Tobold's Blog
Thursday, November 06, 2008
New spells in Wrath of the Lich King

In a week we will be able to install Wrath of the Lich King and start leveling up from 70 to 80. But already since patch 3.0.2 the level 71 to 80 new spells and abilities are visible on the class trainers, if you set your filter to "show unavailable". So yesterday I had a look with my three level 70 characters to check what new spells and abilities await me. And the answer was: Nearly none. The number of really new spells and abilities is tiny, most of what the class trainers have on offer is higher ranks of already existing spells. That is somewhat disappointing, but understandable.

The problem is that Blizzard can't simply add a one new spell or ability per new level to the game, because then quickly you would have far too many hotkey buttons. I'm already using 5 hotbars with 12 spells, abilities, or items on each of my characters. And those characters who have different stances have even more, because the basic hotkey bar changes when you change stance. Blizzard did generally a good job on making well recognizable icons, but at some point there are simply too many of them. Especially when some of them aren't used very often, you have problems finding the button in a hurry when you actually need it.

And then of course every class has a specific role, and it wouldn't be a good idea to give a class new spells and abilities that used to be reserved for another class. But if you say "no big dots for a mage, because dots are for warlocks", then what new spell *can* you invent for a fire mage? There are only so many ways you can make a spell deal fire damage, and mages already have all of them. What new way to heal do you want to add to a holy priest?

Unless the combat system is completely reworked (which I wouldn't recommend, as it wasn't exactly a success with SWG's NGE), I don't see how Blizzard can add lots of new spells and abilities in this and future expansions. We'd only end up with more buttons doing more or less the same.

What is possible, and there are already signs of it, is the use of more combinations of spells and abilities, especially via talents. My frost mage can now sometimes cast a fireball for free and instant, or get a "frozen fingers" effect with which his next spells treat the opponent as if he was frozen, which gives an added effect to spells like ice lance. My protection warrior can sometimes get a shield slam for free, or if he would spec arms sometimes use execute in the middle of the combat instead of just at the end. Random bonus effects like these break up the monotony of combat a bit. Just right now the standard UI of WoW isn't all that great in informing you about them, but I managed to configure SCT to give me very visible warnings every time I have the option to use such a combo.

So while lets say my frost mage isn't really gaining many really new spells in Wrath of the Lich King, at least he isn't just using frostbolt-frostbolt-frostbolt-frost nova-frostbolt any more. What he got in new abilities was mostly patched in by the changes to the talents tree in patch 3.0.2., the level 71 to 80 spells won't bring much newness. The one thing that is a bit annoying about that is that there are no class trainers in Northrend, just like there were no class trainers in Outlands, and every level you have to travel back to old Azeroth, just to get a boring added rank to some old spell, and then travel back to Northrend to level up again. As Dalaran won't be immediately accessible, like Shattrath was, that'll be even more annoying for the first couple of levels. At least my mage can teleport, my priest and warrior will be more annoyed by having to do trips like that every level.
Well if it's true that there aren't many new spells or abilites in WOTLK (contradictory to my assuming so in another post a few days back) then I must say that I'm relieved. I just don't have any space in my hotbars for new spells. And if the new ones are more used than situational ones then I will probably have to make some radical changes which I don't want to really.
This is why people (shameless plug) are commenting these days that leveling loses its appeal once you get past a certain point.
"As Dalaran won't be immediately accessible, like Shattrath was..."

That is news to me. I looked it up on wowwiki and it seems that mages can learn to teleport themselves to Dalaran at 71 and learn the group portal at 74. All others need to be 74 bevor they can accept a quest that leads them to Dalaran.

However there might be a workaround to this. Once you are in Dalaran there is a quest that teaches you how to travel to Dalaran on your own. In the Beta you only needed to be 70 to accept this quest according to wowhead. So this just might work:

1) Help a mage to get to Dalaran
2) Mage uses the Dalaran Battlemasters to sign up your group for a Battleground. Everyone in the group needs to be at least 71 to get the invite.
3) Wait for BG (this might take a while)
4) Once you finish the BG, everyone from your group will be returned to the Dalaran Battlemasters.

A bit complicated, but depending on how long it takes to get to 74 it might be worth it.
Careful not to forget that most of the new spells for old classes are embedded in talents. Druids have half a dozen new spells/abilities, but only one shows up at the trainer.
I'd like more skills, however new skills are going to make old skills wasted.

I also have a mage. A 70 mage by default has a lot of different skills. Skill management has become a mini game of it's own. I use the keyboard for all my most common or needed skills. For example blink and frost nova are very important and need to be executed quick, esp in PvP. I have both of those skills on my main 2 hot bars in position 8 and 9. I then can swap between those two hot bars on the fly to access my other spells. The remaining 4 hot bars I use the mouse the trigger, those spells are used less often such as molten armor, AI, blizzard.

Since the release of 3.0 I've had to make a few of my common spells(sheep & slow) put in one of the 4 non-common hot bars and then bound to a key, like "-" or "+". Being an arcane mage I seem to have more skills then any other spec, but I could be wrong as I didn't count. I noticed I've started to completely remove some skills from my hot keys as I don't use them at all.

Ice lance is the perfect example, an arcane mage has no use for this, arcane barrage is by far better. One I get frostfire bolt, and Mirror image I'll need to make room for two more skills, so I'll probably get rid of frostbolt and fireball and just replace those slots with frostfire bolt and mirror image.

I've spent hours getting my hot keys set up to be the most efficient for my play style. Like I said, it is a mini game in and of it's self. I've gone so far as that my alt's have similar layouts for similar spells. I always have my main nuke as "2". I always have my "Oh shit" button (vanish, invisability, demon form) as "-". This goes to lesson the confusion when playing alt's I haven't been on in a while. However all my 70's are suffering from the same problem of running out of good places to put hot keys. I think Blizz needs to get us atleast 8 hot bars by defualt. I hate using mods.
Instead I would prefer if they had more spells/abilities to choose from but a player was limited by how many they can have on their cast bar at a time.

Then choosing which spells you have immediately available would be another aspect of strategy.

This concept used in Guild Wars but really (from my point of view) originated in games like Magic the Gathering, where though you may have a large diversity of spells in your deck you can only play the ones in your hand.

Of course the difference with M:TG is that you (usually) randomly pic the spells that go into your hand (from your deck during a game) so much of the strategy is goes into what spells (combinations) will choose to be in your deck (before a game).

I say, overwhelm us with the choices of spells but do it in a way that will not end up with just a few combinations of spells that dominate the rest.
I agree with you on "spell pollution", as adding too many new spells gets things out of hand. As mentioned, there are a lot in talents and those are fine, since each player has a limited amount and they're used a lot more.

Retooling old spells is still a solid option and Blizzard has started a bit down that path. In the long run, it may be the only real option for new abilities.
I'm wondering how new spells and abilities will affect arena play at level 80. Currently, 5v5 matches are almost unplayable --- one big nuke of burst damage and it's over in 8 seconds. Not very much fun.

It would be cool if the had quests to modify or unlock new abilities rather than simply clicking on a trainer. Newer abilities could then replace the older ones, still keeping skills manageable.
"There are only so many ways you can make a spell deal fire damage, and mages already have all of them."

This evinces such a sad lack of imagination I'm almost speechless. You honestly believe Blizzard has already thought up every possible way to deal fire damage with a spell? *boggle*
No, blizzard has not thought of every way to deal damage with a fire spell, but after a certain point, the different methods will start to become quite situational, and will end up in "permutation mode", with the new spells created by just doing permutation of previous spell mechanics.

(Guild wars has this issue with a lot of skills, after a certain point they just seem like different permutations of each other without a big functional difference between them, and became often kind of situational.)
It seems to me that there's still room for more utility spells or twists on existing ones. So, rather than adding more fire damage, a mage could gain the ability to "blink" others or sheep themselves, wiping aggro and providing healing.

A warrior could gain the ability to carry out field repairs on their weapons or carry out emergency first aid (instant cast bandage on a suitable cooldown).

Games such as EQ & Vanguard are full of these little "flavour" abilities, which don't add much to raid utility, but make the classes richer and more interesting.
Ever since I set up my key bindings cleverly all of my characters have enough room for their abilities. I suggest using commands such as z, shift+x, shift+v etc for additional abilities. Another idea is to shift asdw over one key to the right becoming sdfe and leaving qaw for additional kotkeys (which you combine with shift to prevent accidental cooldown wastage)
I love that the designers have really focused on what the gameplay experience is like for each class/spec and added things to break up rotations and make combat more reactive and less "hit 2, 2, 2, 4, repeat".

I'm hoping, as you are Tobold, that running out of space for hotkeys for new abilities will make Blizz realize that the next step should be to expand the game horizontally instead of vertically. I LOVE your idea of a "sundering" completely changing the face of Azeroth. The perfect time to do that would be by having Azshara raise her Naga nation out of the Maelstrom, causing cataclysmic property damage to the entire planet. Next xpac, please! In less than 2 years from now, this time?
Only five hotbars of 12? Try EQ2. I think I have eight hotbars of 12 filled. And so many of them are so similar to one another that a lot of those hotbars items are actually macros that kick off whichever skill in a list is currently ready...

I think Guild Wars did it right where there were tons of abilities you could get but you had to limit yourself to a specific build outside of the cities. That added an additional, strategic, layer to the game that kept things interesting. In many other MMORPGs, I feel like the only real challenge is to remember where I put my abilities.
Actually, they've already come up with the solution to this one. Instead of continuously adding new abilities, you just phase old ones out and replace them completely. We saw it begin with priests and Lesser Heal. After a while, Lesser Heal gave way to Heal, which in turn gave way to Greater Heal. The Shaman Rockbiter Weapon was completely replaced by Windfury. Next came the Death Knight, whose base abilities get replaced by talent ones (Unholy DKs use Scourge Strike rather than Obliterate. Blood DKs use Heart Strike instead of Blood Strike).

Let's say they decided to replace Fireball with something else (let's call it Flame Shot). Instead of being a 3.5 second (3s talented) ball of fire that deals X damage and then Y damage as a DoT, it now deals X damage, and Y damage as a DoT that stacks up to 5 times. It is, in all ways, superior to Fireball. Thus, once you reach the appropriate level, you don't need to use fireball anymore, because Flame Shot is just all in all better. The trainer stops teaching Fireball Rank X, and teaches Flame Shot rank Y.

This allows designers to introduce new spells, but still maintain the number of buttons a player needs to push. Just make the old ones redundant.

Personally, I don't see having more spells/abilities than hot keys as being a problem. Instead, it's a game opportunity to enrich your character .. so instead of being a fire spec mage, casting the exact same fireball rotation as every other fire spec mage, you could be conjuring lava spouts, fire bombs, and what have you.

There's lots of spells we've already seen in game which we don't yet get to use - stuff that mobs use against us. How cool would it be for a warlock to have Soul Copy or a shadow priest to summon Sanguine Spirits?
where i can purchase WOTLK CD Keys?
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