Checking out the Warrior Q&A

I’m a big fan of Blizzard’s recent series of class Q&A (question and answer) articles. I like that the devs are willing to come out and chat about the design of each class, mechanics, unique aspects, and design issues that they’d like to highlight more in future. I’m finding the articles very interesting, even when I’d probably already guessed most of it.

I don’t really expect to be surprised by anything in a Q&A about a class I’ve been playing for awhile. Hopefully by that point I should have figured out what the unique parts are and what’s most fun about it — but it’s nice to see that those things are there by design (or at least that they’re well understood).

I know it shouldn’t surprise me when the bboards erupt with pent up aggression in the wake of each Q&A, complaining that they didn’t say enough, talked about the wrong things, or failed to give a detailed point by point prediction of all the buffs that are due to that class in the next year or so. I just think they’re missing the point. I guess people are just so desperate to engage with the developers (and talk about their character from a me-first point of view) that they aren’t that interested in the wider picture. I had a friend who went to GenCon once with a T-Shirt that said ‘Don’t tell me about your character’ … but I digress.

Anyway, onto the Warrior Q&A. Most of this won’t be surprising to anyone who knows the class. A lot of basic warrior issues are because the design goals the class was first created with became outmoded by either later design decisions or other classes.

It’s fine to have a class with one tanking talent tree, but how can you compare with death knights or druids (who can switch very fluidly from tanking to dps)? And paladins share many of the warrior issues, but because they were designed as a utility class first they bring a ton of extra utility and buffs. So we’re all roughly equivalent tanks (at least that’s the intention) but all the other tanks just …. do more as well.

Warriors are, however, still considered by the player base to be one of the most fun classes in the game. Any time you look at a bboard thread asking which is the most fun tank, a lot of people will still point to the warrior. And I know I find mine to be one of the most fun melee classes I’ve played in any game.

And in the Q&A, they discuss why the class is fun and what makes it unique. Lots of situational abilities, being able to switch stances as necessary, and rage (which is not actually unique but counts as warrior-specific because druids only have it to mimic warriors … ok then.)

I change my stances like I change my shoes

See, I’ve had this pair of Doc Martins that I’ve worn with jeans for the last year or so. Then there’s this one favourite pair of sandals that come out in the Summertime, as well as the obligatory espadrilles, and cute ankle boots in the Winter. Plus smart shoes in various colours when I’m dressed up for the evening. And so on.

But what I don’t do is change my shoes several times a minute. Unless I’m in a shoe shop trying on some new footwear.

The purpose of stances is for warriors to have to make decisions in combat. How badly do I want to Intercept now? Should I pay the cost of Spell Reflect? Ideally, we want warriors to switch stances in combat — not every few seconds, but a few times over the course of a battle. Now we realize it’s going to be harder to enforce this in raid fights unless you have a battle with a lot of movement or other unusual circumstances.

This did surprise me because Blizzard have made changes in Wrath that actually make it easier to stay in one stance for the whole time. I no longer have to switch stances to break fear or use charge, for example. Protection Warriors basically live in Defensive Stance these days, even for soloing. So I had thought they were moving away from this idea.

I can only assume that he’s mostly talking about PvP here. I don’t disagree in principle, it is fun to be switching stances as needed and to be able to show off your stance dancing skills. I like situational abilities too, being able to react to what is happening around me makes me feel more engaged with the game world. It’s the main reason I don’t much enjoy playing dps — too much sitting there and just hitting your rotation, not enough responding to the rest of the fight.

It would be a lot more fun if each stance had different attack animations though. That’s the one thing I was most sad about when I first started to use them. I’d played MUDs which had a stance mechanic and always tried to imagine my character standing and moving differently. That’s what a stance means, right?

We like macros (obviously, or we wouldn’t have them in the game), but we like for them to simplify chains of things that you have to do often without making decisions in between point A and B.

I freaking hate macros. I particularly don’t want to feel forced to write macros to play my class as well as another class that doesn’t need them. Pointless chains of button pressing are pointless.

And this is the big problem with using stances to lock off abilities. An arms warrior can only interrupt by either equipping a shield and hitting shield bash, or switching to berserk stance and hitting pummel. Compare that to a death knight or rogue who has ONE BUTTON to use for an interrupt and can use it whenever they want. What exactly is the point of adding redundant chains of button pressing there? If the ability was unique, then fine (like the fear breaking). If not, it’s just going to make you think ‘why am I having to press these pointless buttons, oh wait I’ll write some macros and then I won’t have to do that any more’ — in which case, why force people to write the macros at all?

So I think stance switching to access abilities is cool, but there has to be more to it. If it’s just a case of macroing ‘stance switch – use ability – switch stance back again’ then is there really a point?

Repurposing the Arms and Fury Trees

We also need to make some decisions about the difference between Arms and Fury. Traditionally, Arms was the PvP tree and Fury was the PvE tree. We understand some players prefer that model, but we don’t like the way it cuts off such a big chunk of the class from players who might not have much interest in the PvP or PvE parts of the game. However, we would like to reinforce a little more the kits of Arms and Fury. Everyone (I hope) gets the difference between Frost and Fire mages. Arms is supposed to be about weapons and martial training and feel “soldierly.” Fury is supposed to be about screaming barbarians in woad.

I think this one is a lost cause.

Sure, we all get the difference between Frost and Fire mages. Frost mages use frost spells and it’s the most popular PvP tree. Fire mages use fire spells and it’s a PvE tree. That actually sounds quite similar to Arms and Fury at the moment (Fury uses dual wield and is a PvE tree, Arms uses one two-hander and is the most popular PvP tree).

Still, the class is stuck with two dps talent trees and the devs would like to give them more identity. I can’t help feeling that this involves fixing something that isn’t really broken. Having said that, if they want to cut loose and find ways to make arms and fury more fun and focussed, I’ll happily try them out.

So how is the damage looking

Warrior damage should look like that of Feral druids, Enhancement shamans, Retribution paladins, and death knights. If their damage isn’t at that level, then it’s possible our numbers need some tweaking. However don’t always assume that you can’t possibly improve your gear or your button mashing either. =)

People should really stop whining about this (yes our dps warriors are way behind the ferals and death knights at the moment), he actually said that if the damage isn’t at that level then there will be some tweaking.

But there is another issue here and it’s connected with the gear, and the rage mechanic. Rage is a closed loop, you get more rage when you do more damage. So as gear level increases, warriors also get more resources to hammer out higher dps rotations. You end up with a highly gear dependent class, so if devs take their dps checks from the hardmode guilds, it doesn’t necessarily apply for people who aren’t at that end of the gear curve.

Warriors need to become less gear dependent. It’s the one major design issue with the class. Yes, it’s fun to see how your performance increases with gear but the class can never be balanced as long as the hardcore guys are overpowered and the new 80s are underpowered. All they can really do is make it easier to get the gear — which would be massively easier if Blizzard would relent and put more weapons on the badge vendors.

There is some evidence that Fury may overtake Arms dps once you get really good weapons. Dual-wield yet again shows its propensity to scale very well.

Firstly the really good weapons need to drop in the first place. Then you need to fight off all the other two handed users to get two of the dratted things. And if you want them for offspec … it isn’t going to happen. But feel free to keep telling us how great life might be in that mirror universe.

(I would love to know what proportion of fury warriors might ever get good enough gear for this to apply to them.)

Still, the game is what it is. Hopefully the next generation of games will have figured out a way to do non gear dependent progression in a happier way.