept was so cemented that I rarely got to join a group if I didn't tank. Why bring a warrior that doesn't tank, lol? Dpsing is what we have mages, locks, rogues and hunters for, don't come and take our jobs!

But BC did show that Blizzard had started to think things over and weren't entirely happy with the state of things. They had realized that what they really wanted was to make the class give a unique experience to the player, not to the group. I realize they probably initially intended for each class to feel special and wanted. I admit that when I started out playing my priest I really did feel special and wanted. No one wanted any other healer for Stratholme or Scholomance because I had a nice combination of Shackle Undead, Cure Disease and Dispel that no other healer s. Blizzard noticed that this had an unwanted side-effect however. Some classes were special and wanted, but they couldn't design content that made all classes special and wanted for every encounter. So for some content you just didn't bring a druid/mage/X because they didn't have what was wanted. It also meant that if I wanted to join for Strat/Scholo, I had to do it as a healer.

Just as in real life. We're all special, and that makes some people cool and some people not so cool depending on what you need. If you need someone to fix your computer, the computer nerd will be your best friend. If you need someone to get you into a party he/she might not be as good a friend (generalizing ftw).

Looking back at it I feel like the classes that had trouble getting groups back in Vanilla turrned out to get a special treatment from the Blizzard buff-goodiebag. A sort of compensation for not being cool enough. Just look at druids and shamans. They didn't have a cut position in any raid in the early days of raiding. So Blizzard handed druids Innervate and Combat resses and suddenly they were the center of the party. Then they gave shamans Bloodlust and suddenly no one wanted to go anywhere or kill any boss without a shaman around. I got to join for Starcaller on my shaman simply because I had Bloodlust. I offered my main (priest) with way better gear and skills, but they were sure Bloodlust would compensate it all. And the worst thing is, it probably did.

I welcome these consolidations. Post 4.0 most buffs can be given by two-three other raid members if need be, and I love not having to rebuff spirit, fortitude and shadow fort after each wipe. Someone else always beats me to it nowadays, before we had to tell people several times until something happened because they all waited for someone else to do it. They also removed the reagent cost and suddenly people buff like there was no tomorrow. People you had to yell at for 15 min to get a measly minor blessing from (am I talking about paladins? Yes definitely) are now rebuffing every 5 minutes. It is especially funny because blessing a greater Blessing used to cost around 1s. But lowering it to nothing made all the difference, which is interesting. But this is a side note.

Blizzard finally seem to take "bring the player, not the class" seriously. It used to be the other way around, but this isn't the first (and probably not the last time) Blizzard will dramatically change their mind about some game design choice (just look at dual-specs). Being able to buff your raid with cool buffs is hardly what defines your gaming experience, and honestly I think most of us with special buffs are getting sick at it. I don't think Feral Cat druids were ever very happy about having to interrupt their delicate rotation every couple of minutes to innervate some healer. It makes me wonder, what do we need all the buffs for anyway? Can't we take the final step now and have classes radiate the buffs instead? Priests/warriors radiate fortitude. Paladins/druids radiate kings. And so on. We're nearly there anyway, I am sure this will be the next step.

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