Sunday, 23 August 2009

Blizzcon Dissected - Part 2: Dumbification

Welcome to the second part of my Blizzcon series. You can find the first part here. Today I will look into various bits and pieces that we got from day one and then go deeply into the itemization disaster they announced. No, it won't be pretty.

Hunter Resources
Hunters won't use mana as a resource anymore. Instead they get focus, which is pretty much like energy only on a different regeneration rate. With this new limit in place, many hunter abilities will lose their cooldowns, making dpsing more about which shots to effectively use instead of which shots are off cooldown. This is a good change, though I think it will take them some time to balance it correctly. Cooldown limited classes aren't a lot of fun to play and mana was always a bit of an afterthought for hunters.
Additionally, ammo will no longer be a consumable but just an item you equip that increases your shot dps. This gets rid of one of the most annoying things about hunters - having to use bag space for ammo and running out of ammo at the most inopportune moments - and allows ammo to actually drop from bosses.

Verdict: I like it!

Warlock Shards
Soul Shards won't be collected as items any more, but are now a depletable resource that can be used to power up your spells. Instead of being a mere inconvenience, Soul Shards now become a legitimate mechanic.

Verdict: About time!

Profession Changes
Gathering and fishing will be made more fun, even though they don't tell us how. Either way, it can't get any worse, so yay. Hard to make items will allow for multiple skill gains in one craft, reducing the need to make the cheapest item possible while levelling a profession. This seems a reasonable change, even though most people at maximum level won't be affected by it much.

Verdict: Professions will still be meh, but less so!

Itemization is GONE!
Remember defense, mp5, attack power, spell power, armor penetration and block value? Well, they are history. All of these stats will be removed in cataclysm. Spell power will be rolled into intellect, spirit will become an universal healer mana regeneration stat, agility will add attack power for agility classes, armor penetration will be handled through talents and/or masteries and block will be a percentage based reduction from now on.
Each of these changes in itself makes a certain sense. Spell power and intellect, for example, almost always came together on caster gear. Block was too strong against trash and too weak against bosses. The defense cap seemed arbitrary and defense was of vastly different value for different tanking classes.

These changes are great then, right? No. Or, well, it depends. What this does is greatly reduce the complexity of itemization and gear choices. We are not completely at the point were we can pick items solely by item level but we are getting to it. This change makes choosing your gear easier and removes some need for theorycrafting. A lot of people have praised this change for that effect, possibly not realizing that it is another step towards player homogenization, often called "dumbing down the game."

The less difficult choices a player has to make, the less relevant becomes the ability to make those choices. Worse players or players who just don't care can now gear equally efficient as players who do a lot of research. (Or well, at least the gap closes a bit.)

I personally enjoy theorycrafting and especially figuring out what the best gear for my character for certain occasions is. Gone are the days of collecting a block value set for AoE tanking. Gone are the days of deciding whether to gem spell power or intellect. Gone are the days of items that are better for shamans while others are better for druids. As with the talent trees, diversification is a great thing, homogenization is terrible. Loot is already terribly boring - just have a look at the Coliseum loot tables - why make it even more so?
If this trend continues we will soon have generic items dropping that only vary in item level and automatically scale your relevant skills. (Yes, I'm exaggerating. Sue me.)

Verdict: NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! [/XT-002]

Reforging will allow us to reduce one stat on an item to add another one that isn't on it yet. This will allow you to customize your gear to your specific needs - too bad there won't be any specific needs any more if the item homogenization trend continues. Looking at the new number of stats there will maybe be one stat lacking that you could want on an item. Hooray for choice. Not. The main use I see for me personally here is to reduce stamina on an item to increase whatever healing stat is not on it (crit, haste, or spirit).

Verdict: Nice in theory.

This concludes part 2 of my Blizzcon series. There might be a third part about Diablo and Starcraft II if I find enough to say about those. If you agree or disagree with me, or if I forgot something important, please comment here. I looove comments ;)
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