Today was the first day of Blizzcon 2008 and with it, a sensory overload of the up and coming treats for gamers of all kinds. In addition to the store (packed within 5 minutes of the event opening), displays (Frozen Throne anyone?) and hundreds of game consoles set up for Diablo III, Starcraft II and WotLK, there are panels dedicated to virtually every area of these games and what's in store for the players.
I chose as my first panel the discussion about Classes and what is coming up with the new expansion. The panel was headed by Tom Chilton and Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street. What I found interesting right off the bat was how they chose to open the discussion. The very first thing they asked was the very thing we tend to joke about on the forums and even over on the o-boards. How OPed is this class and how gimped is my class. This was followed up by a phenomenal slide show discussion covering the Blizzard intentions regarding each class in Warcraft.
Listed here are the highlights of the panel and the issues discussed. At the end of the panel, they even had some time for a few attendee questions, which I've added in here. Most of you have already seen and read about the new content both here and at other sites such as Wowhead but this is a unique insight into the mind of the class development team.
When the class was developed, they didn't want it to be just another tanking role. Given that there are already several tanking classes (Warriors, Paladins, Druids), it was felt that this newest "tank class" would be designed more around individual player style as opposed to a predefined "role", as is the current set up with classes in game. To do this, each tree of the Death Knight class has been tailored to fill several roles and effective threat management. Part of this design includes a whole new take on the stances, called Presences in this case. The class has three different presences: Blood, Frost and Unholy.
- Death Knights will be starting at level 55 and are going to be presented with a starting quest line that is unique to their class. Other classes cannot go into the starter DK area and do their quests for reputation with Ebon Hold, like is possible currently.
- Rather than create a whole new itemization for one class, it has been decided that they are sharing itemization with the other tanking classes.
- In a deviation from the current standard, the Deathknight is designed to be played differently, i.e. the use of runes and the manner in which they are used.
- With this, the runes and their use are tied into the weapon of the Deathknight. The power of the rune used is channeled through the weapon.
- Unlike other classes, there are very specific rotations and combo points with this class. The "combo points" are gained from the placing of diseases on the target.
To make this class as unique as possible, the talent trees for this class are designed more around style and less around the "class role". This means that individual player skill and ability will weigh more heavily in this class.
The descriptions and primary design given for the three trees are:
- Blood - Melee and Healing
- Frost - Burst Damage and Control
- Unholy - Disease and Minions
The druid class has been revamped in several areas to improve their DPS and overall utility.
Balance druids have been given some real, definable CC and had additional dps added (Read this as no more OOMKIN!).
Resto druids have had the following items added.
- Nourish (this behaves much like a Paladin's Flash Heal)
- Wild Growth (an AoE DPS spell)
- In addition, an "Out of Combat" rez is being added to enhance Resto utility.
Feral has been revamped to allow for cat, bear or hybrid.
The Pet system has been completely overhauled to make pets more viable to the hunter.
- Talent trees - Pets have been given their own talent trees and are specific to a pet type. This allows for a greater range of flexibility in different situations for hunters.
- The Pet Loyalty system has bdeen completely revamped - No longer is loyalty tied in specifically to food alone. Other factors, available to the hunter and their pet via talents, contribute to overall pet happiness and damage output.
- Given the myriad different types of rotations, this has been cleaned up. In raids and PvP, one issue hunters ran into was the constant having to check and recheck spell timers and had to try to remember timing for each individual shot and how it tied in to the others. 
- Freezing shot - Used as a temporary CC alternative to the Misdirect/Freezing trap strategy. This cuts down on some of the hunter's CC issues and is an alternative to allow for MD and so on.
Mages have felt for a long time that in raids the function they seem to serve most is for ports out and tables with little concern as to their lowered overall DPS. While the numbers for Fire and Frost specs do not appear to show a reduction in overall damage, they have however added the following items and will continue to watch the numbers to see if a change is needed.
- Frostfire Bolt - This is a new spell that is being introduced.
- Mirror Image coming. This is a new spell being added to enhance the "slippery glass cannon" that mages are.
- There are 3 (and quite possibly 4) damage specs that will be coming soon.
Paladins have had their share of love and hate since TBC came out. The Blizzard team has spent a great deal of time on the class and have some changes for this much maligned or touted class.
- Seal and Judgement overhauls are fixed now. This should bring a greater level of playability to the class.
In addition, the talent trees are being revamped.
This tree has been totally revamped to give the Paladin more of a "main tank" feel and be able to actually use tank gear. No more spell hit blades or +spell damage here.
It has been long known that Holy Paladins really needed heals for specific types of movement and group settings. This is being looked into.
Currently, this spec really needs dps and mana. However, they have had the spell Replenishment added to counter this.
- So many priests have been specced as shadow that it was decided to finally let shadow specs actually do DPS and not just be used as a "mana battery" in group situations.
- Currently, the two most favorable specs are either Holy (healing) or Shadow (some DPS, mana regen utility). They decided to change things around to let Discipline actually heal a raid (i.e. the spec has been revamped to be a more viable raid spec).
- To add to the DPS priests currently have available, they are adding Mind Sear to all priests - this means no racials.
- Rogues are being given an AoE skill - Fan of knives. As a DPS class, it was felt that an AoE ability was needed.
- Sap targeting has been changed a bit.
- Poisons used to be extremely useful in both PvP and raid encounters. Currently, many players do not use them due to bosses being immune and poisons being of limited effectiveness. With the expansion, our intent is to bring about a return of Poison use by increasing effectiveness on boss encounters to some extent 
- We are changing things a bit for Rogues to make the use of daggers a viable option again.
- Totem Consolidation - Totems have been changed to physical as opposed to their previous design to make it a little harder to dispel.
- Two new totems are being added - Lava Burst and Riptide.
- Shaman are finally being given a Totem of Hex for their own form of CC.
- Pet Diversity - They've noticed that Warlocks have way too many pets and some are used a lot more than others ("Pull that demon out again and we will never raid with you again!" ring a bell anyone?) so pets are being revamped to make them all more viable.
- More interesting rotations are coming and some new spells are being added, such as Chaos Bolt.
- A Demonic Circle is being added. This circle will allow a warlock to teleport around the battlefield and improve their utility.
- The spell Metamorphosis is also being added because we all know that secretly, every warlock really wants to be just like Illidan.
All three trees for Warriors are being changed around and added to for increased viability.
- They are adding more toys and reducing the number of overall mitigation talents. Many warriors feel that when they put all their points into things they need, it doesn't leave much room for anything else to help enhance their class.
Three talents are being added - Overpower, Bladestorm and Sudden Death.
Titan's Grip is being added in.
The details on this are as follows: Requires One-Handed Axes, Two-Handed Axes, One-Handed Maces, Two-Handed Maces, One-Handed Swords, Two-Handed Swords, Fist Weapons, Daggers. Allows you to equip two-handed axes, maces and swords in one hand. Also reduces your chance to hit with damage-dealing abilities that require a weapon by 15%.
Finally, they are trying to even out the arms and fury trees so that both are viable options for pvp and pve.
Groups and raids
The biggest hurdle they faced with the expansion is that there will be 30 specs but only 25 slots. There are a lot more viable specs coming but with 5 slots too few, this means more viable specs (and death knights) but no room to utilize them.
In addition, buffs have been out of control with consistent and inconsistent stacking issues. For example, if a raid has 3 Warlocks, how best to utilize Curse of shadows (gg mages!). What about Bloodlust rotations or the dreaded Buff rotation issues (who gets kings, who gets might etc).
So, that in mind, Blizzard has decided on a complete Buff/debuff overhaul.
- Most affect whole raid, such as the stamina buff from warlock imp pets.
- There will be multiple ways for same benefit to affect the entire raid so that guilds are more inclined to bring the player and not just their class. because the class fills a needed buff spot.
- This will mean greater coverage but no stacking however (sorry, nl chance of you getting a double Trueshot aura there folks).
- What this means is that there will be plenty of room for all raid viable people now instead of "oh, no mage can come, raid's cancelled!" and finally -
- Everyone can buff to some extent and everyone will be able to do dps now.
Currently, there is a huge push to have plenty of consumables before a raid or there is a very real chance of a raid wipe without that extra added edge.
- They have changed one item set and left another alone. These are that the current potion cooldown is ok but drums will be changed to cut down on the overall need.
- Many aspects of the game are changing to be focused more on the actual skill of the player and less on what consumables they farmed up or brought with them.
- There will be an increase in overall shared gear (desinged to lower the need for a player to spend 6 months of his/her life in a place like The Molten Core for that one drop they always miss...)
- Spellpower is being added to gear. This is designed to cut down on classes such as healers needing a second or third set of gear at all times. While it will not eliminate it completely, it is designed to help that.
- There will be 4 main tank classes - Death Knights, Warriors, Feral Druids and Paladins.
- Each Tanking class will have an "overlap niche" to provide greater flexibility in group situations.
- Healing and coordination are going to weigh more heavily in group settings than pure threat generation.
And finally, the subject that has been tossed around so much the last week or so, Dual Speccing. The Blizz team didn't go into great detail on this but they did have this to say:
Dual Specs are going to be designed more for flexibility and "on the fly" swapping (such as in a raid setting) but they are not going to be something as viable for a hardcore raider as they will for a more casual playstyle. One thing to note is that with some dual specs, there will be some gear sets required for the spec, although Blizzard didn't elaborate further on this yet.
After the initial discussion finished, the Blizzard team took a few minutes to answer some player questions, summarized here.
- Will Affliction be changed to be viable DPS in a raid situation again? Affliction is being revamped to cover that yes.
- Are there any plans to make either infernals or doomguards more viable outside of the temporary control time? They are not sure yet and haven't really explored this.
- For warlocks, there is a high focus on pet reliance or over focusing on pets, anything being done in this regard? Blizzard is going to be looking at reinforcing the demon pets in addition to the spells in the warlock arsenal.
- Shifting and mana cost for feral. Currently, Druids can shift in and out only a finite number of times before they tun into mana issues. Blizzard is still examining the mana costs and how to address the issue. More to come on this one.
- With the re-introduction of poisons and making them more attractive, end game bosses are currently immune to poison so how do they plan to to add them back in? Blizzard is looking at allowing some bosses to no longer be immune to poisons.
- It is felt that Mages are not as useful except for tables etc. What about their dps and viability? Blizzard stated that, looking at the numbers, fire and frost are still high so they are looking but they do not feel that mages are gimped in that regard, however they have modified spell costs to counter mana regen and use issues.
- For Feral Druids - any change to make them more viable for rogue style dps in arenas? Blizzard is looking into the issue at the moment but there is nothing definite yet on how to address it so once they have more data, they can go into it more.
- Is there any intention on returning to WF to revamp it? The original CD was put on there to prevent the effect from becoming OPed on both primary and offhand weapons. Now that there are more mechanics, they are at a point they can go back and look at it.
- For Ret Paladins - is burst damage being toned down for pvp but left up for raids? They think they are pretty close on standard damage output for Paladins now, although they might need a little more tweaking. But it's felt that putting burst damage in the hand of the player instead of the "luck of the draw" is of greater benefit to the class.
- ^ One thing I noticed however is that Aimed Shot is still tied in to the Multi-shot cooldown. I don't know if this is going to be permanent or not yet.
- ^ They didn't elaborate on this further at this time.
This page last modified 2008-10-11 03:37:30.