The price of talent – let’s bargain!

Today Watcher Dev made a post on the forums about removing the cost of changing specs (that is currently on the Legion beta) but instead implementing a cost for changing talents. I’ll post both of his comments below (these can be found on the forums here)

We’ve definitely heard much feedback to this effect, and this is something we’d been discussing quite a bit internally as well over the past couple of weeks. In an upcoming build (hopefully the next one; if not, then the one after), the respec cost is gone, and players can freely switch between all specializations with the normal restrictions of cast-time, needing to be out of combat, and so forth.

Ultimately, the intent behind the respec cost (which isn’t really a new concept, dating back to 2004 class trainers) was to help reinforce a bit of spec identity through declaring a “primary” spec to which you could always return for free, and to serve as a mild gold sink. But in practice, changing specialization is a pretty significant transformation in terms of action bars, optimal gear in some cases, artifacts, and so forth, and already not something that people were taking lightly. I suspect the cost will not be missed.

An area that has appeared to need a bit more friction, however, is actually talent changes. Especially with no reagent cost at all now, it can be all too easy to activate AoE talents before larger packs of enemies in a dungeon, and then switch back to single-target talents before a lieutenant or a boss. Or someone might switch to a passive movement-speed talent when traversing an area, and then back to something functional before entering combat. At that point, we’re often hardly talking about a meaningful choice at all, but rather a nuisance of extra button-presses or UI navigation before you can use your desired talents.

And so, alongside removing the respec cost, that same upcoming build will also restrict the ability to change talents when away from a safe area (defined as an area that provides the Rested state). We currently plan to give Scribes a recipe to craft a consumable Tome that can be dropped in order to allow all nearby players to retalent freely for a time – particularly useful for group play.

and

A couple of clarifications, one of which will probably be a relief and the other likely less so: The Inscription consumable as currently planned would be something that anyone could drop, not a profession-requiring item like a Jeeves. But, in terms of the materials required, we’re thinking of something that’s more aimed at groups, and probably not the sort of thing an individual is likely to carry a stack of and use freely.

This is clearly more restrictive than the way it works in Warlords. Why would we ever add restrictions to something like this? Do we just sit around and amuse ourselves by thinking of things to take away from players? (We don’t.)

Ultimately, for a choice to be meaningful there has to be some associated cost or trade-off in the process. Do you want to eat your cake, or do you want to save it for another time? If you could do both, that wouldn’t be much of a choice.

When it comes to talents, which serve the primary purpose of customization and differentiation, consider two extremes in terms of how they could be handled. Please, take a moment to think through the following scenarios:

First, what if you could switch talents freely, at any time, including while in combat? You’d effectively no longer have a talent system – you’d have a spellbook with another 21 active and passive abilities in it, with keybinds to swap between them as needed. Every player of a given spec would have identical capabilities, with some cumbersome interface management required to swap among them on the fly.

Second, what if you could literally never switch talents, short of making a brand new character? Choosing a talent would be a far, far weightier choice than any decision you currently make in the game (other than choosing your starting class, I suppose). Some favored cookie-cutter specs would emerge, but with 2187 different permutations of talents, there’d be significantly more variety among players. But some niche talents would likely go almost entirely unused (though players who did choose them would be invaluable when those situations arose). And feeling like you’d made a mistake, and were stuck with one or more talents that you didn’t like at all, might completely sour your enjoyment of a character.

Anyway, we are of course doing neither of those things, but there’s a full spectrum of choice that lies in between. We’ve generally moved away from the second scenario and closer to the first over time (years and years back, respecs were so expensive in relative terms that players often waited for class changes to automatically refund their talents rather than spend the gold to move a point around). Other than the combat restrictions, the live game is not terribly far off from the first scenario.

There’s still a fair bit of thought that goes into which talents to select for a raid encounter, where you’re in combat for several minutes in a row and facing a variety of threats, and you may have to weigh whether you want better AoE damage for minions in the first phase, or better single-target burst later in the fight; whether you want a passive movement-speed increase for higher overall uptime, or an on-demand active movement ability in case you get targeted by a specific troublesome ability; and so forth.

But most other content, whether it’s a single quest boss out in the world, or a dungeon that breaks down to a series of sub-1-minute combats, don’t offer nearly that much variety. And so you take the AoE talent for the AoE pack, and the single-target talent for the lone boss, to the point that you might as well just have both of them all the time, which might be powerful, but wouldn’t be a choice.

So where does this leave us?

simpsons_bees

Of course the world is ending. Of course this is worst change ever. Of course Blizzard are stupid. /end sarcasm

You are not the only person playing the game

I’ve said this many times in the past, and I’ll keep saying it until I’m blue in the face. To be fair, these posts have only been made in the last couple of hours, so a lot of responses are gut reactions, and I can totally understand that.But throwing around “this change personally affects me greatly, so go back to the other way so that I’m not screwed over” is not what this conversation needs, because pretty much everyone can say that.

Which is why I’m here. I want people to take a moment to stop, take a breath and a GREAT big step away from the situation at the moment and think outside of how these changes directly impact you alone. Let’s talk about how these changes impact different types of players and see if we can find a solution that suits everyone.

There are a few points to cover:

  • removal of spec change cost
  • change of how talents are changed
  • possible alternatives

Healers/Tanks rejoice! No more cost to switch specs.

Firstly, the removal of spec change costs. The cost of changing specs has been a concern for me since it was first revealed. (See this post about it!) The TL;DR overview of my thoughts on the cost of changing specs is below, and hopefully point out why this cost was an unbalanced one:

  • many (if not most) healers don’t like to level as healers, so have a dps spec they use on a regular basis to level or do dailies with
  • locking in, or making it difficult/expensive to change specs means healers/tanks may get sat from raids instead of being able to stay in and changing to a different spec because they can’t afford to change
  • small raid teams who are already struggling to find raid numbers may have more difficulty finding even more numbers because aren’t willing to pay to switch specs (so where you could get away with having “swing heals/dps” players, you might need a separate person for each spec)

Many of the arguments I’m seeing on the forums at the moment are from people complaining that spec changes happen less often than talent changes, so why punish people for the thing they do most often? That’s a fair enough call. However what it doesn’t take in to account is the size of the impact on the people are are affected. It may not impact everyone, but those it does impact have some big quality of life reductions. To put it bluntly, this cost to me always felt “unfair” to hybrid classes. So I am glad this cost is removed.

Oh, to change a talent

So the second announcement in the above post, and the topic I feel needs some thought and open discussion, is around the proposed change to how talents are swapped. The proposed change is essentially that if people want to be able to change their talents, they need to be in a a resting area, and they will need a tome crafted by inscriptionists that can be dropped by any player.

There are two key points that this change brings up…

Player disruption

This is the big one. The loudest argument against this change is that it is incredibly disruptive. Players have become used to changing their talents whenever they want to, and putting in this restriction is going to be time consuming, expensive, and overall and very negative experience for players.

The reasoning behind putting in this restriction comes back to that ever present notion of “class/spec identity”. Love it or hate it, this concept is going to be sticking around. And this way of changing talents definitely reiterates that, the notion being that you need to decide if you’re a restoration shaman who likes raining on people all the time or if you want to use your totems for healing boosts (for example). But is it the right thing to do here? Possibly not. Ion’s explanation behind the dev’s thinking is that there is no real “choice” in what you’re doing – you’re just going through the motions and swapping out one spell for another with little impact.

My feelings are that some disruption is necessary. Others have argued in the past that associating a cost with talent changes doesn’t play in to class fantasy or make them think about their choices – they see it as a burden. I can understand this, especially when in the past the new talent system was promoted as something that allowed you to swap in and out of talents as fights needed them.

I think what the developers have in mind for how this fantasy plays out is not necessarily about how this plays as class fantasy, but how this plays as overall game play fantasy. The scenario is this – we as a team walk in to a raid zone together, with the purpose of taking down the “big bads”. As a group we get a battle plan together – who will stand where and do play what role (not just who tanks and who heals, but what a warlock might do to quickly move the entire group etc.) Part of that planning and strategising is sorting out what tools people will need to defeat this boss. And it’s at this point that changing talents would come in to play.

This idea is further reiterated with Ion’s comments:

…in terms of the materials required, we’re thinking of something that’s more aimed at groups, and probably not the sort of thing an individual is likely to carry a stack of and use freely.

The whole idea is based on a group mentality. This is a viable option for organised teams and raid groups, but is less so for pugs (which are still heavily promoted), especially if the mats required to make these tomes come from various profession sources.

So to sum up. my thoughts are:

  • a cost for changing talents is understandble
  • what the cost is should be given more thought
  • a group cost might not be the best approach.

We’ll come back to these points in a sec.

Boost for scribes

This is the point that most people are kind of washing over, because it doesn’t affect a lot of people. But let’s face it, Inscriptionists have gotten a bit of a raw deal so far in Legion. One of their primary purposes – crafting of glyphs – has been removed, so they’ve been a bit useless. Having this tome as a raid-required material is actually a really great idea. It helps them craft a consumable that would be needed over and over again, like potions and flasks or food or enchants and gems. I think this this is a really great improvement to the profession to make it viable long term.

What are our options?

If we take the above in to account, we can try and find a “happy medium” here somewhere. Discussing this with my partner and throwing ideas around, we talked about options and he came up with the idea of the cost still being a crafted tome, but one that is for individuals that has charges on them. This way the items are still useful for inscriptionists to craft; there is a cost involved with changing specs that is meaningful but not burdensome, and; people still have a feeling of freedom when it comes to their personal choices during raids/world content. And even though I’m not a fan of there being a cost applied to changing specs, this tome could also be used to change specs, giving it multiple purposes.

What do you think? What happy medium can you see here that could be suitable for all player types?

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Ive given up on caring about stuff like this. ke sera sera. what will be will be.
    i will adapt to whatever the outcome is.
    its breaks down to 2 things.

    players want it easiest so with less thought/hassel.
    devs want to add barriers to make choices more meaningful.

    who will win who knows, personally i dont care for the drama anymore. ill be here having fun either way 🙂

    Like

  2. Navimie says:

    I will just go with the flow on changes, BUT I admit that spec changing costing nothing is a plus to me. I have to switch specs and glyphs all the time! And how annoying is it when you have no tomes and OMG you have to change something…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cinder says:

      I’ll go with the flow as well, I’m just interested to see if people can think about alternative solutions rather than getting up in arms about it. It’s ok to not like a decision, so I’m all about trying to find options that could possibly work for everyone.

      Liked by 1 person

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