In Part I, we looked at Ghostcrawler's interaction with the community. In this section we will look at Ghostcrawler's influence on the rules, how the rules of WoW changed when he was in charge. Now, Ghostcrawler isn't solely responsible for these changes, they were the work of the entire dev team. But he's the man with the title and the face, so he gets the responsibility.
I'm going to break this down into areas of major change and look at each separately.
1. Bring the player, not the class.
If there is any phrase Ghostcrawler will be remembered for--other than "Nerf Ret paladins. TO THE GROUND!"--it will be "bring the player, not the class". The basic idea is that a decent player could play any spec of any class that she found in group content and not be a total liability. She would not be forced into a specific spec at endgame. For the most part, save the very edge of content (and even here it is much better than it was in the past), this has come true. Pretty much every spec is viable.
Perhaps it is difficult for newer players to understand what an enormous change this is. I have been a paladin since Vanilla. Back in Vanilla, there was only one choice for endgame paladins: you healed. Didn't matter what spec (and for some reason Kings was in the Ret tree), you couldn't tank or deal damage. Your job was to heal. And most of the time you didn't even wear plate. If you look back at the history of the blog, the first three years are railing at this restriction, and eventually coming to terms with it.
Now, paladins can tank if they want, or hit things with a giant two-handed hammer if they prefer. I still heal, but I choose to heal, and am not forced to heal. For this alone, I will always count "bring the player, not the class" to be huge success.
If you look at any modern MMO where classes can play multiple roles, there is an unstated assumption that the devs will at least try to make each role viable. I hold Ghostcrawler responsible for this change of attitude in the MMO industry.
Now, there are concerns with this idea. This, in conjunction with smaller raid sizes, has led to some homogenization among classes. Classes can no longer be as unique as they once were, for fear that those classes will not be present in the raid.
2. All specs and classes have an interesting rotation.
The paladin rotation in Vanilla was ... unique. You put up a Seal, cast Judgement to start the fight and recast another Seal. Then 30 seconds later, if the mob hadn't died to your auto-attacks, you could cast Judgement and re-Seal again. Other classes were all over the map. Some were crazy complex, others were very simple. I remember the days where the optimum Warlock rotation was to sacrifice your Demon and spam Shadow Bolt.
All modern specs have a rotation of at least moderate complexity now. Usually you use 3-5 spells, and there is a proc or resource you have to account for. The rotations are different enough to give the different specializations their own feel. Each class is at least moderately interesting to play, and not as terribly simple as paladins used to be.
For the most part, this has been a good change. The only concern I would have is that sometimes it feels that each specialization is "too" unique. For example, did Destruction warlocks really need a second nuke in Incinerate? I have always thought that Shadow Bolt was good enough.
3. Current tier instead of progression.
Vanilla was built on the idea of progression. No matter when your guild was formed, you started in Molten Core, and moved up raid by raid. The problem with this was that often guilds got stuck on bosses and couldn't move on. Only a small minority of raiders saw all the content.
Starting in Wrath, WoW essentially moved to a "current tier" model. The raid that was released most recently was the tier that everyone did. Each raid was available in multiple difficulties, allowing groups of different ability levels to see the entire raid. As well, buffs or nerfs would often occur to keep groups from getting stuck.
I think in a lot of ways this is the most controversial of the changes during Ghostcrawler's tenure. Progression "feels right" in a way that is somewhat hard to articulate. There is this sense of "being on the path" that no longer exists in WoW. Right now, I'm playing FFXIV, which has a progression-style endgame. It feels "right" to be moving up slowly through the content, that each challenge is similar in difficulty to how it was at release.
But the truth is that it feels "right" up until the point where you get stuck. My first serious raiding guild shattered on Lady Vashj, and I've never forgotten that. The current endgame promises guilds that they can stick together. It promises that you don't have to make the choice between playing with friends or seeing content. In Vanilla/TBC, this was a very real and present concern for players.
To Be Continued
There are other changes that happened during Ghostcrawler's tenure. I also want to talk about what I think was his biggest failing or weakness in terms of rules systems. Hopefully this post won't take me another couple of weeks.