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Class-based Thinking

March 22, 2011

Dear Reader,

With every patch comes new imbalance, and with every imbalance comes a good deal of whining.  I’ve been through my power ups and downs on my paladin tank and my druid healer, but never really experienced it from a dps’s point of view.  The first big boost my paladin got I wasn’t even fully aware of; I had only recently reached the end-game and just thought my playing had improved, but I went from not really being able to tank Kara to almost outdoing my Vanilla-tank friend (a warrior, since that was almost the only choice back in the day). Now, of course, I know better, and when Cata came out and I found myself really struggling to heal on my druid, I knew it was due to the rebalancing of the game in a different direction.

This correspondence isn’t a chance to whine about class mechanics, though.  I understand what the designers’ intent was, and I can respect it.  It certainly didn’t achieve what they had in mind (I remember a mention that queues would be healer queues instead of tank queues, but that’s not happened).  It did make me stop healing for now, though that decision was spread across a leveling decision (to level my pally tank), a guild disintegration, and a server transfer, so please don’t think just the druid nerf was enough to make me stop.

At any rate, I’m getting away from my point.  What I wanted to discuss was how the classes we play partially define who we are as a player.  Part of this definition shapes how we think about game mechanics, responsibility, and strategies.  One example to start: I’ve always played a class that could heal itself; my first three mains were a priest, a paladin, and a druid.  It defined how I thought about pulls, distance, and safety.  On the other hand, my friend’s first two mains were a warrior and a rogue, both of which (at the time) had no healing capabilities at all.  He became a much more cautious player because a mistake on his part could not be remedied with a healing spell.  Now, at end game, he still pulls more cautiously than I do, regardless of the fact that neither one of us is healing ourselves (beyond what’s expected of a tank).  The way I learned to play years ago is still affecting how I play today, and I have no doubt coloring the way I view design changes.

I think the same is true for each class.  When we hear about a game change, such as the desire to “make healing hard,” different people will have different reactions.  Healers, obviously, groaned inwardly, even if outwardly they celebrated the return of challenging game play.  Sure, I like a challenge, too, but that doesn’t mean I look forward to butt-clenching every pull in a normal.  When we see a dps nerf, tanks who have good threat generation are disappointed whereas tanks who struggle with threat will be happy.  Sometimes it really does come down to the class, too.  Warriors, for example, have it the easiest right now for threat generation (from my experience), whereas DKs and druids are both struggling, so the class you’ve chosen is shaping how you feel about the game.

Now yes, some will say “Anyone can play a good (insert class here).”  Sure, but look, we’re not all elite players who can sink hours of every day into the game.  Some classes, plainly, make it easier to be good.  I’ve played an ice mage and a feral druid in the most recent patch.  The ice mage is, to be honest, a joke.  I can get 50k crits left and right and fill in the gaps with 20k crits, the all I really have to manage is a few cooldowns while spamming ice bolt.  The feral druid, though, requires a lot of careful attention to do good dps in an extremely complicated rotation.  Both are fun classes, and both, dps-wise, are pretty well balanced, but one is simply more difficult to play.

Now, this is not a call for making everything easy or everything hard, it’s just an acknowledgment that the class you play does affect the way you view the game.  As a solution, I recommend people play lots of classes, but I know there’s many people out there who only really want to dedicate themselves to one or two at most toons; that’s fine, too.  Play the game you want to play.  Both sides, though, should remember, when fighting about patch changes or balance, that it’s virtually impossible to separate your game view from the class you play.  Attempting to do so could make it easier for us all to come to some agreements about design choices, instead of falling back on “L2P” or “If you don’t like it, why don’t you just quit,” both of which are profoundly stupid suggestions remarks.

Take a moment and try it.  Think about your main(s).  Think about how they affect your game view.  It wasn’t until my friend pointed out to me how he’d had to learn early on how to pull carefully that I really started to think about how my mechanics had shaped my play and, thus, shaped how I feel about the game and design decisions.  Think about how it affects yours.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (who still pulls somewhat recklessly despite the fact that he’s a dps now, much to his wife’s chagrin)

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One Comment leave one →
  1. March 23, 2011 6:53 pm

    As a Paladin, I can always pull something to see how hard it hits, and pop ardent defender or, Divine Shield; and get out trouble, so i’m always pulling new things to “see what they do”, wich my warrior friend would never do. I guess we tendo to think a lot like the class we play.

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