Of Heroes and Villains Part 3

Of Heroes and Villains Part 3

daredevil109

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,

Sig

Image courtesy of Marvel.com

Of Heroes and Villains Part 2

Of Heroes and Villains Part 2

killingjoke

Last time we talked about the hero classes of Warcraft 3 and the build up to wrath where we got our first hero class, and I would like to thank everyone that chimed in. Today I’ll talk a little bit about implementation of the hero class.

Let’s face it, Death Knights set the bar pretty high. When you first start a Death Knight a few things happen. First of all you are in your own little corner of the old Eastern Kingdoms map, and in this corner you’re given a multi-phase instance to learn about your class. This in and of itself is pretty amazing. Think back to when you first started your character as a level 1 freshly born into the world. Your area was open to the world, at level one you could in theory run your brand new human all the way to Iron Forge if you felt so inclined.

With wrath, the Death Knights were born into servitude of the Lich King himself, already having established themselves as heroes of the horde / alliance but falling only to be returned in undeath. Being under the Lich King’s thumb you are forced to do things rather then given options, you can’t choose to skip the entry quests and just run to Iron Forge, instead you’re given a story to play out. You’re forced to do tasks for NPC’s that you’ve tried to kill in the halls of Naxxramas.

This feels like a rail shooter to some people and I have heard a fair share of complaints about it, but I personally love it. It forces you to immerse yourself into the character. You’re given beautifully crafted quests to give you gear and talents and a mount and most importantly, a foundation of skills for your character. The quests also give you the foundation of a story and they have a weight of lore about them.

To me that might be the most important thing about these quests, the lore. I’m a lore junkie. I love quests that just drip with story or dialogue with an NPC from the previous Warcraft games. When the Caverns of Time instances and Karazhan were released I was quite giddy (still waiting on the bottom half of kara there blizz! *shakes fist*) and they still remain among my favorite instances. Here we get the story of one of the branches of the Death Knights. We get to interact with Darion Morgraine a character who is at the center of an amazing selection of lore. Go ahead and give it a read http://www.wowwiki.com/Darion I’ll wait, it’s worth it.

When you’re done with all the quests you are treated to an amazing battle between the forces of Ebon Hold and those of Light’s Hope Chapel. When the dust settles you are welcomed to the site of Darion’s redemption and the cleansing of the Ashbringer. He breaks the bonds of the Lich King and swears to bring him down. The Death Knights are then required to purge the Ebon Hold of the forces loyal to the Lich King and then are sent to seek forgiveness with the leader of their faction before the game begins as normal.

What This Means

Even when Burning Crusade was released, both new races were given staring areas that you could skip if you wanted to. You didn’t have to learn anything about them really except that the Blood Elves were emo and the Dranaei were high and mighty hoof people.

Here you were forced to interact with and further along the lore of the game.  The entire starting package for the Death Knights set the bar very very high. Your introduced into a multi phase instanced area were layers are placed and removed to create a seamless environment.  You further along the plot of the entire game, you get to interact with Boss mobs in a way that is new and entertaining (Listening to Noth complain was hilarious) and you get to watch the story of the world change in a way it hasn’t in several years. I mean toppling the plot of Kil’jaden and besting Illidan was fun, but it doesn’t have quite the feel of watching the Lich King lose one of his greatest commanders or the Ashbringer placed in the hands of Tirion Fordring and cleansed or an entire new faction be born on the spot knowing that you’re going to be coming for Arthas in his place of power. Those just feel epic.

Any new hero class introduced into the game from now on will have large shoes to fill. Their introduction into the world will have to be something special and captivating as well as potentially innovative. This is arguably the most important point for a player with the class as often times it will be the deciding factor as to whether or not they keep playing the class. Personally I think the next best bet would be Keepers of the Grove and the Emerald Dream, because I can’t really think of anything else at the moment that would seem quite so epic or immersive.

I give Blizzard big kudos for doing the starting zone of Death Knights incredibly well.
What do you guys think? Did you enjoy the starting zone? Do you think any other hero class could make a comparable introduction?

Until next time,

Sig

Image courtesy of DC Comics

Of Heroes and Villains part 1

Of Heroes and Villains part 1

BatmanSpiderman2

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the last few weeks you’ve likely heard about Blizzard obtaining and copyrighting domains and trademarks surround the name Cataclysm. wow.com has been doing a great job keeping up on it .
The registering of the domain and copyrighting the name has sprung all sorts of speculation in the community. Some are calling it the name of the next expansion and a reference to the Maelstrom, the aftermath of the Well of Eternity exploding. Others speculate that it is the name of the next MMO that Blizzard has been working on (I have my own theories on what that one is, but that’s another post). All the buzz has produced one important truth. With Ulduar here and Yoggy being trampled, and with the tournament around the corner we are definitely getting ready for the announcement of the next expansion. Regardless of where the expansion takes us, one of the most talked about things has been what the next hero class will be. Today I’d like to talk about hero classes for a bit, this is the first in a series of three posts.

Back in the days of Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos many of us were marveling at our new hero units. Some of us lucky enough to be in beta got to experience them before they were level capped (A lvl 14 mountain king > scourge fyi). It added a new depth of strategy to the game we all loved. This solidified even more as we got into The Frozen Throne and saw the story unfold.

When World of Warcraft came out there were many of us that were disappointed to not see hero classes present in the game (hell, we had to wait until patch 0.6 to be able to play Druids!), but we did ok and trudged along. When the announcement for The Burning Crusade came, the community was full of speculation and hopeful murmurs that hero classes would be in the game finally! Again we were let down, but we sucked it up and kept trucking. Then came the announcement for Wrath of the Lich King, and with it the announcement of our first hero class, the Death Knight. I’ll be honest I was giddy and eagerly followed their development. When I got to play around in the beta I was not disappointed. The way they were packaged and presented to us was amazing and it had a way to immerse you into the story line. The way your character broke out from under Arthas and went back to their faction was great. The entire story surrounding them was amazing and most importantly, their arrival signified two things. Hero classes were indeed real, and their arrival has changed the story of the world we play in.

Now that we are looking for the next hero class, lets take a quick gander at the actual list of Hero units from WC3.

Alliance

Horde

Scourge

Night Elf

Neutral

Quite a few of them right? Some of these are already in the game in the shape of NPC’s or bosses, and a few are already playable. Looking at the list above you can figure some of them out see Paladin’s are already a playable character, as is Death Knight. Archmage abilities can be found on regular mages now (with mass teleport being replaced by portals in a way). Lots of the Shadow Hunter abilities found their way over to Shaman, and various others are represented by NPC’s strewn about the dungeons and cities of Warcraft. Take a look around and see who is where.

So what do you think the next hero class will be? Do you think it’s one of the ones on the list? What do you think of hero classes in general?

Be sure to check back for part 2 of Heroes and Villains,

Until next time

Sig

Image courtesy of www.comicbookmovie.com