The more interesting commentary coming out of Blizzard of late has been their stance with regards to hybrid classes. A blue recently mentioned that Blizzard was getting away from utility classes and the hybrid classes specced for a certain role should be able to compete as well as other 'pure classes'. Typically this is going to fall under the header of 'pew pew', as every healing class is a hybrid class and every tank class is also a hybrid class. Throughout TBC, hybrids saw a lower dps cap than their 'pure' dps counterparts and according to Blizzard, it was intentional. The changes that Blizz is making throughout 3.0 is such that Boomkins, ShadowPriests, Ret Pallies, etc will all be able to compete for top damage.
Personally, I think that's a complete and utter load of fail.
Why? Well, as I commented over at CriticalQQ, simply giving every class the ability to compete for top dps is the easy and lazy way out of resolving the differences between a hybrid and a pure dps class.
Let me explain.
For anyone who's truly learned the various abilities of a hybrid class, this movement is essentially a big ol' slap in the face because it simplifies the class to the point of homogeneity. Instead of taking the time to develop the hybrid classes so that they are encouraged to hybridize, Blizzard is pigeonholing classes based on spec into 3 buckets: Tank, Heal, and DPS. On the surface, this isn't a bad thing as people have come to expect that a Moonkin is for pew-pew and 'Bare is 4 fite'. But, for people who have learned the nuances of the various abilities of the different specs and their utility, all of these changes become a big middle finger when it's unequivocally said, Press that Starfire button over and over until either you die or the boss dies. Don't do anything else." Right. Sounds. Like. Fun.
So aside from making everyone the same, what's the other danger of spec performance consolidation? Well, spec performance consolidation leads to raid composition consolidation. If everyone can do the same thing with equal success, then every raid is going to have something like similar to a 3 tank 8 healer 14 dps composition, give or take a few. With no adaptability, that 'give or take a few' is going to mean that players are going to have to sit on the bench if they know that a boss requires more or less of their specific role (not class)... which also means that a raiding guild is going to need people 'on call'; people waiting for their time of need to arise. Like its hard enough for a starting raiding guild to even get 25 people online at one time. Anyone remember the 4 Horsemen from Naxx back pre-TBC? Yeah.
The true danger of raid composition consolidation is actually far worse. And that danger is boss/encounter design. With 4 years under our belts, we've pretty much seen it all with it comes to boss encounters. How many times have you said, "Oh yeah, boss_name_1 is just like boss_name_2"? What else can Blizzard throw us that we can't figure out in a couple of nights, sell the strat to Bosskillers, upload to Youtube and have other guilds emulate? The answer is, "Nothing." Every boss in this game, except for one, is completely predictable with such accuracy, that we even have modifications to our game to let us know when an ability will come.
Is PvE hard? No. When boiled down, PvE isnt hard. Why? Because it's scripted. To accomplish the task, you must do A, B and C. But what if it wasn't scripted? What if bosses were dynamic and had an AI that adapted to a raid's composition or tendencies? What if bosses didn't have standard aggro tables and required 'on the fly' adaptations like Priestess Delrissa and her posse in MgT? First, I think that many bad raiders would be weeded out in an instant. Second, I truly believe that hybrid classes would shine if there was a little more randomness in every encounter that required 'on the fly' adapatations. Without hybrid classes and their ability to adapt to a situation, Blizzard is stuck designing content that's predictable, inflexible, and unimaginative without the use of gimmicks (blue dragons for KJ, Teron's ghosts, Big Bad Wolf). I mean. Who doesn't love those oh-so-imaginative enrage timers, right?
So, here's what I think:
- I think that if one dumps 51 points into a talent tree, they should be able to compete with whatever role that talent tree emphasizes. End tree talents should give that bonus, not inherent abilities/mid tier talents.
- I think hybrid classes should have their hybrid-ness emphasized such that either hybrid gear should be created or hybrid talents should be created (i.e. requires 30+ points in two trees) to cover for the lack of stats attained from gear.
- I think that boss/encounters should be designed with hybrids in mind such that people have to think on their feet and boss mod shouldn't be able to predict everything.
- I think Blizzard should stop being lazy and put some effort into designing differences instead of making everyone the same.