Is Blizzard failing to teach new players about talents?

| Sunday, March 21, 2010
Thursday was druids' day. Congratulations druids, you had a day. On Tuesday I suggested that new players might benefit from cheap, low level dual spec. It was brought up that this adds a lot of complication. People get confused.

Really now? New players cannot handle the idea of "I can do this or I can do this"? Perhaps that's true. Actually I'm certain it is. In the previous post I told a bit of how mixed up I was with talents at first. I don't know when I really understood the concept of using talents to support the playstyle/role I wanted. Maybe it wasn't until I read the forums more.

That implies a failure on the part of Blizzard. Or I'm just really stupid. I'll go with blaming someone else. Why are new players left so much on their own, stumbling in the dark, and frequently clueless about talents?

Getting back to me being stupid, I must admit that I've had tutorials and tips off for years, so for all I know at level 10 players get a summary of the use of talents and respeccing. I doubt it though, since if they did, players could be expected to understand talents and handle their 'complexity' before level 40.

I'd love to see some sort of tutorial quest line to teach players about talents. The trainers could send them off to learn some lore, tell exaggerated stories about each spec, and most importantly, help them understand what talents are. For DPS they would mostly be RP of sorts, emphasizing the flavor of each spec while for hybrids the quests would explain the roles and how talents relate to them.

I don't expect deep insight. If a new prot paladin can't pick between divine strength and divinity, that's really not so bad. But they should have the idea that their job is to distract enemies from the rest of the group and minimize the damage they take. How exactly to do that can be something to learn on their own.

Assasination: "Once, a rogue made his own poisons and understood them as well as his own weapons. Those times are past, but the path of the assassin still teaches the full potential of poisons; their power to sap an enemy's health, to slow the minds of casters, to even calm the furious rage of an enemy who knows that death approaches."
Combat: "Let the others slink in shadows and dabble in poisons; we are the ones who understand that ultimately, it is direct violence which solves problems. But do not mistake us for the unsubtle warriors; we still know how to not be seen."
Subtlety: "The best place to hide a dagger is in an enemy's back. The best place to hide the hand that holds it is in the shadow of stealth; the stalker unseen."

These are just summaries of what a full quest or series of quests would give. Ideally they would put each class in a slightly different situation which emphasizes the playstyle. Assassination would face an enemy which takes increased nature damage; combat would face an enemy with a lot of health but low damage; subtlety would face an enemy with low health but high damage. Each would be most successful when emphasizing poisons, steady damage, and burst damage from stealth, respectively.

Obviously at level 10 these won't do much, since one talent point hardly differentiates a spec. By 30 they are a bit more clear and certainly by 40. At whichever level it is, the player would be given temporary talents fitting each role and given the opportunity to try each. Then they'd get a free respec at the end so they could pick whichever role they felt was most suitable. Or perhaps two if they can afford dual spec. But really, I just want an excuse to reset the talents of that poor troll shaman who meleed as elemental almost until 60 because he was afraid of the trainer offering to unlearn his skills.

P.S. Let pre-40 shamans queues as tanks. All shamans deserve the opportunity to tank Scarlet Monastery like I did.


Anonymous said...

Talents are too complex. They're poorly laid out and unless you are really knowledgeable about that class, you have no idea which ones to select initially.

Also, there should be NO respec cost. A player should be able to clear and redo his or her talents at any time. None of this 1 gold, then 5, etc. Dual Spec? How about Triple Spec, free with a quest at level 20.

It's retarded. Now, I know why it's set up this way. Some game designers still think that choices should have 'consequences' that are not easily corrected... these designers are idiots.

How the hell is some noob, who CANNOT AFFORD THE 1 GOLD TO RESPEC supposed to figure out which of the 6 to 8 first tier talents is the best for them to put point in? Clairvoyance? They sure can't use trial and error! They should be able to try them all, with no cost or consequence.

Leah said...

maybe make respeccs cost gold at 80, but make them free before you reach lvl cap? I think dual specs should not be free though and they really are more of an added convenience then anything else

Anonymous said...

What rationale is there for charging for talent changes / not allowing multiple talent 'templates' (Which is all respeccing really does, plus more storage for glyphs)?

It's like... saying you can put on a piece of armor, but you can't take it off and put on another without paying a fee beyond the price of obtaining / configuring the piece. So choose wisely! How stupid would that be? Oh! And the fee goes up each time you change an armor piece.

Along that vein, what's the difference between changing your talent spec from Feral to Resto (As an example) and switching to your "Resto Armor set"

The one (Switching your armor around at will while not in combat) is accepted as obvious, while talent specs are treated as this "Oh! So special! You have to pay to switch this!" deal.

I posit that there is no real difference between the two except the failed design view that 'choices' must have 'consequences'.

Players should be ENCOURAGED to mess around with their talent spec, not penalized.

Anonymous said...

Frost Shock is awesome for Agro.. I Agree that there are huge gaps between the people who understand their talents, and those who don't - and it is because people have gone off looking for more information, but surely that is what makes the difference between a good player and a ok/player - thinking outside the manual.

Klepsacovic said...

@Anonymous: It's tempting to describe as idiots those who have a different vision for a game. Try to avoid it though.

@Leah: Sooner than 80 perhaps, but to make them very cheap when a player could reasonably expected to have no clue is a decent idea.

@Anonymous: The devs have stated that they believe some choices should have consequences. I agree with this, but also agree that if we don't yet understand talents, we should not be punished.

@pugnaciouspriest: I'm reluctant to use words like good or bad in situations like this. The player who looks for more information may merely grab a cookie-cutter with no understanding or reasoning. In contrast a player who must figure things out on his own must develop an understanding. It may take longer, but I've found benefit from speccing 'blind' for a while, to learn what talents really are beneficial.

Quicksilver said...

People can read can't they? The talents have a good description attached to them.

Plus, prior to level 80 you really dont need the optimal spec to do a decent job. I mean sure, a dps paladin might start with putting 5 points into divine strenght, or a tank paladin to 5 points into the parry skill from retribution, or either one of them with the 5 points that increase seal damage in holy, but is that so bad?

i think its more important for new players to learn how to group up and their roles in a group, that will most likely increase the success of the run.

Micah said...

My biggest problem as a new player was the lack of ability to use trial and error. When you are new the talent text is about as clear as mud. I knew I couldn't experiment because if I messed up a couple times it would cost 10G and then 15G and up. I realize it isn't much if you have a max level alt, but when you are new that is a tremendous amount of gold. I just copied a spec from wowwiki which I'm sure hurt my understanding of the spec.

Faeldray said...

I wonder if Blizzard expected the community as a whole to advice new players on their talents. Even with unlimited respecs, I imagine a new player wouldn't be much more informed as to whether a talent is "good" or not. I sure thought that a mount movement buff was awesome when I first began playing as a hunter. Not that I'm saying this is the best idea but that may have been the intention.

A clearer explanation of the different trees would certainly be nice, and perhaps a reduced cost or no cost for respeccing at lower levels or while in cities. If you consider those talents that buff abilities you don't even have yet at a low level, why would a newbie even consider picking those if he doesn't know the class?

Perhaps some sort of mentoring program is what WoW really needs...

Klepsacovic said...

@Okrane S.:They certainly can read them. But the talents do not exist in isolation. Imagine this: As a new player I decide that I don't like flash heal much. It just doesn't heal for much. Maybe I heard mention of the five second rule and don't like that flash heal requires so much spamming. So I look at my talents, and based on my belief that flash heal sucks (it sort of does, without talents), I ignore all the flash heal talents. I can easily confirm that flash heal sucks because it will.

Then there are the talents that help the group more than they help me, and so might not seem to be worth the points. If someone has mostly soloed to 60 or 80, are they going to have group utility at the front of their minds?

@Micah: You started off better than I did; I didn't even know of wowwiki!

@Faeldray: A mentoring program would be nice. I wonder if it would work, since let's face it, WoW doesn't have the nicest community. I'm not saying we're terrible people, but I don't know that I'd trust random people to help me learn.

Anonymous said...

I would also point out that there is a design inconsistancy, a huge one.

The PLAYER'S talents are considered sacrosanct... with the choices considered as 'consequences'... and hence the stepped cost to respec.

Then, there is Hunter Pets. You can change THOSE talents (In the same interface...) at will. With no cost.

There is no question that there are designers at Blizzard that think "Choices need consequences" and have blocked or prevented from even discussion... free changing of Player Talents. but have had no effect on Hunter Pet talents.

Hmm... Designer balkanization? Seperate camps, if you will?

I posit that the people blocking free player respecs are, in fact, doing so out of a misplaced sense of 'Cosmic Justice'.

Klepsacovic said...

@Anonymous: Pet talent changes still require a trainer. Why they are free, I cannot explain. Perhaps an oversight, perhaps GC was really enjoying his hunter alt that day.

Tesh said...

Raph Koster's "theory of fun" suggests that fun involves experimentation where consequences are minimized. I believe that's not just fun, but the best way to learn.

With WoW talents in particular, the "consequences" are inherent in making the choice of talents. They directly affect combat. Players already deal with the consequences of their choices, why "double dip" and penalize them for trying to learn the system with respec fees?

Ultimately these fees are simply time sinks (time spent earning the money to pay for the change). Time sinks translate directly into sub money.

Talents and respeccing don't really change combat enough to alter playstyle significantly; the biggest "choice" in the game is class choice, and that's irrevocable. (Notably, another choice made with little to no information about what it means until it's too late. It's another time sink; by the time you know enough about whether class choice was right for you, you may need to grind up a new alt to get to where you were if you made a wrong choice.)

This is why I've argued strenuously before for totally free respecs, and even the ability to change classes. "Choices with consequences" as we see them in talent speccing and class choice are merely expensive time sinks with both time and monetary costs. They don't offer much in the way of education or expansion of player skills, socialization or cooperation, tactics or strategy. Their pace for experimentation is so slow, their feedback so miniscule and indirect, that they don't offer much for their cost.

Klepsacovic said...

@Tesh: I have to completely disagree with "Talents and respeccing don't really change combat enough to alter playstyle significantly". Let's ignore the hybrids and their different roles for each tree. I'll grant that DKs, as far as I can tell, use pretty much the same rotation, just different spell names. But a moonkin and kitty are quite different. Disc and holy priests don't play the same. Recently I tried a new spec on my rogue and was completely confused by it; it was too different. Clearly class is a bigger difference, but spec does change how we play.

The 50g respec cost might have been a consequence back when 50g meant something. That might have made us slow down and think, ask for advice, seek more information. Unfortunately at this point the 50g is enough to be annoying but not enough to change behavior.

Tesh said...

They don't change enough in the low to midlevels, then. Certainly, heavy specialization in Disc or Shadow for a Priest will change what they do, or Feral vs. Balance on a Druid, but the first dozen or even two dozen or so talent points don't add any new abilities, and typically modify existing abilities by a tiny amount.

In other words, players learning about talents really can ignore them without a big impact easily to level 30 or so.

Definitely, endgame speccing changes things a lot as the synergies build and unique abilities show up, I didn't mean to argue against that.

I didn't present myself well on that in the first place, sorry.

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