There’s been a discussion going on all week (if you like to call it that) on Blizzard’s decision to remove the cost of spec switching and instead impose a restriction on talent swaps without the use of a rest area (please see this blue post.) To alleviate this when in a dungeon/raid? The Wartome of the Sharpened Mind is now a part of the game. The use of the phrase ‘nearby players’ makes it abundantly obvious that this is a group item, clearly designed for raid use. However, and this is crucial, the cost of that item is already making some think that actually, this is all well and good to a point. The obvious intent in this decision is to restrict players from simply swapping from spec to spec and making all content effectively trivial if you’re a good enough player. By trivial, of course, I mean that if you’re already able to learn boss fights in a night and are geared to a standard where the damage being taken can not only be managed but persistently controlled. Yes, there is a small and dedicated portion of the player base who will do this, can and are. They’re not just Server First Guilds either.
This change undoubtedly highlights the tyranny of choice in gaming. What it also does is make me realise just how much supposition is being placed on the game being played a certain way. Because for many, who will simply resent being forced to swap in a rest area, or simply refuse to do so based on their own perceived failings? The actual nature of playtime changes forever. Without restrictions on ability, it is far simpler and easier to learn and adapt to situations based on circumstance. You just keep swapping the tool-kit about until you’re certain you’ve identified the best way to do a job and move on. That means as a Hunter I’d have a webpage for each fight, that had been created from the accumulated wisdom of a group of people doing just that as to how I best beat the boss. In effect, I’d write a Guide.
This change means that the people that play the game first will pay a penalty that will not be suffered by those who come to the expansion far later in it’s life span. In effect, it’s a gating mechanic for early adopters.
I actually find this quite amusing, in retrospect, that those players who trailblaze and create the stuff of websites and guide hubs are now going to be the ones who end up being penalised for what, in essence, is a perfectly acceptable change. These are the players who don’t mind learning on the fly, who are capable and experienced to begin with. Of course, if those players choose not to share their knowledge they too can make everyone else down the food chain have to pick up their game and force them into making these choices themselves. The guides would dry up, as the top tier decide not to share their knowledge and effectively make people learn to play. In that regard, this imposition of choice might have some very interesting side effects. It all depends on why Blizzard truly chose to do the thing to begin with.
The argument that Ion Hazzikostas provides is actually quite seductive in the reasoning department. Then you’re going to start looking at what individual players consider as choice to begin with and actually, that’s a really subjective task right there. Because it will depend in the main on your own perceived ability, that of the people you play with, and whether you know them or not. I see a lot of people deciding that Blizzard doesn’t care about Guilds any more but this change is probably the single most damning affirmation for playing this game with people you know. Because if that happens, you can look at the characters you play and build teams to beat encounters based not simply on their talents and abilities, but your individual skill set to boot. If you think as an individual, this change is potentially catastrophic. With the introduction of the Tome and some friends/a Guild?
Choice becomes yours to wield as you desire.
In the end, of course, the problem with Warcraft was never the game, and it is the individual’s perception and use of it when playing that becomes the bigger issue. I already know the people who will see this and decide that Blizzard hates casuals, but ironically they’ll be the ones with the maxxed Scribes coining it in from everybody else. The ecosystem in this game is actually far more fragile than many players would have you believe, and these changes will benefit a lot of people over time. What has to happen first, and this is absolutely vital, is that players need to be prepared to change to begin with. Undoubtedly this is always the bigger choke point when an Expansion happens: already I see people telling me that they’ve had enough, that their favourite character is ruined beyond repair. The choice is simple: the Development team didn’t do this as a personal slur. You have to decide whether or not you are willing and capable of affecting personal change and if you’re not? Then there are consequences that need to be considered.
Sometimes, it isn’t just the game that has to evolve.
I find this decision and the reaction to it to be typical of so many that Blizzard have implemented over the years, and yet none of those effectively broke the game. They were presented as solutions to issues that players presented, or that changes to the structure of the game imposed on the Designer’s needs and desires going forward. It isn’t different for the sake of it either, this is the team realising that by changing one thing, there are consequences down the line. It is a beautiful evolution that continues unabated and is, at least in my mind, cheapened by the persistent rhetoric of individuals who refuse to better themselves in order to improve their play-style.
This time, maybe this is the right decision, and you’re the ones that need to change.