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World of Warcraft: Items, Class Changes and More Panel

With the Warlords of Draenor launch on the horizon, we took some time at BlizzCon to revisit some of the changes coming in the expansion and to answer some additional community questions from attendees.

We’ve put together a brief overview of the Items, Class Changes & More panel for you below. Many of these changes and insights are also reflected in The Iron Tide: 6.0.2 Patch Notes. You’ll also be able to watch a replay of the entire panel with the Virtual Ticket.


Class Design Goals in Warlords of Draenor

One of the goals for the expansion was to spend some time re-evaluating what makes classes fun, what the key abilities or spells are that make them enjoyable to play, and also to strike a better balance between classes and encounter mechanics. We wanted to make sure that encounters were interesting while also allowing classes ways to shine and feel effective while still making smart choices.

Our definition of a fun ability is one that has a strong fantasy, with awesome visuals and sounds and cool gameplay effects; it’s also powerful, interactive, and a has clear purpose. In defining this, we also had to define what fun isn’t: abilities that provide an inconsistent fantasy, are too situational, or are balanced such that they’re at best mediocre;  spells that lack feedback, are unreliable, or are too complicated.

To address these points, we did a number of things, including implementing the item and stat squish, numerical retuning, and pruning class abilities and spells. We also took a look at crowd control and damage burst in PvP to evaluate how we could improve experiences within both PvE and PvP.

We also took a look at how we could make the healing role more interactive and proactive. Many healers in Mists of Pandaria experienced “health bar whiplash,” where high amounts of burst damage would occur and they’d find themselves trying to heal the target as quickly as possible to keep them alive. In addition, smart heals were just too smart and were taking away any real choice as to what targets needed to be healed or should be a top priority for healing. We also wanted to create better healing rotations and address mana scaling.

To address these issues, we doubled effective player health so that healers would have time to make effective healing choices. We also changed the way smart heals work by having them target any injured player versus automatically choosing the most injured. Base mana regen was also increased for healers, and we reduced the availability of spirit on gear. By making these changes, we wanted to create an atmosphere in which healers could make more tactical decisions and not have to play as reactively about whom to heal and what abilities to use. We wanted to ultimately slow down the pace while making sure that mana is sufficient—while still being something you need to effectively manage.

Class Ability Pruning

To provide a concrete example of the amount of available abilities our classes have had throughout the expansions, we used the Restoration Druid. In 2004, the Restoration Druid had 21 core abilities and 39 abilities in total. With the release of Patch 1.12, the number of abilities increased to 46. In The Burning Crusade, this number went to 51, and in Wrath of the Lich King, it increased to 57 abilities, where it stayed for both Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria. After the pruning for Warlords of Draenor, the number of abilities is back down to a more manageable 41 abilities.

Itemization Philosophies and Lessons

There were more lessons that were learned in looking at how we itemize. Previously, a player would win an item in a Raid such as the Helm of the Cursed Protector and would need to return to a vendor to trade it in for the item they wanted—most likely after consulting their notes on which item was best in slot. After doing that, if there were gem slots, they’d have to locate and purchase the gem that would work best for their goals, all while their Raid is waiting for their return.

That wasn’t the end of their time away from their Raid group. They still would need to Reforge and possibly even upgrade their item to maximize their effectiveness in the group—that’s an awful lot to do when your raid team’s eagerly waiting for your return.

To address this issue, we’ve changed a few things. If an upgrade drops, we want you to be able to equip it quickly and easily right away. To help with this, we’ve removed Reforging and no longer have item upgrades as an option. We also wanted to minimize the need to add gems or enchant an item and have made these available on fewer slots.

In the end, we want the loot you get to be more useful. Now when you receive an item you’ll be able to “use” it right away and convert it to an item appropriate for your chosen spec. We’ve also created dual stats on main armor slots, separated role items from armor types, turned Dodge & Parry into bonus armor, and made set bonuses swap based on spec. We also wanted to provide a wider variety of ways to gain new items and upgrades from quest items, upgrades via quests, Garrisons, and Rare creatures.

You can read more about the various stat changes, along with lots of other info covered in this panel, in The Iron Tide: Patch 6.0.2 notes here.
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