World of Warcraft Game Director Tom Chilton, and Lead Systems Designer Greg Street took to the stage this morning to discuss the direction of class balance for World of Warcraft, as well as the new talent system coming in Mists of Pandaria. Their panel focused on the philosophies and goals of this new system, what’s changing, and what expectations players should have as they level up in Pandaria and beyond.
Philosophies and Goals
In Cataclysm, we made some pretty radical adjustments to the talent trees. Some of those changes worked out really well, while others didn't really help us achieve the goals we set out to reach. We really liked offering players a choice of class specialization at level 10, for example, and how streamlining each of the talent trees made room for meaningful choices and greater character customization. We didn't like that there was still a lot of "bulk" left in the talent trees despite our clean-up efforts, though, and that it remained possible for players to "miss" really important performance talents. Looking back, we feel that the Cataclysm talent trees are roughly 80% composed of class role-defining talents that are crucial to rotations and performance, while the other 20% are interesting utility talents, and that's where the real choices were happening.
For Mists of Pandaria, we want to move toward something that feels more flexible, yet eliminates many of the flaws of the old system at the same time. More importantly, we want players to gain access to important class performance abilities easily while ensuring that the more engaging utility abilities, where all the choices a player makes are meaningful, are front and center. Getting there will take some major changes.
The New Class Talent System
Perhaps the most exciting of these changes is the removal of the old talent tree system. Rather than each class having three separate trees, one for each specialization, players will now choose talents from individual sets which are awarded every 15 levels. Each class will have its own selection of talents, and the entire list will be available to all characters of that class regardless of specialization.
Each talent set is comprised of three talents which fall into a clear "theme." Some sets will offer utility such as movement speed increases and boosts to survivability, while others will reduce the costs of certain situational abilities. Currently, the goal is to avoid making any particular talent mandatory or to have them play a role in ability rotations directly. Instead, they're intended to give players interesting ways to customize their characters according to their preferred playstyle.
In total, there will be six talent sets, with players unlocking a new set every 15 levels. This means that there will be fewer talents overall, but each talent you choose has the potential to have a much more dramatic effect on your gameplay.
Another big change being made is how talents are selected. Instead of "purchasing" talents with a predetermined number of points (earned as you level), talent selection will be toggle-based. For each set of three talents players unlock, they will get to choose one talent to activate, for a total of six active talents at level 90. (Talent ranks have been completely removed.)
Similar to current functionality, talents selections will be finalized by clicking "Learn" at the bottom of the talent pane; however, a big benefit of removing talent points is that it allows us to let players "re-talent" with more flexibility. Even after players have activated their talents, they won't be completely locked into their choices as they are now. If at any point a player feels that another talent may be more appropriate or fun, he or she can simply select that talent from their tree and click "Learn" again. This can be done on a talent-by-talent basis or, if the situation demands it, all talents can be changed out at once.
As a result, talents can be changed out when switching specs, as well as when running dungeons, raids, and battlegrounds. While re-talenting will most likely be disabled during combat and will incur a small fee (either in the form of gold or a reagent), it will still give players more opportunities to adapt their characters to better meet the challenges they expect to face while playing.
Class Talents vs. Specialization Abilities
So what does this mean for important spec-based spells and abilities like Hammer of the Righteous and Circle of Healing?
At level 10, players will still select a specialization and unlock an iconic class specialization ability. As players level up, they will then automatically learn both class-based and specialization-specific abilities at set intervals. The specialization abilities you learn will be largely comprised of old talents we feel players should have, as well as core class abilities that not every spec needs.
For example, for a level 25 Protection paladin, his or her training list may look a little something like this:
|Level 10:||Avenger's Shield||(Protection ability)|
|Judgments of the Wise||(Protection ability)|
|Level 12:||Rightous Fury||(Class ability)|
|Level 13:||Redemption||(Class ability)|
|Level 14:||Flash of Light||(Class ability)|
|Level 15:||Hand of Reckoning||(Class ability)|
|Level 16:||Lay on Hands||(Class ability)|
|Level 18:||Divine Shield||(Class ability)|
|Level 20:||Hammer of the Righteous||(Protection ability)|
|Level 22:||Supplication||(Class ability)|
|Level 24:||Consecration||(Class ability)|
These spells and abilities will be trained in the field, appearing immediately in players' spellbooks once they reach the appropriate level. As a result, there will no longer be a need to visit class trainers save to re-spec or purchase Dual Specialization, keeping players engaged and doing what they enjoy.
With this new method of distributing abilities, we can ensure that players are receiving role-defining talents at levels that make sense and will benefit them the most as well as deliver fun and meaningful choices along the way.
Be sure to visit or tune in to the World of Warcraft Classes/Items/Professions Q&A tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. PDT in Hall D of the Anaheim Convention Center to learn more about the direction we’re taking with class balance in Mists of Pandaria.