Saturday, March 21, 2009

Evaluating Wrath Design, Part I

With 3.1 coming in the near future, it's time to take a look back at 3.0. However, rather than focusing on specific elements like raids or questing, let's examine some of the changes in direction that Wrath came up with. I'll keep to a very simple thumbs up or thumbs down system, and this will probably span multiple posts.

Bring the Player, not the Class

The concept of "Bring the Player, not the Class" has proved to be extremely attractive to the playerbase. It caught the imagination, and has pretty much been embraced whole-heartedly. As for execution, I think Blizzard has done a really good job. There's a couple of exceptions, such as Death Knight tanks with cooldowns, maybe Rogues in general, and Shaman Bloodlust/Heroism, but overall you don't really need to min-max raid composition anywhere close to what was necessary before Wrath. Just grabbing a good mix of classes is all you need.

Verdict: Thumbs Up!


The new phasing tech, where how the world is presented to you changes as you complete quests, allows players to actually have an effect on the world, and is extremely cool. The Ebon Blade and Argent Dawn questlines in Icecrown are cited as a high point of the questing experience, and it is entirely due to their use of phasing. I am quite excited to see how Blizzard develops this further.

Verdict: Thumbs Up!


Championing factions, where you gain rep with a faction when running instances wearing their tabard, is a much, much better way of earning reputation than the previous methods. Breaking the link between factions and specific instances was really necessary. It gives you so much more flexibility in choosing what instances you want to run, and ensures that you are always working on the reputation you want.

Second, I think championing works very well on a thematic level, tying the current faction to the tabard you wear. Theres a nice visual and thematic emphasis there, that just makes the whole mechanic work. Wearing the faction's tabard really drives home the point that you are doing things in their name. As well, the tabard slot doesn't cause you to lose a gear slot, unlike previous versions such as the Argent Dawn trinket.

I like championing so much, I was very disappointed that the Sons of Hodir didn't have a tabard.

Verdict: Thumbs Up!


In the original incarnation of glyphs, they often had both a positive and a negative side. They weren't just bonuses, but they actually changed the nature of the spell. The classic example is the Flash of Light glyph, which cut the heal in half, but added a HoT.

That idea seems to have been mostly abandoned. Now most glyphs are outright bonuses to your chosen spells, and are far less interesting. To be honest, Glyphs seem unnecessary to me, occupying much the same space as talents.

Verdict: Thumbs Down!


  1. Bring the Player not the Class is a big thumbs down in my book.

    1. Death Knights - tanking based around cool downs and a few changes in talents for dps versus tanking. Causes too much QQ in the arena nerds. Eventually will result in nerfing of said cool downs and talents forcing death knights into a fixed tanking spec.

    2. Homogenization - Speaking strictly from the paladin point of vue. In vanilla paladins went from not really being able to do anything but buff/cleanse to being good single target healers by naxx. BC saw paladins become ok dps and kings of aoe tanking but too many issuses still. The 3.0 buffs and talents just caused yet again more QQ from the raging arena nerds. Now all the good talents in holy and ret are being pushed so far down the trees hyrbid specing is out the window.

    3. Replenishment - I don't know what to say. Blizzard's "solution" to shadow priest raid stacking seems to be causing more heart ache then its worth.

  2. Love the content of your blog and appreciate the time and energies you spend on it. Thanks.

    I have recently taken my pally into the protection tree and am having tons of fun tanking. Still getting your blog in my reader tho ;-)

    For me, phasing is a thumbs down.

    I play a good deal more hours than my brother and real life friends. With phasing, we are unable to enjoy the content together. Its impossible for me to help them with the quests or to simply tag along while they do them.

    Game design should not set up barriers between players that want to play together. So frustrating.


  3. Pinky down for "Bring the player not the class". A raid still needs two priests to be able to do the military wing in Naxx-25, ever more so in 3.1 where the taunt will have dimishing returns, rendering obsolete the kiting / taunt strategies on Razuvious.

  4. Glyphs sounded cool, but I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised that they just turned into another extra 'stat' to balance around, just like JC failed to be about customization.

    Wouldn't that be a thumbs down at the failure to complete the design?

  5. Yep, big down for glyphs.

    It was so obviously going to be a tool for further balancing... and indeed it took mere months for them to change glyphs to simple bonsus rather than gameplay changes.

    The bring the player not class is obviously better than before. However, most guild STILL min/max as much as possible, still take recount stats as gospel and will often recruit accordingly or compose their raid accordingly. There are classes with MUCH higher dps than others. The sort of numbers hunters and dk's can achieve in quest blues is a bit ridiculous.

  6. I think there's a lot more to phasing and the way that it works so well than just the tech itself. All of Northrend's questing (with the exception of Grizzly Hills which is generally a horrible retread of Silverpine) is better designed and better written than anything Blizzard has to date. It's a more structured and guided narrative, with you actually feeling like you're accomplishing things as you quest. They've always been good at guiding you to appropriate areas for your level, but now they're actually managing to do it with an actual story.

    Really all their work has been about trying to make as much of the expansion's content available to be enjoyed by as wide a player base as possible, and I think that that is a goal they've definitely succeeded in.

  7. Player not class is a big thumbs up here.

    Phasing was really great until icecrown 5 mans that were nearly impossible to group for. Also a bit buggy with invisible mobs that aggro you.

    Glyphs have been a huge letdown.

  8. Regarding Glyphs, isn't it the lack of Glyphs that is the real problem?

    If you for example where forced to choose between higher AOE damage/heals or higher single-target damage/heals wouldn't that make them more interesting?

    My favorite Glyph is the one for Avenger's Shield. Higher single-target-damage, lower AOE.

  9. I think that some of the people here are still misunderstanding that "Bring the player" meant. It wasn't that you can make any random raid comp and be successful, it's that after you get all the required buffs, you have much more then previous slots available to bring good players.

    Since many buffs in BC were party and not raid, and since so many of them were "required", you had almost no free slots if you were really trying to min/max your classes. Wrath, on the other hand, lets you get all the same buffs on everyone with about 12 people, leaving you 13 slots.

    With that in mind, a 25 man fight "requiring" a certain class (or pair of that class) isn't really going against the philosophy. With 25 people, the odds are strong that you are going to have at least one Priest, and the encounter is still doable with just that.

  10. Remember, not all of the glyphs ever were going to have a downside. And some of the downsides (such as the Glyph of Consecrate) are actually desireable.

  11. I actually am fine with Glyphs, they just become a hassle when you have to respec though. Hopefully, it'll be easier with Dual spec coming into play soon.

    As for Bring the Player, not the Class.. I agree with that idea but Blizzard hasn't really done that very evenly. It is quite impossible to do class balancing well (or fairly) or else classes and specs will lose what makes them special.

  12. phasing is interesting in theory, but i have a hard time getting behind for reasons alreayd mentined (sharding of parties being one).

    glyphs are pretty WHATEVER. I guess that could be viewed as thumbs down, but i'd have to expend energy to do that, and it just isn't worth it.

    I wholeheartedly agree that they COULD be so much more interesting. I'd really like to see talents go the 'up AND down' path as well, or have various branching talent paths that offset one another. The way it goes, you either have conflag as a lock or you don't... I'd prefer to see 3 different types on conflag in the talent tree themselves (one that crits, one that's another DoT, one that dazes), and then glyphs could bring these closer together, or spread them even further apart.

    I basically wish there were about 10 times as many glyph choices, and talent branches to boot.

  13. "Bring the player, not the class" is really code for "trivialize the content".

    The reason people brought specific classes is that the content made distinctions between classes significant. Only by removing the difficulty of content could they get to a place where the individual capabilities of the characters was meaningless.

  14. I really like your insight and balanced way of viewing the game. Great blog site - thanks.

    However, I tend to disagree with the notion that BTPNTC has had a positive influence on the game. The idea is a good one but I don't think they have executed it in the right way. I definitely feel as though this has been achieved by simply making content foolproof. There is a distinct lack of skill in endgame content atm imo. I haven't seen any CC used in the game since WoTLK came out - that's a massive part of playing any class as part of a team and it is now gone from the game. And I feel that this has taken away much of the challenge and, therefore, fun of endgame raiding.

    Secondly, I also think that class balance/homogenisation has been a big thumbs down. There should be distinct, not subtle, differences between the classes. The idea of balancing classes as far as I can tell has largely been influenced by Arena - which is a huge failure in itself.

    Personally, I think they had a lot of good things happening in BC endgame. Where endgame content used to be vast it is now too quickly conquered. The new world is large and beautiful and levelling was lots of fun but I have not been as happy with the Wrath endgame as I was with BC... there is still much of BC endgame that I never got to see or complete but that was ok because I always had something to aim for. In Wrath I find myself bored already for having completed most content with the exception of some achievements.

    Don't want to QQ anymore. I try to look at the game positively but know that I and my friends had much more to do and had more fun doing it before Wrath.

  15. I'm glad I'm not reading these as my blog comments, you people are all so negative. Did you come here straight from the forums' Complain section?

    If Kara=Naxx we still have a lot of 'endgame' to go (And at least they gave us a "Heroic Kara" this time).

    Great blog post BTW.