Less is More?

Less is More?

As some of you may or may not know, I am actually trained in the skills of an architect. It’s a fun fact about me on the off chance you care about that sort of thing. The reason I bring this up is because all throughout my college career, my teachers attempted to drive home the point that “Less is More”. This is not a new design concept by any means, in fact it is a rather old idea, a 19th century proverbial phrase. It is first found in print in Andrea del Sarto, 1855, a poem by Robert Browning:

Who strive – you don’t know how the others strive
To paint a little thing like that you smeared
Carelessly passing with your robes afloat,-
Yet do much less, so much less, Someone says,
(I know his name, no matter) – so much less!
Well, less is more, Lucrezia.

Architect Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe is often associated with this phrase as a founder  of modern architecture and proponent of simplicity of style.

So I’m sure you’re asking why I’m dragging architecture into your dragon game right now yes? Well, quite simply the idea of less is more is a design concept that many game companies have embraced. To do more with less decreases production time, allows for a better shake down of bugs and glitches, and can free up a developer to create some very innovative game play.  One need not look much further than Braid or The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom to see what I mean here.

Blizzard it would seem has just begun to adapt to this way of thinking, at least it appears that way. You can see this in the latest build of the Cataclysm Beta. The new 31-point talent system has streamlined the talent trees by removing  bloat and overused space. What we are left with is a cleaner, albeit smaller, talent tree. A lot of the talents cut away were instead folded into the players choice in specialization, for example Earth Shield was removed as a talent and given as a core spell when a player chooses to specialize in Restoration. This design model is an attempt to do more with less. Less wasted talent space will lead to more interesting talents in the tree, as well more interesting game play for players… in theory anyways. I wrote up a more detailed breakdown of these changes on WoW.com so feel free to check it out. This is my more personal thoughts on these changes, and well… I just felt the need to keep talking about them some.

While it is still in an early beta phase, I can’t help but feel… disrupted a little bit. While I agree that some of the talents should have been moved, I’m not entirely feeling good about what was pulled out and what was put in. I agree that for restoration, Earth Shield should have been removed as a talent and made into a base spell. You will never hear me complain about that. Every resto shaman I know takes that talent, and in truth it is a very core, very iconic spell that is part of the identity of a resto shaman. If you are a restoration shaman without Earth Shield… well I just don’t even know. I am curious though as to why Mana Tide Totem was left in place though. Like ES it is a very core shaman talent and again something most if not all resto shaman take. Why not remove it as a talent and give it as a bonus for choosing the restoration specialization? That could further open up the tree and allow more space for more fun talents. From a design perspective it would make more sense to make it a base ability or a specialization bonus and open the slot for something else… maybe something like Spirit Link!

Another thing that confused me was some of the additions, Spark of Life to be exact. One of the things that Blizzard stated was that they wanted to move away from/remove talents that added passive % bonuses. Don’t get me wrong, I like the talent. Buffing the healing done to yourself has been near godly in the beta (*ahem* restoiz4tanking!) and it makes the passive heal from Healing Stream Totem nice for longevity, but I am still surprised to see it included. It does go well with Ancestral Resolve as far as that whole staying alive thing goes as well. I fully plan on using these for tanking as a healer!

Telluric Currents would be nice for leveling… if it was lower in the tree. I can’t see taking it as a dedicated healer in end game, as it is rare that I have to DPS at all and even then it is usually a flame shock followed by more healing and then a lava burst. It could be useful for soloing… maybe.

We lost a lot however. A lot of our supercharged healing is gone, and we are dreadfully low on passive crit. Some additions to the tree give us back some of the bonus healing, but no where near where it was. I understand that they want to make healing harder and more thoughtful and I am pro difficulty on that, but a shaman’s best procs all come from crit. Passively we can push 40% in a raid without trying, this helps with heals from Ancestral Awakening and helps trigger Blessing of the Eternals sure. It also is necessary for shaman mana regeneration. Improved Water Shield procs off of critical heals. The more crits you have the more likely you are to regen mana and be able to keep casting. I don’t know if you remember but there was a time not so long ago that shaman were having longevity issues. IWS was implemented to compensate for that, but by removing the passive crit, it hurts our regeneration rates. Meditation is supposed to allow for further regeneration, but the question remains if it will wind up being enough.

Along those same lines, Tidal Force is out. I really really miss this spell. It has become second nature in to pop this spell and its absence is keenly felt. When I’m healing on live I usually have a rhythm going. Like say for Valithria;

Riptide > Healing Wave > Healing Wave > Chain Heal > Tidal Force > Healing Wave > Healing Wave etc. Refreshing Riptide when off cooldown.

Now it has become

Riptide > Healing Wave > Healing Wave > Chain Heal > Look for Tidal Force *DAMNIT* Unleashed Weapon > Healing Wave > Healing Wave etc.

Throws me off quite a bit. Still getting used to it. I can see what they are doing by trimming the trees and I approve. While I may not be a staunch minimalist, I know when things have gotten bloated. The restoration tree on live definitely is bloated, and the one on the current beta could use some more pruning .

So Blizzard, keep in mind that less is more. Players have been doing creative things with very little for a while now. Just make what we have better defined and maybe move a few more things around. We don’t necessarily need a rolls-royce (although it would not be turned down!) we just need things that function well. We’ve been trotting along pretty much unchanged for a good bit, just make sure you don’t break us ok?

So what do you guys think of the changes so far? Anything you noticed you love? Hate? Anything you think they should add in?


Understanding New Talents and Thoughts on Priests

Last week, it was announced that talent trees would get sliced. Reason being that there was too much unnecessary crap and not enough fun talents. Most of us sort of got the idea of what they wanted to do. Include more talents that do something tangible, that we can feel or use.

Potentially free Lightning Bolt after casting a Lightning Bolt? Cool.

Gradually increasing healing by some random percentage of which you can’t really see? Not quite as exciting.

Preview the new trees and see what they’ll look like

How specialization works

Okay, so the way I understand it, the moment you ding level 10, you get to start specializing your character. The moment you invest your first talent, you get access to a myriad of spells and abilities which define that particular tree.

Let’s use a Priest for example.

As Holy

I get access to:

  • Desperate Prayer
  • Holy Priest (Pushback reduction on discipline and holy spells)
  • Meditation

As Discipline

I get access to:

  • Penance
  • Pushback resistance
  • Meditation

From what I can see, no special training is required. You are well on your way to becoming that specialized priest of your choice. There won’t be any 20/21 type builds either. You need to fully invest your points down one tree before you can fork over to a different one. The rate at which you receive talents points have been roughly halved as well. Figure you get a new point every 2 or maybe 3 levels.

What do I think?

My opinion though, I’m not sure what can be done to entice players to select holy at the lower levels. I notice a few sad face Priests when they notice that Desperate Prayer is the innate spell we get. Desperate Prayer makes the most sense for balance and logistical reasons (like what’s the point of getting Circle of Healing at level 10?) At that stage of the game, you’re hardly doing much in a party anyway. At least with the prayer, you can fire off a desperate heal if you pulled one too many murlocs.

I can’t count the number of times where I could’ve easily leveled the murlocs and their huts if I had access to Desperate Prayer.

Anyway, I can certainly see the foundation of Holy taking place. I’m trying to remember what the original 41 point talent was back in vanilla (Spirit of Redemption? Lightwell?). Now if they can just somehow throw in something new in place of Renew or Empowered Healing at the first level under Holy. What would be a decent ability at that level?

Holy seems quite top heavy in the sense that any of the deeper talents could easily fulfill the role as the 31 point talent. Guardian Spirit is the current one. Circle of Healing used to be the end talent back during Burning Crusade, if memory serves. I wouldn’t mind seeing Chakra and Guardian Spirit switched. From a symbolic perspective, I think a talent like that which gives your spells nifty bonuses whenever you string them together should be an ultimate skill.

But that’s inspired from assorted limit breaks from Final Fantasy.

From a logistical and practical standpoint? It might be better off if priests get a feel for Chakra earlier in their leveling life.

The Discipline side of things looks great! Power Word: Barrier as the 31 pointer? Awesome. It appears that Discipline is destined to be the leveling spec (due to Evangelism and Archangel).

One thing I noticed is the placement of Inner Focus. At 11 points in, it will not be accessible to Holy priests. I don’t know if that’s intentional or not. Inner Focus has been one of those taken-for-granted type talents that all healing priests usually get. For it to be cut off like for those that choose the path of Holy is going to be quite the impact. Here’s hoping it gets switched with Archangel.

Anyway, I like the direction the talent condensation is going. Obviously they’re not all complete or finalized yet. Some classes still have a few placeholders or leftover talents from live that aren’t supposed to be there.

Now I don’t know about you, but I’m going to have a heck of a time figuring out which healing priest type I want to switch to. I’ll probably end up dual speccing both anyway. I might just go back to my roots and be straight up holy again in the expansion.

How are you liking the talents so far? (And it doesn’t have to be restricted to just priests either)!