March 4, 2008

WINDFURY OR DIE!!! World of Warcraft's PvE-PvP Break

A post over at WoWInsider details a bit of frustration coming from World of Warcraft players recently in regards to class changes made by Blizzard in an attempt to balance Arena matches.
Are we really ready to split the game into World of Warcraft and Warcraft Arena? There will no doubt be a lot of players who want to continue to play their characters in both PvE and PvP, balance be damned. But if Blizzard is as committed as they seem to be to balance Arena as precisely as it needs to be balanced to turn it into a real e-sport, they may have to eventually make the jump and separate the two games completely.
I couldn't agree more. Blizzard has reworked classes, rebuilt talent trees, and tweaked classes in the past. Minor changes were often held back and packaged with other changes to ensure a more comprehensive change for the intended class. Also, past changes had a much broader focus intended to fix problems in PvE and PvP. Most of all, they were never aimed at fixing one specific problem in one specific instance.

Unfortunately, this policy has changed as Blizzard begins a series of directed class and game changes with Patch 2.4 that are aimed squarely at fixing specific Arena problems with little regard to the game as a whole. Enhancement Shamans are getting a semi-overhaul aimed at making them competitive in 3vs3 arenas (quote from dev needed). Drinking is getting nerfed, but only while in an Arena. The Warlock ability life tap, is being significantly scaled back since it is a bit overpowering in Arena matches.

I want to focus on the Shaman changes, because I have played an Enhancement Shaman since late beta. The Shaman changes to the Ghost Wolf, Totem global cooldown, and Toughness help give a little more utility to skills that sparingly see use in PvP and normal play. The totem change will assist greatly in boosting PvE for all Shamans.

One of the main Enhancement Shaman changes, the addition of an anti-healing de-buff to the Flame-Tongue weapon skill, is pin-pointed at improving Enhancement Shamans in only a very specific instance: 3vs3 arenas. In my honest opinion, that is an asinine move on Blizzard's part.

Three out of the four weapon buffs available to Shamans have been all but useless since the game was released. Shamans have pleaded for changes to make them more equally balanced instead of the current standard of WINDFURY OR DIE!!! Instead of admitting that there might be an issue, Blizzard simply tacks on an unneeded addition to Flame Tongue to fix a very specific problem in a very specific instance for a very specific spec.

This just drives me mad. The Enhancement spec is completely pigeon-holed to start with, and now Blizzard makes changes to pigeon-hole them even further in a specific role. I'm not a game designer, but it makes sense to me that class design changes should be aimed at the overall experience of the class, not just a specific instanced problem. For whatever reason, Blizzard has abandoned this approach.

Which brings me to the whole point of this post. World of Warcraft needs to be divided into World of Warcraft: The Game Everyone Enjoys and World of Warcraft Arenas: Serious Business Only. This would allow Blizzard to take far more drastic measures to balance classes for e-Sport competitiveness. Also, it eliminates the gear inflation occurring with the current Arena system. Most of all, it allows those of us who actually enjoy the other aspects of WoW without the hindrance of class changes meant to fix Arenas only (which in turn screws the rest of the game over).

Maybe then, Blizzard could get around to fixing the other weapon buffs for Shamans.