Blizzard’s Greg “Ghostcrawler” Street has defended the World of Warcraft talent overhaul that will launch with the next expansion, Mists of Pandaria, from accusations that it’s a simplification, or change for the sake of change.
In a lengthy blog post on Blizzard’s Battle.Net, Street began, “We’ve gotten a lot of feedback on our crazy, exciting, and scary talent overhaul, for which we are enormously appreciative,” before adding, “We have seen a few consistent responses from players concerned or dismissive about the model, so we thought we’d take the opportunity to explain the philosophy behind some of our decisions, to provide a better framework upon which you can continue giving us feedback.”
“Look, we tried the talent tree model for seven years," Street explained. “We think it's fundamentally flawed and unfixable. We know some of you have faith in us that someday we'll eventually replace all of the boring +5% crit talents with interesting talents and give you 80 talent points that you can spend wherever, and that the game will still remain relatively balanced and fun. We greatly appreciate your faith, but we fear it is misplaced.
“It's not a matter of coming up with enough fun mechanics, which is challenging but ultimately doable. The problem is the extreme number of combinations. When you have such a gigantic matrix, the chances of having unbeatable synergies, or combinations of talents that just don't work together is really high. That's not lazy design. That is recognizing how math works."
Street added that players who gloat over having an optimal build usually have no right to do so: “The players in question fully admit that they don't experiment to find the best build. They accept the cookie cutter spec that is offered from a website, but then they use the fact that they knew the cookie cutter to mock players who don't. Intimate knowledge of game mechanics certainly is and should be a component of skill. But knowing how to Google '4.3 Shadow spec' doesn't automatically make you a better player.”
Street finished by saying that the system overhaul had been under consideration for some time. “We changed talent trees in Cataclysm to try and fix some of the underlying problems the talent design had since its inception. We actually considered going to the Mists model for Cataclysm, but we were worried that the change would be too shocking to players, so we went with a more restrained design first.
“As often happens with compromises, it didn't fix the underlying problems. Our hope is that this new design solves them once and for all... We hope that an overhaul this drastic isn't necessary again for a long time to come.”