The Power of Choice vs the Impact of Change

Or…

If it ain’t broke, don’t try to “fix” it…


All classes in WoW have seen revamps at some point in the life of the game. Sure, some have been a bit more drastic than others, but it happens.

And usually only to a single spec of any class at a given time.

However something is changing about Blizzard’s philosophy regarding class and spec revamps, and it’s not necessarily a healthy change. Least of all for the players. Especially for those that play Hunters.

Once upon a time, Blizzard’s philosophy was that change should be incremental . Change over time, so that eventually the spec you played was perhaps made completely unrecognisable over the course of 2 or 3 expansions, yet was still familiar to regular players of the spec and class.

The reasoning behind this philosophy was that too many changes in too short of a timespan led to players being left feeling confused or burnt out and more likely to quit playing the class or the game as a whole through dissatisfaction.

This was a great approach, as it allowed Blizzard the opportunity to tweak specs, to tighten them up, and basically to tinker in order to ensure a spec was both competitive against other specs/classes but more importantly was also still fun to play.

What this approach allowed the players on the other hand, was the chance to retain a familiarity with a spec or a class. Even if Blizzard makes changes to a spec that means you don’t get the same enjoyment out of it anymore, there are 2 to 3 other specs to play that you will have at least a passing familiarity with and can maybe segue into.

There are 3 types of class in WoW:

  • Pure DPS classes, for example Hunters, Rogues, Mages, and Warlocks, each with their three DPS specs.
  • Semi-hybrid classes like Warriors (2 DPS/1 Tank), Priests (2 Heal/1 DPS), Shaman (2 DPS/1 Heal) and DKs (2 DPS/1 Tank).
  • Absolute Hybrid classes such as Paladins, Monks & Druids, where a change in spec equates to a change in role.

Obviously the further down that list you go, the greater the Impact of Change will be on players of those respective classes.

For example, for players of Pure DPS classes, changes to a spec will mean either gaining familiarity with the new changes, or at the very least a change in spec to another more familiar one. A change in spec for these players will not require a change in role. Pure Ranged DPS is Ranged and Rogues do it from behind regardless of spec.

On the other end of the spectrum, unsatisfying changes to a spec for Absolute Hybrid classes will mean either gaining familiarity with the new changes, or a change in role or class. The Impact of Change to players of these classes are the greatest.

Obviously the Impact of Change will occur with Semi-Hybrids to varying degrees, dependant on the chosen spec, where it can mean either a change in spec or a change in role.

Regardless of which of these three categories your chosen class falls into, the vast majority of players will have that passing familiarity I mentioned earlier with the other specs and/or roles within their chosen class.

In short, players of any given class will have some sort of refuge in one of their class’s other specs, even if it means a change in role.

However, Blizzard seem to have abandoned that philosophy when it comes to changes to the Hunter class in Legion.

No Safe Haven

Current players of the Hunter class, will in short, have no safe haven come Legion.

For Survival players, they will be seeing not only a complete change in role, switching from ranged to melee (itself not a wise change, as melee is already a crowded gamespace), but this will also see and mean a fundamental change in the abilities used by the spec. No more Black Arrow, Lock & Load etc, and hello again to the likes of Mongoose Bite and Wing Clip.


For MM players, they will see not only fundamental changes to the abilities used by the spec (no more signature Chimaera Shot for one), but they will also completely lose the ability to use a pet, one of the most fundamental and basic abilities of the Hunter class since Vanilla. MM will permanently lose part of the class aesthetic, fantasy and flavour that has been baked into the DNA of the class since its inception.


Beast Mastery players will see not only fundamental changes to their spec, how it plays and the abilities used, but they’ll see their own importance in gameplay de-emphasised in preference to becoming the logistical manager that I alluded to in a previous post.

They will lose the ability to generate their own focus, and to a large degree will also lose the ability to deal significant damage directly. BM players will be utterly reliant on their summoned beasts for both focus and the vast majority of their damage.


Of course both BM & MM will lose the ability to use any sort of trap, as they will become the exclusive territory of Survival players. Because of course melee players need to kite and CC mobs all the time…


A Lost Fantasy

Sarcasm aside, this loss of utility for BM and MM players, not only in the lack of traps for both, but the lack of pet for MM to boot is galling.

But more galling than that?

The entire fantasy of a lone Hunter with only their loyal, chosen Pet by their side,  doing damage from range while their pet goes into melee to protect their master?

Gone entirely.

  • Survival will be melee only, no longer a ranged role.
  • BM will sacrifice the lone, chosen pet playstyle for an endless crowd of random animals.
  • MM will lose the pet altogether.

Current players of the Hunter class will know no familiarity with the class that they used to know come Legion. There will be no familiar spec, no familiar role, no familiar playstyle.

Hell, no familiar class.

Change for the sake of it, especially overwhelming changes to an entire class like this is not healthy, and is certainly not conducive to player retention.

Hunters did not need this complete overhaul. Ok, the changes to Survival may see its use increase somewhat, at least initially. However BM and MM were both largely (80%) fine as they were.

So what should have happened?

If I was the Hunter class designer for Legion, these are the changes I would’ve made to BM and MM:

Marksmanship

Make the T18 4-Piece bonus baseline for the spec. Instant Aimed shots made the balance between pooling and spending focus an engaging mini-game, and enhanced the play-style of the spec immensely.


Balance Lone Wolf (with its array of buff choices) vs the other level 100 Talents a lot better. Make it actually viable to NOT take Lone Wolf for those that prefer a pet (like me). For those that enjoy the petless play-style? Carry on using it! Knock yourself out!

Make it an option to use a pet or not, but give players that choice.


Kill Shot. Keep it. And while you’re at it? Keep Traps too. CC in solo play is important too.


Three to four small changes. That’s it.

Honestly? It didn’t take or need that much effort or work.


Beast Mastery

Give players a talent to allow them to call a 2nd, permanent pet. Give them the ability to mix and match with this 2nd pet to give players a greater ability to create an identity and enhance spec fantasy.


Make the pet abilities at the player’s control, like Kill Command, Bestial Wrath, Focus Fire etc, all apply to the 2nd pet as well. No need for an uncontrollable throng of random animals that, let’s be honest, no-one really wants or cares for that I’ve heard so far.

I don’t think any current BM players have ever fantasised about being Ace Ventura, or Snow White…


Leave Stampede as-is. It’s fine Blizzard, seriously.

If you’re so concerned about crowding the melee space for a whopping 40 seconds every 5 minutes, then why the hell are you converting one ranged spec and forcing it into the melee area, while simultaneously introducing another entirely new melee class in Legion?

The new Stampede? Well heaven help you if the boss moves, given that it’s a 10 second AoE effect now (eurgh).


Have Growl make the enemy focus on whichever Pet has least threat, allowing for easier pet maintenance and healing.


Keep Spirit Bond. FFS.


Keep Camouflage. Jesus wept.


Kill Shot and Traps. Again.


And with that?

Both BM & MM players would retain familiarity with their chosen spec. No massive overhauls required, no changes in play-style necessary.

Evolution, not revolution.

Minimise or negate that Impact of Change.

Easy.

3 comments

Fantastic post. Thanks so much for putting my exact feelings into words when I wasn’t able to myself, as I’ve been feeling so much overwhelmed and conflicted. I started playing hunter 8 years ago for that precise fantasy and it’s painful to realize that it will indeed be gone in just a few months. The changes are just so drastic and many of them completely unnecessary. Back in August, I was pretty excited or at least intrigued by most of the main changes (save, of course, for Lonewolf becoming baseline to MM). But the more of those changes I see, the more hesitant I feel. Blizzard is being way too ambitious with these changes and I believe that, more and more, such ambition – and more specifically the ‘class fantasy’ key-concept – will eventually backfire for the reasons you’ve wrote. Like you said, simple changes would be a better key. If it ain’t broken, don’t “fix” it.

Thanks again for this. Please keep up the great work. 🙂

Just dropping by to say, this is a fantastic post. As a former warlock who found happiness, with hunters for the past two expacs, these changes have left me bemused and unhappy to say the least. SV was and remains my fav. spec and as someone who plays with a lot of latency, really not happy that it’s becoming a melee one.

Ty for writing a fantastic summary.

Thanks very much guys 🙂

I’m in a similar situation myself, having switched mains in April of last year from my previous 6 year main, my Prot Pally. I’ve been playing a hunter as my primary alt up until that point for years. I fell in love with that lone hunter and his loyal pet fantasy, ever since the cinematic for vanilla wow, with the Dwarven hunter and his bear.

I’ve always been a fan of BM, but in HFC I really fell in love with the MM play-style.

I just find it really unfortunate that Blizzard seem to have taken Lone Wolf’s popularity as an indication that most raiding Hunters prefer no pet, which is patently false.

Either that, or more disingenuously, they’ve made Lone Wolf deliberately OP in the level 100 talent row, and used it as an excuse to make these changes to MM in Legion.

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