Azeroth – Shared Topic for the week of July 18th, 2011
Shared Topic Idea: Game Balance
Ghostcrawler recently said that, in his estimation, the game is the most balanced it’s ever been. Agree? Disagree? And if it’s the most balanced, does that mean it’s enjoyable for you at the moment — have there, in other words, been more enjoyable, if less balanced, moments in the past?
– Ringo Flinthammer
So I went back and reread Ghostcrawler’s discussion of game balance and the victories and defeats of Cataclysm’s design. If you don’t recall his words particularly well, you can go back and read it for yourself here.
The short version is that Blizzard has been happy with the feeling of uniqueness that each class and spec is getting from much nearer the start of the leveling process than before. Additionally, the talent trees have been streamlined pretty nicely with some good choices required, and a few talents being truly optional or play-style preference choices. Overall, the choice of class and spec is much less of an issue nowadays than before where dps, tanking, or healing differences might swing wildly between different spec-of-the-moments.
On the bad side, Ghostcrawler indicates a wish to continue to add more choice and clean up some of the clunkier talents that still remain. (I would also point at the couple of mastery effects that are still being radically redesigned.)
Personally, Cataclysm has been about exploring a new realm, messing around with my crafting empire, and making copious amounts of gold from leveling alts and playing a bit on the AH. When I have settled down to run heroics, I have been mostly pleased with my own performance, but still occasionally feel the sting of being slow on startup as Affliction (and nothing will make me change to Destruction… Nothing!).
Across my alts, I have an Unholy Death Knight, a Fire Mage, an Assassination Rogue, and a Retribution Paladin. As I leveled, I noted some irregularities in power between them in certain situations, but overall was pleased with the relative powers that I had. None of the alts felt as good as my Warlock, but I chalk that up to experience and familiarity.
If I were asked to jump into a raiding guild and learn to tank as a Blood DK, or start healing as a Holy Pally, I feel like it would not take much time to gear myself and get running at speed. Any of my alts could easily morph into a main and hit up the dps charts and I would guess that I could manage approximately as well with any of them.
I tend to agree with Mr. Street. Cataclysm has brought monumental destruction to the face of Azeroth, and some wonderful reconstruction in the underpinning mechanics that make the game fun. There are still things that need some work, but the makeovers have made a difference. The critical success from my end is that although I feel I could manage equally well with a Paladin, Warlock, Mage or Rogue, each feels different for me.
My Paladin definitely gives me the feeling of powerful plate brick, doling out damage and taking some serious punishment in turn. My Rogue feels like a rocket, ready to burst in a blaze of glory and then vanish in the wind. The DK exudes vile power and the disease play stands out against the other melees I just mentioned. The Warlock and Mage have their own rotations and priorities and give unique look-and-feels.
Another little point before I wrap up. I still glance through most of the patch notes as they come out just to have a passing familiarity with the things going on in the game. I recall the myriad balance tweaks that came out during Wrath and I feel like they are coming fewer and further between these days. That tells me that Blizzard is doing less cranking on the knobs controlling class damage and balance. Less cranking means less need means the numbers from top to bottom are looking more even. That spells balance to me.
As I continue to push toward my goal of max level on each class, I will continue to explore the class balance issue up close and personal. Granted, most of my experience is in the leveling process and not in the raiding scene, but it might not be too long before I start to hit that content too. Maybe my eyes will be opened and my innocence shattered as the harsh realities of class imbalance become apparent. Maybe things are actually as good as they look. I really hope it is the latter. I’ll have to get back to you on that.