Hints at a newer class design philosophy

So, hidden in a post about Elemental shaman is a peak behind one of their more recent design philosophies. This seems to apply to everyone, so I figured I would highlight it:

One thing I will add is to fret less about scaling. In BC if you didn’t scale well, you were going to be in trouble for many tiers of content. These days we adjust classes so frequently that it’s much less of an issue. Worst case is you will start to slip slightly behind other classes as everyone gets gear, but then the very next tier will be a reset (and honestly we really only have one tier left).

Put another way, if you and your friend start an instance at 5000 dps and then as you get gear she goes to 7000 dps while you go to 6000 dps, then that’s a scaling problem. But under out current design philosophy in WoW we will adjust you if you fall that far behind. Yes in an ideal world all the talents and glyphs would be set up in such a way that we’d never need to adjust them and all classes would scale linearly (or even exponentially) with the same slope. The reality is that we tweak things and some scaling mismatches are inevitable (if for no other reason than melee scale differently than casters).

This is an interesting change in thinking. In the Burning Crusade era, scaling was one of the druid class’ biggest problems for DPS, and sometimes even tanking. Feral druids could start out doing great damage & tanking, and then risked getting left behind as other people got better gear.

Why does this seem so interesting? Well, based on the last year or so in the development of WoW, they have gotten a lot better about tweaking class’ damage up (or down!) to maintain balance between the classes. This was a switch from where every patch they only reviewed one class, and if you were at the end of the review list, you pretty much had to go a year being broken before they got around to looking at the problems. With their more (almost constant) tweaking of every class, we get more small changes over shorter periods of time.

Do you like this change in design philosophy – where they can just tweak up classes that don’t scale as well once it becomes a problem? With their faster response time to problems, I think it’s not a bad approach. It seems almost impossible to get everything right the first time and anticipate what players will do in the future. I like the fact that they are at least aware that they need to keep track of classes or specs that fall behind and tweak them as needed. It gives me a lot of hope about the future of the game.

What do you guys think?

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3 Comments

  1. Posted September 12, 2009 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    It works fine if you’re up to date on the content. But it might get hairy if you are a new level 80 and tweaks that are designed to keep the cutting edge raiders where they need to be might not work so well for you.

    But I like the idea that we don’t need to try to be psychic and guess which classes will scale best. makes it easier to just play what you like and learn to trust the devs.

  2. Lissanna
    Posted September 12, 2009 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    Learning how to trust the developers might generally be the hardest skill for players to learn. ;)

  3. Chezza
    Posted September 18, 2009 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    Lissanna has a fair point regarding the ability to trust the developers. I wonder however. If the developers had based their damage and threat equations off of something like linear control systems theory, would they always be in this mess of always having to tweak classes to keep things balanced?