Saturday, 24 July 2010

Balance Identity Redux

Define what a Balance Druid is; given identity to each of Balance's schools, Arcane and Nature. From that identity, build around set themes (which the spec is lacking, imo) so as to create a unique caster centered around the Eclipse mechanic and balancing Nature and Arcane magics.


Caveat! This is my opinion and I am very well aware that the class has yet to receive much of a pass for Cataclysm. I am very content to sit back and see how the class unfolds, but I still worry that some concerns could be left unaddressed :)

There is currently little reason shown within the Druid class as to why Balance Druids use both Arcane and Nature magic given that both schools functionally have the same offensive characteristics. Only with utility and aesthetics do the schools diverge, where other classes' schools of magic have clear distinctions on functionality and mechanics, as well as the talents to support such.

eg. Fire burns (Ignite & Flame Shock etc) and hits hard (Lava Burst & Fireball etc), Frost freezes (Frost Nova & Huntering Cold etc) and slows (Chills & Frost Shock etc), Shadow drains and weakens (Affliction, Diseases, DoTs, curses etc). For Mages, Arcane has strong utility and 'tricks'; for Shaman, Nature is thunder and lightning (and healing, Druids too).

Yet for Balance Druids, Nature is what? Roots and trees? Arcane is stars? Functionally, this is barely represented within the class and a Nature damage spell is the same as an Arcane damage spell. The Balance Druid schools have no identity, which leads Balance to lacking a core to build around.

There seems to be very little cohesiveness as to what a Balance Druid is. Each spell operates in total independance, with little sense of unity within each school and within the class. Doing one thing will not set up another, casting any particular spell will not affect the functionality of anything else, and DoTing and nuking is all there is. For some, this may be fine, but, having played all other classes extensively (except Hunters), I just don't find this is exciting!

It is here where the Eclipse mechanic has so much potential to be the core of what a Balance Druid is. Eclipse has a chance to divide Nature and Arcane, and express the identity of each school.

It has, for example, the potential to:
    allow the Balance Druid to 'go Lunar Eclipse!' and then burst something down with Nature damage, and then modify our nature utility (chain Roots, super Typhoon, swarming Insect Swarm, etc); allow one to 'go Solar Eclipse!' and pull out of lasers (AoE dmging Starfall-esque Starfire impacts, more Starfall stars, etc).

These are random ideas to give flavour to the Balance Druid, both in PvE and PvP. With a solid interation of Eclipse, the choice of 'going Solar' or 'going Lunar' would give the class this sense of Balance! Adding in extra spells and mechanics to support this would go a long way to turning the Balance Druid into a unique caster (eg. a cooldown to trade a Solar Eclipse for a Lunar Eclipse, a timer mechanic like recently implemented on beta to prevent consequetive Lunar (or Solar) Eclipses)

Other Balance Druid related random commments:

What is the difference between Insect Swarm and Moonfire? Moonfire has upfront damage, but, in my opinion, that is little reason to justify why we have two DoTs that are functionally identical. It is also why I have suggested in the past to have IS somehow spread to other targets to capitalise on it being a swarm of insects, because it does nothing but 'cast and forget-until-refresh' damage at the moment.

Druid spells are lonely and don't interact with each other. For example, Insect Swarm is so completely indepentant of all other spells, talents and mechanics that its existence is only justified by 'it does damage'. Quite simply, Insect Swarm and Moonfire are boring given that they both fulfill the same role as a DoT, especially when Moonfire straight up trumps IS. I believe IS and MF would be better off having some reason to exist as discrete spells, if not simply just having the damage of IS merged into MF as one spell.
eg. To follow a theme of Nature being more bursty, Insect Swarm having a reduced duration, increased damage and a cooldown.

There are also few tactics or strategy to apply when casting Moonkin offensive spells other than Starfall, which is the only dynamic Balance spell given that its damage will vary depending on when you choose to cast it (this kind of dynamic is good!).

Instead of straightup mana regen, how would free-proccing Lifeblooms feel to the spec? eg, chance on to proc a free Lifebloom (which heals, obviously, but also then gives mana on bloom). Class cohesiveness!


I posted this on the Beta forums as part of a Balance Druid discussion for the latest build :)

Friday, 23 July 2010

Progression - Moonkin, Warlock, and Worgen

Druids have simply had their talents reshuffled again in this latest build (12604) and so I'm yet to get stuck into Deepholm questing. All in good time.

My Warlock, on the other hand, is having trouble with a cave that has seemingly been painted over with terrain. Simply, the entrance to the cave is there, but there is no cave. Since it's the only quest I have for Hyjal, I cannot continue leveling until the cave is reopened (the cave existed until this build).

So I've got two roadblocks for my main two characters, and so will have to find something else to do. Worgen creation has been disabled for the time being while the new models are implemented. My lvl13 Faceless Worgen Hunter now is some grotesquely textured creature. At least he still has his tophat.

Worgen have again been rebuilt in 12604 from the previous build's design. This new model is looking pretty good and turns the Worgen from the sleek and thoughtful creatures that they were into something of a much less hugable kind.


Thursday, 22 July 2010

Build 12539 Creates Ripples Throughout WoW

Edit: It appears that this may have been ingame prior to this build as it is in areas of Deepholm I hadn't yet explored. Back in Azeroth I was cruising around and noticed that these water effects (ripples and non-terrian/model reflection) were not in effect. Interesting.

Edit2: As of Build 12604 this water tech has now been implemented worldwide :)


Build 12539

There's been quite a nice push this build and the talent system is slowly coming together (primarily with Paladins and Warriors, imo). Paladins have received what can only be described as a complete revamp with all specs now making use of an additional resource, Holy Power.
I'll maybe go through the changes one day when things settle down a bit, but my Paladin isn't at the top of my priority list at the moment.

Worgen have literally received a facelift as also it appears a reposturing (less hunched over, more menacing). Sadly, my lvl13 Hunter is now serves the Old Gods as a Faceless one :(

It appears that hairstyles for the new model aren't yet implemented, but they definitely look good. I think I'll be a little nostalgic for the old ones for a while, simply for the sake of it.

My Druid is taking a break for a while as Deepholm is still crashy with high graphic settings, so I'll wait until that's fixed. Also, Druid have had very little in the way of talent interation and I'd rather wait and see. I'd rather level through Deepholm with a more cohesive Balance Druid.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010


I'm heading off for a few days, so hopefully that gives time for the servers to settle down a little.

I'll be getting stuck into Deepholm next week and also likely playing through the Goblin starting zone. This all depends on playability, of course.

Enjoy my break :)

Warlocks 12479

I've managed to get some screenshots of the new Warlock talent system.

By declaring a tree you will gain:
Affliction - reduces the global cooldown of your Bane and Curse spells to 1 sec., increases your chance to hit with any spell by 3%, reduces spell pushback by 70% (any spell).
Demonology - increases your chance to hit with any spell by 3%, reduces spell pushback by 70% (any spell).
Destruction - increases your chance to hit with any spell by 3%, reduces spell pushback by 70% (any spell).
So only Affliction currently has a unique bonus for specialising, but I expect that to be expanded to the other trees as development progresses. I'll try and get some Hand of Gul'dan action later in the day when the servers settle down (edit: looks like HoG is still tagged ingame as NYI, along with most of the new talents).

New Balance

So I've mananged to have a look around the new Balance Druid talents inbetween world serve downage and I must say that I really do like the direction this new talent system is heading.

That said, much of the Balance tree is boring, passive and just not fully designed (which has been said in Blue). For example, Starsurge is given to you as soon as you choose Balance as your specialisation, but then the talent for it is still there.

The "Balance Druid" bonus gives 'pushback reduction' on Wrath, Starfire, Entangling Roots, Hurricane, Typhoon (huh?), Hibernate, and Starfire (twice?).
"Feral Druid" has no tooltip description.
"Restoration Druid" has 'pushback reduction' on Healing Touch, Regrowth, Tranquility, Rebirth, and Nourish.

Pretty much anything that was remotely boring is no longer in the tree with the exception of: Moonglow and Balance of Power. Other casters are getting hit as part of their spec declaration, so it wouldn't surprise me to see Balance of Power disappear in the near future. Moonglow, however, is a surprise to see still there as it is much more of a Resto talent. I expect it to simply be a placeholder so that Balance Druids are able to progress down their talent tree for the time being, as tier2 is very boring (3pnt Moonkin and 3pnt Lunar Justice). Also, the first two tiers are made up of solely 3pnt talents, which doesn't make for great streamlining whatsoever.

Currently, Earth and Moon, Nature's Splendor, and Dreamstate have vanished. Dreamstate isn't a surprise, but Earth and Moon is. Nature's Splendor is something that I'd like to see kept, however, I've been unable to log back in to check whether it's been baked into the base spells. (Edit: Insect Swarm is 14sec by the tooltip and Moonfire is 15sec)
Moonkin Form and Typhoon are likely base spells of Balance (I had them in my spellbook after completing my spec), as they are no longer in the talent tree.

All in all, I think class design is progressing in leaps and bounds, and I believe we'll see some interesting construction over the next few builds. Nothing regarding Moonkin can be truly critiqued until the trees are further developed.

It appears Mark of the Wild is now giving 7% to Strength, Agility, Stamina, and Intellect. It was previously only 5%. Small change, but a change nonetheless.


Q u o t e:
Let me guess, Paladins will be last :P

Druids aren't as far along as paladins, so I'm sure we'll hear now how they are always last. :) - GC

Build 12479

Looks like the new build is here: 12479

While the 308MB patch gets itself installed, I'm reading around to see what new. So it sounds like the new talent system is in place, as expected. However, it's stated that Druids are not as far along in iteration as other classes and specs.

"While this is a first pass on all of the talent  trees, death knight, druid, paladin, warlock, Arcane mage, and  Assassination rogue trees are not as far along as other specializations." - GC

I'll update what I can over the day. It's bad timing, though, that I'm heading away tomorrow on holidays until Monday, so I won't be able to get stuck into Deepholme (lvl82-83 zone, which has just been declared ready for testing).

I'm liking the look of the Demonology talents, however, I feel that most specs appear not to have as much variety as I was expecting. I hope that more new talents just squeeze their way in as time goes by. I'm thinking I'll be leveling my Warlock next, so that'll get underway sometime mid-next week. I'll have a better look at Balance Druids once I've finished patching.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Vashj'ir: Complete

So I finished off the big finale of Vashj'ir last night, which leaves Anaro at 81 and approx. 25% off of lvl82. No comments can truly be made on the leveling speed as I doubt experience will be properly tuned until all zones are released.

The Verdict: A fresh take on the usual zone, being that it is based on the sea floor. The pacing is great and is broken up between the typical 'kill X mobs'/'gather X items', 'vehicle' quests (eg. taking control of a Naga Battlemaiden's 'visions' and playing out her past seeking answers), and unique quest-types (mixing 'oils' to create the perfect fuel, quite amusing and a nice pacing change).

One of my favourite additions to questing in Cataclysm are quests that are given to you unexpectedly. Some of these are the typical item drops, but there are also quite a few quests that are simply given to you (quest just opens up and you hit accept) that are similar to how you receive the quest to escape from the Lich King in the Frozen Halls after the 2nd boss is killed.

Even better, most of these quests don't then tell you to turn it in to npc. Let's face it, you're not psychic and your character shouldn't automatically know who wants what item. What many of these quests do it give you a little 'toast' quest completion jingle and you simply open the quest and hit complete from your quest log. Variety is the spice.

I thoroughly enjoyed the zone's themes of the struggling to find shelter and escape, while there is the ever-present threat of the Naga finding your hub hidey-holes. There is a huge amount of phasing and npcs move all over the place, meeting you in new foward positions, evacuating to other areas, and so on.
While the quests from a map-down perspective don't look all that big, these are maps that are truly designed as a 3D space. You're constantly moving up, down and around the terrain in you questing that it feels like there is action everywhere. It gives the three zones of Vashj'ir a feeling of being alive that often lacks in other zones. There are critter, neutral and 'scenery' fish, rays, jellyfish and the like everywhere you go.

So where from here? I'll be resting up my Moonkin until the next build and I've already starting tinkering with my Warlock, which will likely be leveling as Destruction unless there's a preview of Demonology soon. I find Demonology kind of boring to level as your DoTs never complete their duration and your Felguard does most of the work for you. Sure, it's easy leveling, but it's not overly fun. However, being able to call down meteors (via Hand of Gul'dan) once it's implemented sounds like loads of fun, so maybe I'll be a little patient and get stuck into the Goblins instead :)

Monday, 12 July 2010

Moonkin: What is a Balance Druid?

What is the core concept of what a Balance Druid is? I recently added to a discussion on the Beta forums regarding the direction of the spec, how I feel it lacks a core identity, and how I feel the class lacks cohesion within itself.

I agree with others that synergy and cohesion is lacking with the Balance arsenal. Yet I do also agree that not much can be suggested until the new talent system and altered Eclipse is in place (caveat!).

I am most definitely not trying to copy, borrow, or demand anything from the other casters as I feel there is (and want there to be!) plenty of room for the aethetics and arsenal of the Moonkin to be expanded as a unique caster. I feel, though, that there is still not enough of a clearly integrated system of interconnected talents and abilities, nor that the core of what a Balance Druid really is is expressed well enough.

Some things I have thoroughly enjoyed in other caster rotations are:
Combining certain spell sequences together, such as:
Shaman: Flame Shock -> Lava Burst;
Warlock: Immolate -> Conflag
Mage: Fire w/ proccing talents such as Firestarter (live/beta) or Playing with Fire (beta); Frost w/ Shatter combos (even though different in beta than live)

I thoroughly enjoy these kinds of chains of spells that set up something different than if you were to cast them instead in a different order (or situation). It's not simply a spam and then change to spam like Moonkin has been for WotLK, but these are sequences of abilities that bring great satisfaction when timed right or set up correctly. I believe the Moonkin is headed in that direction in Cataclysm already, but I also believe the community can help with this too.

Balance does not, in my opinion, have these satisfying spell sequences/combos that other classes have. I do like the direction Eclipse is evolving toward, but Eclipse doesn't yet feel like an integrated part of the spec and instead feels like something in the background and not a core philosophy of the Balance Druid.

I do not wish to critique any of the current talents as I expect such to become obsolete come the next beta build. I also give the following opinions and suggestions as food for discussion, not as demand nor tantrum.

I want to be a laser chicken that feels powerful and to be something that people can say "Oh, a Moonkin! I need to watch out for XXXX", rather then wanting to hug me... or at least make there be a risk for them wanting to do so.

In my humble opinion, the following areas are some of the things I think about as how I would see more cohesion between Balance abilities:

- Eclipse
Without seeing the future of Eclipse, it can't be commented on much. However, given how unique it is among casters, I believe it would be something that could be tied into talents and the core of the Balance Druid, even if only for the sake of aethetic cohesiveness. I've found Euphoria very satisfying in this regard even though I haven't particularly needed the mana while leveling.

eg: via random talents reaching Solar or Lunar Eclipse:
reduces the cooldown on Force of Nature slightly;
or, increases the haste of your next Rejuvenation by 50%(100%?);
or, (instead of Euphoria's current mana regen) applies a Lifebloom to the Moonkin;
or, causes your next Starsurge to XXX(deal an additional 20% damage?)
or, causes your next Entangling Roots or Cyclone to be instant

- Starfire/Wrath:
I agree with previous comments that these spells are too similar still. Without changing the base spells, talents could instead add to these. It should be noted that any such proc that discouraged the caster from attempting to acheive either Solar or Lunar Eclipse would be counter-intuitive.

- Starsurge:
As mentioned in this thread already, having Starsurge set up a combo with something else would be interesting; Starsurge causes your next Wrath/Starfire to deal extra dmg, add a dot, have a chance of spawning a baby Treant, etc etc
While it is currently interesting because it's new and its knockdown will be interesting for PvP, I worry that it will not become an iconic part of the Moonkin. In truth I expect the current graphic to be a placeholder, and therefore pray that even changing this to something much more visually/audibly iconic would allow one to capture that essence of power.
- Insect Swarm:
In my opinion, Insect Swarm is a boring spell. It does decent damage when glyphed on live (but gylphs are ignoreable given beta), especially given its mana efficiency, however, it is currently a completely lonely spell with nothing that interacts with nothing else nor is it interacted with in any way. If feel it is another damage spell simply for the sake of it, with not real uniqueness or connection to what a Balance Druid is.

I am not a fan of Insect Swarm and Moonfire buffing Wrath/Starfire, as it feels messy when a DoT drops off during Eclipse. Should I refresh the DoT and waste Eclipse time? Or refresh the DoT after Eclipse and waste DoT up-time? Neither is satisfying.

Why are they Insects and should this aspect be capitalised on? I've always wondered what Insect Swarm would be like if it truly did 'swarm' and spread to other targets given the right conditions (when hit by Starsurge, Wrath, Wrath crits, Typhoon 'blows' then onto other nearby enemies, etc etc). My arguement against this is that Moonkin do not particuly need help with AoE damage, which leads me to my next point.

I've wondered if Moonkin even need this in their damage rotation (either AoE or single-target) and if it would not be better served with a short cooldown and some extra trick added to it. There are no pretty fireworks associated with Insect Swarm nor are there many reasons to not simply fold the damage this would deal into Moonfire. Warlock, Shadow Priests and other classes do have multiple dots as well, but each of these spells has something unique about them that differentiates them from each other. Insect Swarm are only markedly different by Moonfire also dealing damage up-front.

A. Insect Swarm, 30sec cooldown. Instant.
Slows the cast time, attack speed and movement speed of target by 100% for 5 seconds. (Typhoon spreads Insect Swarm to nearby targets?)

B. Insect Swarm, 30sec cooldown. Instant.
Causes the target to lose sight of its current target. (Potentially unnecessary given Typhoon and Starsurge both acting as interrupts already)

C. Insect Swarm, 30sec cooldown.
The caster is surrounded by a swarm of insects that spreads to attackers, dealing XXX dmg over XX(5?) seconds.

(Inspired by the Beta version of Arcane Missles in that Insect Swarm cannot be cast until a specific criteria is met)
D. Insect Swarm, 15sec cooldown. Instant.
The enemy target is swarmed by insects, causing XXX Nature damage over 6 sec. Each offensive spell you cast has a XX% chance to activate Insect Swarm for 15 seconds. (Even could be further interated or talented to include the previous notion of a 'spreading swarm of insects')

None of these suggestions may be necessary. I feel that an incarnation like the 'D.' example above is something that would give one satisfaction to hit. I also strongly believe that spell visuals and sound has a strong effect on one's satisfaction with a spell and Fire Mages hold a special place in my heart for how they feel like they're really like they're hurting the enemy. Insect Swarm has a little buzz and then it goes about it's business.
I do still feel that the current version of Insect Swarm is not interesting and truly has no reason to exist other than to make it appear that a Balance Druid has another spell.

Like Insect Swarm, Thorns is a boring spell in my opinion. It isn't an obvious source of damage and has no skill involved in its use. It was overpowered in early WotLK given its higher coefficient and it deserved that nerf. While there was some satisfaction in watching opponents mindlessly kill themselves, it has never been an exciting spell in any regard, in my opinion. I would love to see this spell capture a sense caution when attacking a Balance Druid.

Without knowledge of how lvl85 PvP will evolve, I only suggest ways of turning this into an active and fun ability for those purposes.

(Obviously inspired by Barkskin, but gives the Druid choice. Choice is always good)
A. Thorns, 60sec cooldown. Thorns erupt from the druid, causing enemies to take XXX damage or . This spell is usable while stunned, frozen, incapacitated, feared or asleep. Usable in all forms. Lasts 8 sec. Shares a cooldown with Barkskin.

Necessary? Without access to lvl85 PvP, it is not possible to know. This above idea is potentially as boring as current Thorns, but having choice is the key of my intent.

I hope I am able to express clearly enough that I'm not seeking any kind of overhaul of the class, but that I do wish to see changes and enhancements to the spec. I hope to see the Moonkin be given cohesive meaning and a solid core concept as to what it is to be a Balance Druid and a Moonkin as I feel this is where we lack.

hug me pls :)