Tobold's Blog
Monday, March 12, 2007
Dream features: Solo / Group talent build switch

World of Warcraft has 8 million amateur game designers, all of them convinced that there are features that they could have designed better than the developers. :) So I thought I'd start a column where I discuss single features that I think are easy enough to implement and which could make World of Warcraft a much better game.

What we discussed frequently in the last weeks is the problem of people preferring a talent build which is optimal for soloing, but less-than-optimal for grouping. Add to that add dungeons in which less-than-optimal groups are unlikely to succeed, and you get a big problem. I know several people in my guild who changed their talent build repeatedly in the last couple of weeks, torn between the different requirements of different play styles.

It is obvious that Blizzard doesn't want us to have free respecs whenever we want, because that would mean that any two players of the same class would be exactly the same, just a few clicks away from having the same talent build. So we end up having only one semi-permanent build, which is only viable for certain modes of gameplay, and de facto excludes us from participating effectively in other sorts of gameplay. Why have a game in which you can solo, can group, can raid, can PvP, and then make it so that you can't do them all with one build?

So my suggestion would be the possibility to have not one, but two different talent builds for each character, with a simple button to switch between them. Thus you could have both your dps-heavy soloing build, and your group-friendly support build. There would still be a sense of uniqueness, for example my holy priest has a build with 23 points in discipline for the improved spirit buff, while another holy priest goes for the 41-point circle of healing holy talent instead. The talent build switch would allow us to go shadow priest, fury warrior, or feral druid whenever we are just soloing, or when we want to participate in PvP.
No, or limited respecs, are a Bad Thing(tm) imho. Let's say we'd compare it to MtG or almost any other TCG..

How was the first deck you ever built ?? What if almost anything you used in it was set in stone and that'd be the deck you would have to use for two years ? Yikes !

Especially for PvP: no respec means you cannot adjust to the metagame, or basically that there can be no real metagame short of rerolling to adjust.. Bad design imho...

Two builds (pve vs pvp or casual vs raid) could just be a bandage I think.. You're still stuck in the box, it's only a two-faced coin now..

And when they introduce major changes and give you a respec, I'm guessing a lot of people are rather nervous about doing it.. Getting stuck still, just in a different mold maybe ?

It should be more about being able to explore and try (how many articles are written about testing and optmizing decks in MtG ?) and giving paths to success and fun, instead of the system being a series of possible pitfalls...

I might just be spoiled -- but really after GW I think it would be very hard to get into something that was so strict.. Even Dungeon Runners, which is a rather simple and silly game, is planning to switch to a respec-friendly system soon..
As much as that'd probably be great, I can imagine people abusing that by switching their talents on the fly to abuse the damage and defense two different builds can bring.
Two Builds that you can switch between for free but only at a Trainer, and you only get charged a fee when you respec either or both Builds.
Whilst for example the hunter class would notice very little difference in gear required for switching between MM and BM, etc, a warrior would have to collect at least two distinct sets of gear for his endeavours. I actually like the current spec system. If you have the cash to abuse it, go ahead. It is intended as a semi-permanent way of giving your character some character. I like seeing our prot warrior as just that - rather than 'generic plate' who can switch dps or MT as and when required.

Is it limiting? Yes. It's designed that way. Choose a path for your avatar in game - and perfect it. If all warriors could switch to dps at the drop of a hat, why would we need rogues? 'This boss is ranged, so all the shamans switch to elemental for this fight', etc. You negate the need for careful raid planning and balance, we all become TOO flexible.

I see no problem (at least on a PVE realm) to have two specs, one for pvp and one for pve. Go into a battle ground instance arena and then go into PVP mode. Or perhaps have an instance spec (tank, healer) and a non-instance spec taht toggles when you enter an instance.

The player shouldn't have a choice of switching between specs anytime but instead have two(three?) specs defined by different purposes (group versus solo and/or pvp). These different specs would have to automatically switch for example entering an instance.Would certainly take the load off solo grinding healbots.
As a healer, I would love being able to solo something once in a while. But on the other hand, would that fix the problem, or would that make the guilds ask for 2 builds instead of only one? (Tree of life and Healing Touch for the win...)

The idea of forcing the player to go see a trainer is goo though
Terrible idea. There would be NO variation among the class. Everyone would use the cookie cutter, max PVE / max PVP template that was discovered to be the best.

Just stick to playing games, Tobold.
I like the idea a lot.

Would help getting groups for instances a lot.

2 Holy Priests? no worries, i can switch to shadow and do damage instead.

2 Tank Pallies, or Healing Pallys, one switches and you got both Healing and tanking sorted.

Hybrids just get really versatile, though you still need the right Equipment, as this matters a big lot in WoW.

I would prefer the "free" Respec though, as it helps people to experiment with different builds far more.

just my 2c

Being a healer, especially a holy priest, in WoW sucks. Suck it up or quit/go to another game.

I chose the quit route.

Oh yeah, paladins/druids/shamans can use the same healing spec for PvE and PvP, but the priest holy tree is such a POS that PvP talents are mutually exclusive with PvE talents.

Screw being a priest. Seriously.
They're stuck with their current system. I guess this topic came up from comments regarding DPS paladins and such. The problem is, that class effiency gets moved towards talents, the harder the content gets. DPS paladins up to level 60 could heal, offensive specced warriors could tank. Now with level 70 and way more sensitive content things get screwed.

WoWs classes besides DPS do stack really bad, based on the content design. E.g. try to beat Steamvaults last boss with two healers, next to impossible, cause you lack DPS and healing can not counter that. PvE is designed for players to adapt, not the otherway around.

There is hope so in the long run for content to change for players' setups. When they introduce the upcoming PvP matchmaking system, they should have a really solid base for future content to suit those profiles more than now. This is all future talk but it should be doable in certain limits. So the way to avoid situations where certain classes are useless is to change the content, rather to force player to change.

The current situation kinda like the "holy trinity" in EQ, shows weakness in class design in general. Core class roles become bound to talent trees, even for the entry tier content. All of the non-heroic instances should be solo healable by shadowpriests, feral druids, dps paladins or enhancement shaman. Heroic should force to specialisation, normals should not. This has nothing to do with content being too easy or too hard, it's about not rendering class styles next to useless, wich is the case for dps paladins right now. There are many players who played this way for the last two years and all of a sudden there is no subpar endgame content, wich gives those specs a place to exist. Even simple 5mans offer no purpose for your character, so much for "choosing your playstyle".

The DnT thing with all their hybrids being healbots, shows the core of WoWs class design. This makes you think how Blizzard is testing all their content internally, sure as hell without offspecced characters. A talent switch would be usefull and would make sense, but it would not fix big flaws in class- and pve-design.
Single feature, eh?

I'd want to fix healing and all the issues associated with it but I couldn't think of a single feature that would do any of that.

So....enable enchants to be sold on the auction house.

Leatherworkers can sell armor kits, why not let enchanters sell something similar?
I love the idea, and have mentioned it frequently. Of course, playing a priest, it's a topic near and dear to my heart since the best healing spec sucks to solo with. Druids probably are in a similar boat.

I see no reason why they can't have a place to switch your spec, even if you have to do it at a trainer, like someone else posted having. Two set builds you can swap at any time for free, but pay to altar would be good.
Hah. Non-heroics are entirely doable with a group of offspec toons, you just have to be a little more creative in your strategies and cast orders etc -- which is the entire point of being offspec anyway, no?

(Yes, I've cleared all the non-heroics with weird offspec groups and players I dearly hope I don't have to take to heroics because they're not good enough. They're really not that hard, I promise.)

Also, healing talents should be designed in such a way to give a modicum of soloability with a gear swap, if they aren't. And by all accounts the Priest holy tree sucks, fix it.

The PvP thing is fine. I'm a mage, I can be within 10% or so of an "optimal" solo/grinding build with a straight group-PvE sustained DPS build. I cannot, however, PvP worth a damn against competent players with that same group-PvE sustained DPS build. And I can't compete with PvE-specced DPS classes with a PvP build. Healers and tanks need to get off that particular horse; it's pretty much the same for everybody.

Ask yourself how often you'll take an MS warrior to a raid if you have the choice, or a BM hunter (though BM is much better in 5-mans nowadays), or an elemental Shaman.
I just think it should be a bit cheaper.
I think this idea is an excellent idea and I hope you take it to the suggestion forums on the wow website.
As a paladin I'd love to be able to have the ability to switch between two builds.
As always, keep up the good job with the blog!
I thought I'd play Devil's Advocate and point out the one "unfairness" I can see with having two specs: It would favor hybrids and non-dps classes over pure dps classes.

My main is a mage, and I know that being able to switch between two specs would not provide much more utility than keeping one build. Sure, it might help a little, but since mages basically do the same thing in any situation, pvp, soloing, group, raiding, a second build doesn't make as much of a difference. I'm betting it's about the the same thing with hunters rogues and warlocks, though their talent trees seem to give them more variety in my opinion.
HUGE advantage for warriors.
Completely unfair to hunters.

Should not be done.
I would love it. (and i have a hunter as my main).


PvP Build - Beastmaster is the most fun and i think most effective in PvP

PvE Build - MM gives the most group bonus and DPS. Pets tend to go down rather quickly in current Endgame instances.

Survival can be fun aswell, but is not as effective as other builds atm. In a 25 Man Raid it can still be nice to have one Survival Hunter, if you got a MM hunter fro Imp Huntersmark, so you get the exposed Weakness debuff.

It might not be as good for the hunter, as it is for the Warrior/Paladin/Priest/Druid, but still has its possibilities. Same goes for the mage, sure it is not a huge boost, but take the "old" Endgame MC /BWL was a Frostmages Paradise and the Firemages Hell. Same may be found in the coming endgame.

just my 2c ofc

No, that's not a good idea. I first imagined it could work like switching talent builds like I switch outfits with ItemRack. And it would be cool.

Or switch the build when you switch stances.

If I'm out soloing? Switch from Battle Stance to Berserker Stance, ItemRack Puts on Fury gear + Fury weapons, and the Stance change swaps in my Fury Build.

Does a group need me to tank? Put on Defense gear + sword & board + Protection build.

We've got 9 classes now. Mage, Warlock, Priest, Shaman, Hunter, Warrior, Paladin, Druid, & Rogue.

Effectively, however, we have a few more than this. Fire and Frost Mages. Demonologists and Destruction Warlocks. Holy Priests and Shadow Priests. Enhancement, Elemental, Restoration Shamans. Marksman and Beastmastery Hunters. Tanking Warriors, Fury Warriors, Arms Warriors. Holy Paladins, Retribution Paladins. Sword Rogues, Dagger Rogues. Feral, Resto, and Moonkin Druids.

These all play distinctly differently.

What you suggest would take this variety and boil it down to 9 ways to play.

A further consolidation and we could reduce that to cloth, leather, mail, and plate. Anyone want that game? Burnout is already a problem for some, despite having more than 20 different play styles. You want to reduce that to just 9, or how about 4? Cloth, Leather, Mail, and Plate. Or we could all be Druids.

I'd love the ability to talent swap. But I think that overall it would hurt the game more than help it. Making it shallower where folks are already standing on the bottom wondering "Is that all there is?"

And we already have the ability to change ours specs. It just costs us a little gold, and we can't do it on a whim.

And your suggesting sounds a little like Guild Wars with talents picked before you enter your instance. That's the equivalent of free respecs. But respecs on the fly? That'd be the equivalent of reducing playstyles. Not increasing them.

And selecting items in the talent tree? That's unfair too. May as well have all talents unlocked as well.

No, I think, in my humble opinion, that free respecs at will would not be a good thing.
I'd have to agree with Kinless on this one. The net result of multiple or easy talent switches boils down to less differentiation between characters. *And* more pressure on players to have a certain spec for groups or raids -- thus making them play the same.
How often would you take a shadow priest on a raid with you? Or a protection paladin? If you had a choice between a holy priest/shadow priest on a raid, and limited other options, you'd take the holy priest. Healing is that important.

All of my guild's paladins are healadins, I guess is what the allies call them. They can heal rings around us's pretty sad. Luckily, this means I can go shadow full out, which is not only fun, but incredibly nice once you get used to it.

But there are times where the guild's holy priests have gotten the nod over the shadow priests...because they can heal and choices were limited.
IMO, you should be able to swap (intown-only) your specs, and only to specs that you have previously paid for. This would be fine for raids (hearth+respec+resummon to accomidate for raid) and for pvp its not on the fly(leaving some weakness for your char during pvp).

I do disagree with their skill tree system (in general)for a few reasons, but as a whole it seems to offer more to the game than it takes away... so i wont complain endlessly about it.

If I were to redesign WoW-regarding skill trees I would simply not allow respecs at all, and just make the 1-70 grind 3x faster. This way you get MORE people doing the lower stuff MORE often, meaning MORE players doing the majority of the WoW content vs the 75%of the server diong endgame raidbosses all lvl 70(which is a very small part of what the game offers) (very stupid game design flaw imo).
Absolutely not.

I play both a 70 holy/disc priest and a 70 MS/Prot warrior. I've found ways to make my characters fun as solo PVE, group PVE, and PVP.

Find a spec, make it work.

Summary: L2P
Many of my dream features are much simpler.

Like the ability to turn off "so-and-so joined the channel" at an individual level instead of the channel level. Or having a smaller/hidden shoulderpad option.
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