I do find it fascinating how worked up everyone gets about suggested changes to World of Warcraft. There are so many outraged voices making a lot of noise about how “stupid” the devs are and how this is the final straw and they’re quitting WoW.
Just another day in overreaction city.
So what’s all the drama about? Well, it’s this:
Essentially, on the Legion alpha at the moment, there is a charge being applied for switching specs. I will say upfront – the cost here is mostly irrelevant, which Celestalon has reiterated:
For me, I’d like to discuss whether or not assigning a cost (of some sort) to switching spec is a good change for the game, and what is the real issue Blizzard is trying to combat with this change?
You can skip right to the end for the tldr if you don’t want to read my justification for my opinion.
As regular readers will know, I play a shaman. I consider my restoration spec my main spec, as this is the one I (usually!) raid with. However, more often than not I am in my dps elemental spec to “survive” being out in the world on a pvp server, to do my dailies, to run old raids/dungeons and to raid with when fights get easier and we need fewer healers. I constantly switch between these two specs. So I do have an initial bias about this topic that I am going to put aside for the moment to try and get to the bottom of what these changes are getting at.
Gold sink vs. stick to one spec
For me, this change points to two possible dilemmas that Blizzard is trying to combat:
- there’s too much gold in the game
- players are not committing to specs.
These are two very different issues, and right now I don’t feel it’s clear which Blizzard is aiming to combat here. But let’s explore these ideas a bit further.
The gold sink
It’s Rho’s fault I’m writing this, because he got me thinking with this post that he wrote about how this change could be considered a gold sink, and what that meant. This part really struck a point:
It’s very easy, as someone who’s greatest gold accomplishment was getting to 500k on all her toons just this week, to feel upset about the argument that there’s just “too much gold in the game” and that “players are too rich”. I, for one, don’t see it because I’m not “rich”. But that’s because I only see how much I have. Don’t get me wrong, I’m well aware that there are plenty of people out there who are rolling around in gold like Scrooge McDuck. I see it on the Black Market Auction House all the time, when items hit gold cap within minutes of being released, or players going out and buying whatever mounts they want, or not being affected by price hikes in enchants/gems etc. But I, like everyone else, don’t see the overall numbers and can’t fathom how much of a problem it is for the game. So I have to trust Blizzard on this one.
I don’t like gold sinks. I understand their purpose, but I don’t like it. I feel like there are too many rewards/items associated with the gold-making mini-game. And let’s face it – making gold in WoW is a whole other game in and of itself. If gold-making isn’t something you like to do, there is an awful lot of content in the game that you can miss out on – there are loads of cosmetic items in game that simply cost a bucket load of gold, and if you don’t have that gold, you’re going to have a hard time getting them.
The point is that Blizzard needs to find ways to get players to let go of some of their gold, and perhaps tying it to something many players do often is one way of going about it. But is assigning a gold cost to switching specs a fair gold sink?
Not all classes are created equally
My biggest concern with the proposal to charge to change specs is that it’s not an activity that is spread evenly across the specs. Hybrid classes are definitely getting the raw end of the deal here, as they are more likely to change their specs often (as I have explained for myself above). This isn’t an uncommon activity for hybrids at all, and in some cases it is expected of us to switch our specs based on the needs of the group we are raiding with.
DPS will definitely change their specs as well, but this is not as often as hybrids.
So for this argument, I say that no, this approach is not equally balanced across all classes.
I think my biggest concern with specifically a gold sink being attached to a spec change is how that will impact new players. I’m talking about the shiny, brand new players who will come in to the game because of the movie. They come in to it with nothing – no gold, and also little to no knowledge of the classes/specs available in the game. Because of this they may end up switching specs to “try them out”, which they won’t be able to do if it costs a small fortune. There is the possibility of the cost scaling by level, or the cost only being implemented at a certain level to help alleviate this, but I think saving up for flying feels more satisfying for new players rather than paying to change their spec.
As a slight side note, if it was decided that the cost would be something other than gold, it’s important that this is available to non-max level players. So I don’t feel that it could be attained with valor, conquest etc.
Cost per healer
There is an argument for hybrids in that they could charge for their services. Much the same way mages would charge for others to use their teleports, healers and tanks could take a similar approach and sell their services (and their faster queue times!) on a cost recovery basis. Or at a profit if they so desire. Likely? I’m not sure. I do think this would depend on the cost of switching specs in the end. It could get out of hand, though, but it is an option if the gold cost ends up being a bit high.
So is it about the gold?
Personally, I don’t think this is about a gold sink. There are too many limitations for new players if it is. And honestly, there’s just something yucky about putting a gold cost against game functionality, and I don’t think Blizzard would do that. But I do understand that gold sinks need to exist – there should definitely be some more thought and discussion given to this.
Which leads me to believe it’s not about the gold at all.
All about that spec
I feel that class fantasy and sticking to one spec is what this change is about. “But why would Blizzard want players to stick to one spec?” I hear you say! I asked the same thing of my lovely twitter followers and they said the following:
I think Marie really nails it on the head here with her comment about identifying with one spec. Artifact weapons really emphasise this. Players will need to choose which weapon they are going to focus their energies and time on. And whilst we can get artifacts for the other specs, it will be very time consuming and not quite as strong as your primary artifact.
It’s about the fantasy
It’s pretty clear that class fantasy is high on the priority list for Blizzard in Legion. It was the focus of the first blog posts that came out after Blizzcon, and is reiterated time and time again when talking about class changes. It is really hammered home with Artifacts – each spec has its own specially crafted quest chain to obtain the artifact. It’s allllll about the class fantasy.
It could be argued that if class fantasy is so important, why are there multiple stats available on gear? That allows us to use that gear for multiple specs. So why limit access to the other specs? I suppose the answer here is that they don’t want to take the option to change specs away (if they wanted to do that they would completely lock down classes so that you could only ever play the 1 spec), but by introducing the cost element they want to limit how often it happens.
Having a cost associated with changing spec can reiterate class fantasy. By changing spec you’re changing in to a different mindset, and to emphasise that, it should be acknowledged that this is happening. Having a cast time to switch specs helps with this, as does wiping our resources and having a spell effect like we already do. But perhaps there can be more to it. Adding some sort of cost to this is another step that could make players pause for a moment to actually think about what they’re doing before they do this. Or it might just annoy them.
But class fantasy can’t be ignored. It’s important, it’s a focus for Blizzard and we need to adapt to this.
Why am I being punished all the time?!
So this is where my bias is going to come back in. Like I said above, I switch specs all the time. I don’t want it to cost me *insert price here* every time I do it. It feels like a kick in the gut. It’s already going to be incredibly time consuming for me to get 2 artifact weapons – it’s further punishment to make me pay to change specs. Artifact weapons already limit a player’s ability to play multiple specs – why does there need to be a cost added to it, too?
Another personal gripe is the impact it would have overall on our raid team. As many of you know, I’m already cross about mythic raiding being limited to 20 players (read this and this). Our team is small and rarely has over 15 players. As such, we don’t get to do mythic raiding not because we’re not good enough, but because we just can’t get the numbers. Because of our small team, we also have to do things large teams don’t – we don’t have “benched players” in our team. Everyone who shows up raids because we need the numbers. That means that if a fight requires an additional healer, one of our hybrids switches spec. If we need more dps, generally I’ll switch to ele to fill the gap. We are not the only teams to do this. So who would pay for that? The player who is just trying to help out their team? Or the guild who is already forking out for guild repairs/pots/food and not getting income from leveling members? Again, big kick in the gut for some of us.
Side note – healers can now dps
This, for me, is one of the big things I’d like the opportunity to test in the Legion alpha/beta. A lot of the arguments made about the cost of changing specs could be redundant if healer and tank dps is viable in all aspects of the game. Hybrids won’t need to change spec, so the cost (whatever it may be) doesn’t matter.
It’s a very big ask to get this balance right. I will be honest though, if I can charge through ICC on my ele shaman in no time flat, but it takes half an hour to do on my healer, I don’t care that my healer can dps, I’ll be switching to ele for it. And I don’t think I’m alone in that mindset.
This is a really big topic that I have loads of opinions on, so I’ll save it for another post. But it is worth having in the back of the mind while we discuss this.
Get to the bloody point, Cinder! What is your solution?!
Ok ok this has gone long enough, and you’ve done really well to get here if you have (thank you!)
Based on what we’ve gone through above, here’s what I think:
The ability to switch specs should not be used as a gold sink, as it punishes some players more than others (hybrids will generally switch more often than pure dps classes). Given that artifact weapons will already make it difficult for players to maintain more than one spec, adding another layer of difficulty (by charging) feels like a kick in the gut for those players.
Having said that, I do feel that class fantasy is important, and that some form of acknowledgment when changing a spec could have an impact on a player and make them more “aware” of the fantasy of their class. I feel like this could be achieved by using a Tome of the Clear mind for 50 silver. This is a minimal cost that new players could afford, that can also help players get in to the mindset and appreciate the class fantasy.
I think the most important part of this change is that players need to feel like they still have the choice to change their spec if they want to.
So that’s what I think. What do you think?