17
Jul
09

Warrior Q&A answer time! Or possibly not

The wait is at an end! Blizzard have posted the warrior Q&A, hot on the heels of the druid one. I was actually a tad surprised that they posted it so quickly after the druid one, but ours is not to reason why.

So, where to start? Despite the naysayers and doom-hollerers, there is information stashed away in the Q&A (on occasion very well hidden). While it’s true that our favourite crab monster does a brilliant job of being evasive about certain issues (which, honestly, is no new thing), it’s also true that he gives some nice general view on where Blizz see warriors going. The key word here is: general. People looking for detailed answers about issue X, Y, or Z…well, did you seriously expect to get those answers? I didn’t.

Anyway, let’s get on with it then. In the following I’ll be quoting quite a bit from the original post, but if you want to read it yourself, hop over to the forums. As said, the Q&A covers a lot of ground, and quite a bit of it more than once.

First of all, I’d like to point everybody to the relatively innocuous paragraph:

One of the things we want to do in the future is take a hard look at the Arms and Fury trees. There are several talents which just haven’t weathered the course of time well and pale in comparison to some of the newer Wrath of the Lich King talents.

Can it be? Are they going to finally give us an overhaul, what nearly every fury has been silently praying for? It appears so, although not likely before the next expansion. No guarantee of changes for the better mind you, but its still better than nothing.

The glorious past

The Q&A starts off with a quick look at the past of the warrior. While it might not seem very relevant now, it’s still worth remembering the origins of the class, or as the crab monster puts it:

Arms is supposed to be about weapons and martial training and feel “soldierly.” Fury is supposed to be about screaming barbarians in woad.

This was the reason I rolled a fury warrior rather than an arms warrior. I wanted a savage, rage filled character. With the massive changes to the trees since then, starting with the swapping of Death Wish and Sweeping Strikes, Blizzard slowly diluted that distinction. You can of course argue that it’s still there to a large extent, but with TG, the playstyle of fury has slowed perceptibly down. We are no longer the viciously and violently hacking and slashing barbarians we once were. If we compare with Age of Conan, the Barbarian and the Conqueror have distinctly different feels. I’m not saying WoW needs such a distinct split, but it would be nice if it were more tangible.

Also a thing of the past: the notion of arms being PVP and fury being PVE. It still spooks around from time to time, but it’s very much less visible these days. Ghostcrawler comments on it:

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.

We have lost our PVP tree. And we’re not getting it back. Is that a good or bad thing? While I don’t PVP much, and generally couldn’t care less whether arms was the PVP tree (sorry, but there you go, honesty for you), I think it’s a good thing. If you like the way a tree plays out, you shouldn’t be forced to do bugger all damage just because your favoured tree is “the PVP tree”. On the other hand, I’m not sure I want to see 3 tank-viable warrior trees, or 3 equally PVP viable trees, just to preserve the choice. If Blizzard want to integrated PVP into all the trees, they need to do it in a way that doesn’t make PVE suffer. This could possibly be by having distinct PVP and PVE talents. If done properly, it would address many of the problems that arise from talents being nerfed to the ground in one, because they’re otherwise overpowered in the other department. Let’s have trees that are viable for both, but talents that aren’t.

Rage

Rage is what makes our class unique. Period. That and stances. To quote Ghostcrawler:

Other than warriors, only bear druids use the rage mechanic, and that is pretty much just because that form is intended to mimic warriors. Rage is an unusual resource because it is infinite over the course of minutes, but can be very limiting over the course of seconds. While the basic mechanic of rage is interesting, it has caused us lots of balance problems over the course of World of Warcraft — sometimes in the favor of the warrior and sometimes not. It’s probably time to give the mechanic another look.

Did you hear that? Rage might change! Boohoo, more nerfs! Or perhaps not. Let’s hold judgement and look a bit further down the Q&A:

It could be in the future that we shift most of rage generation to damage done and have little or none in damage taken (and we would have to change a lot of other mechanics to make this work obviously).

Now, long-term we need a better solution to rage generation. Tying it to damage done is logical in the theoretical world of game design, but has problems in reality. When your gear sucks, you have rage problems. When you have great gear, you are no longer limited by rage. That’s just not a great model, and one of the reasons warriors are overly gear dependent.

So what is the future for rage? It’ll continue to be a pain in the behind for both Blizzard and us for quite a while. Ghostcrawler says it quite plainly: it’s a quite huge change. If they change it too much, it’ll become another word for Energy or Runic Power and they don’t want that. In the past they have changed the normalizations on Rage, and I could well imagine that they will do that as a last resort if all else fails. Now, some people seem to be terrified that Blizzard will ruin rage generation like they have in earlier times by rushing out a new rage normalization. All good and well, but if Blizz wanted to rush out changes, they would’ve done so already. Ghostcrawler himself comments that warriors are in a good spot just now, and whether we agree with him or not, that doesn’t really hint at Blizzard feeling any urgency about changing rage generation.

In the longer term, it seems most likely that they’ll adopt some variant of “rage only from damage dealt” mechanic. It will need a lot of tweaking and jiggling the wires to be made to work of course, so let’s not expect any miracles. And most importantly, let’s keep an open mind when it happens.

Stances

Naturally enough, some people asked “can’t you get rid of stances?” Predictably enough, the answer was no:

We get a fair number of suggestions from players trying to basically slip the stance concept out of the warrior class: make it not take rage, or let them do more abilities per stance so they don’t need to switch stances so often. That’s not really what the warrior is all about though. You should care what stance you’re in and it should be a decision to change stance. Note that if you pay too high a price to change stances, that counts as there not being a decision though.

So it’s all about the tradeoff. It’s about the conscious decision to value a certain ability enough to spend the rage on it. While its a good idea on paper, I think it doesn’t quite work out that way in practice. Very few warriors are going to give up 2 GCD’s and rage enough for a couple of abilities, unless there’s a clear and present advantage in doing so. Even more so when you’re in a fight with a short enrage timer or simply if you want to maximise your DPS (shocking). Isn’t that a little selfish and metre-related? Quite possibly. However, these days even Blizzard speak nearly openly about DPS, and if you as a warrior do bugger all DPS, just so you can stance dance and fire off that semi handy ability, you’re going to say “screw that semi handy thing”…or you’re going to go “why is my DPS always so low”.

As an example I can mention the changes to stance dancing that were proposed a while back, then pulled again rather quickly. The idea was to introduce a fixed cost to a stance chance, rather than the current system where you are guaranteed to keep X rage on a shift. Raiding furies started working on new rotations with stance dancing because, hurrah, Rend would suddenly be a viable ability. The PVP’ers went up in arms however, since their abilities to stancedance in low rage situations would be killed off. It was an interesting idea, but it didn’t work out in practice. Until they do find a model that works though, warriors will probably not stance dance as much as Blizzard would like them to.

The design intent of warrior stances is that you change your toolbar when you go from one stance to another and that that decision isn’t a trivial one. Now, the third part aside from the rage cost and ability limitations is the penalties (such as 5% damage taken in Berserker). We cut those in half recently, and we’d eventually like to get rid of them altogether.

Stance penalties to go the way of the dodo? Good news in my book! Again though, it is not likely to happen before the major overhaul of the fury and arms trees.

Tanking

The majority of the tanking related answers focus on (you guessed it) Block and Strength. Ghostcrawler hints at the future for Block (and avoidance in general):

We think block needs to be a percentage of damage blocked in order for the stat to do what we want. But the trade-off would mean that warriors (and paladins) couldn’t block every incoming hit, especially from large groups. Avoidance might also need to come down across the board, and many talents and abilities would need to be redesigned. This is a major change that isn’t the kind of thing we can crowbar into 3.2 with a clean conscience. It is almost certainly the future for the block stat.

This may initially seem like a pretty heavyhanded nerf to tanks, but it’s actually something that is similar to the SWP situation in ages past. Back then it was the druids who had to be nerfed because nothing could hit them. In the future it’s likely to be all the tanks collectively. It’s nothing but a natural evolution really. If Block is horrible, warriors tanks are going to stack dodge and parry and consequently become harder to hit. That again requires bosses to hit even harder. I’m sure that the vicious circle is obvious here, and it’s not a sustainable one for very long. It’ll likely be fine up until Icecrown Citadel, but after that it’ll need a complete redesign.

It’s yet another change for an expansion so…dare I say it: we need to show patience.

Another point that is touched upon is the fact that warriors possibly might be a little behind other tanks currently. Despite Ghostcrawlers comments that “many good guilds are still using warrior tanks”, he doesn’t say whether they do that because they’ve always done it. Tanks are usually in guilds for the long run. If you know your tank well, that just helps enormously. So well established and capable tanks are not as likely to be swapped, even if they might be slightly behind another tank.

DPS

Let’s start off with:

We’re happy with warrior dps in Ulduar.

And let’s also have this one:

Part of the concern here is we used to exempt warriors from the design philosophy that pure dps classes should do more damage than hybrid dps classes. We try to no longer play favorites here. Warrior damage should look like that of Feral druids, Enhancement shamans, Retribution paladins, and death knights.

Now, my question is…are we really on par with those classes? It’s not something I can judge objectively from my experience, and since it also depends on skill and gear (and the fights), its easier to say than prove. Not that Blizzard have to prove anything really, nor should they have to. My personal stance is still that this damage differentiation is a bit of a silly notion, especially with dual specs, and its more of a headache in terms of design than anything, but it seems to be staying. Furthermore, there is a very appreciable difference between the 10-man and 25-man gear, and I wonder if Blizzard are always testing both extensively or whether they test one, and then “transpose” to the other. The issue is: where is the point they balance around?

A further danger here is that Blizzard only look at the hard numbers, not so much at the types of mobs or the situations. DPS is highly situational as we know. If Blizzard balance us around a stationary fight with 3 adds and then make a dungeon full of bosses without adds, where we also constantly are on the move, we will get some, shall we say, mild discrepancies. Do we trust Blizzard not to fall into that pit? I certainly hope so. The good news in this department is, of course, that they admit that they’re not infallible, so if people publish numbers that contradict their initial number crunching, they have on occasion looked into them again. All in all, theorycrafters and datacrunchers will in all likelihood have plenty to do in future.

Rotations rotations rotations!

Rotations are a thing of the past! Well, not quite. But we should not expect to return to the 1, 2, 3, cha cha cha, 1, 2, 3, cha cha cha style combat sequences again.

I think if anything, abilities like this need to be more prominent. You should be less effective at your job if you ignore them, and ideally you’d also be less effective if you just macro’d them in.

I can only applaud this really. Arms already have it, so why not fury as well? It’ll take some work of course, so that we don’t end up with two trees that are carbon copies of eachother, merely with different names, but it would make furying a lot more interesting in the long run. There’s a limit to how much of that you can introduce of course, especially when your staple abilities are on short cooldowns. But then, it’s not unthinkable that Blizzard would consider revamping the fury “rotation” entirely.

Conclusion time?

The above points are, as I see it, some of the main ones touched upon by the Q&A. You’ll note that I haven’t touched upon the PvP bits, however small in number they were. I will leave that to the people more experienced in this area to comment on.

So the main question is: Did the Q&A address the most pressing concerns of the warrior community? Well, it addressed some things in a very general way, but without really giving us any hard information on anything. Basically, they have given us glimpses of their views of the warrior class, but in such a fashion that they really can’t be pinned up on anything. Partially, we can put the blame for that behaviour on the past, where cries of  “but a blue poster recently said that X and Y were being changed to Z and P, and that we’d be boosted” was a common occurrence on the forums in the wake of blue post. So naturally, Blizzard aren’t going to say anything that could get them into sticky places. Of course, that also removes any trace of usable or specific information that the community might want.

Despite the lack of hard info, Blizzard gave us a lot of glimpses at the future of the warrior, and I for one liked bits of what I heard. The rage mechanic is dated and does need its engine checked. It’s not broken, but it could need a good upgrading. The arms and fury trees will get an overhaul, which is long overdue by now. They didn’t promise when, and I for one don’t think it’ll be before the next expansion, but it’s coming.

Where will we be in a year? Who knows. All I can say is: the warriors will endure as they always have…there will still be a place for the unyielding tank, the cool master of arms and the raging berserker.



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