Tobold's Blog
Monday, February 02, 2009

After foolishly stating that I don't see any use for dual-spec for a mage, I promptly ended up in a Naxxramas raid with a deep frost mage, who was extremely useful at Gluth, and much less so at Sapphiron. Now there we could have used dual-spec for mages. :) But the pros and cons of dual-spec seem to be a hot topic, so I'm dedicating this thread to it.

The whole discussion starts with the eternal trinity: tanks, healers, damage dealers (I'll use the short form "dps" for them in the rest of the post). The fundamental problem is that the trinity only works together, that is in well-coordinated group play. If you are alone, neither "tanking" nor "healing" will achieve anything. So both in solo play and in un-coordinated PvP play, dps is king. The more damage you deal, the faster you kill mobs, and the faster you gain xp and levels, or get your daily kill quest done. The damage mitigation part of tanking might be helpful, but the taunting part of tanking doesn't do anything in solo or PvP, and ultimately you'll need to deal damage to win. Same thing for healers, healing is useful, but you can't kill a mob or other player with it, unless you cooperate with other players.

So Blizzard, from the start, offered at least one talent tree for every class which was dedicated to dealing damage. So a tank would have at least one tanking talent tree, and at least one dps talent tree. A healer would have at least one healing talent tree, and at least one dps talent tree. So far, so good. But switching talents isn't all that easy in World of Warcraft. You need to pay to unlearn your talents, manually choose all the talents of your alternate talent build, and before a recent patch even pay for re-training higher spell ranks of talent spells. Consequently most people didn't switch from one talent build to another all that often. A short guide on how to play a priest in WoW was: "solo to the level cap in shadow spec, then switch to holy / discipline and heal raids". Obviously not a perfect solution, because maybe that poor priest would have liked to group from time to time while leveling up, or would have liked to do some PvP between raids. There were stories of priests getting kicked from raiding guilds for the sin of respeccing to shadow.

The promised dual-spec feature is trying to solve that problem. We don't know details yet, but it is expected that instead of having just one talent build, you'll have two, with an easy way to switch between them, and no cost involved. So if you want to solo and PvP with one spec, and do heroics and raids with another, you can do so.

Nevertheless the introduction of dual-spec is not without problems with regards to class balance. A pure dps class, like a mage, might enjoy the possibility to switch from frost to fire, or from a single-target raid build to an AoE build. But if he is in a group desperately looking for a healer or tank, he still can't switch to fulfill those roles. A two-role hybrid, like priest or warrior, has more utility from dual-spec, being able to switch from dps to healing/tanking and back. And the three-role hybrids like paladins or druids will have to choose two of those roles for their two specs. The ability to switch roles comes with a price tag attached: The necessity to switch gear as well. The mage might well wear the same gear for his solo and his raid spec, but somebody switching from dps to healing or tanking will have to carry a second set of armor around.

I hear different information on how easy it will be to switch from one spec to another. There are other games, like Final Fantasy XI, where you need to be in a city to switch roles. But some people say Blizzard wants to make switching so easy, you could do it in the middle of a raid. Trash on the way to the boss too easy? Mow it down faster by switching your second tank and third healer to their dps builds. I'm not so sure whether that is such a good idea, because it could easily backfire in the serious raiding guilds: Instead of gaining the liberty to have one build for doing other things than raiding, you might be required to have two raid builds, for different situations and encounters. Priest starts with discipline build, buffs the raid with the spirit buff, then switches to holy build for general raid healing, and back to discipline for single-target healing. That is actually something I might do voluntarily, as I'm not a big fan of shadow priesting, but I wouldn't like if guilds started to require that for raid participation, because you're back to square one of the original problem.

The other problem of dual-specs I frequently hear mentioned is that it removes the meaning of choice. I'm kind of proud that I've always leveled my priest as holy, and my warrior as protection spec, because it was a choice I made to be able to join more groups while leveling. With dual-spec that choice is gone, and my warrior who is currently switching just gear from dps to tanking will in future switch talents as well. People don't need to choose their talent builds to be viable for different situations, they'll just switch to a different tree whenever necessary. With two builds you can cover a large majority of your various talents, thus there is less having to refrain from doing one thing in order to be able to achieve the other. Ultimately it removes a feeling of identity from your character. You're not the "holy priest" any more, or the wicked "shadow priest", you're both, and thus feel like neither. Probably more a problem for the few role-players out there, who'll all suddenly have to invent a story to explain their split personality.

So overall I think most people will welcome the possibility to dual-spec, in spite of the risk that it makes World of Warcraft more easy, or more bland. I hope it will be done in a way which enables people to switch with ease between different game activities. More options and variety is usually more fun, and for Blizzard a longer subscription. What do you think, is dual-spec a win-win proposition?
My honest opinion is that this is just one symptom of the concurrent instant gratification trend going on both in real life as well as in games: there is no need for any sort of dedication, you just jump and skip on a whim to what ever pleases you more. No dedication to family, no dedication to kids, no dedication to guilds, no dedication to excel in the stuff you do well to be good. Just switch and you can do something else and not excel in what you were doing.

It's no use to complain about the PUGging being bad, when you first expect the players to power level up to the cap and then give them the option to switch their talents around when they want to. No need to work to learn the class nor to play in the group.

As long as it's only me-me-me, the MMO's as we know them will slide towards the drain. Faster every time solo ability and self-centered play style is made easier.

For DPS classes, they will most likely go with a raid build and a pvp guild since I've heard many friends complain about having to switch between raids/arena.

As a warrior duo spec would simply be a god sent, as I would rather be a freelancer than a guild member, I often switch between tanking/pvp/pve build on my warrior, and with the cost of reglyphs, each respect would cost roughly 80~100 g (depends on the price that day). So having duo spec would save quite a number of gold =).

Personally I wish Blizzard could add more than duo spec =P (Octo spec would be nice ha) Since warrior has... Pvp prot/migitation prot/threat prot pve fury/pvp fury pve arm/pvp arm xD, all these builds only differs by 4~5 talent points but yeah the cost could sky rocket. (Okay I'll admid i am dreaming)

Although I am interested to see how easy it is to switch between talents, as stated by a blue post I've saw like 2 month ago, it's supposed to be free in major cities, but takes a reagent if you are outside the cities.
Would be rather interesting if you could switch between specs during arena match =), imagine a restore druid that escaped to the other end of the map only to come back as a Boomkin and star fire you.

Oh and Tobold I have to do it " having just one talent build, you'll have (too)" typo alert 4th paragraph! heh
As someone who likes to explore as many possibilities for characters as possible, I'm the sort of person who would really enjoy the dual spec system, as it would allow me to more effectively explore the different sections of a character much more easily without having to put lots of money and time down to do so.

After playing guild wars, which allows free respecs in all outposts, I don't see the issue as much with "It's just instant gratification", "it reduces the difference between characters", etc., remember that people can still only be in one spec at a time, and that they will likely have a preferred spec that they stick in for most of the time, rather than switching willy nilly.
When I heard about dual spec, I thought it would improve the metagame by allowing more tanks and healers to come into play. Now that I thought about it, I don't think dual specs will help alleviate tank or healer shortages. Any healer or tank hybrid will have as their dual spec DPS (or an alternate of their specialization - disc priest healing vs holy priest healing). I suspect a large chunk of DPS hybrids will have 2 DPS specs - one for arena and one for pve. For example ret PVE builds are very different from PVP builds. I really think they should allow tri-specs where each spec is a purchase. IE 500gp (or whatever gold amount) for 2nd spec, 1000 gp (or whatever amount) for 3rd spec.
Totally win-win. Although inscriptionists may have a reason to be unhappy. A raider will have to declare his spec and only take gear of that spec, but this has been the case for hybrids since BC. I guess we could see some inflation, as well? Respeccing may well be the largest existing money sink after armor repair.
Honestly for the most part it's win-win, and there's no reason to look at it otherwise.

When it comes to 'instant gratification', I don't understand this viewpoint. The game as a whole is not 'instant gratification', considering you have to work well over a month at least on a single character (average playtime) to get to a point where this aspect is even relevant... Take that and the fact that you would have to work extra hard to get two sets of gear (which, really, is something that serious raiders do anyway) considering the dual role classes, and then have to actually learn both ways of playing. Copra incorrectly assumes that by switching specs you are automagically granted superior expertise in the ~playing~ of that class... Other than simple QQing, I don't get the reason for the remark.

This will be a godsend for our guild. The main reason behind the move is to allow more people access to raids and give guilds more flexibility on recruiting than was available in the past. Instead of shoving players aside because 'those slots are full', the question becomes now 'do you have a geared dual spec'? My main is a Holy Pally, levelled Holy Pally and my wife is a Prot Pally, levelled Prot Pally. Now, we are the best two at what we do in our guild, so it's not like we'd be asked to respec, but if the option were there for my priest, who levelled shadow, but has been constantly asked to raid Holy, this is a great option. Now, instead of paying 50g a day just to do dailies, I can switch specs and go do my thing.

The point here is OPTIONS. The simple fact that your healer is keeping your sorry aggro pulling butt alive should have you clamoring to get this done for them, not to mention the poor tank spending 100g in repair bills every night and doing dailies just to keep up her armor.

Dual Spec is win, and there is no legitimate way to gripe about it.
Hey, Frost mages have usefulness on Sapphiron. Frost mages have a little something called Ice barrier, which absorbs over 3k damage. So, all those frost aura ticks thats hitting the raid and making your healers crazy? Not hitting the frost mage near as hard. Create a cast sequence macro for frost ward and ice barrier and absorb a ton of damage. Also, mages make great decursers. Assign your frostmage to curses, and to use FFB in between curses, and you have a DPS class thats still pulling 1k or better, handling all the curses, and hardly taking any damage. That's one less person the healers have to worry about, the healers dont have to deal with the curses, and still pulls average dps. I've pulled that role two times on Sapphiron as deep frost, and both times was complimented by the raid for making a huge difference. The healers don't have to worry about me hardly at all, I handled all the curses, and still did ok dps.

Now, having said all that, if I could switch to FFB on the fly for a raid boss, I would. I love deep frost, the Water elemental has saved me and my 5-man parties countless times, but I just can't compete DPS wise.
Oh and Tobold I have to do it " having just one talent build, you'll have (too)" typo alert 4th paragraph! heh

Fixed. This is just the sort of typo a spell-checker doesn't catch.
The "choice" argument is illusory. You chose to have a build that helped groups more, but along with that you were forced to take a build that completely sucked for soloing.

Note that people can still decide to NOT take a group build. A warrior might choose fury for soloing, and arms for pvp, and not tank at all. In fact I know so many warriors that hate tanking that they probably will do that. Similarly a priest could be shadow for soloing and disc for pvp (the disc pvp talents being a little different).

So.. the choice of a group holy trinity build can still be ignored.
The intent of dual-specs isn't to force everyone to be able to fill multiple trinity roles. It's just being used as a way to make it easier for people to have a healer or tank spec and thus be able to fill that role. That, in turn, means it's easier for groups to find the roles they need. Which is good for PuGs, good for small guilds, good for big guilds, good for leveling guilds, good for hardcore raiders, good for casual PvPers, and good for developers (since they can be more flexible in how many of each role an encounter requires). I see it being bad for hardcore PvP depending on how easy it is to shift specs in the middle of a fight (the resto druid/boomkin example in the arena).
I think it's win/win for most classes, but being a paladin i enjoy tanking and dps'ing. While for most classes this means thye will have a raid and pvp build, i'll most likely have a raid tank, and raid dps build (due to having 2 tanks is not always optimal), while still needing to respec for pvp (heaven forbid they force me to take a healer 2nd build).

I think a better solution would be to have up to 4 spec's that you buy with increasing costs. Much like bank slots.
they should also remove the need to be in a city to glyph, but also not let you save your glyphs while changing specs.

This would cause more people to take generic glyphs that could be used for multiple builds (like paladins have a glyph that gives us 2% mana back on spiritual attunement, could be useful for any build) or buying more glyphs to carry around to become more specialized when changing specs (like the flash of light, holy light, seal of command glyphs). I think that would really help inscription take off again.

The concept of dual specs isn't game breaking.. it's just nice to be able to do. I think blizzard sees people like me, and knows that even without this in the game i've been at respec gold cap for years. I tend to have to respec at least once a day. I think the longest i've gone without respec'ing has been a week. So this will not change the game for me, it will only make it slightly more convenient.

I already carry 3 sets of gear around all the time, so my inventory needs are not going to change either.
I can understand people saying that dual-spec would ruin the choice element of the game. However, I think this is more than outweighed by the fact that tanks and healers have no place in solo questing, but they are essential for instances, creating in itself a serious compromise whichever route you take.

I have tried levelling a healer, it sucks, I have tried levelling a tank, it sucks, I have sat in LFG for 2 hours trying to find a party for a less popular instance... yup, you guessed it, it sucks! I have the utmost respect (or derision? hehe) for people that level from 0 to cap as anything other than DPS spec, because I know I couldn't.

An alternative to help with instances would be to have cross or multi-realm instances, I often wondered why, if you can make a PVP instance multi-realm then surely it wouldn't be that difficult to make a PVE instance multi-realm? Come on Blizzard, do something, pull your finger out!
I really, really can't wait for dual spec. I have to spend 50g every time I want to quest, and another 50g to heal my guild during instances. I'm in a very small guild and the amount of money that I earn from questing and instances is not enough to cover my repair bills and respecing costs.

As for the gear, I doubt that I'm the only resto druid who still wears their resto gear while being a balance druid. I don't need +hit to kill normal mobs, and I don't plan on raiding as balance.

I don't see how this would ruin the game at all. It's all about choice, and you can choose not to participate in it as well.
I am looking forward to dual spec.

Leveling my resto shaman from 70 to 80 was a boring chore - I don't have damage-boosting talents that DPS specs do, so killing and questing is slow.
Soloing as healer is frustrating enough that I'm not very willing to log in as my healer - daily quests are not very fun, zone quests are not very fun, farming mats the same.

I don't mind healing dungeons, but the rest of the game is just less fun as a healer. If I could dual spec, I might enjoy playing my shaman as dps when solo, and healer when grouped. If I can't dual spec... I just don't play him much, which means it's harder for the server to find a healer.
Blizzard should make it a (good) questline that allows you to have two kinds of specc. This way I could like it. Otherwise it is a cheap trick that removes WoW even further from a 'credible' universe.
"Otherwise it is a cheap trick that removes WoW even further from a 'credible' universe."

Are you kidding me? I would be dollars to donuts that you do not play a healing/tanking class, Nils.

I honestly do not see how adding dual spec, questline or not, is any different from my flying to Org, spending 50g, and becoming a damage dealer rather than a healer. Oh wait...the fact that it doesn't require me to pay gold everytime I want to farm, quest, or do dailys and then pay MORE gold to spec back to raid/instance, thus making the game more enjoyable for me. are right, it's a cheap trick and doing things that will improve the overall enjoyment of the game for those people that play generally thankless jobs makes it less "credible". Oh wait...your flailing credibility must be related to the fact that you have also likely just improved the enjoyment of your realm by increasing the number of tanks/healers now open for that 5 man you spend 2 hours looking for a tank/healer to complete. You know, on second thought, maybe you are right, giving that fury warrior the option to become prot for an instance with no monetary reprecussions to him completely invalidates WoW. /sarcasm

Honestly, if half the nay-sayers for the duel spec took the time to actually educate themselves on how the feature is going to work (i.e. no, you are not going to be able to change spec mid-instace/mid-combat; yes there is going to be a cooldown on changing that will not allow you to do it multiple times in a very short period of time, but that will still make it a viable feature, etc.) instead of grousing over the idea, I think there would be a lot less negativity from some people surrounding the concept.

Just my 2 cents.

Wow was never a "credible universe." It's not meant to be either. It pays homage to a fantasy world with characters and stories and so on. But in order to function as an MMO, it needs to be a video game. If people can suspend their disbelief over respawning mobs and a relatively static world, they can do it for dual-specs. This change is not significant in light of all the other video-gamey stuff that makes Wow work.
This way I could like it. Otherwise it is a cheap trick that removes WoW even further from a 'credible' universe.

Non-persistant universe, FTW? Seriously, credible? It's a game. The only way to make it credible would be that only one person would be able to complete X quest. How many times can you kill Y mob?

So long as dual spec doesn't also cost 50g a pop, I'm all for it.

Paper is cheap, I can remember my raid spec. Time (translation, gold) is not.
Dual speccing definitely seems to be getting a lot of attention lately - which is great because maybe Blizzard will hurry up and release it sooner ;) Ultimately I think any system which gives more flexibility will be great. I hope it results in more people grouping at lower levels. WoW needs more active grouping!
Dual-Spec is both good and bad.

It's good in that it allows guilds that don't have enough of one archetype to get going into raids - and this is arguably the biggest stumbling block to raiding short of "bad players". Getting more players to enjoy the game is always a good thing.

It's bad in that WoW started life as an MMO and is now something so different that the original idea of having 3 archetypes with the availability of different usages via a talent tree has completely failed. Why not reconsider the archetypes themselves instead of allowing people to dodge respeccing costs? Indeed, why did we have a barrier to respeccing in the first place?
Copra, it's my dedication to my wife and children that make me want this sort of flexibility in a game. I can fill multiple roles, and help my guild with pretty much anything they want as a Druid, without needing to waste time respeccing or grinding the gold to do so. I get more out of my gaming time with more options, which means I can get more done in-game in the limited time I have after taking care of my family.
the funny thing si that certain talents have already been nerfed so as not to be required for any one spec.

Defiance for warriors, for example, was a prot talent that increased threat in def stance. then blizz decided they wanted dual wielding titans grip warriors to be able to tank, too, so they took that talent out (and even added bonus threat to skills like MS :/)

now here comes dual spec, but that talent is gone... it just seems counter intuitive. I imagine those warriors that hate tanking (there's a lot of them) will just go arms and fury (or druids will go feral and boomkin, or palys will go AOE ret and single target ret, etc etc etc), and we'll sill have the same problem.

Dual spec won't suddenly make people *want* to tank or heal. they avoid it now because it brings responsibility with it, and not many people find the R-word very enjoyable in their gaming.
Tobold, I dunno if that has been mentioned, but I feel like dual spec's opens up this topic...

Why not move to a system like guild wars has, where you are free to rearrange your talents any time you are in town (or out of combat). They even let you save different builds to easily switch between them. Obviously, everyone will still need the right gear for the spec they are using, but now you can main heal, group heal, dps, pvp, quest, or whatever.

Anyways, thats my two cents.
@Copra Or you can excel at more than one thing. I find your attitude disturbing. Specialisation is for insects. What if you just don't want to heal 100% of the time, should you not be allowed to do it at all?

It definitely will affect people's self images in game though. I've been thinking about that myself lately.
@Tesh Being a family guy, I hear you. Then again, I've taken the path much like Tobold: levelling a prot warrior, holy priest and earlier a feral druid, whom healed from time to time up to Hellfire. With just switch of gear. I still think that this takes the system out of the genre of fantasy RPG MMO towards fantasy MMO game. Latter meaning that it's parrot's droppings worth what the surroundings or the vistas are, the main thing is to min-max.

@Spinksville You find my attitude disturbing? Hmm... nice to hear that from someone, especially based on one comment. However, the more I think of it, the more I'm convinced that dual spec (specialization for insects, you say) server certain hybrid classes more than overall population. Except in the case of having builds for PvE and PvP. For warriors, the last patch made protection spec quite capable of damage dealing, making it in fact pretty easy to level. Of course it's not the same as Fury, but it's easier than earlier. The same with Holy priests: I can solo with it, though not with the same ease than Shadow: shadow cannot heal with same ease, that much I've seen and experienced already.

In the bottom is the question of what do you want from this MMO. For some it's 'just a game' with fancy graphics, which means that it's just something to win. For some it's RPG, where the dedication to the class and/or the character is the main thing and the 'game' is not meant to win but experience. Dual specs just enforce the game aspect, IMHO, and further the need for min-maxing overall.

"The "choice" argument is illusory. You chose to have a build that helped groups more, but along with that you were forced to take a build that completely sucked for soloing."
That's the whole point. You are making a choice with consequences - do you want to solo efficiently but be less desirable in groups or vice versa? If your decisions have no potential down-side, they may as well not be there. A game where your choices make no difference is simply dull.

"Personally I wish Blizzard could add more than duo spec"
It's hard to imagine a single one of the arguments used in favour of duo-spec not also applying to tri-spec (or even more). If you can have a solo spec and a raid spec, why not a PvP one as well? Once duo-spec comes, the pressure will start for "multi-spec". It's very hard to stop this snowball once it starts rolling.

Ultimately, multi-spec just makes the whole talent tree system pointless. You're no longer being forced to make a decision, which is the whole point of the different trees. As I've said in previous posts, the logical consequence of this is simply to delete talent trees altogether and just give classes different stances they can switch between at will. I don't approve of this, as it removes a significant level of skill (and hence fun) from the game.
@ Sven -
Even with infinite specs, the talent system still holds value because you can only ever have 71 talent points allocated at once. Assuming that specs cannot be switched in combat/with a CD/etc., a player still has to choose which abilities they will have for any given fight. For example, a healing priest can walk into an arena with both damage mitigation talents (Silent Resolve/Blessed Resilience) to make them a very tough healer, but they'll run out of mana much quicker than someone who allocates those points differently. The skill isn't removed from the game - it's merely shifted. Players used to have to be skilled at filling specialized roles with a generic talent build (almost never done at endgame) or be skilled at finding situations that use their specialization. With dual-specs, multi-specs, or even infinite-specs, players need to be skilled at choosing the correct tools for the job and using them efficiently.

I'd agree with you that the challenge isn't completely eliminated, but I do think that it's significantly reduced, because players have effectively been given more tools to do the same job.

Of course if the difficulty of future content is increased to compensate, that might make up for it. The downside of that is that you might end up with the situation Tobold described, where raiders are effectively "required" to use all their specs for boosting raid performance.
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Copra, I'm not sure if I should laugh or cry. The level of severity and seriousness you bring to this subject is bizarre. Even if everything you so boldly and broadly state, assume, and generalize is true, of what are you afraid? If player (A) decides to avoid dedication (as you put it) to all aspects of his life how does that directly affect you? Would you remove re-specialization altogether in an attempt to force people to adhere to your methodology? Do you think that everyone that takes part in dual specialization would suffer from the inability to play their classes to your liking? Would you lock in only a certain type of play style that - through complex algorithms - you've deemed better and/or more effective? Or, would you simply play the game the way YOU wish to play the game, and allow others the freedom to do the same?

Giving paying customers additional flexibility makes complete sense. Don't be too quick to draw so many analogs to real-life when discussing World of Warcraft. It IS a game, and I doubt very seriously that most of Blizzard's clients view it as a second job, or something of equal dedication, nor would they WISH it to be so. For most - at least those that I know - do not want the same rigorous regulation and dedication required in real life... this is an escape from life, not an alternate version of life.

Given the choices here, I'd much rather have a game where I have some flexibility and enjoyment vs. a strict draconian environment that only fits the RPG model you envision. If I had wanted to play such a game, I wouldn't be playing World of Warcraft, and I sure as hell wouldn't dictate your game play to you.
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