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Archive for August, 2009

PAX Approacheth

A glorious celebration of everything that is my KIND approaches, to exhaust my body and glorify my soul.  In this lead up, the anticipation has vibrated through my body until, now, my very being literally has transcended this mundane life for a new RESONANCE.

In other words, I’m psyched.  See you there.

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It appears that mentioning ‘Goblin’ and ‘Worgen’, along with ‘class’, is a sure-fire way to draw traffic.  More specifically, talking about a WoW expansion seems to be a magnet for clicks.  Obvious, but sometimes I find obvious interesting.

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CCP has released it’s Quarterly Economic Report, which is always an interesting read.

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In my last post I looked at what I thought GC and his design team had in mind for the future of class specs.  I wanted to ground that a bit more concretely by looking over the Druid Balance talent tree and analyzing what talents fit where in the New World Order.

Let’s start with Balance, from top to bottom.  Starlight Wrath I’d expect to stay  as it is (though as an aside, GC has expressed discontent with the overlap of SF and Wrath as simply long/short nukes, and has grumbled about changing that.  If that happens, Starlight Wrath is likely to change).  SW is very much a talent unique to druids that does not confer a passive bonus.  On top of this, it’s actually provides some side utility to resto (for levelling, potentially pvp, etc.).  Genesis, however, I’d expect to go.  As it is, it’s mostly a resto talent stuck in the balance tree, and it confers a static bonus; one which can easily be rolled up into one of the passive bonuses.

Moonglow, which I believe has been a part of the druid trees since launch, is sadly another passive bonus.  If I’m reading GC right, he intends DPS casters to be mana neutral in most cases and to focus healers on mana management.  In that case, this would become a passive resto bonus (or more likely be phased directly into spell costs), and moonglow would provide another bonus entirely.  Nature’s Majesty, again, is a passive bonus that can easily be rolled up into the passives for resto/balance.  I’d like to note that I expect the two non-mastery passives for balance to be damage dealt and crit chance.  I wouldn’t be surprised if those passives generically applied to both spell and physical damage and crit, allowing ferals to grab talents in balance without giving up too much damage from feral passives.  Finally, Improved Moonfire I’d peg for a change.  While the talent is very specific to a class ability, it’s simply a damage increase which is readily calculable.  If Blizzard intends to go forward with their vision as expressed, I’d expect to see Imp. MF switch to a proc akin to Lightning Overload.  If I had to choose, I’d say something like “1/2/3% chance every time MF damages its target to make your next nature spell instant.  This effect can not occur more than once every 9 seconds”.

Looking at the third tier in Balance, Brambles I expect to change some.  The daze effect is an interesting addition, particularly if the chance is increased with Barkskin active.  The damage increases are iffy, as they are passive and turn the talent into one of those Swiss Army Knife talents GC dislikes so much.  On the other hand, the focus of the talent is very strong: it really changes the impact of treants and thorns when taken.  This one could be split out into two talents…probably in a way that makes it not affect both treants and thorns.

Nature’s Grace I actually expect to remain very similar to its current state, if not even reverting back to the old “next spell cast has no casting time”.  If the wrath/SF overlap is addressed, I’d put my money on the latter much more readily.  Heck, that opens up the possibility of a crit-focused Balance druid, and makes another variation on Imp. MF viable: provide a talent giving MF the chance to crit and switch my above wording on Imp. MF to “2/4/6% chance every time MF does critical damage to make your next spell instant.  This effect can not occur more than once every 9 seconds”.  However, that would enforce moving Imp. MF farther down the tree and remove the nice synergy it had with resto spec druids.  Tough call.

Nature’s Splendor is an easy candidate for removal.  In all honesty, I would suggest that the Resto mastery option will relate directly to HoT durations or tick rates, making Nature’s Splendor redundant for them.  The bonus for Balance can simply be rolled into their passives.  As for Nature’s Reach, I expect this to move back to simply being a range extension.  The additional threat reduction is simply too much in the new world order to tack onto this talent, and would be better suited either as its own talent, or as a CD.  In general, I’d favor moving all threat reduction to CDs rather than passive bonuses, though obviously that has some pretty broad impacts on damage rotations.

Looking at tier 4, Vengeance is tough to decide.  As is, it fits well with a crit-MK, but it’s rather blah as a talent.  That may be ok: making every talent a complex change to character usage would be overwhelming.  If anything, I’d say the bonus should be toned down to allow druids to NOT choose it and still be viable non-crit MK builds.  We’ll see.  Celestial Focus will almost assuredly lose the spell haste portion, which will be rolled into a passive bonus.  I don’t believe the Balance mastery will be haste: I think Blizz is shying away from overlap between Masteries and ratings (as evidenced by their mockups thus far).  I’m unsure where the Balance mastery will end up; my best guesses are dot damage/duration, dot crit chance, or a replacement for Vengeance (mastery increases damage bonus on crits).  Back on Celestial Focus, I wouldn’t be surprised if it regained the stun proc chance, perhaps off DoT ticks or SF again.  It depends on whether GC likes RNG abilities again in the new system; the removal of the old system CF had to do with it being OP on Starfall and unnoticeable on Starfire.  I actually think that partial-pushback reductions will be put into ancient glyphs: they’re cross-class concerns that fit nicely into the Path choices.  Full pushback reductions I’d think would get moved into triggered abilities (which Barkskin already covers).

The change to Intellect and the removal of SP has finally made Lunar Guidance completely redundant, and this talent is a prime candidate for revamping or outright removal.  Insect Swarm will be kept, as any triggered ability fits directly into the new vision for talents.  Improved Insect Swarm also fits, I’d say, though I’d guess it will change to become a more visceral proc (wraths gain a Lightening Overload-type proc on targets affected with IS, for instance).

Dreamstate will also change with the move to make damage casters mana neutral.  This talent has been around since the first druid talent review, and had long been the main talent for druids seeking to not be perennially OOM.  I’m of the opinion that Dreamstate (or some new talent) will become the Balance druid equivalent of Judgements of the Wise, providing a proc-based mana regen.  If anything, the regen portion of Moonkin form will move here (as moonkin form greatly offends the rule against “swiss army knife” talents).  Moonfury and Balance of Power are, again, candidates for removal, providing a passive bonuses.  BoP is more likely to stay, if only because the damage reduction is unlikely to be covered by passives.

Interestingly, Moonfury and BoP provide solid candidates for rating-focus branches.  What I mean is that I’ve already noted a few talents which make for a viable crit-MK, but haven’t mentioned any that directly improve a haste/hit or mastery MK.  These two, given their mid-point placement in the tree, provide prime options for such branches.

Moving on to tier 7, Moonkin form is here to stay.  It’s a defining ability of the Balance tree and fitting with the vision Blizzard has.  However, it’s unlikely to continue to provide 3 separate bonuses all by itself.  Instead, expect it to be reduced to purely the aura.  The armor bonus I actually expect to become part of another talent; potentially even a lower tier talent, allowing bears also to grab it (though, of course, this conflicts with the current bear armor bonus.  I expect to see the other forms also change, however, so this may not be as big a deal as it seems).

Improved Moonkin Form may actually continue on purely as an aura enhancement, losing the spirit modifier (since spirit is going away on DPS casters anyway).  ImpFF is a tough call…it provides one too many bonuses as is, so don’t be surprised to at least see the improved crit chance part go away.  The spell hit bonus may stay, as it’s tied to the spell and provides one of the major raid debuffs.

Tier 8: I expect Owlkin Frenzy to remain very similar to its present state.  It may lose two of the provided buffs in favor of a single, overarching buff for its duration, but the proc off damage taken is a solid fit for the new talent vision.  The only other talent on this tree, Wrath of Cenarius is, by contrast, an obvious choice for modification.  The passive bonus it provides serves as a pure filler talent that will be rolled into the tree’s passive bonuses.  If the talent stays, it will be in a new form, likely as something such as a chance on spell hit to increase intellect or some such (though that’s an admittedly lame variation).

Tier 9 is filled to the brim with talents that will stay: Typhoon and the Treants are abilities, and Eclipse is a reactive proc that really drives the rotation of balance druids; only Gale Winds is a candidate for change, and that’s mostly due to it filling two roles.  Both aspects of Gale Winds are pretty solid fits for Cataclysm talents.  A quick caveat on Eclipse, though: Eclipse is really driven by the similar nature of Wrath and Starfire.  If, as i alluded to above, one of those two changes form, Eclipse will follow suit.  I expect the spirit of the talent to remain consistent, however.

Earth and Moon is another filler talent, though I expect it to remain in some form, if only to provide the 12% spell damage increase buff (a buff I fully expect to be nerfed).  The damage increase portion will be kicked into passive bonuses.

Fianlly, Starfall isn’t going anywhere.

So there you have my take on the Balance tree, with an eye on Cataclysm.  As we get closer to the launch, we’ll see how close I got it (knowing GC, the vision will change midway through next year and this poor write-up will become laughably outdated).

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If you didn’t notice in the trailer, it appears they’ll be updating their water engine to support reflection and more advanced shader tech.  Thank God.

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Blizzcon has come and gone, so we’ve got about all the goods on Cataclysm that we’re going to get for sometime.  I’d like to take some time to talk about the new info on the changes to WoW’s character systems; specifically, I want to touch on the new itemization changes, Mastery and the consequent talent revamp, and the Path of the Titans system.  Obviously this won’t be a discussion of specifics or mathematics theorycrafting, but rather a chance to try and speculate on the future of classes and character development in Cataclysm.

First up: itemization.  For that, we’ll turn to the Class, Items, and Profession panel.  It has been revealed that Blizz plans to do away with a wide set of stats, including MP5, Spellpower, Attack Power, Defense, Block Value, and Armor Penetration.  Haste is changing to no longer affect melee or ranged attack speed, instead increasing the rate of resource regeneration (energy, runes, and focus).  Apparently Enhancement Shamans and Ret Paladins will have talents that allow them to take advantage of this.  No mention was made of warriors, so I’m not sure what the plan is there.  Given that mention has repeatedly been made by GC about theirambivalent feelings for the way rage plays out, we may see some changes to the rage mechanic, which would then be influenced by the new haste mechanic.  It was also specifically mentioned that players would see more stamina due to the losses of other stats on gear.  That’s actually an interesting point: it implies that Blizzard intends to reduce the number of stats they’ll stick on gear, instead increasing other stats.  If you’re familiar with the way Blizzard computes stats for items, you’ll know this means we’re up for a reduction in the sum of the stat values on items (the cost of each additional stat point increases the more of that stat is on the item).  Further, Blizzard has stated they intend to remove spirit from all damage-caster gear.  They will change any abilities/talents that attempt to make spirit useful for damage casters; Molten Armor was mentioned specifically, I imagine it also includes the spirit portion of moonkin form, the spirit portion of Fel Armor, etc.

The intent of these changes seems obvious: to reduce the number of stats players need to juggle in order to simplify armor choices and to reduce the number of effects derived from each stat.  Intellect will gain damage-increasing bonuses, making it obviously the DPS caster stat.  Agility will provide AP to rogues, hunters, druids, and shamans, allowing them to peel AP completely off gear.  Again, this is trying to focus on stats being obviously useful to classes.  They’ve pointed to Warrior itemization as being their inspiration; strength is the DPS warrior go-to stat in their eyes (obviously crit, hit, ArP, expertise and haste factor in in today’s world, as well, but hoepfully you get my drift).  I think they’d like to see the basic stats get more play and serve as the fulcrum of class itemization, and then allow the ratings to serve as specialized improvements.

The one stat they’re adding is Mastery, which dovetails nicely into a discussion of the talent changes.  Looking at the systems panel, we can see that GC and his team have a pretty massive revamp of talents slated.  They’ve first decided that the abundance of passive buff talents is problematic.  GC has repeatedly said that they’d like talents to be more “interesting” and their apparent solution is to simply peel the passive talents out of the trees.  Instead, players will receive a small bonus to a few key stats for every point they spend in a given talent tree.  If you look at the screenshots at the bottom of the MMO-champion recap, you can find a couple mock-ups (do not take these as at all indicative of, well, anything beyond a vague idea of their intent).  With all of the passive bonuses moved out of the talents, what will we spend talent points on, particularly given that they’ll be adding 5 more talent points without extending the depth of the trees?  Well, “interesting talents” is the simplest answer.  Based on the examples given, I’d suggest things that add additional combat utility, provide interesting secondary effects to primary skills, or provide very specific bonuses to help solidify the spec’s role.  The last obviously includes things such as Survival of the Fittest type talents, so that tanks can become uncrittable without defense, or the talents needed to make haste work for enhancement shamans and retribution paladins.  However, I think they expect Path of the Titans advancements to also take over some of these talent types (particularly given the mockups), so let’s discuss that system and then try to tie this together.

Path of the Titans progression is Blizzard’s take on Alternate Advancement, something that has been with MMORPGs since the days of EQ.  If I had to pick a direct ancestor, I’d point at the Trials of Atlantis expansion for Dark Age of Camelot.  PotT is the ultimate end of the new Archeology profession, and provides a new selection of glyphs (unrelated to inscription).  Players choose a particular path and gain access to the glyphs of that path, which they can then slot.  From the examples given, Blizzard intends these to have less of an impact than current glyphs, providing bonuses very much akin to some of the filler talents in all our trees.  With these “ancient glyphs” in place, Blizzard can effectively remove some of the more requisite talents for pve or pvp that are copied across talent trees, focusing instead on talents that are specific to the class itself.

I expect, first, that we’ll see much more focused itemization from this; items with fewer stats that are easier to analyze.  We’ll also see some more interesting talents.  I have a sneaking suspicion this will mean more mid-duration cooldowns and proc effects.  Of particular note to me are things like the ancient glyph they showed that “Increases damage dealt by 10% for 10 seconds.  Can only be used after a crit”.  If that is the sort of thing they’re going for (and GC is nothing if not a fan of reactive ability usage), then we may see options for people to be able to focus on particular ancillary stats in order to maximize a particular playstyle.  For instance, if I slot the above ancient glyph, then I might be inclined to optimize for crit.  In that event, I’d focus on talents that proc off crits and talents that impact crit damage.  However, instead I could focus on simple procs: procs off of any hit.  In that case, I’m likely to focus on haste over everything else, and choose talents and glyphs to help maximize that.  Incidentally, I wouldn’t be surprised if both Int and Agi lose their crit increasing function and instead become the “Damage Increase Stats”.  Heck, I wouldn’t be horribly shocked to see Int stop increasing mana pool size, though that is likely going too far.  It would, however, fit with the design team’s stated intent to make dps casters ignore mana (leave aside GC’s recent comments regarding Arcane Mages).  I honestly think the intent is to make gear be “Stamina + Spec Stat (i.e. Str, Agi, Int, or Spi)”, with blues and epics adding 1 or 2 ratings onto this.  I’ll be keeping my eye on Int and Spi particularly, as that paradigm will necessitate the largest changes to those two.

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Just a quick bit of speculation, but if I had to judge from the wallpapers on the new cataclysm site, It looks like Worgen will get warriors, rogues, druids, hunters, and DKs while Goblins can choose Mage, Warlock, DK, Rogue, Warrior.  There’s also a screen of a goblin in shammie armor.

Posted mostly because I’m a speculation whore.

Quick Update: looks like worgen get all the classes but priest and paladin (from the WoWInsider LB)

Update 2: looks like they got it wrong, according to this picture from the main site, worgen get everything but SHAMAN and paladin.

Update 3: By comment request, the new racials for Goblins and Worgen, per MMO-Champion:

Goblins

  • Rocket Jump – Activate your rocket belt to jump up to 20 yards, every 2 min
  • Rocket Barrage – Fire your belt rockets at an enemy within 30 yards, every 2 min. (Shared cooldown with Rocket Jump)
  • Time is money – Cash in on a 1% increase to attack and casting speed.
  • Best Deals Anywhere – Best possible gold discount, regardless of reputation.
  • Pack Hobgoblin – Calls in your personal servent, allowing you bank access every 30 min.
  • Better Living Through Chemistry – Alchemy skill +15, Your potions give more health / mana
  • Goblins can be all classes except Paladin or Druids

Worgens

  • Darkflight – Activate your true form, increasing movement speed by 70% for 6 sec, every 3 min.
  • Viciousness – Increase damage by 1%.
  • Abberation – Reduced duration on Curses and Diseases used against you by 15%.
  • Flayer – Skinning skill +15, you skin creature fast, and you don’t even need a knife.
  • Worgens can be all classes except Paladins or Shamans

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