How’s dual specs working out for you?

I’ve been looking forwards to dual specs for a long time.

Perhaps it’s chronic indecision or just liking to explore different options for my characters. Perhaps it’s  the lure of saving gold on something that I was doing anyway (ie. switching specs a lot). Or perhaps it’s just that I hate being locked into a single role the whole time, especially when it gets in the way of something else that I wanted to do.

And Ulduar has been cool and all, but the dual specs is hands down my favourite part of 3.1.

This really came home to me the other night, when we were able to get a 10 man run together. Dual specs gave us some options in the raid to have people switch specs for one boss encounter or other so that we could try different tactics.

I switched to Fury so that we could fight XT-002 with one less tank and one more dps. We had a shadow priest switch to Holy for one fight where we felt that we needed an extra healer. We had the retribution paladin switch to Holy for a different fight where we needed an extra healer but wanted the priest helping to nuke adds.

I didn’t specifically look for a paladin and priest when lining up the dps section. But since we had them, and they had dual specs and were happy to heal occasionally, we used them.

As far as I can tell, everyone was happy. We killed a couple of new bosses. The dual specced guys got to feel that their investment was immediately and actively useful. No pure dps were shut out to make room for hybrids, it just happened that I invited anyone who wanted to come as long as their dps was up to scratch.

And yes, in future, I’d be comfortable running Ulduar (10) with two full time healers and one hybrid who had a healing spec and knew how to use it, rather than three healers.

Is it unfair to hybrids?

One of the issues people foresaw with dual specs is that it would put pressure on hybrids to gear up and learn to play an extra role, whether they wanted to or not.

In a casual guild and alliance like mine, that really isn’t an issue. Obviously if we are short on healers, it is a bonus if a hybrid offers that option, but then again, if we’re short on healers we’ll be recruiting more healers.

This may change later when people are less enthused about the new raid instance and signups dry up. When you can only just make the numbers, it’s a huge bonus to be able to assign people to multiple roles as needed.

For a more hardcore guild, this is likely to be an issue. If, for example, you are recruiting a new boomkin and one applicant has great resto gear and experience and the other doesn’t, it’s going to be a factor.

But how much of a factor really does depend on the guild. It’s probably no worse than the pressure that already existed for hybrids to zip off and respec as needed.

Playing a hybrid now in WoW probably does involve being able to fill more than one role. Maybe those classes were always bad design decisions, maybe it’s unfair that some classes have access to more roles than others, maybe it isn’t fair on the players who really did want to just specialise.There will always be some players who buck the trend and stick to one role anyway. And not everyone needs to play and gear both specs to raid level. I think it will work itself out in time. But expectations have changed and when experienced players reroll hybrids, they should figure on learning more than one role. (Probably they did anyway.)

But at least we now have an answer to: Why should I play a hybrid in WoW?

A: Because you want to play more than one role in game and are willing to spend extra time gathering gear and learning your different specs.

It still doesn’t answer the question: what if you don’t know what you might want to do at endgame when you create your character? It does give more options, but there’s extra pressure too.

Is it unfair to pure dps classes?

I honestly have not seen any situation where a pure dps class was benched to make room for a dual spec hybrid. The game simply doesn’t require that level of role switching.

I know there was some concern that a dual specced hybrid could enter a raid as either dps or healing and therefore had more raid spots available, but no one has equally good gear and practice in playing two specs.And in the case of people with PvP specs, the other spec may not be raid relevant anyway.

So in practice, everyone has a preferred spec and one which they can switch to if needed. No one would take a dps hybrid as a healer if they could take someone who specialised and geared for healing as their priority instead. It’s there as a backup.

The most difference it might make is that 1/2 dps slots might be reserved for hybrids if the raid leader likes the extra flexibility. And frankly, if you weren’t already taking at least two hybrids in your 25 man dps team then you’re running an unbalanced raid anyway.

The future for dual specs

To me, dual specs raises at least as many questions as it answers. I know that I enjoy the flexibility of playing more than one spec to raiding levels. It will be hard for me to go back to another game where you’re fixed in a role.

I also feel bad for all the hybrid players who face increased pressure to dual spec when they really didn’t want to. It may not have been the devs intention but the game is now making it easier and easier to do this.

But what does that say about the whole core design features that players should pick a role when they first create a character and never deviate from it?

Character classes in MMOs have tended to specialise. Games have rewarded specialisation and players who try to make jack-of-all-trade characters are mocked as noobs. This isn’t just true in WoW, but in pretty much most of the MMOs I’ve played.

This is also true in pen and paper games, but a large part of pen and paper games involves talking to NPCs, investigating mysteries, and … basically doing non-class specific activities. Fighting is a small part of the game. Also, a human GM can tailor the game to the players. If one player really wants a jack-0f-all-trade character then the GM can make sure that they encounter situations where being average at a wide range of skills really pays off.

I think that if we’re ever going to really escape the tyranny of class specialisation, MMOs need to provide more non-fighting things to do. It doesn’t matter what class you are when you are crafting or making your fortune on the auction house, after all.

How’s dual specs working out for you? Does it make you want to try a multi-role class if you aren’t already playing one?

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7 thoughts on “How’s dual specs working out for you?

  1. I played a Warlock and quit for different reasons already in December 2008.

    But yes, it makes one jealous of the more flexible classes. That is the problem. If I am as DPS is a raid, sure, nobody is even thinking that your pure DPS class could switch to a healer, of course.

    It makes it easier to get into an instance group if you can spot-fill the required role of tank/dps/healer just as needed.

    This makes the idea of being a hybrid class in a dual spec world so much much more attractive than ever before.

    I think you have seen the link to the armory statistics page on Tesh’s blog that shows a rise of hybrid classes and a decline of specialists (specialists are always the pure DPS classes, so it is almost synonymous).

    But to expand your question: I would probably pick the Death Knight class and no longer the Warlock. I probably would then still not do it, as everyone and his daughter has a DK.

    I would not pick a Paladin either… my old main was a Paladin, and well… Retribution was not viable back in the days, tanking hardly accepted and healing people was not my thing. I always felt so responsible when they died! :)

    Druid? I want to see the rear of my pretty witch, not a big bear butt.

    So yeah… witch is a witch is a witch… I would still pick the Warlock class, despite its huge problems and core flaws inherent to the class design.

    http://www.flarn.com/~warlock/tarot/fantastical/15.html

    Do not laugh, I score in different tests always as the devil, and I do not do it intentionally. :)

    I also prefer the Alliance. Always did. Those playing blood elves are just guys who want to look human and play the supposedly cool Horde side!

    Like my friends Steve and Andre, the traitors deserted to the Horde once I quit! (Playing Paladin and Shaman – did you notice a trend, they picked hybrid classes. They were Warrior and Rogue before.)

    • “It makes it easier to get into an instance group if you can spot-fill the required role of tank/dps/healer just as needed.”

      True, but it also makes it easier for more groups to form, which benefits everyone. Even as dps, if you can get a group formed by grabbing a hybrid who can switch to heals, it means you may not have to spend as long in channel ‘LF healer’.

      And I would never laugh at the devil, much :)

  2. As a raid officer two observations so far:

    1) When recruiting it’s probably more viable to recruit hybrids or at least not be hybrid-light. If we need one more ranged dps a boomkin/healer future proofs us better than a mage would.

    2) When you have too many tank (we do for our 25s) it’s a little frustrating if someone can’t be versatile so has to always tank or be a passenger. We like to spread it around for fairness reasons. Also our tanks who can do two jobs are better geared than the guy who can only tank.

    • That’s a good point on #1. But I’m figuring you still want to be able to spread the loot around so a balanced dps group is still better than a stacked one. I have noticed raid guilds on AD looking for boomkins though.

      In one case, amusingly, they are demanding boomkins with pre-Wrath raiding experience. There are only two of those on horde side and one is already in their guild! And the other applied and got turned down. So not entirely sure who they’ll get.

  3. “But what does that say about the whole core design features that players should pick a role when they first create a character and never deviate from it?”

    I’ve railed against this for a while now. I count flexibility a huge plus, to the extent that any game I design will be very flexible, and any game I pay to play will offer flexibility.

    This is especially true in an MMO, where the game is overwhelmingly repetitious by design. I want the ability to approach the game in different ways without alts.

    “I think that if we’re ever going to really escape the tyranny of class specialisation, MMOs need to provide more non-fighting things to do.”

    Aye, indeedy. The “combat all the time” mantra is a huge part of the grind and ennui. It’s fine for a while, but it’s terribly shallow when it comes to “virtual world” design. Have you read Raph’s “The Evil We Pretend To” article?

    I’ve also suspected that PUGs would go smoother with Dual Spec. (A theme I expanded upon when rambling about giving *everyone* a tank/dps/healing triad of specs.) Mechanics like this that make it *easier* for people to get together and play are far more palatable to me than those that *force* people to get together. Soft sell vs. hard sell, as it were.

    Of course, I’m biased, always going for the “jack of all trades” sorts of characters, even in a strict class design. Sometimes that works, like WoW’s Druid, sometimes it doesn’t. I simply don’t always want to do the same thing every time I log in.

    • I think I’m a bit burned out on jack of all trades classes. Every time I’ve played one, it turned out to be really undertuned compared to the (more boring) pure classes. It’s almost like they don’t want you to be able to do lots of different things well :)

      But I do remember as a new player it seemed clear to me that it was better to put a few points in lots of different talents than to heavily specialise. I don’t think I have ever forgiven MMOs for being so achievement-focussed that everyone else would sneer if you did that.

      But yeah I hear you totally. Why should you want to do the same thing every time you log in?

      I have read Raph’s article and honestly I’m a huge fan. One of the things I love about both his writing and Richard Bartle’s is that they so totally /get/ the things I personally care about in games. I know that sounds arrogant but I’m so happy that it isn’t just me.

      • Agreed on all counts.

        Maybe you’re just stating the obvious there, but I’ll echo it: I really do think that many if not most devs don’t want people playing generalists. They are trickier to tune. Whether it’s conscious or not, I don’t think that devs really want to deal with making that sort of subtle variability in a class work in all potential situations.

        It’s pretty easy to fire up a DPS, Healer or Tank class and tune the numbers (which is why the trinity is easy to use; it’s pretty simple design), but when you’ve got a character that can do almost anything, well… that’s more work to develop.

        Still, I’d rather *play* a well-designed jack of all trades than a one-note flute. Even if it winds up undertuned and underpowered, I wind up getting more out of it. That’s just me, though. *shrug*

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