Now that the dust has settled on the Warlords of Draenor announcements at Blizzcon, I’ve had time to ponder over some of the Warlords of Draenor item design changes to the game. Below, I’ll present some broad thoughts/concerns I have, particularly related to the changes to item stats and gearing.
Changes to gems/reforging/enchants/affixes/etc
I like the idea of changes to enchants, and I hope that it means that for the gear that can be enchanted we basically get the option to enchant whichever slot is available with whichever slot is possible, like jewel crafting has been in the past.
I’m not totally sold on the changes to jewel crafting, I think it will likely change profession balance. Even though I think profession balance is massively overrated, it’s just so easy to maintain with its current iteration, so why settle for less? I like the concept of affixes though, and gem sockets as affixes is intriguing. I feel as though this is a change I’ll probably grow to like, but I hope Blizzard pays attention to the profession balance concerns.
The changes to reforging have the biggest impact I feel. I agree with the change in principle – it feels really lousy to reforge every piece of gear every time I get a single upgrade, just because I now have a slightly more optimal path to a Haste break-point which allows me to squeeze out and extra +0.05% Mastery. In spite of this lousy feeling though, there is some reward in knowing you’ve just squeezed the most you can out of your stats.
My concern really comes in when you look at class and spec balance. Some classes, especially tanks and DPS, have flat stat weights, eg Crit may always be better than Mastery, which may always be better than Haste. For these classes, along with the removal of stats like hit & expertise, reforging’s disappearance becomes almost a non-issue – getting a piece of gear with a bunch more Crit is clearly an upgrade, and it feels more rewarding for these players. Unfortunately, I play a Resto Druid, which means that if Haste remains as it currently is, I have break-points to achieve, break-points which have a massive impact on my throughput, and exceeding them by any is essentially wasted stats. I feel like I’m destined to get wonderful items that should be an upgrade that I will not be able to equip, because it would mean I drop below a Haste break-point. At the moment, reforging provides a solution to the problem. It might not be the tidiest solution, but it’s a solution nonetheless. It leaves me to wonder if perhaps the change to reforging could have been not to remove it entirely, but rather, give it the enchant treatment, where you would only be able to reforge certain pieces of gear. I perceive a certain degree of imbalance between break-point classes like my own and those classes with flat stat weights.
I realise that some control over hitting break-points will be regained by enchants, but I am not yet convinced that it will feel like a real solution. I’m concerned about a scenario like the following example. The following stats are made up, I don’t know what the squish will bring us to, nor what the stat budgets will be – these were numbers I could easily work with to demonstrate my point:
EXAMPLE: I have this item and am sitting just over the Haste break-point – Say I’m 10 Haste over the break-point.
Currently equipped item:
Enchant: +50 Mastery
Enchant: +50 Haste
The new item is a considerable upgrade, because of the greater throughput increase offered by Mastery together with the greater Int and Spirit, but I give up 70 Haste. To get back to the break-point I want to sit at, I have to find two items with a Mastery enchant and change that to Haste. That means I’m giving up 150 Mastery to get 110 Mastery from my new piece of loot, a net loss of 40 Mastery. If that extra Int and Spirit isn’t worth more than the 40 Mastery, then of course it’s not an upgrade, and I’m stuck with the old one.
I should note that there is the possibility that the WoW devs have identified numbers that will scale satisfyingly so that if you are exceeding break-points, it’s by only the smallest of margins. I don’t see evidence of this in the game today, however, if I simply opt to not reforge and try to hit an optimal haste value. Enchants are the X-factor in the upcoming expansion.
Even though I totally agree with the change in principle, the way things are for admittedly only a few classes including my own, I think it has the potential to make things worse. I do hope that Blizzard have something in mind to keep this from becoming an issue. Personally, I feel like getting an item that should be an upgrade that you have to hold in your bags until you replace other gear is a worse feeling than needing to reforge every piece every time you get something. At least, for the price of reforging everything, you are getting an upgrade.
My game design suggestions
I’m throwing out the below ideas as simply a suggestion, off the top of my head. I don’t think these are necessary or even good ideas – they are brainstorming, just a way to throw some ideas out there, because I think it’s simply a matter of the right people recognising a potential issue and overcoming it. The below seem like reasonable ideas to me, but my perspective is Resto-Druid-only, and so I can see how changes like this might not work at the level of all classes. I’d love to hear your thoughts too.
One suggestion to fix the issue of break-point-reliant classes being ill-affected by inability to reforge might be to take the concept of reforging and apply it to enchants. Or put another way, enchants could function similar to the combination (purple/green/orange) gems have in the past. Allow enchants to have a mixture of bonus stats, that allow a more accurate level of fine-tuning.
The other suggestion, though I hate to suggest such a radical change, is to change Haste in some way. One possibility; hots and dots could revert to having their duration reduced and the same amount of ticks are scaled to the smaller duration (meaning no extra ticks, they just happen faster) so that Haste will scale linearly (with perhaps a single soft-cap) as opposed to the all-or-nothing break-point system. Haste’s effect to reducing the cast-time on direct heals might also be considered, but this seems like a clunky fix. I’ll note that while yes, I am talking buffs, that is with the expectation of a nerf in the form of reducing the overpowered-ness of so-called “smart heals”. I expect there is going to be some re-balancing around Wild Growth and Efflorescence, and as a result there is room for a buff like I’m suggesting. This post is not a veiled “Buff Druids!” placard.