- 2009/07/15 02:00:01 AM
Today we continue our class Q&A series with Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street and the development team, in which we're taking a look at each class and answering some of the top questions brought forward by their communities. Next up, we take a look at the most asked questions from the druid class and find out more about the design philosophy and expectations for the class, as well as what may lie in store for it in the future.
Druid Q&A with the Voice of the Class Design Team, Ghostcrawler
Community Team: We’d like to start things off by asking a question that players often ask in regard to the very purpose of each class. In this case, we’re looking specifically at the druid, which has one of the widest ranges of play styles in World of Warcraft because of the variety offered from the different talent trees.
Q: Where do druids fit into the larger scope of things currently and where do you see them going from this point forward?
Ghostcrawler: Much like the paladin and shaman, the original World of Warcraft druid was intended to be a healer for end-game content. Bears could tank Upper Blackrock okay. But honestly, nobody took cats, bears or moonkin very seriously at level 60. In Burning Crusade, this changed a little. Bears could tank a lot more content, and might have even been overpowered in the endgame if it weren’t for Sunwell Radiance. Cats were probably underpowered. You still saw them, but they were there mostly for buffs or because they could slip easily from tanking to dps in a world before dual-spec. They were great for Zul’Aman for example. There were some great Balance druids, but still a lot of Oomkin. Our philosophy at this point in the game was that hybrid classes needed to give up a lot of their power, especially on the dps-side of things, in order to justify their versatility and massive buffs. In Lich King, we set out to change this and make sure all four types of druid had a PvE role in heroic dungeons and raiding. And yes, this meant four roles, because if we were going to let cats do credible dps or bears be able to tank anything in the game then we wanted players to have to commit to one extreme or the other. You can remain a half-bear, half-cat if you want to as well, but you won’t be as good at either extreme and my experience is players rarely choose that route.
In PvP the story is quite different of course. Once Resto druids got enough tools in Burning Crusade, they were very difficult to counter in Arena matches. Cyclone, Feral Charge and running and hotting made druids frustratingly slippery. We wanted to chill this out a little in Lich King, largely by pushing Feral Charge farther away and making Tree of Life a real option in PvP. Unfortunately, high tree armor and dispel-at-your peril hots have still kept druids difficult to counter in PvP. Feral druids have always had a place in PvP, but were never as dominant as the Resto druids. There is a little bit of a chicken and egg problem here because while some druids only want to PvP as Feral, others were happy to respec to Resto for PvP. Balance druids seemed even less viable than Feral, which is not ideal and something we want to improve. We tend to take a longer view on some of these things than do the players. We’ve had other balance issues that we’ve wanted to address in PvP first, and getting every spec of every class viable has had to take a back seat on occasion.
Q: What is it that makes them unique compared to all other classes?
Ghostcrawler: Forms is the big answer. The druid versions are more meaningful than other class equivalents in the game, such as Stances or Presences. One could argue they are too meaningful, because players sometimes don’t want to use any other form but “theirs." Perhaps the most unusual facet of the druid forms is that they use three different resource systems depending on the form, and these are not reset when they shift. A leveling druid can shift out of cat form to heal themselves, then shift into bear form while their mana regenerates.
Druids also have a couple of other interesting qualities. They actually fit four distinct roles into the class, even though two of the roles share a talent tree. They have some unusual utility spells, including Revive and Innervate. While druids no longer bring many unique buffs, they still pack a lot of them onto one character. Raids are still happy to get druids because of their benefit to the group. Druids also have unique travel abilities, from Travel, Aquatic, and Flight form, to the Moonglade teleport.
It’s also worth mentioning that druids can be only one race each on the Horde and Alliance side. They have the least racial diversity of any class in the game.
Community Team: Let’s take a look at the Balance talent tree. Eclipse is a crucial talent for players who are looking to perform a damage dealing role and invest in the Balance tree. There has been a lot of discussion though regarding the gameplay it provides as there is a lot of randomness involved. The buffs to a solar rotation were very well received, but the lunar rotation still has to wait for a critical strike to happen as well as an additional random proc to occur which can lead to some long gaps of nothing happening. Then when these finally fall into place players have complained about threat issues which force them to slow down or having to move to avoid something which ruins the procs they have and significantly hurts their overall damage.
Q: What are our thoughts on how Eclipse is functioning and do we have any plans to change how this talent works?
Ghostcrawler: The goal of the Eclipse talent in the first place was to give moonkin a more dynamic rotation that involved the player paying attention and responding to the environment rather than falling into a monotonous rotation. The Eclipse in 3.2 should less strongly favor one half of the Eclipse over the other since the cooldowns are independent. Ultimately however the problem we are trying to solve is that Wrath and Starfire are just too similar. In PvP you get a little bit of interest out of the fact that they are in different schools, but in PvE by the time talents are factored in, the two spells just become fairly quick (but not instant) nukes and it’s easy to math out which one to use and which one to ignore. Long-term to fix this problem we need to add another spell, separate out Starfire and Wrath from each other a little more, or make one of the other spells, like Moonfire or Insect Swarm, more dynamic. I’ll give a couple of example of caster rotations that “work” in our opinion: Destruction warlocks want to Immolate before they Conflagrate, Frost mages can proc a Brain Freeze and throw out a fast Fireball.
Community Team: Another aspect of Balance talent tree that has seen a number of discussions lately is the survivability of Moonkins while in a Player vs. Player setting. Many players agree that they have a very low survivability rate and that a spell like Typhoon doesn’t provide enough help to prevent classes like Death Knights and Rogues from doing some serious damage to them.
Q: How do we feel Moonkins are doing in PvP and do we have plans to improve their survivability?
Ghostcrawler: We don’t think Moonkins are quite there yet, though we’ll see how they look after 3.2 ships. Some of their problems are not limitations with the spec so much as they are ramifications in other parts of the PvP environment, such as some classes being able to burst them down too quickly. Of the casters, and as of this writing, only Frost mages really seem to be a potent PvP force, but it requires multiple forms of CC and escape mechanisms to get there. We really don’t want to go down the road of every caster needing that many unique tools – it homogenizes the classes and makes the mage tools less compelling. We understand some players are desperate to play Balance in PvP, but our priority is on getting underperforming classes viable before we worry about the second or third spec of classes that already have a strong PvP presence. We’ll get there.
Community Team: Players have also been discussing how they feel the overall playstyle of a Moonkin is just not very exciting. The best damage dealing rotation for them requires very few spells and a deep Balance spell like Starfall doesn’t help them very much.
Q: Are there plans to make any changes to the general spell rotation for deep Balance/Moonkin Druids?
Ghostcrawler: As I mentioned above, we do want to improve the spell rotation of Balance. We think the spells are interesting when considered alone (expect for perhaps Starfire and Wrath) but they don’t necessarily play together in interesting ways. You don’t try to save up a Starfall for example for great synergy with another spell. We have no problems with Starfall itself -- it is an AE with smart targeting that doesn’t require channeling. It is basically just bonus damage. Often players with a gripe about Starfall are wishing that it still proc’ed stuns with Celestial Focus or was a stealth remover. But those uses meant players saved Starfall for only those specific situations instead of using it when they needed extra damage, which was the original intent.