When the developers decided to merge all of the druids’ travel form buttons into a single button, this theoretically made sense. If you are in water, the most efficient form is swimming in your aquatic form. In places you can fly, the most efficient form is flight form. In place where you aren’t in water and you can’t fly, stag form becomes the only usable form. So, the concept of merging them all into one button (where the game chooses the most efficient form for you) seemed like a great idea.
So, why do people so adamantly oppose the merging of these seemingly redundant forms? Why is this something so terrible there are four posts on the Beta forums, even after Blizzard thought they addressed all our concerns? Why are druid shapeshift forms a problem rivaled only by arms warriors for the contest of most class complaints? To answer this question, we need to talk about what shapeshifting means to druids.
What shapeshift forms mean to druids
For some context, shapeshifting is one of the key things that druids do. Many people chose the druid class because they like shapeshifting. In fact, our forms are so popular that 8 of our 13 minor glyphs in the Warlords of Draneor build are tied directly to our forms.
In addition, the aesthetics of druid forms are so important to the druid class that my most popular guide on this blog is NOT either the leveling guide, or the healing guide. The charts I made mapping the bear/cat hair colors to worgen and troll forms rival my actual real guides for viewer counts. In fact, I’m actually embarrassed that I didn’t invest more time into making them “pretty” when I originally threw them together – two expansions later, they still draw the most consistent blog hits via google searches. In fact, in the last month, the two color charts for worgen and troll druids have had more than double the number of page views as my healing guide. Our shapeshift graphics are so important that we will need to make new mappings once the race changes are complete so that we have up to date color mappings between our hair and our forms.
We (druids) like to party
We interrupt this post to give you random druid parties across Azeroth:
Actually, wait, there’s more druid parties, and stag stacking!
In fact, I could actually post dozens of pictures I’ve taken at various druid parties over the many years I have been playing the game, but I think people would believe me when I say that partying in your forms, even a form that might not be the most efficient form, is probably one of the biggest features of the druid class. Sometimes, druids just want to have fun. This fun factor, however, is one of the hardest things to explain to people who aren’t druids. Why would people actually care about being able to swim in stag form when aquatic form is objectively more efficient? The answer really is just that druids sometimes prefer aesthetics over efficiency, and like having control over their forms. While everything else in the game, and the problem of “button bloat” was all about increasing efficiency, when it comes to our forms, flexibility and fun is what we care about the most. My balance druid on live actually glyphed for tree form just to have access to all the shapeshift forms on one character. It’s not rational, it’s just pure fun.
Forgetting the past?
Lets also not forget what happened when they tried to take away the original grumpy tree form and turn it into a big beefy cooldown tree. That’s why it got added back as a cosmetic glyph – because druids really liked having that button on their button bar and the ability to use an outdated form (even after they complained that it was ugly and needed a graphical update in the first place). Even the generic cheetah form couldn’t go away completely, and had to stick around as a PVP glyph. Druids really don’t like having their forms taken away, and the happiest you can make druids is to introduce new colors or form variety.
A possible glyph solution?
While the developers still didn’t quite understand our fascination with our forms, they changed glyph of the stag to have the following effect: Your ground form is the rideable stag that can carry a party member. Then, your flight form becomes a new button, seperated from the other shapeshift form. However, this has one very fatal flaw for all your friends. When you have someone on your stag’s back and you go into the water, you still shift into aquatic form, leaving your friends behind in the water to drown. So, at the very least, this glyph needs to be changed to have all three forms back on their own buttons so you can’t risk drowning your friends on accident by having them fall off your back when you go into a puddle that is too deep.
In addition, earlier I said that 8 of our 12 minor glyphs are all cosmetic. To be able to take this glyph, you can’t take the cheetah glyph, or the Travel glyph (that increases your mount speed). You also can’t take the cheetah glyph with the speed boost travel glyph either (likely a purposeful PVP nerf).
Do we need a change at all?
For people that wanted the functionality of combining all our travel forms to one button, it was always possible to find a macro for shapeshifting. Thus, it’s not necessarily apparent that taking away druid form buttons actually helped with reducing button bloat in any significant way. The main thing that the change did was it took away choice and control, and that seems to be something druids care about more than efficiency or our number of buttons. I’m happy to have one more button for some cosmetic form I’ll never fight in. Thus, while this idea seems neat (and works better now that many of the bigger bugs are fixed), it’s still insanely unpopular. This remains unpopular even after they glyphed it to split off flight form from the rideable stag.
Is this change something we could learn to accept and live with? Maybe. In some of the questing, auto-shifting from travel to aquatic form seemed to be kinda helpful. However, it’s still a problem of whether druids prefer the efficiency of auto-shifting to the control of having separate buttons. I’m not sure that merging the forms is a change for the better, or if it’s just a change for the sake of change. In the end, this may be a problem where druids just want to have fun.