Should players start with dual spec?

| Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Green Armadillo has pointed out the strangeness of dual spec being so expensive, and fairly late in the leveling game. 1000g is a lot for a new player, so they're not likely to get it right away. Keep in mind this is new new players. I'm talking about the troll shaman who put his first points into improved healing wave, thought respec would make him lose all his abilities, and who never casted spells despite being elemental because he always ran out of mana. This isn't about alts, or even new server rerolls.

For those players, gold isn't even the real issue. The true problem is learning. Playing as the wrong spec for a role causes problems. Experienced players can tank as ret and heal as shadow (I have) or whatever other wrong combination you can imagine. We have a strong grasp of how healing, tanking, and DPS work and can adapt to a suboptimal spec. New players don't have that experience. They can learn of course; I did. But what are they learning? Playing a role with the wrong spec tends to teach bad habits.

My priest would start throwing mind blasts at low mobs hoping for the killing blow spirit regen and tended to use dispersion as a regen crutch. She had no concept of which healing spells to choose, since none are boosted at all by a shadow spec. Do I use flash heal? Greater heal? Maybe I use renew and player of healing? Talents act as guides: disc talents encourage the use of PW:S while holy talents encourage renew and flash heal. This won't guarantee perfect play, but it will give some concept of what is for what.

Until I went prot at 50, my warrior would tank instances in berserker stance throwing whirlwinds for aggro. Defensive stance and a shield? Not gonna work. Well maybe now; this was a few years ago after all. I was hell for my healers. But at least I topped the meters. That's what matters, right? It took a while to learn what to do in defensive stance, since I barely ever used it.

Dual specs might also help to teach the difference between solo and group play. The act of zoning in and switching specs reinforces that you're in a different role and environment. It's like changing clothes. It changes how people act. This probably won't help much with DPS, but for tanks and healers, while leveling it could help to teach them that they are part of a group. Or maybe it would help DPS. They'd run off and pull while healers are still drinking and don't yet have the regen to bail them out of their stupid. Dead DPS learn faster than bubbled DPS. But getting back to tanks; how often do you see tanks, or DPS, or healers, who seem to play as if they are still soloing, but their health sometimes goes back up? Switching specs would be a message: "You are not soloing anymore. Act different."

Blizzard has tried to make leveling easier with cheaper mounts at lower levels. But how much do mounts really change the game? If it's a short distance, not much difference. If it's a long difference, that's when you pull out a book to read along the way. They affect us while soloing. Dual spec, that affects us in groups. It might just be my bias, but isn't group play really the more important aspect of the game? That is where we affect others, for better and for worse; where we create a community (or not thanks to cross-server); where we learn our roles beyond "read quest helper, kill, repeat."

Before 30 the specs aren't significantly different; but after 30 they diverge much more, gaining their unique flavors and styles of play. By 40 they are clearly different. But what new player has 1000g at 30 or 40? I certainly didn't. While I am well aware that low level players can make tons of gold from gathering low level mats, that's not always apparent. I'd even argue that it's something they shouldn't know. Let them level their crappy crafting profession that they think goes with their otherwise profitable gathering profession. It helps the immersion. It gets them into the game. Don't tear them away from their ignorant bliss too soon. Leave the gold sinks to the 80s who should have by then learned the cold reality of the game.

Wouldn't it make more sense for the luxury of mounts to have a luxury cost, and give the necessity of dual-specs a cost in line with any other necessary training?


Bri said...

When dual-spec was first going to be introduced, it was only going to be available at level 70. They compromised by making it available at level 40, but left the cost high in order to effectively limit it to established players.

Their thinking is that it will confuse new players. They're probably right, as they have the data to back it up. We, as experienced players, typically feel Blizz is being over-protective of new players, but the recent nerfs to the starting areas and the information that 70% of characters never make it past level 10 seem to indicate otherwise. We'll ignore for the moment how many of that 70% statistic are spambots, as guesstimates vary wildly and only Blizz really knows for certain.

Here, then, is my suggestion for an alternate solution. Rather than making dual-spec available at level 1 (or 10, as you don't have a spec until then), leave it as a 1000g option at level 40, but also create a BoA "Tome of Dual-Spec" available for purchase at any class trainer, purchaseable at level 80 but learnable at level 10. Then, like Northrend flying, established and experienced players can choose to twink their alts with dual-spec right out of gates, along with 4 Frostweave bags and a full set of enchanted heirlooms.

Shintar said...

See, I thought the fact that I learned to heal while not specced for it on my first character actually made me a better healer in the long run, because it was more challenging and much tighter - my heals were smaller and more expensive, my mana regenerated much more slowly etc. - but it was still quite doable. I don't like reinforcing the idea that doing things you're not specced for is oh so hard. I'm also afraid that it will enforce "spec-elitism" from early on and perfectly capable people will be harassed for having the wrong spec in the same way as tanks in blues get crap nowadays because people think that you have to have full epics to tank heroics.

It's also funny that you mention mounts, because I thought of comparing those to dual specs as well and came to the opposite conclusion as you. I remember back on my first character I was late to the "getting a mount" party because I hadn't figured out how to make money yet and was the last among my friends to get my tiger. Ever tried questing in STV with a group of mounted friends while you're the only one who's still walking? Yeah, there's something that will hold a whole group back and will make everyone hate you.

Tiv said...

I don't know. I follow your logic and agree with it to an extent, but I don't think I can agree to the conclusion. I can't help but view dual spec as a luxury. And I'm not sure it really changes a player's group dynamic or aids in their learning. You can't even fill out your primary tree until what, 60? And a lot of abilities that are now core don't come until you are in expansion content. You do start getting class defining abilities at 40, but I'm not convinced that there's really much divergence at that point.

Learning your role in the lower levels, to my mind, isn't about mastering all of your tools or knowing which one is the best for a certain circumstance. For tanks, I think it's about developing awareness of your surroundings and becoming comfortable with the position of leading a group. A healer learns to anticipate how and how _much_ damage comes in to the tank and the group. And how to manage mana...even though individual spells can change in efficiency as you talent up, you can learn things like "overhealing can be bad" no matter your spec.

I just honestly don't see the problem in having the more advanced lessons come later. In fact, I might prefer it--take the priest as an example. You can spec disc or holy to heal but then you're only learning that play style. Is it good to set a player down a specific path that early? I'm not sure. I guess I'm biased, because I leveled my first character as a shadow priest but healed for my groups, and I always felt like that made me much better at my job when I finally went holy because I had already learned how to succeed at a lower power level.

In the end, I guess I do want players to be able to dual and learn those lessons before they hit 80, but I think that point comes much later than 40. I believe the barrier to dual specs is appropriate.

Jen said...

It's this simple: you don't need dual spec at 40. Hell, you don't need dual spec at 80 either, in some cases. I will never dual spec my DPS characters, even though I can afford it; after the feature was introduced, I always dual spec my hybrids because I *want* to play 2 roles.

A new player probably doesn't even know what speccing is all about. Or what a tank and DPS means (I sure didn't until at least level 40). I agree with Blizzard, cheaper and earlier dual spec would be confusing. The idea that you 'need' 1000 gold at level 40 is ridiculous. Dual spec is only a convenience, not a mandatory skill.

Eversor said...

"auto" dual spec is a great idea. It would allow people to learn to play different aspects as they leveled up. It would also allow people to enjoy different aspects of the game, pvp, pve, raiding, whatever. And it is strabgely expensive. I'd have artisan riding on my poor cow if it wasn't for 1k gold dual spec! Curse you blizz....curse you!

jeffo said...

I have a vision...

zoning into a high-level instance. The warrior offers to switch to his secondary spec to tank. He pulls -- he gets completely destroyed.

Oops, turns out that he leveled in his dps spec entirely and hasn't actually put spent any of his secondary talent tree points since level 24.

Stabs said...

It complicates your character fairly significantly especially if one spec plays completely different to another. Going from Boomkin to bear tank would be pretty tricky for a new player.

You can make a lot of solid arguments to support dual spec cost reduction but I think you're really clutching at straws when you start claiming it improves the learning curve for clueless newbies.

Klepsacovic said...

@Bri: My lowbie alts don't need dual spec. I'm experienced enough and have BoAs to compensate.

@Shintar: You do have a point that 'hardmode' healing can be useful training. Wrong spec teaches general concepts while right spec teaches specifics. Perhaps the general concepts are more important.

@Tiv: I have a bit of a tank bias, but I often feel like unless people put on their tank clothes (talents) they are often not thinking as tanks, just DPS who are allowed to pull aggro.

@Jen: Individual talents may be confusing, and that might even be a good thing, but the idea of talents in general shouldn't be.

@Eversor: Leveling isn't know for having much raiding (Hogger doesn't count), but I hadn't even thought of PvP.

@jeffo: Part of my hope is that said warrior had been doing some instance tanking along the way.

@Stabs: In the case of any hybrid they're using significantly different abilities for tanking/healing/DPS. I suppose prot/ret and prot/warriorDPS have overlap, but druids are already shapeshifting to entirely different bars and DPS and healing use entirely different spells.

Hana said...

I think as a new player who doesn't even know what their main spec is, having the option to dual spec off the bat would be confusing.

When I was leveling Hana as my very first character, I was a druid not a balance druid, just a druid. I healed nearly every instance because I could. I viewed the talent trees as tweaks to the basic character build, but figured no matter what the spec, I would be able to perform whatever role I was called upon as a hybrid because that's what hybrids are for.

Most new players probably have a similar outlook. For the life of me I can't remember whether any of the tanks I healed were sword and board. It just never occured to me to check.

But at the same time I healed the vast majority of my instance runs never thinking "I need to or would like to be resto for this." And actually for the early instances, you don't have to be. I healed non-heroics in TBC as balance, I even healed a few in WotLK as balance.

When dual specs become desirable is end-game. Tank can't make it tonight? Done. My moonkin is now a bear.

Raids and heroics require more specific talent specializations, so it's not possible to take a one-size-fits-all approach, but while leveling I think the player needs to figure out what they want to do with their first spec before they start worrying about a second.

SlikRX said...

For hybrids, tank & DPS are close enough at lower levels that it doesn't matter, but if you want to heal? Ugh. Possible, but...

Now, my biggest reason to want dual spec ealy on (and triple spec later) is for the ability to have a PvE and a PvP spec.

Levelling, it would have been nice to pop into a PvP spec to run some BGs, and then go back to levelling. THen, at higher level, the ability to have both a tank and DPS (or whichever paring) and still have a viable PvP would be nice.

Ngita said...

In the first year of wow, we cleared Maraudon with 2 level 44 ret pallies, a 45 hunter, 41 mage and 44 lock. skill has its place, mind you it took 5 hours to do all 3 parts so perhaps perseverance does as well.

I would consider Sunken temple the last zone you can do inappropriate spec and level appropriate gear(non boa,sans epics)

Having said that it can make things easier, I cleared brd as 53 Prot tank with a 51 disc priest, both of us heavily twinked with BOA and we only came a cropper when the priest body pulled the emperors room merely by stepping in the door. That was regarded as content for 60's or close to it back in classic.

But at the same time now, their is growing elitism. Lf1m tank for SM, must be prot. /sigh.

BOA tome of Dual spec? Bring it on, my ancient abandoned Shaman main got a care package through the mail a couple of weeks ago. 2 specs of shoulders, 2 specs of chest, 2 specs of weapons, spell power and haste trinkets. But I cant even send him one gold.:(

Daergel said...

I don't see the point of dual spec at 40 - as has already been mentioned, you don't fill your primary tree until much later, and a lot of veteran players still don't grasp the idea (DKs with 71 points in one tree, anyone?)

1,000 is reasonable, but I think that Blizz should increase the level requirement

Klepsacovic said...

@Hana: Druids will be addressed in an upcoming post.

@SlikRX: Maybe it's not that offspec healing is hard, but that the offspec tanks make it hard.

@Ngita: Groups did tend to stick together through more back then. I miss that. It's even infected me.

@Daergel: Why is filling the primary tree so important?

Rowan Fairgrove said...

You said to Tiv "they are often not thinking as tanks, just DPS who are allowed to pull aggro."

That is an hilarious concept and so very true.

I play prot (pally & warrior) and DK tank with only my bear is dual specced (bear/tree). I wonder what the healer equivalent is. I'm not a very good tree, I'd rather whack things.

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