29 thoughts on “My Opinion On World Of Warcraft’s New Talent System

  1. Evgeniy Dzhurov says:

    I can’t say I agree with such an opinion. The article states roughly that rewriting a major chunk of your gameplay is a bad thing, but doesn’t touch on the facts that led to. I know a lot of game design is about gut feeling, but going out with a statements based on “I have a bad feeling about this” isn’t very helpful in this particular case, unless you already agree that Blizzard are wrong and you are primed to bash them. Sorry Lum but I think you should chime in with something more thoughtful on the subject.

    Back to WoW”s talent system: I think that compared to the current state of affairs Talents 2.0 are a step in the right direction. I don’t want to argue what amount of flexibility the new system will have, but I’m sure it will bring more choices than we have now. The whole reason for meddling with the talents in the first place is that trees didn’t scale well. They got bloated immensely and had to be slashed in some way. Saying that Blizzard shouldn’t have done changes is a clear failing to understand the complexities of the design. The old is better argument doesn’t hold water here. And yes – if you redo something you will make mistakes – sometimes big mistakes, but I can’t approve of people pretending they are anywhere near Blizzard’s shoes (game designers – don’t be arrogant –  as competent as you may be, unless you have actual dev time on the project and are aware of the constraints don’t pretend to know better). If you’ve seen BlizzCon you know about the cons/pros slides – among the good things were the spec choice at level 10 and fewer trivial talents (+% spell dmg, etc). The cons – minimum talent choice, off-spec talents didn’t matter (Blizzard’s own words). So why people didn’t get their torches back then? Because on the surface things didn’t look different to most – there were still talent trees (awful talent trees by the way). Now things do look very different and Blizzard have a though time convincing you that change isn’t scary and bad – but the worst of it is over – they’ve already made their design turning point with Cataclysm and they didn’t fail. Then why should they fail now when they’re simply extending the implications of what they did many months ago?

    • Pavel Batuev says:

      I would say “new” choice as we’ve seen would be perfectly represented by about 6 new glyphs changing existing abilities, as well as making some current “spec choice” talents baseline – things they’ve done in previous expansions… In fact, streamlining glyph system this way would make a lot more sense then talent system – both of them “isn’t exciting”, but glyphs can provide clear and immediate changes to playstyle by using “same buttons”, while “switching abilities” creates extra ui problems with hotkeys and ability bars.

    • Vatec says:

      Two million lost subscriptions imply strongly that Blizzard =did= fail with Cataclysm.

      As I’ve written elsewhere, one of basic principles of marketing is that it’s cheaper to keep existing customers happy than it is to acquire new customers. The MMO industry is =not= the exception to that rule.

  2. “I can’t approve of people pretending they are anywhere near Blizzard’s
    shoes (game designers – don’t be arrogant –  as competent as you may be,
    unless you have actual dev time on the project and are aware of the
    constraints don’t pretend to know better).”

    Why read anyone’s game design opinions then if they’re not Blizzard? Everyone else is wrong, Blizzard is right.

    • Evgeniy Dzhurov says:

      Almost every year Blizzard present arguments for their design changes. The guy who wrote the article linked here didn’t. He just said he didn’t like the changes  – and that is worthless to anyone who isn’t seeking to affirm his own dislike for Blizzard.

  3. Savagex says:

    It’s odd.  I don’t seem to care as much as a lot of people.  I think that making sure that there are no ‘wrong’ choices and allowing people to make slight tweaks to their character is better than potentially rolling with a broken toon.  Looking at some of the slides, they removed the cruft and distractors and flat out said *these* are the talents you should be using, they all bring something to the table.  

    I think part of it is that I am busy as shit most days ad the last thing I want to worry about is slogging through elitist jerks for an hour and having to relearn my toon after a patch drops with a talent change.

  4. mcl says:

    I see it like this:

    Back when gamers were the only ones who gamed, games were HARD to make gamers go all nerf-herdery and want to pony up with 15 bucks a month to play tortuously difficult games.  Also to keep them on board so they didn’t rape and pillage your content in less than 30 days.  Want them to stay longer?  Make the game harder to ‘finish’.

    Welcome to the era of Farmville.

    The learning/skill curve on MMO’s has done nothing but go towards the land of “Lionel:  Big trains for little hands” end of the spectrum each year since, for example, DAOC was so incredibly hard to play that only a perfectly composed group with close to perfect players could avoid a party wipe 15 seconds after they left the horse route.

    If you are still playing WoW these days you shouldn’t be surprised about the trend towards ‘face-roll’ mechanics in the game.  It is not like it is a new trend and something that has just now leapt to the fore of any game designers tool kit.

    Face-roll = more accessibility = potentially higher revenue.

    I predict the expansion after the Panda one will have toy tractors and little patches of ground where you can plant and pick your taters and trade them with your friends.  WoW certainly hasn’t been WoW at all after WOTLK was released.  As more expansions come it will be less and less WoW and more and more Farmville.

    And now …

    A picture of the new Epic Land Mount for the WoW post panda expansion:


    • A Man In Black says:

      So you enjoy pointlessly hard games to beat your head against? Nethack, Dwarf Fortress, and Space Station 13 are all free.

      • mcl says:

        I really don’t want a return to ludicrously difficult.

        But I don’t enjoy the alternative.

        SWG?  Entertainer to level cap solo in 13 hours.  Engineer in 10 hours /played even with mining your own mat’s.

        Game too old and broken?

        DCUO level cap 20 hours /played solo with no power leveling not a problem.

        STO had its first VA on the first day of the early start and it is even easier now.

        RMT’s advertise in game for level cap power leveling in COH with a 10 hour turnaround.  That was broadcast just this week and no sweat for any player that can fill a group and can pee in a Code Red bottle.  Matter of fact I would say about 10%+ of group leaders in the game are gold farmers these days.  Who could be more motivated to get 8 folks in a group and make sure it works smoothly and maxes XP?

        I would embrace harder for sure.  Current games are 100% face-roll.  No player skill involved in the MMORPG market.  Just varying amounts of chair time to level cap then a grind that makes Chinese F2P grind-fest games look pleasant to get geared up.

        Face-roll means no challenge.  No challenge, to me, means I hop games like hobos hop trains.  I see what there is to see for a week or two then off to the next one.

        End game programmed encounters, that you just sunk a ton of time into to get geared for, aren’t a challenge either.  Don’t stand in the fire.  Do what DeadlyBoss tells you to do.  There’s no skill in that.

        There is no one game that can hold the interest of seasoned gamers these days unless that interest is purely a social one.

  5. Sorry Lum but I think you should chime in with something more thoughtful on the subject.

    I’m starting a new job and knee deep in design doc work so haven’t really had the time to pay it the attention it deserves. Here’s a comment I left on Eric’s site, though, which should give a better idea of where I’m coming from…

    Eric: GC once again proves he is not interested in the journey 1-90. The current system means you get something new every level. For me that is an important part of the game. Without it – why use level in the first place?

    Me: This is what leapt out at me. Level 90 raiding grognards see the system proposed and think “Cool! I get cool new toys!”. New players will only get rewards every 15 levels. When WoW shipped it was every level. With Cataclysm it was reduced to every other level. It really smacks of “we’re lazy and don’t want to come up with discrete rewards during the levelling process because we raced through it on our 14th character with all-heirloom gear anyway”.

    I can’t approve of people pretending they are anywhere near Blizzard’s shoes

    Both Eric and myself have more experience in the game industry then 99% of the people working on WoW. I think we’ve both earned the right to an opinion on game design and production, thanks.

    • Evgeniy Dzhurov says:

      Cheers. I wouldn’t be asking you to write something on the topic if I didn’t think you had a right to an opinion. However I’ll be looking for one of those somewhere else, thanks.

    • Carson Wilson says:

      Both Eric and myself have more experience in the game industry then 99% of the people working on WoW. I think we’ve both earned the right to an opinion on game design and production, thanks.


      I hate those kinds of arguments – I have more experience doing my X therefore I know as well or better how to do your X. Experience in the gaming industry doesn’t mean experience with WoW – of course they are related but they are not equivalent. Even though I’ve read your blog for years (and never thought of you as a sell out by the way), I don’t know the breadth of your design experience. Having said that (and I’m sure you’ll correct me if I’m wrong), I don’t think it’s nearly on the scale of a game this size, with a fan base this big with large pockets of people with such disparate interests.

      Nobody needs to “earn” the right to have an opinion on anything. People are free to spout off on whatever they want. The VALUE of that opinion is something else and I think what you’re saying is your opinion is more valuable the 99% of the people working on WoW. I think that’s bullshit. Do you really think the designers driving the ship are not AT LEAST as qualified to make these decisions as you if not more so? Do you really think the “peons” are making this call?

      Sure, I have an opinion on it too. I’m just going to state it. I’m not going to try and qualify why it’s so much better, more valuable or anything else than the people who are actually responsible for it, and invest many MANY more hours thinking on it, considering the ramifications of it, and probably try it and other things out and we’re not a party to any of that process.

      That doesn’t mean what you have to say doesn’t count, obviously. But your comment above was disappointing in the spirit in which it was delivered.

      Having said that – new systems will always have naysayers, and doom and gloom and how this is the worst thing ever. Always. 

      Sure, let’s have a discussion, but drawing such damning conclusions without experiencing it or trying it and so forth just seems like a bunch of noisy, pointless ranting to me.

      They felt the talent system gave no MEANINGFUL choices. Their goal was to have a system that gave meaningful choices and they tried and tried with the current construct and couldn’t achieve that goal. So they felt they had to take a different approach. And so what if I no longer get a talent every (other?) level – if that talent isn’t even vaguely interesting who gives a shit?

      At least these choices are actually those – meaningful choices that provide some kind of fun/interesting/compelling ability. They don’t come often enough? Well, you get class and spec abilities as well. But I don’t think any NEW player is going to /ragequit because they didn’t get their reduce X cast by Y 1 seconds talent at level 12.

      Now I know people will be saying all kinds of crap like – oh yeah this is why WoW sucks, and oh yeah here’s me documenting deleting my characters on youtube (seriously? I mean… seriously?!). I’ve experienced a lot of shit games in my time and I disagree with a number of things in WoW but I’m not going to troll some sites crying – “yeah  WoW sucks and you couldn’t force me to play that awful game” because that’s pointless and juvenile. When/if I get to that point I’ll quietly cancel my account and move on to the next thing. I think a lot of folks posting on these types of boards need to do the same.

      • What I said was in response to “I can’t approve of people pretending they are anywhere near Blizzard’s shoes”. I was pointing out that in fact I am fairly close to their shoe style if perhaps not their shoe size.

        • Carson Wilson says:

          Fair enough – and in the interest of being fair the comment you were responding to was lame and unnecessary (lame all around!) and I can see how it would get your hackles up. For one, why would you care about his approval (I’m certain you don’t, nor should you, and he should know what so why even mention it), and two he’s implying that people who aren’t Blizzard can’t have an opinion or they can but it’s not valid which is the lamest comment of all.

          So… as you were 🙂

    • Actually, you get rewards more than every 15 levels. You get a TALENT every 15 levels. But you get spec abilities and bonuses intermittently, as well as new abilities intermittently.

      Nothing has really changed here, only the level of automation. And, if anything, especially for PvP, the new talent system offers a lot more choices (and by choice, I mean some talent decisions are actually difficult to make for certains classes and specs).

  6. gx1080 says:

    On my opinion it seems like they are putting a lot of faith on Cataclysm’s revamp of the old areas + Pandaraen to keep interest for new players.

    Also, more importantly, they are tired of playing catch-up with the EJ guys. Which is what permeates this expansion: Lazyness. Why should I pay money for a lazy, “filler” expansion, huh?

  7. “Both Eric and myself have more experience in the game industry then 99%
    of the people working on WoW. I think we’ve both earned the right to an
    opinion on game design and production, thanks.”

    Oh snap! See, this is what I come here for.

  8. Eric Nolan says:

    Personally I don’t like the removal of the talent trees, however I disagree with the article in the main.  If Blizzard were to spend all their effort adding new features and systems to the game by now it would be an insanely baroque device that only those who had been playing it all along could understand.  It would be difficult for new players to get up to speed and Blizzard would rapidly end up with a player base which could never grow and would inevitably shrink since people will eventually move on no matter how brilliant the game is.

    It seems to me that Blizzard has a goal to keep the number of hours required to completely get everything in the game fairly consistent.  If they add new systems they take away or simplify old ones.  I don’t think they always get it right but I think that’s the goal.  This is obviously annoying to the ancient legacy players who are upset that something they invested time in learning is streamlined out of existence but to the new player it’s probably better.  Since Blizzard requires new players to keep making money it’s good for them as well.

    • Elogan18 says:

      Vhello Eric ….nice to know ur playing again…..LIAR LIAR……GUess that’s the only place for u to talk dirty to bitches huh

  9. Oz says:

    I thik Eric’s main thread, and especially his comment near the bottom about AC2 cover my thoughts on it.  Revamping is often seen by players as “same old same old”, regardless of how revolutionary it is unless the syster is completely broken.  Creating something new, or fixing some badly broken will give you much better payoff than a revamp.  For my examples, I have to go back to what I know best, EQ1, and remembering the various revamps that went on there vs completely new concepts, like spellcrafting, and the expansion areas.  Classes were tuned many time while I was playing, and rarely did the changes get the majority of the player base excited (in a negatiev or a positive manner) for any length of time compared to adding in completely new things. 

  10. Informis says:

    WoW is not really about discovery and experimentation, so the metagame should not offer you choice when there really is none.

    It’s like an auto dealer offering you three choices of tires on your new car: high-performance traction-control radials, ice, or cheese. Taking away ice and cheese will A) improve customer satisfaction, and B) reduce the amount of work keeping those other two stocked.

    This is possibly the best metaphor I have ever devised.

  11. gx1080 says:

    WoW doesn’t need white knights to defend it.

    That out, I’m going to be honestly surprised if the new system actually gives meaninglful choices. Have you seen the choices so far? Each slot is one option for PvP, one for damage and one for healing, at least on the hybrid classes.

  12. Mark Asher says:

    I think this only has an impact on players leveling characters. For level capped characters all you will do is go back and select fewer talents, but we sort of did that anyway because we knew which ones were good. 

    But for players leveling a new character waiting 15 levels to make a talent point decision might be a bit boring. 

    Talent trees with lots of choices are only cool after we get to know the talents and the talents are so well-balanced so there are no right and wrong choices. If they are not well-balanced then some talents are golden and required and the others are a failure and get you kicked from raids. I think for the overall health of the game Blizzard may be on the right track with streamlining things. 

    • Xaldin says:

      Actually I’m a bit inclined to disagree that there has to be no ‘wrong’ choices. Reality is if you’re designing around if a build gets kicked from raids or not then you’ll never have any difference between the base characters. They must be the same down to a cookie cutter. How dull.

      • Mark Asher says:

        My point was that if you can design the talents so that no talent is much better than a competing talent you can take, you get more variety in builds, not less. 

        Of course with talent swapping it’s ok to have different builds for different things — a raid build and a PvP build, for example. 

        Let me put it another way: Lots of talent choices only works if the choices are all more or less equally good. If you have 30 talents but players all take the same 10 talents and ignore the other 20, then it’s a design fail.

  13. Sinij says:

    WoW still exists _despite_ GC efforts; I don’t know how someone with a proven track record of failure and mis-managed priorities gets to keep such high-profile position for so long. He must be sleeping with all the right people, constantly, all the time in one unending orgy, and has no time to do any design. This is the only explanation I can come up with.

  14. Bert Ulrich says:

    While I partially agree about the choice of priorities, the original author is wrong on many counts.  This is a not a new system that is being written and it is not being rewritten, and not being rewritten again.  So you were wrong 4 times in one sentence.

    You need to go back and examine the original reason they started revamping the whole talent trees to begin with.  Those were some solid design goals.  Reread those comments by GC, et al and you may have a different take on this new talent tree system.

    Finally, you should not judge a new game feature off the cuff without having tried it yourself.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.