[Last one on Blizzcon] Always in motion the talent system is

Eric at Elder Games has some thoughts on the changing WoW talent systems. He’s not impressed, and it’s nothing to do with the new streamlined design or any special attachment to talent trees. This is about whether it’s something players wanted, or something the game needed.

having just rewritten the talent system from scratch in the last expansion, and having finally worked out the major kinks over the past year, does it make sense to erase everything yet again in order to try something new yet again? The answer is no. There are better things for the systems designers to be doing.

Blizzard do seem to spend a lot of time designing new talent systems and then refining them with every patch, it’s true. The only motivations I can really see to do it all over again is:

  • Players hate the current system and are leaving in droves because of it. (Like Eric, I don’t think this is a cause of people leaving WoW at the moment.)
  • They can draw in more players with the simplified system, it’s an investment.
  • This will be the last time ever. Promise. It’s refactoring once now and will then be fit for purpose until the end of the game. I’m sure this was the hope last time too.

None of these arguments are based on whether the new system is good or not. I think it is a more streamlined design that focusses on actual options that will make a noticeable difference to someone’s play. But I also think you can get talent fatigue as a player. Every time the talent trees change and you have to go through the process of figuring out your character again, a bit of the link between player and character dies.

And it’s still true that they could have spent that time and effort working on a new system instead.

Their actions speak a lot louder than words: to Ghostcrawler and team,perfecting the existing game is more important than adding new stuff. The trouble is that nothing is ever perfect, so revisions will never end. And in the meantime, there’s no cool new stuff.

My Last Words on the Annual Pass

Check out the comments on yesterday’s post for some good ideas about why the annual pass doesn’t come with a 12 month sub option (so you can just press one button and buy it.) I’m not convinced, but maybe you will be ;)

I do take issue with Tobold claiming that if you get the pass, your effective monthly sub is reduced to $8.  That argument only makes sense if you were planning to buy D3 at release from Blizzard directly. Just about any other route would make it cheaper. So yes if you pretend you had been going to spend as much as possible on D3, you can now pretend you have saved all that money.

My other thought is that when players are thinking about leaving WoW, they are likely to drop down to a one month sub for a month or two while they think about it. Signing up for an annual pass means that people won’t be doing that, and probably won’t be thinking about it either.

The tipping point for me personally was when I did actually start unsubscribing during slow months when I wasn’t playing. To do that, I also disassociated with my raid group – they’re nice guys and I wish them all the luck in the world, but I wasn’t actually enjoying it so it wasn’t making sense. See, as soon as the idea “Maybe I will just unsub when I’m not playing” enters your head, you don’t really expect to be paying annual subscriptions any more unless they are coming in at a good discount.

So for me to sign up, it would have needed an annual sub option that came in cheaper than two 6-month subs,  along with the other annual pass perks. At that point, I would have seriously considered it and I suspect I’m not alone. By not having that option, they lost out.

15 thoughts on “[Last one on Blizzcon] Always in motion the talent system is

  1. One thing with the analysis of the talent revamp is that it’s not taking into account the cost of updating the Cata system to accommodate adding 5 levels. The Cata talent trees break down once you add even a single new talent point (giving access to the third tier abilities), and it’s possible the development time to redo all 30 trees would have been greater than the time to develop the new, conceptually simpler system. Even if it’s not greater, the choice isn’t between “new talent tree vs. brand new system”, it’s “new talent tree vs. redoing old system and maybe doing something else.”

    Personally, I like the new system. I think it creates more meaningful choice in building your character, but the thing that has me most excited is that it ties a lot interesting abilities to the class and not the spec. Shadowfury as a warlock ability is a lot more fun than being destro only.

    • I take your point about it being difficult to add more talent points to the current system, but still, why didn’t they think of that at the time they were revamping it? To me it does imply, “Oh yeah, this might be an issue going forwards but we can always just redesign it all again.”

      • It is easy with hindsight to say we should have thought of this earlier.

        I like the new talent system, it is probably the announcement that has me the most interested in the new expansion. It really has the potential to make the game more fun for me, and I am really looking forward to it.

      • I think they wanted to try a half measure because large changes can be alienating. But the half measure didn’t work, so they’re biting the bullet.

        I like the new system for several reasons, including: (1) no more need for a separate PvP spec (so in effect we get tri-spec without the need for 3 specs), and (2) there is the possibility of adding fourth, fifth, etc. “trees” for a class without huge impact. Druids are getting a fourth tree, apparently.

      • But couldn’t this be said about almost any of the talent vamps they have done so far? Even going so far back as to vanilla and the first patch-by-patch passes. I think it is possible that this talent revamp has been on the board for a long time; I mean the Cata “revamp” primarily just involved consolidating 41 points into 31. This may have been intended all along. Really at this point it comes to a matter of personal philosophy on balance as to whether this was worthwhile. If you don’t mind the game being somewhat unbalanced and would prefer new systems then yeah, it sucks. It comes down to a quality v. quantity argument which each person will view differently.

  2. Yeah I think they’ve lost out. I’ve read a number of times that players are generally the losers in these long duration subs, most people think they will play much longer than they actually do.

    Possibly a lot of people would have paid 12 months then played for less than one.

  3. We don’t really know how much time was spent on the new talent system. Maybe it’s a pet project of some developer who wrote it in unpaid overtime. Or maybe GC developed it during his vacation. Might also be that they had to refactor some parts of WoW for other changes coming with panda and that new system nearly developed itself.

    From the outside it’s hard to tell what the implementation of this new system did cost and what else they sacrificed to get it implemented.

    > But I also think you can get talent fatigue as a player.
    > Every time the talent trees change and you have to go
    > through the process of figuring out your character
    > again, a bit of the link between player and character
    > dies.

    Just look at all the changes to the talent trees between 4.0 and 4.4. For me that’s already more than enough to make me talent fatigue. Especially for alts.

    The new system has the potential to no longer require so many tweaks during an expansion because stuff like adding 3% more or less damage to some talent can be done behind the curtain.

  4. Rift vs WoW is a good comparison to make, Trion favours adding loads of new systems quickly versus WoW being more of a lumbering behemoth. Honestly can’t say which is better, WoW seems to have a higher success rate but much slower at updating. Rift seems very hit and miss, for me planar attunement and chronicles are a bit underwhelming, but look ‘instant adventures’ are coming and seem much more promising, highlighting ‘promising’ because if it is not developed further from the next patch onwards to incorporate invasions, pvp or crafting rifts, and expanded to other level ranges to give more variety when levelling, then it’ll be quickly dumped by players for the next new thing. Sure getting new things is exciting, but you want the developer to also be confident in their own design, rather than throwing everything and the kitchen sink at players and hoping something sticks, and being smart enough to recognize what the current playerbase enjoys doing.

  5. So if you get a new talent every 15 levels and in 5.0 you hit level 90, and each expansion is 5 levels, does that mean we have to wait till 8.0 before we get another talent?

    Somehow I don’t see this being the end of talent changes. After all do we really expect that the expansion after pandas will give no new talents to players? I expect every expansion will have a new talent system incorporated into it.

  6. I can sympathise that there can be too much ‘choice’ especially for players who ‘just want to play’ and not have to mess around with builds. But this talent massacre is several steps too far for me. Already leveling has lost some of its shine with gaps between talents and abilities. I’d rather they’d have added a ‘recommend for me’ button to hide the complexities of the original pre-Cata system than take it away step by step.

    As for the annual deal, well I see nothing I want to renew my subscription for at present and Diablo 3 is just not my style of game anymore (D1 was but that was a long time ago). I agree with other bloggers that I find it staggers belief that they still haven’t considered adding housing to the game yet they’re talking about a Pokemon system…

  7. “That argument only makes sense if you were planning to buy D3 at release from Blizzard directly. Just about any other route would make it cheaper.”

    I have to ask, where are these cheaper routes?

    In the past, Blizzard releases, like any popular, heavily promoted title, have traditionally sold at list price from outlets at launch and for a significant period of time thereafter.

    As a comparable, I checked Elder Scrolls: Skyrim on Amazon.com and they are offering a 1% discount, a full 45 cents off the list price. That isn’t enough of a discount to change Tobold’s 8 dollar a month calculation.

    It depends no the title of course, but I recall Burning Crusade selling for full list most places months after launch, when Vanguard was marked down to 75% off of list.

    • I probably have worse battle.net prices than you due to being in the UK and that we always get screwed on the exchange rates.

      By comparison, SC2 is £44.95 on battle.net and can be bought for £32.95 on amazon. I put in my preorder for D3 on amazon as soon as it was announced (ie. ages ago, since I knew they wouldn’t take the money until release) so got my copy locked in at £22 — but even if you buy it new here, there’s a good chance that battle.net will be the most expensive version. (But fwiw, if you preorder really early on amazon they often do offer good prices.)

    • Newegg had Skyrim $12 off over the weekend. So deals are out there, you just need to look and be fast. And of coursre getting a game 2 months later means even more deals.

      And Blizz doesn’t get $60 for D3. Therefore, even if this is a deal (which it’s not) the ones taking the hit are the other sellers.

  8. One of things I used to look forward to each expansion was building options in talent trees. They defined who my character was in RP sense as much as the story I developed behind her. It was wonderfully complex and creative. Now half of the that story telling system went “poof” at BlizzCon. No questions asked. Thus I won’t be returning to WoW for the next expansion…even if it where TBC epic. Part of the magic that was the talent trees is now gone from the game and replaced by quick and easy meh.

  9. The more I hear about the once and future status of Warcraft, the happier I am with my decision to quit playing in favor of a Lord of the Rings subscription, where I’m still playing in ‘the good old days’.

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