"Dev Watercooler" is a blog series that provides an inside look into the thoughts and discussions happening within the World of Warcraft development team. In our first entry, Lead Systems Designer Greg "Ghostctrawler" Street laid down a few ground rules:
1. No promises are being made in these Dev Watercooler blogs.
2. Don't read too much between the lines.
3. No complaints about the topic not being what you want to see covered.
The developers talk a lot about stat allocation on gear. We made some major changes to the stats that show up on armor and weapons for Cataclysm, and we periodically review how things have shaken out.
One suggestion that pops up fairly often, both internally and externally, is to make gear more tailored for each and every talent spec. (It honestly feels like we have 30 classes in the game at times.) We could have bosses drop Intellect mail with Hit on it for Elemental shaman. We could go back to legitimate bear gear. There might only be one spec (or less if you’re talking Feral’s two-specs-in-one-tree deal) interested in those drops.
The problem with that approach is that boss loot tables get really long. Say you're a Resto shaman who won some mail gloves last Tuesday. Had this alternative model been in place, those gloves might not have dropped for you. In this alternate universe, the Elemental gloves did instead. There is a reason that Argaloth and his ilk feel like slot machines -- because they can drop so many items, the chance of them dropping the piece you want is pretty low. That works for the Tol Barad boss because he’s pretty easy to reach and we want to encourage players to keep coming back to him week after week so that more players benefit from his gear. It might be pretty frustrating if every boss felt like Argaloth though.
There's another extreme we talk about sometimes, which is making gear more universal. We could merge the Spell Hit and Spirit stats pretty easily for all casters the way we did for Elemental, Balance, and Shadow. There would just be Intellect cloth that everyone from Destro to Disc would want. Great, you might think, less stuff will get sharded. But then think about how it would feel if you were one of those clothies. In a 10-player raid, there might be three people rolling on your loot. In a 25-player raid, it could be double that.
We could go even crazier. I mentioned in an earlier blog how Hit and Expertise aren’t very exciting to tanks, and that even if we made threat really hard to maintain, that tanks would probably still just stack survival stats and get frustrated when they lost aggro. Since we don’t vary the Stamina and Armor on tank gear (except in jewelry, socket bonuses, enchants, and gems perhaps), that means the tanking stats are really Dodge, Parry (except for druids), and Mastery. It wouldn’t be that hard to have say Haste convert to dodge chance and Crit convert to parry chance. Now the plate stats are Hit, Expertise, Crit, Haste, and Mastery (aside from the Strength and Stamina, which are always there in predictable proportions). Boom.
Now plate tanks share the same gear with plate DPS. When plate drops, all the death knights, warriors, and two of the three paladin specs might want it. Is that a better world? Less stuff would get wasted but there would also be more competition. You might feel less unique as an individual, and things might feel all too similar when you go from playing your Prot paladin to your Fury warrior, but on the upside, swapping to an alternate spec might be easier because you won’t need an entire second set of gear.
I mentioned two out of three paladin specs above. That third spec has been a thorn in our side for a long time. Paladins in general have a knack for that. I kid. (Mostly.) I'm talking about Intellect plate. We don't like Intellect plate, but we haven’t come up with a good alternative for it. The pitches we hear most often have downsides we don't like. Yes, a Holy paladin could wear mail… at which point their silhouette would look a lot like a shaman instead of a paladin. Yes, Holy paladins could derive their spell power from Strength… at which point they also hit with their weapons nearly as hard as Ret paladins. Yes, we could convert all that Strength to spell power, and convert the Hit to Spirit and the Expertise to Mastery or whatever. The Spirit to Hit conversion does the job, but it's not super elegant or intuitive. I’m not sure we want to pile more onto that design.
Unless we come up with a really compelling reason to change gear stats, we’ll probably stick with the Cataclysm model for the foreseeable future. But we’re interested in seeing your feedback. Would more universal gear be more fun or less fun? Do you like competing over items many folks want, like Deathbringer's Will or even Cho'gall's shoulder tokens? Does it suck when plate tanking gear drops long after the tanks have geared up, or is it nice to be able to toss it to the Ret or Fury player for their offspec? Do the druids wish they had real tanking gear? Are the Prot warriors jealous of the Feral gear model? Is this one of those places in the game that could benefit from a more simple design, even if it was a less fun design? There are no wrong answers here, only whiny ones. I kid. (Mostly.)
*Greg "Ghostcrawler” Street is the lead systems designer for World of Warcraft. He tanks with a two-hander. On a shaman. Boom.