Why do druids hate the merging of travel form?

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).

In the words of the almighty Alamo, “DURIDS IS 4 haf FUN TIME WIT FRENS”

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.

A draenor you can believe in

I have a confession to make. I really love parts of the Warlords of Draenor opening quest content, for both the Horde and Alliance. I’ve been very critical of Blizzard in the last few months, particularly since Blizzcon’s announcement of Warlords of Draenor. I haven’t just been critical, I’ve been outright mad at several points along the way. In particular, I’ve criticized Blizzard’s male-focused marketing. In particular, rather than highlighting all the great women in Blizzard’s games, they either didn’t highlight them at all, or the only information we had portrayed women in a negative light. My feeling about the marketing flaws is unchanged, but I feel differently about some parts of the early questing experience.

There are some really great attempts at having interesting and diverse characters – even if those characters aren’t important enough to put in the marketing material. However, there are still areas of weakness in the story development that reflect some of the same processes that went into the biased marketing materials. So, in this case, I love a game that is still problematic in some ways. However, there are some really great women in Draenor, and so it seems like Blizzard was listening at least a little bit about what everyone wanted. I’ll explain several examples below.

SPOILER WARNING! This post contains lore spoilers of importance to Warlords of Draenor. You have been warned about SPOILERS.

Draka

We meet Draka early in the Horde starting zone. I was somewhat disappointed originally when Durotan ran off and left Draka behind to guard their home area. However, we do have some nice quests in the home area and Draka is involved in some of the quests. In some ways, it bugged me that Draka didn’t fight to stay by her husband’s side. However, splitting them up allows some space for Draka to have her own story pieces, rather than running the risk of being portrayed as a sidekick. At the very least, she is present and accounted for in the Horde starting area.

Draka’s Sister

In the Horde starting area, we are introduced to a new female character: Draka’s Sister, Lokra. She has a really well developed escort quest. This flips the traditional “save the princess” quest on its head, where we escort a female character to rescue a male character. This includes saying “…The Iron Wolf claims our attachments make us weak… that love makes us vulnerable. He is wrong”. This quest chain overall shows a lot of depth of the character as you work together. However, even then, I dislike the phrasing of the way that Durotan reacts once you return from the escort quest. So, in some ways, Durotan turned a great quest into a mediocre quest by being kindof a jerk (in this case, the wowpedia quest “Description” is Lokra’s text, and the “completion” is Durotan pissing on her seemingly unnecessarily if you want to read for yourself). Inspite of Durotan ruining the end of the quest, Lokra’s actual character development across the quest is really well done. I think it’s really Durotan himself who doesn’t live up to my expectations in his interactions within the Horde starting zone.

Yrel’s early quests

The part of Yrel’s story that I criticized in an earlier post seems to come later in the storyline than what I’ve been able to complete thus far in Shadowmoon. We find her in the opening area, kicking ass. Along with Velen, we serve as Yrel’s mentor for a large portion of the questing in the alliance  Shadowmoon valley starting area. As of this point, Yrel and Maraad aren’t in a romantic relationship. However, some of the early released scripts referred to events that happened late in the SMV starting area – suggesting that Yrel’s story development may extend long into the expansion (and it’s unclear whether or not Yrel and Maraad will have a relationship – as they didn’t seem to know each other very well in the starting quests). At the very least, if they do develop a relationship, it will be long after we have been introduced to her as a character. At the very least, the current quests are different than what people described in some of the early demos of that starting area. Yrel suffers a great deal of loss in the starting area quests, and they have (so far) done a pretty good job of developing her character. I’m slightly more optimistic about this character now, though there’s plenty of room for Blizzard to mess it up later. Update: Dave Kosak did confirm she’s not in a relationship with maraad.

Rulkan

There are other notable women in the quest chains of the starting zones. One of the notable figures was Rulkan, who was the wife of Ner’Zul (the “big bad” you have to defeat in the SMV starting area). Rulkan helps you find him, and shows you the history of how she refused to follow him to join the Iron Horde. While Rulkan was originally a member of the ‘dead wives club’ in the original storyline, she is alive and has a position of leadership in the WOD alternative timeline, and provides hope that other notable women may play a more prominent role in the new content. These little hidden gems of questlines make the world feel populated by a variety of characters with interesting stories and histories.

Conclusion

While Blizzcon and the subsequent marketing left a bad taste in a lot of our mouthes, the actual quest designers working on the starting area have done a decent job of trying to have diversity in the quest NPCs we encounter. They do this with more or less success in some areas, but the game that I played in Beta is substantially better than the one that was advertised to meat Blizzcon. The developers may not always get things right, but at least it looks like someone is trying. My previous concerns still remain – that video games have a problematic culture that needs to be addressed (see, for example, the recent IeSF e-sports debacle).  However, I believe that some people at Blizzard may be working to make their Draenor a world you can believe in. For that much, I’m grateful that our voices have been heard. We may even see Aggra head out to Draenor at some point. I hope that the development of Warlords of Draenor keeps holding up these ideals, and that future promotions can feature some of these great women of Draenor more prominently so that everyone can see them. In the end, diversity of characters makes for a better game.

Improvements for guild perk system in Warlords

The guild leveling system was originally meant to be a reward for guilds. People who worked together got rewards. For the first ~6 months, this guild leveling system was awesome. After a year, or two, things went terribly wrong.

The level 25 elephant in the room.

However, in recent years, the guild leveling system, as well as the cash flow perk, has been discouraging people from making new guilds. This has been particularly problematic as it has directly contributed to the decline in the number of people willing to start new raiding guilds, and thus the decline of the raiding population that helped keep the social element of the game intact. Even for social guilds, people only trusted level 25 guilds to have their best interests in mind.

Instead, many people starting guilds have been doing it for the purpose of predatory behavior. That is, someone would start a guild and then spam invites to any new player who made a character on the server. Once people were in the guild, they would be abused for leveling purposes, and then kicked from the guild as soon as the guild hit level 25. Then, that guild could be sold to the highest bidder. Since people couldn’t start new raiding guilds unless they bought a level 25 guild, that created a market for people who abused new players for the purpose of leveling and selling guilds.

The cash flow perk was also problematic in that it earned money for the guild leader along the way, which then was not shared with the rest of the members in a predatory leveling guild. In most real guilds, this cash flow perk did not come anywhere near covering the costs associated with raiding and the repair feature. So, the cash flow perk was able to be abused by predatory guilds (e.g., to a single person who wasn’t giving anything back to the guild members), but wasn’t providing any substantial bonus to real guilds who were using the money (e.g., guild leadership that used the money to supply the guild with needed resources).

Since most new guilds were assumed to be predatory (even when someone actually had good intentions), most good players would not join a guild that was below level 25. This meant that as a new guild officer, you couldn’t recruit quality players, and you burned out of leadership before you even got started. Since all good guilds were level 25, the way to know that the guild was good was to refuse to join any guild that wasn’t at max level. Thus, the cycle of needing to buy level 25 guilds to show legitimacy has been a huge problem that Blizzard has largely ignored. That is, until today.

Social groups will always die and fade if given enough time. So, guilds were always going to fold after their leaders got tired. The leaders were always going to get tired. The problem with guild leveling is that it created a barrier for entry for new guilds and new leaders. That slowed down the creation of new guilds to a much slower speed than guilds were folding, and led to a cascade of other related problems that make guild leadership unappealing to new players. Prior to Cataclysm, there were always new guilds to replace the ones that went away, but that ended with the guild leveling barrier of entry.

The solution to the guild problem.

Blizzard has announced that they are removing the guild leveling system from the game. Every guild in the game will be treated as though they are level 25. If you are in a guild, you get all the benefits of being in the guild without having to level the guild.

They are also removing the problematic cash flow perk. Instead of guilds making money from the cash flow perk, they are putting epic BOEs back into raiding dungeons for guilds to be able to sell. This was the primary way my guild funded all of our repairs and materials prior to Siege of Orgrimmar removing epic BOEs.

Guilds will still have fun bonuses in Warlords.

With the worry about the changes, there are several important things to keep in mind:

  • There will still be the basic perks that came from being in a guild. Things that people really liked, they will still mostly get (though there will be fewer individual perks in the perk list – combining things reduces confusion and “bloat”). For level 25 guilds, nothing important really changes with what they announced.
  • There will still be guild achievements. With all the talk of removing the leveling system, achievements are still something really important that were of benefit to real guilds (and weren’t all that helpful to predatory guilds). Achievements have been updated for guilds continuously every expansion, and are the main ways that all the level 25 guilds differentiate themselves anyway.
  • Purchasing guild bank tabs is still going to require resources, thus there will still be plenty of opportunities to feel like your new guild is progressing in working together to accomplish goals.
  • Without the cash flow perk, it will be easier to get shared guild resources in ways that require working together and doing normal guild behavior (e.g., actually running instances or raids as a team).  Additionally, getting people to donate shared resources will be easier without people thinking the cash flow perk is actually doing something  (when in reality, it never was).
  • People who want to start new raiding or social guilds no longer have to give money to people selling pre-leveled guilds. Instead, we go back to the days when people who wanted to start a new guild had the resources available for them to do so. Thus, people can start new raid teams without being at such a huge disadvantage. The guild perks are now bonuses, rather than a system that punishes new players.
  • If people do only the dungeon and scenario guild challenges, your guild can get around 5,500 gold per week. This number increases if you do any of the other perks, with several thousand more gold available from the more difficult challenges (e.g., battlegrounds, challenge modes, and raids). Seeing as how my guild only got 600 from the cash flow perk (excluding guild challenges), convincing our guild members to complete the challenges is a better source of income than the cash flow perk ever was. You have to subtract your guild challenge total from the perk UI because the game adds those values together.

This is a change that should have positive impacts on the game. The guild level shackles were going to cause a huge problem when people needed to make new guilds in Warlords of Draenor. Now, those shackles have been removed – making way for an era of new guilds. While it may take a long time for the fear of predatory guilds to fade. It is normal for old guild leadership to burn out, but it’s not normal for potential new leaders to be scared away from trying. In time, trying to be a new guild leader may be seen as a positive thing in the community, instead of a negative. As old guild leaders burn out, lets hope that new people can now be encouraged to try to take up the mantle of leadership. It’s still a lot of work to be a leader, but without Bizzard tying our hands behind our backs, it’s now a function of the leader’s effort and skills at leading to make new guilds a success. Go forth and make friends.

Resto druid early alpha changes

With some pretty major changes to druids in the latest round of patch notes, I thought it might be helpful to take a look at some of the bigger changes, and analyze why I think things are in an okay place in terms of the beta development.

Enhanced or Changed Abilities

  • Lifebloom is now limited to a single stack, instead of having 3 total stacks. The base healing was increased to compensate. This frees up more time in the fight, and means that if Lifebloom actually blooms, it won’t be so bad.
  • Wild Mushroom no longer has a bloom effect. Instead, it just provides a short Efflorescence ground-targeted HOT and then goes away after the 30 second duration ends. This will now have a 30 sec cooldown (e.g., you want to plant it when people are unlikely to move for 30 sec), though it doesn’t currently have this cooldown on beta.
  • Wild Growth also still has a cast time on the current alpha build, but resto druids still maintain a fair amount of movement ability while healing overall.

Active Mana Regen – or not.

An earlier set of patch notes introduced the concept of active mana regen, where you would hit innervate and then stand around doing nothing (or just casting wrath) until the innervate finished. This “sit around and wait for mana” plan turned out to not be such a great model across all the healing classes. So, they’ve now removed innervate again.

We may not actually need active mana regen if they just make it such that normal spell usage will leave you in a good place in terms of your regen values. Standing around doing nothing for 6 seconds, or having to organize regen rotations for our raid, was also not entirely appealing.

Other Removed Abilities

  • Barkskin was removed, but now you have access to two charges of Survival Instincts, which is actually more potent. Survival Instincts is still shifting me into bear form when I use it in alpha, though this may not be intended. We also still have Ironbark.
  • Some hybrid bear/cat abilities were removed from resto druids, including: Faerie Fire, lacerate, maim, (mangle is now bear only – with shred no longer having a positional requirement for cat), maul, might of ursoc, rake, etc.
  • Removed crowd control: Hibernate, nature’s grasp,
  • This is in addition to the already planned removals of nourish and symbiosis

What are the remaining hybrid abilities?

  • In bear, you have: taunt, mangle, frenzied regen, stampeding roar, primal fury passive.
  • In cat, you have: Prowl, Shred (now the primary cat damage ability, though you can’t apply a bleed to increase its damage), ferocious bite (your only finisher now), primal fury passive, and dash.
  • Your primary caster damage is: wrath, moonfire, and hurricane.
  • The level 90 talents can still provide hybrid utility.
  • Travel form has merged the ground travel, water travel, and flight form all into one single button that is supposed to morph when you change environments (this is currently buggy, and likely to undergo change depending on whether or not the bugs can get worked out).

What is the primary healing toolset?

  • Single target direct: Healing Touch (long cast time), Regrowth (high mana cost), Swiftmend (instant-cast, but has a cooldown and requires a HOT on the target), nature’s swiftness.
  • Single target HOTS: Lifebloom (1 stack, still limited to 1 target), Rejuvenation (mana cost similar to healing touch)
  • AOE HOTs: Wild Growth (1.5 sec cast time, 8 sec cooldown, short duration), Wild Mushroom (instant-cast, 30 sec cooldown and 30 sec duration, ground-targeted), Tranquility (channeled for 7 sec, 3 min cooldown), Genesis (high mana cost, emergency heal, consumes all your rejuvs and applies that HOT healing faster).
  • Passive effects: Living seed, omen of clarity
  • Other: level 15 talents, level 60 talents, level 90 talents, and level 100 talents all provide new healing spells or augments.

What is the primary utility?

  • Crowd control: roots, cyclone, choice of level 45 talents, and choice of level 75 talents.
  • Movement: Dash, travel form, level 15 talents, stampeding roar
  • Survivability: Ironbark (yourself or others) and survival instincts (yourself only)
  • Other spells: rebirth, revive, nature’s cure, Mark of the Wild, Teleport: Moonglade, and Track Humanoids can be toggled on and off in the tracking map selection.

There may also still be other abilities I haven’t covered besides those above. Overall, considering that the toolsets of all classes are shrinking in the next expansion, with few exceptions, the remaining spells should be ones you use relatively frequently. Additionally, they preserved enough of the bear and cat utility that you have buttons you can use to do cat or bear things if you really strongly have a desire to play hybrid at some point. Resto druids still seem to have a great healing toolset (though I’m not a big fan of genesis), and for early alpha - resto druids really feel like they are starting at a good design position.