How much can classes change anymore?

| Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Try to think of a totally new resource system for your class. Maybe it's shamans using a mojo system* or paladins using something like DKs. Think it's likely? I doubt it. The problem isn't with Blizzard having no new ideas (DKs have a pretty new system) or with refusal to improve (they've radically changed a lot, but still within bounds). Ultimately the problem is with existing players.

How would you react if one day your class functioned differently? Imagine warriors using mana-type mechanics or mages with energy. Many people would be delighted. But I imagine many more would be angry at their class being changed so much without any reference points for conversion (such as now I think of str as the new SP for prot). The majority would probably just be confused. What happens to rotations? Do we use the same stats? What is this oddly colored bar?

A few times I've suggested converting holy paladins to using ret gear: strength and crit for the most part with haste, hit, and ArP as secondary stats. This is actually what triggered this post, my attempt to respond to Rohan's latest post about sheathe of light. In response to responses some ideas bounced around my head: hit increasing intellect, ArP increasing the effectiveness of healing, varying with armor: the idea being that paladin heals can somehow use not just your own gear to gain power, but also use the target's armor like a giant antennae, and somehow ArP would help with this.

Then it got me thinking, what if intellect wasn't an issue? What if paladins didn't use mana, but instead something else? Imagine a system like rogues with attacks using energy and generating combo points which are then spent on special abilities, in this case heals, like the Ace's High drakes. There would be a lot of trouble. People haven't just learned the mana system for paladins, it may be part of the mechanic of why they play and enjoy them. For example, my inability to manage energy is why I barely play rogues, so converting paladins to that system might make me reroll. Could an innovative new system, intended to bring new life to an old class, actually destroy it?

We've seen a lot of changes over the years, but I don't think any changed how a class works. Stat values vary, but ultimately we're using about the same stats. Even in the case of paladins, everyone is still using SP, they just don't directly stack it on gear. Bringing this back to my suggestions to move holy to ret gear, they seem plausible, but anything more, any true mechanics changes, would likely never happen.

The current classes are already defined and to change them would potentially be very unpopular. This means that we're going to see more ideas come from Blizzard, new ways to attack and heal and defend with new ways to manage resources, whether they are cooldowns, mana, energy, rage, runes, or something entirely new; but unless we reroll, we're not likely to directly benefit. If that sounds pessimistic, look at the bright side: any new class is going to be filled with amazingness, just as DKs are, except hopefully with better balance.

* The mojo system, or something of a similar trollish name, was suggested years ago on the shaman forums. The general idea was a spectrum of mojo: good and bad, with heals moving your mojo towards good and damage towards bad. If you get too far, you can no longer cast spells of that type, so you are forced to mix damage and healing. I thought it was a pretty cool hybrid idea. RIP hybrids.


Dorgol said...

Blizzard has actually already commented that they have thought about moving Holy Paladins to using non-caster gear. Generally this is in conversations about gear homogenization(since spell power plate is the most exclusive of gear nowadays).

I've figured it would be STR -> Intellect, AP -> Spell Power. Hit, Crit, Haste would stay the same. Maybe Armor Penetration could turn into MP5 or something.

Of course, then you are faced with the problem of how to balance it with Retribution's damage output and Protection's tanking ability. If all specs received the conversion you would have Ret Paladins with 20k mana and 2k spell power IN ADDITION to their offensive stats.

Green Armadillo said...

Several games have used the mojo system, notably LOTRO's Runekeeper and Warhammer's Shaman/Archmage. It's an interesting idea in principle, but, in practice, hybrid healers are always expected to be casting heals. It might work well in a game with NO pure healing classes, but balancing hybrids against pure healers is always a difficult situation.

Stabs said...

I'm sure the real answer for Blizzard is to leave existing classes more or less the same while bringing in hero classes if they see an opportunity for a better resource system.

I expect that they will increase the rate of introduction of hero classes so that those who want to play Holy Pally the way it's always been can stick to what they're got and those who want a Warrior Priest can play that as a new hero class

Klepsacovic said...

Rather than AP->SP, the main stat change would be heals only using from AP (sheathe would have to change). The baseline coefficient would be pretty small to keep ret about where it is now while holy would have a lot of big multipliers to get it to the current level. Mana conversions would probably be in holy, but fairly low, only 2-3 tiers in.

The balance with pure healers shouldn't be too bad, just say they're worth half a healer and half a DPS. The big problem I see is with damage from bosses; since hits can be so big and you need healing RIGHT NOW, who would bring a class that has to cast a lightning bolt or two before the heal? Maybe that would be the challenge of it, having enough mojo ready for when the damage comes.

I find that path to be risky. I means more classes to balance and higher risk of huge overlap, such as paladin and warrior priest as you mentioned. With too many classes I know I'd get frustrated with the character slots on a server. Currently I can get every class, but if we ended up with more I'd be forced to a different server, away from my friends, or to delete characters in which I'd already invested a lot of time.

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