Friday, November 11, 2011

We're ready for Class Transfers

I read a post by Tjsonntag over at Melted Faces which was a reply to a post by Cynwise of Cynwise's Battle Notes, which in turn was a reply to a post by Vidyala over at Manalicious (still with me?) regarding the troubles of investing time in characters and being able to play whatever you enjoy most.

During my years playing WoW I've definitely come across two major types of players - the ones who play their character and the ones who play their account. Me and Love are good examples. Eventhough I've mained Zinn for the vast majority of my WoW-gaming, it's never bothered me the slightest to accomplish something or receive items on another character. When they wanted to do Glory of the Ulduar raider and needed a shaman I gladly came with my shaman. To me the importance was in me experiencing it, not which character ended up with the mount. I've focused on Zinn because I've loved priest healing, and if I was for some reason forced to play a completely nother priest with no achievements or cool vanity items I'd be only slightly upset because to me the main thing would be to know that I had a way of enjoying the content with the class I enjoy most, not necessarily the character I enjoy most. Love differed quite a lot from this. He always had a huge problem with bringing alts to raids for example because he'd be so annoyed when something happened or dropped that he wanted to "collect" for his main. My brother had a similar attitude. When he was forced a name change on his rogue he basically completely lost interest in playing, since the character was dead when its history i.e reputation was lost.

Most people probably don't know who Zinn is on my server eventhough I have been around for 5 years and it's never bothered me. But to some people all that effort is worth a whole lot and not something easily dismissed. So what happens when the time spent on a character is all that keeps you to it? When nostalgia, and not the class itself, is the only reason you still make yourself play a certain class?

This was actually something Love occasionally mentioned. I know he loved to play feral druid, but I also know that whenever he for some reason felt a drop in interest in that class he probably suffered a lot more than I did in the same situation. Maybe just knowing that he was "stuck" with his druid sometimes made it worse, especially during times when druids would struggle to perform and most people would be happy to be able to join the raid as something more useful. It's awful to feel like a burden to everyone else just because you've happen to play a class that Blizzard isn't loving at that moment, and feeling that it is basically impossible to switch - it just doesn't feel right. He probably didn't identify with the class as much as he identified with the character and everything he had done with it in the game. Cynwise actually puts this way of thinking really well;

"There's no opportunity to say, hey, I like this character, I identify with this character, I want to experience the game through this character, but from a different role. "

In a sense, switching character would negate all that effort put into it, and what good were the last 5 years then? Achievements and past experiences really matter in this game, and even if I don't care which character they're on, everyone around me do;

If you ever decide to level a character on a server completely removed from the empire you've might've built up wherever your main is, you'll notice insane difficulties to advance ahead once you get to max level. At least compared to whatever your alts on your main server usually have to go through - this is also something I have written a post about. A guildie of mine is currently playing an alt on another server to play with a friend of his and has told us some of the difficulties he is currently facing. Eventhough he's an extremely skilled arms warrior (the same class as his main), has killed Rag on heroic and probably knows more about the raids he's trying to join than anyone else in the group, it is basically impossible for him to get to even prove it. Most people won't let him join because his gear level is "only" 359 ish, and when he has no achievement to show they "know" he's bad. Without even getting to join he can't prove that he'll probably out dps and generally outperform most other people in the raid, or in any case definitely not be a boost object, and he'll never get the achievements he need to be able to get in to be able to prove himself. You see the evil circle here?

I had the same issue when I leveled a prot warrior on an off-server. Eventhough I had full knowledge of how to play my class and how to do the fight, it was basically impossible for me to convince people of it because all my "proof" was on the wrong character. My only option was to hit the farming cycle, gathering enough money to get some crafted gear, and doing the older tier of raiding content. Which still wouldn't allow me to get the achievement which seems to be the only thing people really care about nowadays. It's a huge C.V we're walking around with, and we need it one way or another - so maybe it should be easier to use.

In short, the problem is that Blizzard might have made it so enticing and rewarding to invest time in a character that they've also made it very difficult to move out of that comfort zone. So what happens when a person doesn't enjoy playing that role anylonger or wants to try something else somewhere else? The first category probably end up rather quitting WoW than doing what would feel to them like throwing all that time and effort in the gutter. The latter find themselves with the only option to do realm transfers, which is a clunky way to move around your comfort zone if you ask me.

Now, I heard a rumor that Blizzard actually intended to make achievements cross-account, meaning you could link your awesome achievements from any character and not just the one that you were on when you achieved it. I think it's a good idea, because eventhough succeeding with something on one class doesn't mean you'll succeed with another, it would definitely allow people to move away some from the curse that achievements have turned out to be to many.

But that would be far from enough for the people who identify with all their characters achievements. Tjsonntag proposes class-transfers, in which you basically just swap your characters class but keep everything else, and asks "why the hell not?". It is something that has been discussed before and probably will be discussed until they either implement it or WoW ends, but I completely agree - why the hell not?

Blizzard originally intended for your choice of class and even spec within a class to be a very definite choice. Not as definite as in Diablo 1 and 2, but not far from. Throughout the years they have realized that a great way to battle the constant inequalities there are between classes, that there always will be a FotM, and satisfying players need to do something new occasionally, was by letting them  freely (or close to) swap between specs. This is a huge step from their initial design idea, and I can barely imagine how much shorter the life-expectancy of Wow would've been without those changes. Try to imagine playing WoW with those ever increasing respec costs that we had from the start? I know they would be a huge problem for me, and I don't even respec that often. Some, often hybrids, are up in the hundreds of respecs by now, something that would be completely impossible with the old system.

So doesn't it seem like the next logical step would be for people to be able to swap classes? One day you're a warrior, the next you're a mage. Sure, there are practical things to consider (how to swap gear?) and I am sure there will be plenty of doomsday prophecies about how this will be the end of quality and skill among players as we know it, an argument we've heard considering just about any change made to character development (faster leveling, dks starting from level 55, dual-specs etc). There is some credit to those concerns, but I still feel like the gains would outweigh the drawbacks. Like I said, having downed rag hc on your hunter doesn't mean you have a clue on how to do it on a warlock, but it still says a whole lot about your skills in general (because by lord, that is not an easy fight).

Of course, having to start all over if you want to switch class is a completely intentional time-sink on Blizzards part, and not necessarily a bad one. In fact, I don't think WoW has been ready for a class-transfer function before, because making things too easy also has the danger of making it boring. But I do think it is now. Somehow we might have to take into consideration that WoW is coming to an end, probably sooner than later, and this might be the perfect way to squeeze that last interest out of all those people who have now played the same role for several years and would love to "free" themselves from their class and try something else. Would it save everyones interest in WoW? Definitely not, but it would at least give it a chance. Because the option as Tjsonntag puts it;

"I think the only way to save her would be for Blizz to introduce class transfers. I mean, why the hell not, at this point? I could make her a Male Human with a different name on another server; the class is the only thing I can’t change. And that makes me really sad, because I love her. We just don’t have that much in common anymore."

Having to see a loving relationship end like that is just a shame.


  1. I think you have some valid points. However, I don't think class transfers are a good idea. There is too much tied to class. The endgame issues will be cleared up by the looking for raid (allegedly once its working) which will at least allow you to see content.
    I think Cata's endgame is broken from the standpoint that encounters are difficult to the point where people are looking for every edge possible. WOTLK had the advantage, since content was easier, of being a lot more pick up and go.
    From a mechanical standpoint race is animations and buffs. Class is basically who the character is mechanically (not from an immersion standpoint, but I can't say much on that, all my characters have Fish in their names).
    A draenei turning into a human, makes no sense but race is window dressing. A priest becoming a warrior? Now you've got armor thats worthless, professions that don't match (don't mess with me, I'm a bad ass tailor. . .), could just be me, maybe the whole game is just a collection of mechanics. . .

  2. Hmm, I rarely if ever would say I have out and out disagree with you my dear Zinn, but I am doing it this time.

    By now most of us have multiple toons and many of them are max lvl. No real reason to have teh drastic and shatterign change mentioned here.

    And it would be shattering. the only way to curb it from being totally game chnaging would be to make it cost just as a transfer costs in real money.

    to make it cost only gold in game, if thats what some folks are wanting, woudl be to make new toons no longer needed to be made.

    Some are saying yes no more leveling, but it would in fact be hamstringing the end game content even more than it is now since 10 and 25 man share a raid lockout.

    If you can change on the fly, as with dual speccing, then you are speaking of that one toon being locked out and thats it, no more raiding.

    If a person wants to play another toon and raid then we should be more concerned with getting the lockouts split up again, to promote more raiding chances. Also having 25 man content once again have a reason to raid in them, be it higher lvl gear again or something.

    And I think that skill would would very much be an issue. I point to those runs where some idiot is acting like a complete ass, doing everything wrong adn then when you ask why they tell you how thier main is 6/7 heroic and they know what they are doing so shut the hell up nub.

    Having the achievment on 1 toon of a different class in NO WAY makes a person automatically good at the same encounter on another toon.

    This type of thought/behaviour is why we have so much A-holism in 5 mans and PuG runs as it is. People think they are experts now, and its just plain disgusting.

    Now if you are speaking of making it cost real dough then so be it. If a person is serious enough to chnage class and spend cash on it, then let them make the wallet scream.

    And even if you want to change, I do not think your gear should change as well. Some items do not drop as much for certain classes as others. Also there is more competition for items for some gear types. A person should not be awarded an item just because they paid to change a class.

    Changing class but keeping the same name does not make that toon the same one you have been playing.

    For instance, you are Zinn. You are the priest who shares your ideas and experience with us. your thoughts and strategies for playing a priest, both Disc and Holy at times.

    Now you change to a DK....Umm its Zinn the DK...the name doesnt even fit with the class...the name is already molded into the priest.

    You have mentioned shadow before, but I do not even think of you as shadow. Others may be of the same mind I am not sure.

    When I go to make a new toon, I think of a anme for that toon and class. Each is different to me in its own way. I cannot take my mages name and throw it onto my priest...they are so different its not even funny.

    Would the mage ever be allowed into the healer channel just because my main is a priest..hell no, that is hallowed ground.

    I would sooner gor the ability to start a toon off at higher lvls if you already have an 85 than I would to have a class change.

    Okay, I realize this turned inot more of a rant, I offer my apology and now step down off the soap box.


  3. @Anon
    Indeed, there is a lot tied to a class and like I said there are so many practical issues that would need to be resolved (so many in fact it turns out class transfers aren't possible?). But I would like to see some way to ease up on the current rigidness regarding achievements.

    Oh sorry, I definitely should've added that I would prefer, even demand, it to be available through payment. I completely agree that I don't think people should be able to swap classes like they swap underwear, I think that would be really bad for many reasons - lack of skill being one major. But I think the possibility should be there so that people who really care can do it. There are things that might feel weird at first, but I don't agree that it would increase the bad behavior we're seeing in pugs. In all honesty, anonymity is making the worst there and I can't see how anything could make it worse ;P

    I can see the sense in offering people to get an 85 ready and done, but it wouldn't solve the problem some people have about not wanting to abandon all that work they've put into a character.

  4. I'm not really all that in to it but... Perhaps someone with experience from FFXI or FFIV would care to comment? I know the core mechanics between the games are totally different but as I've understood it changing class is a major part of the online FF instalments. I don't think that they have the answer or that WoW should learn from FF in any way... But perhaps from the perspective of the player they could share some insights in how it feels to change roles but not character?

  5. How would you avoid serious raiders constantly swapping classes with each new patch?

    Like every shaman healer would have swapped to a priest, druid, or paladin in 4.2?

    Or do you think that's entirely fine to have people abandon the weaker classes and swap to other oneS?

  6. @Hartland
    It would be interesting indeed. Unfortunately FF11 (don't know about 14 though) isn't exactly known to be the best designed game in the world ^^

    You wouldn't avoid that, just as you can't avoid serious raiders doing other batshit crazy stuff to get an edge (like that guild that all did a server transfer just to have another go at the FL raid lockout). I don't mind people swapping from the "lesser" classes, because people who do that already do that anyway (I have people in my guild right now who jump between classes as needed!). If there is a fee to it (and there would have to be!) I don't think this will increase the class swapping much, it will just allow some players to enjoy the game more, I think.

  7. Problems:

    1) Need to show an achievement to be able to enter a raid group
    => This will be solved with the raid finder
    => This could also be solved by having the ability to show the achievements of your other characters. It won't mean that you know how to play your class, but that you at least have an idea of the fight mechanics

    2) Want to "do something different" but leveling an alt is tedious especially on non-primary servers.
    => Play a druid or a paladin ;) They can both be healer/tank/dps
    => More seriously, I would really like to have an option to get a naked 85 character, the gear grinding would still be here but much less painful (maybe 1 day to reach ilvl 350 instead of 6)
    => I am personnally against the idea of being able to switch class and keeping your xp, because you would be able to show your achievements for your former class while you probably don't know your new class very well yet => A little dungeon grinding will help you master it. If it ever was possible to change class, I think all the achievements should be reset to avoid that. + your gear and your professions would not match your new class, so that would be an unsolvable problem.

    Zinn is a priest right? Can you seriously picture Zinn as something else? A DK or a rogue maybe? I don't think that's something reasonable to ask from Blizzard. But I would like to be able to keep more than 2 specs active (I'd love to have a druid that can be heal/tank/rdps/mdps only by clicking a button).

  8. I tend to view a class change as no different than a career change.

    "So, Mr. Priest, you want to be a Rogue? Well, those robes and that staff are utterly useless. Once you've been through the retraining process, you'll have to acquire new skills and new tools for your new trade."

    Translation: You're going to have to grind heroics and lower tier raids to 1) learn the class, and 2) acquire gear. I think that's a perfectly appropriate price to pay - one that would be paid in a real-life career change as well (acquiring new skills and equipment/tools required for the job).

    The only real issue I see, though it is purely from a story/RP perspective: Death Knights. I never really viewed DK as a class. The role and abilities of a death knight were forced upon that characters - it wasn't chosen. As such, I would prohibit class change to/from Death Knight. Seriously, other than some twisted cultist - who would consciously CHOOSE to be a Death Knight? And once there, how could one ever be brought back?

    Personally, I would not be too thrilled to see class changes NOW, because I'm nearly done reaching 10 x 85: one of each class at max level. /smirk