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?