In Part 1 we took a look at hero classes and made some speculation as to the next expansion. In Part 2 we took a look at how the Death Knight hero class was introduced into the game. In part 3 here I’d like to talk a little bit about the hardest part of the hero class, balance.
When designing classes for any game, balance is always an issue. Even years after classes have been established sometimes things need to be tweaked. The goal is to make sure no one class is so powerful that it becomes the only one anyone plays. Essentially trying to keep the class from becoming a “Mary Sue” of the game. We’ve seen this over the years with balancing and re-balancing of all the classes, as well as in burning crusade giving the faction specific classes to both factions (Shaman and Paladins playing for both teams). When you add a hero class to a game it’s really hard not to make it into the favored child. At the same time a hero class should add a new mechanic or do something in such a way that people stop and go “oh, that’s just cool” . With Death Knights this was the addition of Runes and Runic Power.
When Wrath of the Lich King beta went out, I could not get my grubby hands on a key fast enough, I was dying to try out the new Death Knight class. I rolled my toon and found myself climbing the levels. Each build of the beta Death Knights got what some of us refer to as “Flavor of the Month” builds. In these builds one tree was emphasized over the others to test that tree out. The idea is if you make the first two sub-par, everyone will play the third. This is an old technique in beta testing to gather data. For example, in one of the Wrath builds Scourge Strike was hitting for close to 6k damage at level 65. This happened several times and each time players dutifully left their feedback and devs took it all in.
When wrath went live, Death Knights were good. Scary good. They had superior mitigation, better cooldowns and better DPS it was hard not to love them. As a healer I loved healing them, it took a lot less effort then the other three tanking classes. But therein lay the problem. When listening to all the feedback and launching it’s first hero class, Blizzard arguably made them too good. Look at all the patch notes from Wrath’s launch to now. Death Knights have been revised several times in an effort to bring them closer to the other classes, including recently where the cooldown on Icebound Fortitude is being increased to match other tanks.
It’s hard to find that sweet-spot. You want the class to feel epic and new and shinny, but you don’t want people to stop using the ones you’ve already made. It’s a very fine line to walk and it’s very difficult to do it right. With Death Knights even after they’ve been normalized I still love playing them. I love the way the Runes and Runic power system works. It’s incredibly intricate and allows for a free flowing rotation that let’s you be reactive rather then just spam a key sequence or a one button macro. It’s fun so I’ll always like to play it.
If Blizzard introduces another hero class, they are going to have to be careful to make sure it’s properly balanced. Let’s say they introduce a new healing class, it would have to be balanced so that it did not over power the other four healing classes. At the same time the mechanics of it would have to be something innovative or new to keep it fresh and exciting. Same goes for another ranged physics DPS class. If one was added it would have to be balanced as to not overshadow hunters, and at the same time provide a new way to deal that damage that is fun. (for the record I really like the idea of another ranged physical DPS class!)
It’s a tough to add new classes without overlapping or overshadowing the ones you’ve created before, but I have faith Blizzard will be able to do it again and will do it better then they did Death Knights. Death Knights just had the bad luck of being first out the gate =D
So what do you think? Do you think they can balance another class in? What would you like to see as a new mechanic?
That’s it for today, Until next time,
Image courtesy of Marvel.com